News

Home Price Change Expectations Flat

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 07/22/2017 - 00:02

Many homeowners have enjoyed a return to positive equity in recent years, with home prices on a consistent upward trend in most markets. How high will values go?

Potentially not much further, according to consumers in the June 2017 Survey of Consumer Expectations by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who held firm on their expectation of a 3.5 percent change in prices—the same expectation given in May.

Consumers, in addition, anticipate the median inflation rate to be 2.5 percent in one year and 2.8 percent in three years. The likelihood of finding a job, based on their perceptions, grew to 59.2 percent in June, and the likelihood of losing a job shrunk to 13.5 percent. The share of consumers surveyed with improved finances over the last year soared to 34.8 percent—a record.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

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Categories: Realty News

Real Estate Reigns as Americans’ Preferred Investment

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 07/22/2017 - 00:01

Real estate is the long-term investment of choice for Americans, who in a recent survey by Bankrate.com placed it ahead of bonds, cash, gold and stocks as the best method of building wealth over time. Real estate is now the chosen vehicle for the third consecutive time in the survey:

  • Real Estate (28 percent)
  • Cash (23 percent)
  • Stocks (17 percent)
  • Gold/Other Precious Metals (15 percent)
  • Bonds (4 percent)

Stocks have never been highly favored in the survey, despite their tendency to produce significant returns for investors who have a wide enough window to weather swings.

“We’ve begun to see rising yields on savings accounts,” says Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. “However, the preferences for cash and real estate indicate that too many people are leaving money on the virtual table by failing to be sufficiently exposed to the stock market, where higher long-term returns are found. This is especially the case for younger investors, who are in the best position to weather the inevitable short-term market volatility.”

Source: Bankrate.com

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Categories: Realty News

5 Movie Homes in Real Life

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 16:03

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Movie fans, looking to lurk around some of your favorite film locations? You’re not alone. Stalking cinema hot spots is an obsession for many, and we’re no exception. Below are five iconic movie homes in real life.

Gone Girl’s Missouri New Build

Image Credit: Alexandrea Morrow

Much of 2014’s nail-biting thriller “Gone Girl” (based on the best-selling novel of the same name) took place in this massive Missouri new build. The home used in the film is truly located in Missouri—a Hollywood rarity. The five-bedroom, six-bathroom home stretches over 4,413 square feet and was last estimated at $559,528.

Cher Horowitz’s Mega Mansion

Image Credit: Blogspot

This Los Angeles home has been featured in several Hollywood productions, but in one of its most well-known appearances, it served as the setting for Cher Horowitz’s lux pad in the cult darling “Clueless.” With that famous staircase (perfect for kissing your step brother), seven bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, this private palace is a cinema gem in Encino. The home, currently off-market, has an estimated value of $4,649,217.

Pulp Fiction’s Seedy Drug Den

Image Credit: ItsFilmedThere.com

Quentin Tarantino fans likely remember Lance’s low-lying ranch home in “Pulp Fiction.” Most infamous for the scene in which Lance resuscitates Uma Thurman—er, I mean Mia Wallace—after her drug overdose, this Los Angeles home has two bedrooms, one bathroom, and was most recently valued at $700,318.

The Tenenbaums’ Harlem Home

Image Credit: Pinterest

Wes Anderson fans can rejoice at the sight of this Harlem townhouse, the location of the Tenenbaums’ family home in his 2001 gem “The Royal Tenenbaums.” With four bathrooms and no listed bedroom count, Anderson and co. apparently rented the home for six months during production. The home is currently valued at $4,286,169.

A Home to Crash a Wedding In

Image Credit: Strawberry Milk

This gorgeous waterfront Maryland property, featured in the 2005 comedy hit “Wedding Crashers,” is actually an inn, so while you can’t live in the home Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn debauched in, you can pay to stay. The Greek Revival, built in 1816, overlooks the Chesapeake Bay and was originally used as a private residence.

*All estimates are based on Zillow at the time of publication.

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at zoe@rismedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

Survey: Housing Came out on the Other Side—Mortgage Market, Not So Much

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 07/15/2017 - 00:01

Most homeowners are content with the current status of the housing market, believing not only that they made a smart choice by owning, but also that conditions in their area have gotten better since the recession, according to the results of a new survey.

Ninety-one percent of homeowners and 83 percent of renters surveyed recently by Digital Risk perceive homeownership as “a good investment,” with 87 percent of homeowners seeing their home’s value hold or rise—some more than 20 percent.

Homeowners believe there is room for improvement, however, when it comes to obtaining a mortgage. Although 75 percent of those surveyed report that they supported “efforts over the past decade to make the mortgage process safer and more consumer-friendly,” just 22 percent of homeowners and 13 percent of renters think progress has been made.

