Top First-Time Buyer Markets

Despite interest rates hitting historically low and favorable levels, it’s a tough market for new home buyers across the U.S. Inventory is tight, especially for homes at entry-level price points in many markets.

However, major cities with sufficient inventory, affordability, and realistic median home values still exist. A recent Zillow study identified Indianapolis as the best city for first-time home buyers, since it has fewer cash buyers, lower home values, is more affordable, and has ample inventory.

Consider the following four cities for new home buyers, along with new construction communities from M/I Homes that might fit your must-have list.


With a large supply of homes for sale, searching for a home in Indianapolis is less stressful. The median home value is just $130,200, which keeps the mortgage-to-income ratio low at 11 percent. Indianapolis renters devote 26.1 percent of income toward housing.

New buyers searching for style and affordability might consider the Marlin Meadows community, where new construction homes start at $181,990. Marlin Meadows is situated in accessible and peaceful Franklin Township, with home sizes ranging between 1,433 and 4,200 square feet. 


The Windy City ranks fifth in the nation for first-time home buyers with a palatable median home value of $193,800. Because of high inventory and low cash-buyer competition, searching for a home in Chicago is less of a task. New home buyers in Chicago can expect to spend approximately 14 percent of a median-level income on a median mortgage. Chicago renters, on the other hand, shell out 31.1 percent of income toward rent.

At a starting price below the city’s median value, M/I Homes’ Sagebrook community in Lockport features new townhomes starting at $185,990 and new single family homes starting at 299,990. Residences range between two and five bedrooms in a modern design to satisfy today’s diligent house hunters. 


The median home value across Houston is a low $172,100 with a mortgage that comprises just 12.5 percent of the median income. Meanwhile, renters spend about 30.5 percent of income on their monthly dues. The Houston for-sale inventory is plentiful, giving buyers the negotiation power.

To circumvent resale competition, buying new construction in a community such as Bridgeland in Harris County starts at a reasonable $245,990 with homes ranging from 1,843 – 2,807 sq. ft.


Living in a tropical climate doesn’t have to come at a heavy cost. The median home value in Tampa is $163,600, assisted by high levels of inventory in the city. While renters in Tampa might spend 32.2 percent of their pay on rent, homeowners spend just 15.2 percent of wages on a mortgage. However, Tampa features a high volume of all-cash buyers.

Home buyers looking to spend under $200,000 in Tampa might consider a home at Talavera in Spring Hill, a new construction community with Mediterranean-style architecture, is rich with amenities, as well as has access to major sporting events and Sun West Park.

Whether you prefer the Midwest or South, first-time buyer markets make it easier for former renters to take advantage of low interest rates to lessen monthly costs.

** Tali Wee writes about finances, home improvement and interior design for Zillow and other partners.


Convert Your Garage Into a Bedroom – 12 Creative Ways

In the hope of making every space in your home valuable, garage conversions have become pretty common. Many homeowners convert unused garages to usable spaces like offices or bedrooms.

If you want more living spaces in your home, you might want to toy around with the idea of converting your garage into a bedroom. This bedroom can be a good spare room for guests or a new room for a new member of the family.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Install large windows. The usual mistake made by homeowners converting their garages is keeping the garage look in their new bedroom. To remedy this, install big windows. This gives a roomy and livable kind of feel to your newly converted garage.


  1. Transform it to a tropical paradise. Your original garage might look dry and sad, but your new bedroom does not have to suffer that same fate! Make your new space sunnier by adding tropical details. Go for pillows with palm trees and furniture that mimics tropical resorts. Wooden and rattan chairs make your space look classy and vacation-esque.


  1. Turn it into a comfortable guest room. An extra bedroom in your house can be a comfortable guest room if you frequently have family or friends over at home. You can even put two beds to accommodate more people.


  1. Insulation. This is an absolute necessary if you are converting a garage to a living space. Normally, garages don’t have adequate insulation. Installing insulation during conversion is an absolute necessity to keep guests or your family comfortable during the cold winters or hot summers.


