News

San Francisco: The Sweet Spot for Trick-or-Treaters

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Mon, 10/16/2017 - 16:14

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

The annual Trick-or-Treat Index from Zillow puts San Francisco in the sweet spot: No. 1 for trick-or-treaters.

Zillow Trick-or-Treat Index 2017 (PRNewsfoto/Zillow)

 

Analysts at Zillow began with the Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI), concocting a formula that includes home values, how close homes are in proximity to each other, and the share of 10-year-olds (and younger) in a given market. Bubble, bubble…

“Searching for neighborhoods with the best candy is a Halloween tradition for many kids and their parents,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “Our annual list is a fun way for families to see how their neighborhood stacks up against others when it comes to trick-or-treating. These are places we think will have plenty of candy and lots of young kids running around from door to door.”

In the City by the Bay, the top three neighborhoods for trick-or-treaters are Presidio Heights, Sea Cliff and Golden Gate Heights; in No. 2 San Jose, the top three are West San Jose, Willow Glen and Cambrian Park.

Is your city out of the running this year? Fear not.

“If you don’t live in one of these cities, look for areas that are getting into the Halloween spirit with decorations and lots of costumed kids,” Gudell says.

See the 2016 Trick-or-Treat Index.

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.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

Home Haunted? No Problem, New Survey Shows

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 16:35

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

Would you ever live in a haunted home? A new survey from realtor.com® shows most folks won’t shy away from a spooky space—so long as the price is right.

In September, realtor.com surveyed more than 1,000 online respondents. The verdict? Thirty-three percent were open to living in a haunted house, 25 percent might be, and 42 percent are not open to the idea.

So what factors impacted these results? Let’s explore:

  • Forty percent of respondents indicated that they need a price reduction in order to choose a haunted home over a non-haunted home;
  • 35 percent require a better neighborhood;
  • 32 percent need larger square footage; and
  • 29 percent would do so if more bedrooms are involved.

Who minds a few spooky spirits if there’s a third bedroom, amiright? From the survey, 47 percent of participants indicate they would live in a home where someone died, 27 percent said they might, and 26 percent said they would not.

The survey also showed certain paranormal activities are preferred over others. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed didn’t mind a few cold or hot spots in their home, whereas 45 percent could get down with unexplainable noises, and 39 percent are willing to tolerate strange, freaky feelings in certain rooms. Thirty-five percent of folks could deal with shifting shadows, but only 20 percent were alright with levitating objects or the sensation of being touched.

Of those surveyed, 28 percent believed they already have lived in a haunted house, with 14 percent unsure and 58 percent quite sure they’ve never been haunted.

What do you think? Would you be willing to room with a ghoul for more square footage, a lower price tag or a finished basement?

View more from the survey.

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

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

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

Crowdfunding Your Way Into a Home

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 16:11

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

Crowdfunding has appeared in the real estate industry in a variety of forms: house flip investing, mortgage payoff and down payment support. High fees and legality issues have made it difficult for the popular funding method to be taken seriously within U.S. real estate markets.

A new crowdfunding platform—HomeFundMe—was recently launched by GMC Financial, a privately-held mortgage banking firm. This could be a game changer, since it’s the first crowdfunding service approved by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Here’s what GMC financial says about HomeFundMe:

  • No fees for using the service (Anything deposited into HomeFundMe can be used towards the buyer’s down payment.)
  • Better loan terms, more buying opportunities and the possibility of getting rid of or lowering mortgage insurance
  • Potential to receive a grant ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 in exchange for completing required homebuyer education or housing counseling.
  • Matching donations ($2 for every $1) up to the grant limits once the counseling is completed

While over 100 people have already used the platform, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have only approved the service on a trial basis until June 2018. The mortgage giants are keeping a close eye on results before giving it their stamp of approval.

There are a few caveats, of course. Borrowers must first be pre-approved for a mortgage by GMC Financial in order to use the crowdfunding service, which is limited to $7,500 in gifted funds. The loan must also be a Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-approved loan (their 30-, 20- and 15-year fixed loans are eligible, as well). In addition, borrowers must earn less than their area’s median income in order to qualify for matching contributions/grants.

This method will force borrowers into GMC Financial’s rates and fees. Millennial and Gen Z buyers, who are most likely to use such a service because of challenges in obtaining a down payment, will not be able to shop around for the lowest rate—a huge snag that may turn off borrowers from the crowdfunding service.

While other services charge fees and may complicate loan processing, borrowers will have to compare costs, as they may be able to save by using an alternative lender.

Here are some other crowdfunding options:

  • HomeFunded: 5 percent usage fee on total funds and 2.9 percent for processing each transaction
  • GoFundMe: 5 percent usage fee per donation and 2.9 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction
  • FeathertheNest: 5 percent usage fee per donation and 2.9 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction
  • Honeyfund: No usage fee and 2.8 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction

Keep in mind that these services may come with additional gifting restrictions in the lending world. Most Fannie, Freddie and FHA loans only allow gifted down payment funds from family and close friends. Loan processing may also be more time consuming if using these services, and you stand the chance of being rejected by lenders.