“There’s no question that the housing sector continues to be a major driver of growth and recovery in the U.S. economy,” says Jeff Taylor, co-founder and managing director of Digital Risk. “It’s important to remember how far we’ve come in a decade. The fact that the American Dream of owning a home is once again considered a smart investment suggests the housing market has years of strong performance ahead of it—provided that more borrowers clearly understand the criteria and ‘pathway’ to obtaining a mortgage.”

“It’s no secret that Americans support a healthy housing market with clear rules and procedures,” says Rose Bogan, senior vice president of Governance, Risk and Compliance at Digital Risk. “Still, lenders and borrowers alike recognize that consumer protections can be accomplished in a more straightforward, efficient way. The challenge moving forward is for lenders to smartly use technology and procedures to adapt to shifting regulatory requirements as seamlessly as possible.”

Source: Digital Risk, LLC

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Categories: Realty News

Apartment-Hoppers: Stay Put and Save

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Wed, 07/12/2017 - 16:05

Renters can save thousands of dollars by renewing a lease instead of moving to a new rental, according to a recently released analysis by Zillow—a golden opportunity to put savings toward a down payment on a home.

Researchers arrived at an average $3,946 in savings by assessing the most recent rent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Their findings reveal that the market rate rent rose more than the rent for a tenant who remained in the same rental for five years or more: 5.6 percent versus 3.6 percent between 2014 and 2015.

The savings depend largely on location:

“Renters have a decision to make almost every year—do they stay in the same place, or should they look for a new unit?” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “With the country in the middle of an affordability crisis, it’s important for renters to understand how much they can save if they renew their lease instead of finding a new rental. Nationally, rental rates have slowed and the savings from renewing are not as significant for renters today; however, in some of the hottest rental markets, where rents are still rising aggressively, continually renewing a lease can mean saving thousands of dollars.”

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

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Categories: Realty News

Hi, My Name Is…Owner of a Valuable Home

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Mon, 07/10/2017 - 16:05

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Call it a household name.

A new analysis from Zillow finds a home owned by a person named Alison or Stuart is likely to be worth roughly two-thirds more than the typical home in the U.S.—for both of them, that equates to over $332,000. The link varies based on location, with some names suited more to one region than others given sociocultural influences.

Ali and Stu are joined by the likes of Anne, Geoffrey, Marina and Peter, to (ahem) name a few, but conventionally female names overtake conventionally male names by a wide margin. The names tied to the most valuable homes also have homes with more living space, generally upwards of 1,550 square feet.

Image Credit: Zillow

At first glance, the names boasting the most valuable homes in each state are common: Janes, Jills and Julies, plus a Martha for good measure. Look again, though—homeowners named Suzanne tend to have the most valuable homes in not one, but two states. Suzanne!

 

 

 

Image Credit: Tenor

Nevermind that home values in Georgia are relatively lower than those in other housing markets. Nevermind that Nevada was ground zero for the collapse. Two states. Two states!

I know what you’re thinking—I thought of it, too:

Note: Zillow’s got everyone covered with a neat tool matching virtually every name ever given with homeownership-related data. Select yours to see the stats!

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

Ask the Expert: What Advice Do You Have for Homebuyers Forgoing a Home Inspection?

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Thu, 07/06/2017 - 16:03

Today’s Ask the Expert column features Dan Steward, president of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors.

Q: What advice do you have for those thinking of buying a home without waiting for a home inspection?

A: As housing markets continue to heat up, many buyers are forgoing the important step of getting a home inspection. While this isn’t a widespread phenomenon, it can easily occur when a particular market heats up. In fact, when a market gets hot, buyers are afraid that if they put in an offer contingent on the outcome of a home inspection, they may lose the home to others who are willing to take the risk of buying the home without that contingency.

While some have been able to dodge the bullet, others have purchased homes without inspections, only to find that there are thousands of dollars in repairs needed.

In fact, a recent home inspection revealed a crack in the cement floor of a garage attached to a home. While the crack appeared to be tiny, the home inspector later revealed that it was there as a result of a giant oak tree next to the garage. The roots were so huge that the floor would eventually be broken by the tree’s growth. By removing the tree, the cost was only a few hundred dollars; however, the inspector noted that five years down the road, the entire garage floor would have needed to be jackhammered and replaced, costing thousands.

Understanding the importance of home inspections, many of our franchisees offer an immediate post-closing inspection for the sake of catching items that, while small at the moment, can grow into something very large and costly.

For more information, please visit www.pillartopost.com.

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Categories: Realty News

How ‘Free’ Is Your State?

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sun, 07/02/2017 - 13:03

How “free” is your state?

A recent study conducted by WalletHub identifies the most and least “independent” states based on health- and wealth-related dependencies in five categories: “consumer finances,” such as credit scores and emergency savings; “government,” or federal funding; “international trade,” such as jobs supported by exported goods; “job market,” such as employer-offered retirement savings and the unemployment rate; and “personal vices,” such as drug use and gambling.