  1. Add a homey vintage feel. If you are already starting to decorate your new space, you might want to stay away from the old feel of your garage. Create a homey feel to your new living space by utilizing vintage pieces.


  1. Go for colors. Ditch the dreary colors of your old garage by adding pops of colors all throughout your space. The easiest way to incorporate color in the bedroom is choosing bright sheets and pillowcases. If you are feeling adventurous and want to be bold, a brightly colored wall can add flair as well!


  1. Change up the door opening. Nothing shouts “I’m an old garage” more than having the usual garage door still in place. When converting your garage, make it a point to replace the doors. You can experiment and go for interesting ones. Large sliding doors can make your bedroom look classy and more spacious. Depending on the look of your home, you can change up your door to match its architecture and design.


  1. Keep it simple. After doing all the necessary steps in converting your home, the key to finishing it off is keeping things simple. You don’t need to go overboard with your bedroom (save your money for structural changes like larger windows, insulation, and changing your door). Just purchase the basic needs in a bedroom. Make sure you have a bed, mattress, dresser, and a bedside table. Once you get the basic needs covered, you can build on from there.


  1. Go modular. If you had a small garage and you want to make every inch matter, you can go modular. Incorporate storage spaces under the bed and create multiple uses for some furniture. This ensures that you have everything that you need in one small space.


  1. Turn it into a master bedroom. Large garages can be great for a master bedroom, especially if you need more space than what your home is already providing you. Transform it into a comfortable haven complete with a king-size bed and a nice dresser.


  1. Incorporate modern pieces. One way to make your room look like it wasn’t even a garage is to add modern furniture. Industrial and contemporary decorations can make the room feel more current instead of drab.


  1. Add rooftop elements. If you have money to spend, some rooftop design elements can make a huge difference in your garage conversion. You can add a roof deck or a simple dormer window to really mimic a livable space. This can be a fun addition to your home that your family will enjoy.


** Written by Kristy Jones,the blog author of A Click Away Remotes – Garage Door Opener and Remotes Blog.

Wood Floors: Light vs. Dark


Choosing the color and finish of the wood—whether on the floors or furniture—is one of the most important considerations in designing a new space. More so than the many species of wood available, the color of wood alone can make a huge impact. Read on to see some of the pros and cons of both light and dark wood to help you decide between these two stylish options.

Light Wood.


A breath of fresh air in terms of flooring options, light wood offers airiness and ease with its upbeat and modern look. Some of the reasons to use light wood include:

  • It’s stylish. A simple but important point. Light wood is a chic alternative to other flooring, as it offers a modern, uptown loft feel to a space. It pairs well with several modern fixtures and furnishings.
  • Master of disguise. Contrary to popular belief, light wood flooring is very forgiving. For those with pets or small children, light flooring masks smalls scratches and scuffs. Forgot to sweep last week? That’s alright—light wood takes one for the team by hiding dust bunnies and debris in its light and bright layout.
  • The contemporary option. As mentioned above, light flooring is incredibly attractive in contemporary or modern spaces. It pairs beautifully with most modern design details and gives any room an instantly refreshed look.
  • It adds contrast as needed. One of light wood flooring’s most redeeming qualities is its ability to contrast well with nearly all finishes, especially darker ones. If you’re going for a moody tone, light flooring adds just the right amount of balance to make your space feel inviting but totally masculine.
  • Let the light in. Do you have floor-to-ceiling windows? Lots of natural light? Then light wood flooring might be your best bet. Perfectly accented by floods of light, blonde woods help create added visual interest when paired with dramatic windows.

While there are many reasons to love light wood, buyers should still be cautious of a few points:

  • Hard to choose. A good light wood can be difficult to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Our advice? Select a style that doesn’t have any sort of red, orange or yellow undertone for the most refreshed look.
  • Living with it. While this may seem like an obvious point, it’s especially pertinent when it comes to a light wood floor. Unlike dark wood flooring, you will see every grain and rivet clearly, so it’s important that you really love your selection.

Dark Wood.