Crowdfunding may be a quicker way of amassing down payment reserves, but it can be a complicated process—extending your mortgage commitment dates or even threatening your loan approval. It may, however, be a useful option for borrowers who are dealing with high student loan or other debt payments and can’t afford to save.

If given final approval, HomeFundMe may open the door to a widespread financial backing of crowdfunding services in the real estate industry.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

Safety Warnings for Fidget Spinners

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 15:54

Any household where kids live or even visit today probably has a couple (or dozens) of fidget spinners lying around. On Aug. 10, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle announced the agency was investigating some reported incidents that prompted a warning to parents and caregivers to keep fidget spinners and similarly branded toys from small children because the plastic and metal spinners can break and release small pieces that can be a choking hazard. Buerkle said there have also been reports of fires involving battery-operated fidget spinners.

She said it is key to use the charging cable that either comes with the fidget spinner or has correct connections for the device. Charging cables are not interchangeable, Buerkle warns.

Also, if a fidget spinner is marketed and is primarily intended for children “12 years of age and younger,” its manufacturer and/or retailer must certify it meets standards, including limits for phthalates, lead content, and lead in paint, including the U.S Toy Standard ASTM F963-16, and be labeled as such.

Remember:

  • Keep fidget spinners away from children under 3 years of age.
  • Plastic and metal spinners have small pieces (including batteries) that can be a choking hazard. Choking incidents involving children up to age 14 have been reported.
  • Warn children of all ages not to put fidget spinners or small pieces in their mouths or play with the fidget spinner near their faces.

If you have battery-operated fidget spinners:

  • Have working smoke alarms in your house to protect you if there is a fire;
  • Be present when products with batteries are charging;
  • Never charge a product with batteries overnight while you are sleeping;
  • Always use the cable that came with the fidget spinner; or
  • If the fidget spinner did not come with a cable, use one with the correct connections for charging; and
  • Unplug your fidget spinner immediately once it is fully charged.

Buerkle urges consumers to visit the CPSC Fidget Spinner Safety Education Center for additional safety tips, and urges consumers to report fidget spinner safety incidents to CPSC at www.SaferProducts.gov.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

Relaxation Awaits: 2018 Best Places to Retire

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 13:01

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

Are you getting ready to find your retirement paradise? There are a lot of things to consider before making the big move. Lucky for you, U.S. News & World Report just unveiled their 2018 Best Places to Retire list to help you make your decision.

These rankings reflect a number of factors that can affect your retirement, such as happiness, housing affordability, desirability, retiree taxes, the job market and healthcare quality. In order to narrow down the list, U.S. News & World Report surveyed pre-retirees (ages 45-59) and retirement-aged (ages 60-plus) individuals.

If an overall happy life is the most important to you, head on over to Sarasota, Fla. But if you need strong housing affordability, then maybe San Antonio, Texas is for you. Weigh out your pros and cons before making a decision.

Here are the top 10 retirement spots. Is your relaxing oasis on this list?

  1. Sarasota, Fla.
  2. Lancaster, Pa.
  3. San Antonio, Texas
  4. Grand Rapids, Mo.
  5. El Paso, Texas
  6. McAllen, Texas
  7. Daytona Beach, Fla.
  8. Pittsburgh, Pa.
  9. Austin, Texas
  10. Washington, D.C.

View the entire list on U.S. News & World Report.

View the methodology.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

4 Reasons Why Bamboo Is Taking Home Decor by Storm

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Tue, 10/03/2017 - 16:23

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

Homeowners are often looking for home improvement options that strike the right balance between affordability, functionality, aesthetics and eco-friendliness. Bamboo has been marketed as something of a panacea—a kind of wonder wood that checks all the boxes. Designers, contractors and consumers have all taken note, as bamboo has made its way into homes as flooring, walls, window treatments, furniture and more. Here are the properties that are making this popular material a go-to green choice for interior design materials.

Affordability
Bamboo is a readily available wood…except for the fact that bamboo isn’t a wood at all, but a grass! Therein lies the secret to bamboo’s ascendant success as a housing material: It grows like a weed because it essentially is one. At a maximum of three feet per day, it is, in fact, the fastest growing plant on Earth. This abundance means it’s an affordable and easily accessible choice in an increasing number of household design elements.

Versatility
Just the one word “bamboo” doesn’t do justice to the range of looks the material offers. It can vary greatly in shades and textures, making it a versatile option for decorators and designers. From the darkest darks to the palest natural shades, you can get just the right color to complement and accentuate the earth tones in your interior decor. (For example, a homeowner with dark hardwood floors can choose dark bamboo shades to tie the room together.) Just keep in mind that the color may change over time as the material ages, and tones may differ depending on where and when it was harvested (just as is the case with hardwood).

Indeed, bamboo window treatments are particularly popular, and they’re available in a variety of options ranging from Roman shades to woven blinds. Whatever style you go for, bamboo blinds can pull together a room’s earth tones into one elegantly cohesive package, while allowing natural sunlight to filter in. While bamboo on its own is not a black-out solution, you can add blackout liners to prevent any undesired light filtration.