The most independent state, according to the study, is Colorado, with the lowest unemployment rate; the second-highest share of households that have emergency savings; the second-lowest share of jobs supported by exported goods; the second-lowest share of GDP generated by exports; and the fourth-lowest share of households relying on food stamps and/or other assistance.

The least independent state is Louisiana, with the highest share of GDP generated by exports; the third-highest share of adults with gambling disorders; the third-lowest median credit score; the fourth-highest unemployment rate; and the fourth-highest share of jobs supported by exported goods.

The remaining four of the top five most independent states are:

  1. Utah
  • Highest Median Household Income
  • Highest Share of Households With Emergency Savings
  • Second-Lowest Share of Adult Binge Drinkers
  • Third-Lowest Share of Households Relying on Food Stamps and/or Other Assistance
  1. Minnesota
  • Highest Median Credit Score
  • Second-Highest Employer-Based Retirement Access/Participation
  • Second-Least Federally Dependent
  • Fourth-Highest Median Household Income
  1. New Hampshire
  • Lowest Unemployment Rate
  • Fourth-Highest Employer-Based Retirement Access/Participation
  1. Wisconsin
  • Highest Employer-Based Retirement Access/Participation
  • Third-Lowest Share of Adults With Gambling Disorders

The remaining four of the top five least independent states are:

  1. Kentucky
  • Most Federally Dependent
  • Fourth-Highest Share of GDP Generated by Exports
  1. Alaska
  • Highest Share of Jobs Supported by Exported Goods
  • Second-Highest Unemployment Rate
  • Third-Highest Share of Households Relying on Food Stamps and/or Other Assistance
  1. Mississippi
  • Highest Share of Adults With Gambling Disorders
  • Lowest Median Credit Score
  • Second-Most Federally Dependent
  • Fifth-Highest Share of Households Relying on Food Stamps and/or Other Assistance
  1. West Virginia
  • Second-Lowest Median Household Income
  • Second-Lowest Share of Households With Emergency Savings
  • Fifth-Most Federally Dependent
  1. South Carolina
  • Third-Highest Share of GDP Generated by Exports
  • Third-Lowest Median Credit Score

Source: WalletHub

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Categories: Realty News

Top 20 States for Home Renovations

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 07/01/2017 - 00:04

One of the many advantages of owning a home is the ability to add—and recoup—value. A recent study by Hearth, a FinTech startup, ranked the states with the most homeowners planning to renovate in 2017, with the top 20 states mostly concentrated in the East, Midwest and West:

  1. Hawaii
  2. Kansas
  3. Montana
  4. Rhode Island
  5. New Hampshire
  6. Utah
  7. Michigan
  8. Connecticut
  9. Missouri
  10. Maine
  11. Arkansas
  12. Minnesota
  13. Idaho
  14. Kentucky
  15. Iowa
  16. Nebraska
  17. Massachusetts
  18. Alabama
  19. Tennessee
  20. South Dakota

A sizable share of those in the study reported they would redo their kitchen if their budget were unlimited, as well as their bathrooms, basement and/or living room.

The study also shed light on the ways homeowners plan to finance their projects, with 62 percent of those in the study using cash or savings, 26 percent using a loan, and 12 percent using a credit card. Twenty-eight percent, specifically, use bank loans, while 17 percent use credit union loans and 15 percent use personal loans.

Source: Hearth

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Categories: Realty News

Consumer Confidence Ticks Back Up

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 07/01/2017 - 00:03

Consumer confidence ticked back up in June, posting a 118.9 reading in the latest Consumer Confidence Index® from The Conference Board. The Expectations reading of the Index fell to 100.6, while the Present Situation reading rose to 146.3. May’s reading was 117.6.

“Consumer confidence increased moderately in June following a small decline in May,” said Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, in a statement. “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved to a nearly 16-year high. Expectations for the short-term have eased somewhat, but are still upbeat. Overall, consumers anticipate the economy will continue expanding in the months ahead, but they do not foresee the pace of growth accelerating.”

The percentage of consumers who believe business conditions are “good,” as defined by the Index, increased from 29.8 percent in May to 30.8 percent in June; the percentage of those who believe business conditions are “bad,” decreased from 13.9 percent in May to 12.7 percent in June. The percentage of those who expect business conditions to improve decreased from 21.5 percent in May to 20.4 percent in June; the percentage of those who expect business conditions to worsen also decreased, from 10.3 percent in May to 9.9 percent in June.

The percentage of consumers who believe jobs are “plentiful” increased from 30 percent in May to 32.8 percent in June, according to the Index; the percentage of those who believe jobs are “hard to get” decreased, from 18.3 percent in May to 18 percent in June. The percentage of those who expect more jobs in the coming months increased from 18.6 percent in May to 19.3 percent in June; the percentage of those who expect less jobs in the coming months, however, also increased, from 12.1 percent in May to 14.6 percent in June.

The percentage of consumers who expect higher incomes, as well, increased from 19.1 percent in May to 22.2 percent in June; the percentage of those who expect a decrease also increased, from 8.7 percent in May to 9.2 percent in June.