A favorite among designers and homeowners everywhere, dark wood is the go-to selection for nearly every home of every style. Most appreciated in a transitional or traditional space, dark wood flooring is sophisticated and timeless. Some of our favorite aspects of dark wood flooring include:

  • Lots of variety. When you think of a dark wood floor, you don’t necessarily think of all of the different options you have. Between all of the types of wood, the grain of the wood, and the coloration, you have plenty of variety to select the perfect shade for your home.
  • It adds dimension. One of our favorite features of dark wood is its ability to create dimension wherever it’s installed. Pair it with a dark wood ceiling or one with beautiful exposed beams and you’ve got yourself a winning design.
  • Easy to match. Have we mentioned how easy it is to work with dark wood flooring? If you aren’t convinced, you should know that dark wood is very easy to match to your existing furniture. Nearly any finish—natural wood, metal, acrylic, glass—looks great atop a dark wood floor.

As you can tell, we’re big fans of dark wood. Some things to keep in mind:

  • You’ll see the mess. Unlike light wood, dark wood is not so forgiving. If sweeping escapes you, you and your guests will be able to notice quickly. This is also true for tiny hand prints or puppy paw prints.
  • Casts a shadow. If light is your problem, don’t go dark. Dark wood tends to make the area around it a bit moodier, and that can be a problem if you love your emerald green walls. If you’re looking to add a touch of brightness, look for medium or light wood tones instead.

Have you installed wood flooring recently? Which team are you on: light wood or dark wood?

**Hardwood flooring is a favorite design element for Kerrie Kelly, who heads up Kerrie Kelly Design Lab in Sacramento, Ca. Kerrie writes on her interior design ideas for The Home Depot. To research both the dark and light wood flooring discussed by Kerrie, you can visit Home Depot’s website.

Happy Homeowners: The Lehman Family

IMG_5175Our newest “Happy Homeowners” blog brings us to Colin and Sarah Lehman, who recently built their new home in Raleigh, NC. Sarah and Colin began their journey by choosing their lot and plan, and have shared with us their experience of the whole building process and living in their new M/I home.  Take a look at their experience!

M/I Homes: Is this your first M/I home and what convinced you to choose M/I Homes over another builder?

Sarah & Colin: Yes, this is our first M/I home, and our first home. Initially, we were intrigued by the location of our neighborhood. We were looking to stay in Cary, and stay close to the greenway system and parks. We truly feel we found the best location of townhomes and best quality townhomes in all of Cary.

M/I: Are you happy about how your home turned out?

S/C:  Yes, absolutely!

M/I: What is your floorplan called and what features of your home do you especially love?

S/C: Our floorplan is the Fairview (3 bedroom, 2 ½ bathroom end unit). We love everything about it. Some of our favorite things are the tons of windows, walk-in master shower with bench, huge closet space, built-in bench in the entryway, fireplace, and screened-in porch!

M/I: Overall, how was your experience with M/I Homes. Did you pick your lot and floor plan to build the home, or was the home already started for you?

S/C: We had an extremely positive experience with M/I Homes. We picked our lot and the floor plan. We were the first ones to purchase in our community, so we were able to pick whichever lot we wanted. It was great to get in early, because we ended up getting a HUGE lot for a townhome!

M/I: Do you have any fun memories from building process?

S/C: We loved going over to the building site every Sunday to check out the progress. Going to the design center was also a lot of fun. A little overwhelming at times, but we tried to keep things simple and stick to our budget.

M/I: Was there something about your home that made you immediately know you wanted to move in?

S/C: My husband would say the 2-car garage and open floor plan. But honestly—for me, it was the doors and the built-in bench.

M/I: What do you like about your neighborhood / community?

S/C: It’s been fun to be the first ones in the neighborhood—we get to greet everyone as they move in. We’re looking forward to having more units close and having an established community.

M/I: Anything you would recommend to someone looking for a new home?

S/C: Get in now with mortgage rates the way they are!

M/I: What is your favorite memory in your new home thus far?

S/C: Ahhh- we have so many already! Since this is our first home, some of my favorite memories so far are working together on projects to make it feel ever more like home. Just last weekend we set up a small patio space for a grill. I also loved having our first overnight guests (we’re coming from a small 1 bedroom apartment), and having a house warming party.