Source: The Conference Board

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Categories: Realty News

Are Shipping Containers the Future of Swimming Pools?

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 15:33

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

One Canadian couple is making a splash transforming shipping containers into backyard swimming pools. (We always knew those shipping containers were universal!)

Paul and Denise Rathnam launched Modpools earlier this year and the idea has taken off, with orders mostly coming from the hottest locales in North America, particularly California, Nevada, Texas and Florida.

“The traditional pool is a symbol of excess and waste. This is a little more modern, more modest. We’re repurposing something rather than recycling. This pool can be resold, and you can take it with you if you move,” Paul Rathnam told Vancouver Sun.

It’s an interesting concept, for sure, and the design, once installed, looks pretty slick. It’s as if your backyard was always destined to house a shipping container.

The standard size Modpool is eight feet wide by 20 feet long, and just over five feet deep. It also comes with a clear, acrylic window on one side, which is actually a pretty spiffy design element. Customers can opt to add another acrylic window on the other side for a see-through look if they want one.

In Canada, after delivery, a Modpool will cost you $35,000 plus tax, which could be a cheaper alternative for families planning on installing an in-ground swimming hole.

Would you buy a Modpool for your home? Tell us what you think!

Nick Caruso is RISMedia’s senior editor. Email him your real estate news ideas at nick@rismedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

Retirees Turning to Custom Homes to Get the Right Space

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 18:18

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

As people reach retirement, their current house may simply be too big for their needs. Paying large utility bills, maintenance costs and property taxes for an older home on a large lot can often drain nest eggs and retirement funds. During a time when you have a lower income and too much house, there may come a time when downsizing to a smaller home will fit better into one’s lifestyle and budget.

Retiring to a Custom Home
When you hear about a retiree downsizing to a smaller place, most people think that the person will be packing up and moving into an apartment in a senior community or a mother-in-law suite in their adult children’s homes. Yet many retirees still want their freedom to come and go as they please in their own place. Purchasing a smaller home then becomes the ideal option.

One interesting trend is that retirees are looking to custom build a new home that is smaller in size. The retiree may be at a unique advantage of having the financial independence to cover the costs of home construction without straining their retirement funds. At this point of time in their retirement years, most retirees have already paid off the mortgage for their other home as they now own the house outright. With the home value having appreciated, they can now ask for a higher sales price that can cover the land purchase and all the home construction expenses.

Building a Home Tailored to Health Needs
Another advantage to having a custom home built is that it can be designed to current medical conditions or physical restrictions. You can work with builders and architects to design the home so that it can make your daily life easier as you grow older. The custom build may have wider first-floor spaces and hallways to accommodate mobility devices. There can be outdoor ramps by front entrances for wheelchairs and walkers, as well as lower kitchen cabinets so you can get items without having to stretch to reach higher shelves. In addition, bathrooms can be designed for retirees with physical disabilities who may have problems using the shower, tub or toilet.

You can have more flexibility when having a smaller home built with adaptable features. The custom home can be later modified for different life stages without having to deal with costly renovations later on that can be a major disruption to your daily life.

Custom Home Offering Less Maintenance Hassles
During retirement, retirees often don’t want to deal with major maintenance and repairs that are associated with larger, older homes. Even downsizing to a smaller, existing home can lead to stress as there may be significant issues with the existing house that will need to be dealt with before moving in.

By having a custom home built at a smaller size, buyers will know that everything in the house is new. They will have new wiring, plumbing, mechanical systems, appliances, a roof, a foundation and other aspects. Even if something should break during those first few months, builders normally provide a builder warranty that will cover defects and provide repairs.

Downsizing to Your Custom Dream Home
Downsizing to a custom home has many advantages. Buyers can have the home built at a chosen destination that offers everything they could possibly need during their retirement years.

It helps to perform comprehensive research regarding the real estate market when purchasing land at another location. Also, researching building plans and contractors can make the difference in purchasing a custom home built with superior craftsmanship. A real estate agent’s help can be just what buyers need to find a new place that is specifically designed for their golden years.

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Categories: Realty News

5 Cities Millennials Are Flocking To

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 16:14

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

There are several places in the U.S. where millennials can be found due to the high employment rates and beautiful settings. For adults who are in their 20s and 30s, there are several places where it’s smart to invest. When you’re looking to move, these are a few cities that millennials are flocking to throughout the country.

Salt Lake City, Utah

 

The high job growth in Salt Lake City makes it a desirable place for young adults to live as they look to obtain steady employment. The city is affordable to live in and has a median home price of $233,000 with job growth of 2.4 percent. Salt Lake City also has a lower unemployment rate compared to other markets throughout the U.S. with 2.9 percent, which is below the national average by a few points.

Seattle, Wash.

Seattle is considered to be a hot spot for millennials, which make up 24.1 percent of the population. Its busy nightlife scene and generous median incomes of $67,000 make it an ideal place to live for younger generations. It also boasts a job growth rate of 10.8 percent. The beautiful views of the water and the long list of activities and attractions in the area are additional reasons that many millennials relocate to the city.

Austin, Texas

 

Millennials are drawn to Austin for its real estate market, which includes homes that have a median price of $226,000. The job growth is also 4.2 percent, and it’s the second-top city in the country for the number of jobs that are becoming available. Some of the top companies that are run out of Austin include Dell, Apple and Google, making it known as “Silicon Hills.” The average median income is also $58,932, which allows many young adults to afford to purchase their first home.

There’s also a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability, making the city desirable for millennials who make green practices a priority. Austin is also known for selling more renewable energy than other nations.

Charlotte, N.C.

Charlotte is one of the best places to live in North Carolina with 14 percent of the population between the ages of 25 and 34. Many of the youth are post-college graduates who have relocated to the city to seek employment and purchase a home in a neighborhood that has a suburban family profile. The draw of millennials is also causing many companies to relocate their headquarters to Charlotte in hopes of hiring talented employees.

Dallas, Texas

 

Dallas continues to grow each year and attract young out-of-towners due to its job growth rate of 3.9 percent and median home price of $175,000. The big city boasts plenty of shopping opportunities and attractions for those who want to stay busy without spending a lot to live close to the downtown area. The city hasn’t attempted to control ride-sharing, and many places are also easy to access by walking. There are also neighboring cities that are affordable to live in for those who don’t mind commuting to work.

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Categories: Realty News

Report: Proximity to Family Drives Housing Decisions for Households With Children

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 16:08

Many upper-middle class households with young children are caught between an inability to afford childcare and an inability to sustain on one less income with a stay-at-home parent—a predicament that has a driving force on their housing decisions.

According to the Zillow Housing Aspirations Report (ZHAR), many upper-middle class households choose to put down roots close to relatives who can provide childcare, even more so than low-income households. Roughly one-quarter of upper-middle class household members surveyed for the report, as well, cite “proximity to family” as an influencer on their choice about where to live.

Low-income households do, however, struggle with childcare costs in pricey housing markets, such as San Francisco, Calif. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed overall depend on relatives for childcare.

Most households with young children are being pinched by a combination of higher housing costs and standstill income growth.

“Housing costs and childcare are among the two largest budget items for working families, costing as much $43,000 a year in urban areas and over $34,000 a year in the suburbs,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “While many Americans are tied to the places they live for a variety of personal and financial reasons, it’s necessary for some households to live near family in order to make ends meet. Sometimes extended family might move together to provide childcare, or grandparents might even follow their children when they move to a new city to help care for their grandkids.”

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

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Categories: Realty News

7 Gadgets From ‘The Jetsons’ That Have Become a Reality

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 15:54

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

If you were around during either run of “The Jetsons”—first in 1962 and again in 1985—you may have watched the show and wondered if the technology the futuristic family used would ever become a reality. In fact, quite a few of the gadgets used on the show have become commonplace in real life. From robotic maids to video chatting, here’s a look at how the future predicted by “The Jetsons” has become the present, and how you can get in on it today.

  1. Robot Vacuums
    The Jetsons had robotic helpers that took care of all sorts of daily tasks around the house. Rosie, the family’s robot maid, was always working to keep their home in tip-top shape. While we may not be quite at the Rosie level with our robots, little helpers like the Roomba from iRobot can get you pretty close.

Roomba will take care of the vacuuming for you. It may still need some maintenance—like emptying dust bins or making sure the floor is clear so it can do its job—but if you hate vacuuming, this little guy is going to be your best friend. These types of home automation devices promise to free up tons of time for more important activities in your day-to-day lives.

  1. Smartwatches
    Way back when Steve Jobs was just a boy, the Jetsons had little square watches they would watch TV on. While the Apple Watch doesn’t have the ability to stream television—yet—it does bear a striking resemblance to the gadget the Jetsons used almost 50 years before the Apple Watch was unveiled.

Even if you can’t catch up on your Netflix queue, today’s smartwatches have a lot of futuristic capabilities. You can take calls, set reminders, check sports scores, see weather forecasts, and do other tasks right on your wrist.

  1. Video Calls
    Another technological capability that probably seemed far-fetched at the time “The Jetsons” aired was video chatting. The characters would call each other up and communicate as if they were face-to-face. These days, apps like FaceTime and Skype make it as easy as tapping a contact name.

Of all the advances in technology that have accompanied the smartphone craze, video chatting might be the most life changing. Grandparents can see their grandkids from thousands of miles away at any time. Soldiers can chat with their spouses and children from across the ocean. The impact this tech has had on families can’t be overstated.

  1. Talking Tech
    In “The Jetsons,” George was woken up each day by a talking alarm clock built into his bed. After being rudely startled awake, he could silence the alarm with his own voice—usually an angry grunt or groan.