M/I: What is your favorite space in your new home?  Do you have any pictures of that space that you would like to share?

S/C: These are our favorite things:

  • Large, open kitchen made to entertain
  • Open family room where our dog loves to romp
  • Screened in porch to relax after a long day at work
  • Big backyard

M/I: What was something that surprised you the most with building a new home?

S/C: I think the most surprising (and one of the best!) thing was that you didn’t have to break your budget with add-ons in the design center. With M/I Homes, your starting point is such a higher quality in comparison to other builders we found. They don’t trick you into a low base price and unrealistic expectations at the design center.  We got everything we were looking for at a reasonable price.

M/I: Any suggestions you would give for someone building a new home with M/I Homes?

S/C: Enjoy the process!


**Sarah and Colin are high school sweethearts who just celebrated their 3 year wedding anniversary. They are originally from Philadelphia, PA but have lived in Cary for the past 3 years. They have a sweet 1 year old dog named Kona who is there favorite running and mountain biking buddy.


Reblogged from
Ah, the trip to the design center. A test of your marriage, an immense feeling of being overwhelmed and hoping that what you decide on that long day will suit you for the rest of your time in your new home. 
Don’t get me wrong, it was also very exciting, but the choices. There were SO many.

Well, we also had this going on. The first time we went just to take a look at the options one weekend before our official appointment. We made the mistake of bringing Myles. I get it, to a five year-old, this stuff can be kind of boring. Besides, if it were up to him, we’d have a rainbow-colored house. That could be cool, too.

Anyway, since we went out once to the design center before actually selecting our options, it helped us see what we were up against. And it’s true when they say you’ll be picking EVERYTHING. We chose our brick, floors, overall wall colors, knobs on cabinets, granite, siding, trim, doors … to even deciding the shelving in the master bath shower. It was intense. But with a little preparation beforehand and having John model the home out in his 3-D software, we were able to make the selections appointment a little less stressful.

Another thing that helped us immensely was browsing Pinterest to look at new home selections, model homes and color schemes. Because it’s one thing when you’re deciding paint colors — those can always be changed —  but you can’t just up and change an entire hardwood floor or large slab of granite.

But as said, with some careful planning and preparation, we made all of our selections in about five hours.


For the kitchen, we chose to go with multi-colored granite. We had light-colored countertops in our old home, which stained easily. We’ve also experienced black granite at our last home downtown and it felt like the dark-colored countertops would show every little piece of dust or handprint. With that being said, we wanted something in the middle.

We chose to go with dark cabinets, only because we had white ones in our old home and they seemed to show every handprint or mark, which is never easy to clean when you have a kid opening cabinets just for the sake of opening cabinets. So, dark it was.

The hardwood selection was tricky, but we opted for something in the middle. Floors that are too light show everything, but so do floors that are too dark. Because again, we’ve had both. Picking a hardwood that would help disguise dust and compliment our other selections helped narrow down our options; leaving us choosing a medium colored flooring.

It sounds like I’m so worried about dirt showing, but seriously, no matter how much I cleaned light floors, dark countertops or vise-versa, it just never worked out. Maybe I was cleaning them the wrong way? Regardless, I am happy to say now that we love what we chose and it’s three months after we’ve moved in now.

I feel like we really focused on getting the colors and selecting the materials for the kitchen took priority, then it became easier to more or less ‘follow the theme’ and choose the rest of the house colors, brick, wall color, and everything else based on our initial kitchen selections.

As you can see from the image below, we stuck with a modern color palette, with various shades of browns, greys, and beige colors. Going with neutrals to start felt like a good idea until we can really start designing out the inside of the home.

Now that we’ve lived in the home for almost three months (where does time go?!), I can say we’re very happy with what we chose!



**Megan Fenno is a Cincinnati blogger, an accessory designer and owner of, a freelance writer, a Savannah College of Art & Design Alumni with a degree in fashion & accessory design, a wife to my high-school sweetheart,a girl that absolutely loves the city of Cincinnati, and a mother to a 5 year-old stud!  To read her full blog, visit her page today!


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