If you want the talking alarm clock experience, plenty of options are available. Smartphone apps like the Rock Clock allow you to rise every morning to Dwayne Johnson’s soothing vocals, while dedicated alarm clocks that talk to you are available for the old-school consumer.

It isn’t just alarms that talk, though. It’s possible to have anything on your screen read to you using accessibility tech like screen readers, and digital assistants like Siri and Alexa will not only speak info to you, but also have actual conversations with you.

  1. Flat-Screen TVs
    At a time when many TVs were still black and white and all of them were thick and bulky with tiny screens, “The Jetsons” featured flat-screen TVs with huge screens that lowered from the ceiling. In the ’60s, this would have been unthinkable.

Today’s televisions are ultra-thin and often very light with huge screens and ridiculously high resolutions. LG unveiled a model at CES this year that is less than 2.6 millimeters thick and weighs only 17 pounds—and it’s a 65-inch display!

TVs that retract into the ceiling are also a thing. Companies like Nexus 21 can install a TV concealment system that makes it impossible to tell anything is there until you’re ready to watch, keeping your walls and living space open until show time.

  1. Drones
    The Jetson kids were dropped off at school each day by robotic drones—a far cry from the school buses most of us grew up with. While we are still a long way off from personal drones to chauffeur us around, the technology is advancing rapidly, and drones are being used for a variety of purposes.

Consumer-oriented drones are basically futuristic RC cars, and military drones fly combat missions while keeping our troops out of harm’s way. Even Amazon’s delivery drones can have an order to your doorstep in less than 30 minutes. Self-driving cars are also coming along nicely, so it might not be long before these technologies converge to bring us our very own Jetsons-style transport pods.

  1. Pill Cameras
    A piece of technology that’s easy to miss both on “The Jetsons” and in everyday life is the PillCam. On the show, George swallows a little robot that travels around his body and performs a checkup. If you’ve had any sort of digestive issues in the last several years, the chances are good you may have swallowed a very similar device.

The PillCam is exactly what it sounds like—a camera in a pill-shaped case that you swallow. It can be a little hard to choke down due to the size, but once swallowed, the camera goes to work, imaging your digestive tract and transmitting the info to a receiver. This helps diagnose a variety of illnesses, like Crohn’s disease, and helps the patient avoid a much more elaborate and invasive endoscopy procedure.

“The Jetsons” first aired in 1962, and, 50 years later, the show’s futuristic vision of life has very nearly become a reality. What do you think our homes and lives will be like in another 50 years?

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Categories: Realty News

Small Is the New Big: Home Size Preference Shrinks

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 06/17/2017 - 00:01

First-time homebuyers are shifting housing industry standards when it comes to home design preferences—and, according to the latest Home Design Trends Survey by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), one of the most significant changes is the end of the era of expansive property and square footage.

Small, simply, is the new big.

“With younger households that are increasingly entering the market looking for more affordable options, home sizes appear to have peaked for this economic cycle,” said Kermit Baker, chief economist of the AIA, in a statement on the survey.

Smaller homes are generally more affordable, which is key for many first-time homebuyers squeezed by high home prices and student debt. Small homes, however, are scarce in most housing markets.

Aside from less living space, the architecture professionals surveyed see the following trends taking shape:

  • In-Home Accessibility
  • Single-Floor Plans
  • Open-Concept Layout
  • Informal Spaces

Source: American Institute of Architects (AIA)

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Categories: Realty News

No Magic Formula for ‘Best Time to Book Airfare’

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 06/17/2017 - 00:00

(TNS)—Search on the web for “best time to book airfare” and you’ll find many conflicting answers, all of them completely wrong—and not only are they wrong, but they do a disservice to consumers who fall for this “voodoo” airfare economics.

One site gives a “guide” of 47 days before travel, although it admits that there is “quite a variance” depending on route and destination. Keep in mind that the booking site in question doesn’t offer or track Delta or Southwest, which together control about 35 percent of the domestic market, so its predictions have to be taken in that context.

Another site’s founder has infamously insisted that the best time is Tuesday at 3 p.m., (that site also doesn’t track Southwest or Delta). Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Company claimed earlier this year that the best day is not Tuesday but—wait for it—Sunday.

But wait: Skyscanner says it’s exactly seven weeks in advance of travel.

So who can you believe? Answer: none of the above.

There is no magic formula.

The best idea: sign up for “airfare alerts” by email. Search the term on the web and you’ll find many options from reputable companies that send out email alerts. Before you sign up, however, make sure that they at least include Delta Air Lines (that excludes such popular apps and sites as Hipmunk and Hopper along, with several others). If they also include Southwest, all the better, but few do.

These alerts all work a bit differently. Some only allow you to track specific dates, which is cool, except what if leaving a day or two earlier would have saved you hundreds? Some allow you to specify “to” and “from” specific airports, because a fare from Baltimore Washington International (BWI) might not be as ideal as one from closer-in Washington National DCA. Most alert systems treat “nearby” airports as equal, but tell that to someone who doesn’t want to trek out to Baltimore or Dulles when National is just a Metro ride away.

Another big annoyance is that the lowest fares are often on airlines that people hate to fly (because they charge for carry-on bags and seat assignments), so look for a service that allows you to eliminate alerts from airlines you’d never fly even if they were free (Airfarewatchdog.com does allow specific airline choice).

Another reason for signing up for several alerts: all online travel agencies do not show the same prices. I recently saw a fare from New York to South Africa flown on Delta and KLM for $200 less round trip if bought on Priceline versus the exact same flights, dates and airlines if booked on Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, or on KLM’s or Delta’s own websites. Some online travel agencies offer negotiated rates that are far less than the airlines themselves sell for. It’s worth searching more than one site.

Twitter is another great source for being alerted to short-lived airfare deals. Follow the #airfare hashtag, where over a half-dozen accounts tweet out unadvertised deals. The #flights hashtag is also useful. Follow the accounts you find there.

Once you’re signed up or following, you have to act. An airfare from L.A. to Singapore (this is a recent example) might go down, unadvertised, to $398 round-trip including tax on Singapore Airlines, whereas other airlines were charging $800 for the same travel dates but on less desirable connecting flights. But that fare, even if it’s good over several months of travel, might appear for just three or four hours and then it goes back up to $800. Now that airlines allow you to pay for a fare and cancel within 24 hours without paying a fee, the strategy is to book it, hold it, and then get your friends and family on board and sort out hotels.

George Hobica is founder of the low-airfare listing website Airfarewatchdog.com.
(c)2017 Airfarewatchdog.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Categories: Realty News

9 Home Gadgets to Save Energy and Entertain

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 16:39

So you’re up for making your home truly state-of-the-art? I’ve got a great list for you. Here are nine gadgets to be on the lookout for:

Moen’s U lets you customize the perfect shower before ever stepping in with just a few taps on your smartphone.

Smart and Blue’s Hydrao smart showerheads let you instantly control your water consumption and energy needed to heat it by lighting up the water spray with different colors depending on the amount of water used—and it’s powered by the shower’s natural water-flow.

Luke Roberts Smart Light – This LED pendant lamp, from Austrian startup Luke Roberts, lets you place light in any direction, illuminating only certain areas of a room through simple gestures on your phone.

Kuri – Created by Mayfield Robotics, this app uses a camera to check on pets, kids, or guests when you’re away. It sets reminders, uses Wi-Fi to connect to things like weather reports, and works with IFTTT to control some connected devices, according to CNET.com.

Hello Egg – From RnD64, this works with the Eggspert web and mobile application to fully automate planning weekly meals, supervising the pantry, organizing shopping lists, and even ordering grocery delivery. Hello Egg also projects voice-navigated video recipes and answers cooking-related questions with a connected 24/7 support team of cooking experts.

CUJO creates a guarded firewall gateway between your devices and their connection to the internet by analyzing for malicious intent, whether it’s coming in from the internet, going out to the internet, or making moves across your network.

AirTV is the only major streaming platform that integrates local over-the-air (OTA) programming with your streaming services. Just add an AirTV Adapter and an OTA antenna to get local channels in HD, without a monthly cable bill.

Sony A1E – Unlike most TV speakers, sound comes to you from the entire screen, immersing you in a new entertainment experience—if there can be such a thing!

LG W7 – Capturing Best of the Best recognition at CES 2017, the W7’s picture-on-wall design allows the television to lay virtually flat so it seems blend with the wall and disappear.

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Categories: Realty News

5 Things to Know About No-Interest Credit Cards

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 16:44

(TNS)—Tempted by that offer for a new credit card with an interest-free grace period? Don’t succumb to the first attractive zero percent interest credit card offer that comes your way—unless it’s the right card for you.

First, come to understand your own motivations. A credit card with a no-interest introductory offer may be a good choice if you’re looking to consolidate debt through a balance transfer or if you’re contemplating a vacation or big purchase but don’t have the cash to immediately pay for it.

Then, compare the terms of the cards you’re considering. Doing so can help you avoid potential pitfalls and choose the best offer for your circumstances.

Before you take the zero percent plunge, consider these five tips to make sure your decision is the right one.

Look Beyond the Offer
Zero percent interest cards offer a free promotional period on purchases, balance transfers, or both for a set time, typically anywhere from 12 to 21 months. After that teaser period, the card’s standard annual percentage rate will kick in.

Examine that go-to rate closely.

If the standard APR is higher than the rate you’re charged on your current cards—and you even occasionally carry a balance—it probably doesn’t make sense to use the new card after the intro period expires.

Some zero percent interest cards double as a rewards credit card and charge an annual fee. Make sure you’ll be able to take advantage of the rewards you’ll get in return for paying that fee. Otherwise, move on to another card.

Although it’s possible to close the card after the promotional period is over, it’s not recommended. Like all credit card applications, before you’re approved, the issuer will do a “hard” credit check, which can adversely impact your score. And every time you close an account, you reduce your available credit, which can also ding your credit rating.

Have a Plan
The best way to take advantage of a zero percent credit card is to pay down a huge debt transferred from an existing credit card during the introductory period.

Use that interest-free time to pay off your debt entirely (or reduce it substantially) before the intro rate expires and you begin paying interest, possibly at a higher rate than your original card. Paying the maximum monthly amount you can afford, without accruing interest, can give you a leg up on wiping it out completely.

A balance transfer calculator can help you determine how much you’ll have to pay each month to retire the debt before the end of the introductory period.

“A balance transfer is just the first step in a two-step process,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst. “The second—and more important—step is to use that lower rate to accelerate debt repayment and get the balance paid off for good. Otherwise, you’re just moving money around.”

Even if you can’t pay the debt in full by the end of the intro period, always make sure to pay on time. A late payment could void the promotional period, possibly trigger a penalty APR and cost you a princely sum in late fees.

Mind the Fees
Don’t be fooled: When it comes to balance transfers, a zero percent offer doesn’t mean you’ll be able to pay off your debt for free.

Balance transfer offers typically come with a one-time fee that ranges from 3 to 5 percent of the amount being transferred, although there are cards that charge no fee. Most of the time the math will work in your favor, even if you’re moving a substantial sum to a new card, but it’s smart to ensure that what you’ll save on interest payments is greater than the upfront fee.

Let’s say you want to transfer $5,000 to a card that charges no interest for 12 months. If the card charges a 3 percent transfer fee, you’d pay $150 to move the balance to a new card. Use a calculator to determine what you’d pay in interest on your current card over the course of the intro period.

Even if you have a cheap zero percent APR on your current card, your interest payments during that year would be much higher than the transfer fee—even assuming you paid off your entire balance.

Alternately, you may find that the best balance transfer credit card for you is one with a shorter promotional period but doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee. In some cases, it may be a better option than a card with longer terms that has a hefty upfront charge.

Beware the Purchase APR Pitfall
It might be tempting to splurge a little with a new card—especially if you won’t get charged interest on new purchases for a year or longer. Spending beyond your means is how debt accrues in the first place, and even an interest-free purchase still has to be paid for.

So, if you get a zero percent credit card to help manage your debt, be cautious about spending.

“Don’t get too enamored with the zero percent on new purchases,” says John Ulzheimer, a nationally recognized credit expert formerly with FICO and Experian. “Make purchases you normally would have made anyway like dry cleaning, gas, groceries—and pay it off so you don’t get into more debt.”

If you carry no credit card debt and want the card to finance a big purchase that’s beyond your monthly budget, like an appliance or furniture, proceed with caution, as well. Do this only if you can pay off the purchase during the intro period.

Make Sure You Qualify
Like most of the best credit card offers available, the better your credit score, the more likely you are to qualify for a great offer on a balance transfer card.

“Because of the structure of the cards, they’re really reserved for people with great credit. Even though you may want one, you may not qualify,” says Ulzheimer.

Overall, issuers rejected 17.7 percent of credit card applications between October 2016 and February 2017, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Even if you are armed with a high enough credit score to qualify for the best offers, in some cases, there may be a cap on the balance transfer amount. Check the fine print to see if the balance transfer card will meet your needs before applying.

“Your balance may be (so) large that the new issuer won’t accept it,” says Linda Sherry, director of National Priorities at watchdog group Consumer Action.

©2017 Bankrate.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Categories: Realty News

College Grads: Launch Your Career in These Cities

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 06/03/2017 - 00:00

Are you a recent college graduate? Congratulations! You’re about to enter the working world, and, with any luck, you’ll score your dream job right out of the gate.

or, you can at least better your chances. A new ranking by Bankrate.com identifies several cities ideal for career-making moves—and, surprisingly, the Big Apple didn’t make the top five.

“Many eager new grads think they have to head to New York or Silicon Valley to make it big,” says Sarah Berger, “The Cashlorette” at Bankrate.com. “There are plenty of cities that offer solid job markets and long-term career growth, without breaking the bank or sacrificing a good quality of life.”

  1. Houston, Texas
    Median Income for Recent College Graduates: $43,500
    Share of Income Needed to Afford Median Rent: 22%
  1. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.
    Share of Employed Recent College Graduates: 88%
    Share of Income Needed to Afford Median Rent: 29%
  1. Washington, D.C.
    Median Income for Recent College Graduates: $45,000
  1. Milwaukee, Wis.
    Median Income for Recent College Graduates: $38,000
    Share of Income Needed to Afford Median Rent: 22.7%
  1. Dallas, Texas
    Share of Employed Recent College Graduates: 81.9%

Source: Bankrate

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Categories: Realty News

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