Durability
Whether natural or manmade, few materials can match bamboo’s physical properties pound for pound. Because bamboo grows in wet, tropical climates, it is well-suited to resisting rain and wind. (East Asian cultures have made use of bamboo for centuries to build suspension bridges, huts, rafts and much more.) In fact, this unassuming reed beats out hardwood, brick and concrete alike in terms of compressive strength, while rivaling steel in tensile strength.

The result is a lightweight, flexible material that performs admirably in heavily-trafficked and humid areas of the home, making it a great option for floors and furniture in living areas, as well as window treatments in areas like the bathroom.

Interestingly, bamboo’s legendary durability persists even when it is broken down into its fibers. Rayon fabric, while luxuriously soft, is also incredibly strong. Add to that its natural anti-microbial properties, and you have a long-lasting material that is useful in a wide variety of textile applications.

Sustainability
As a growing number of homeowners look for eco-friendly materials in their decor, perhaps no single factor has contributed to bamboo’s modern vogue in interior design more than its sustainability. As it is a grass rather than a tree, it can grow to a harvestable size (often over 100 feet) in a matter of months. This is in stark contrast to the years of water, fertilizer and pesticide required by other timber woods. Additionally, bamboo can grow on steep slopes and depleted or abandoned agricultural lands that would otherwise go to waste.

The environmental benefits don’t stop there. Bamboo’s root systems are an effective reinforcement against soil erosion. Due to its fast-growing nature, bamboo farms that make responsible use of available land are an incredibly potent form of carbon sequestration. Finally, bamboo groves can produce up to 35 percent more oxygen than comparably sized forests.

Processing bamboo has made leaps and bounds in terms of eco-friendliness. While bamboo plywood has traditionally required formaldehyde in the production process, more and more researchers are finding breakthroughs that make durable and biodegradable glues an economic reality. It’s worth noting that most of the world’s bamboo timber is grown in China and India, and therefore requires international shipping, and not all companies conform to the greenest methods of production.

When you consider bamboo’s low carbon footprint along with its durability and lasting appeal, it’s no wonder that it’s made its way to homes in the form of furniture, window treatments, flooring and more. When you elect to adorn your home with this wonder wood (er, grass) you can rest easier knowing that a more beautiful home can be kind to Mother Earth and your bank account alike.

Katie Laird is the director of Social Marketing for Blinds.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

Infographic: Easing the Burden of Student Loan Debt

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 16:22

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

Is your crippling student loan debt keeping you from becoming a homeowner? According to an article by RefinanceStudentLoans.net, “The Case for Student Loan Forgiveness,” student loan debt is one of the highest debt categories in the U.S., coming in second to only mortgage debt. Add up the debt from the 44-plus million borrowers in the U.S. and it comes out to a whopping $1.44 trillion, the article reports.

If you’ve experienced a hefty monthly student loan payment, then you’ll understand why borrowers are less likely to boost the economy. If all of your cash is going to bills and debt reduction, there’s no excess money to spend.

This loan debt can also delay important life events—such as getting married, having children and buying a house—by 19 to 46 percent. Many are having trouble affording these loan payments after paying for rent, gas and utilities. According to the article, 8 million borrowers defaulted on their student loans as of 2016.

Fortunately, there are some resources available that can ease the burden of student loan debt or erase it completely. Programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Perkins Loan Cancellation can help you if you work a non-profit, education or government job. If you don’t qualify for these, you can also apply for income-based repayment plans to lower your monthly loan payments or defer them for the time being.

The following infographic, provided by RefinanceStudentLoans.net, offers a breakdown of available student loan forgiveness and alternative repayment options.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

Your Fall Produce Guide

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Tue, 09/26/2017 - 16:20

Do you like to eat locally? While the summer has an abundance of fresh produce for you to grab at your local farmer’s market, as fall hits, many wonder what local produce is still available. Below are the top five things to eat this autumn, available in most regions in the country.

Apples! All hail fall, the season of apples! From apple pie to applesauce, apple slaw and more, there are hundreds of ways to enjoy this crispy sweet (or tart!) treat. Look for local apples in your grocery store or drive up to a nearby farm to pick yourself.

Broccoli. Although it does grow in the warmer months, broccoli lingers into the fall. Roast up some spears with garlic and olive oil, or pull out your wok for a quick stir-fry.

Blackberries. Most of us think of summer as the season for berries, but blackberries are available in some regions well into the early fall. Great for pies, smoothies, muffins and fruit salads, these juicy berries are packed with antioxidants—great for fighting colds as the “sick” season approaches.

Cabbage. Stuffed cabbage, baked cabbage, stewed cabbage, coleslaw! This cruciferous veggie is very versatile, and extremely inexpensive. Grab a head or four and get to munching.

Cauliflower. Many mistake cauliflower as being void of nutrients due to its pale coloring, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Packed with vitamins, this veggie is great raw, steamed or baked. Some are even getting creative by making cauliflower “rice” and pizza crusts. Hit up Google for some innovative cauliflower recipes.

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

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

Get in Early on Emerging Neighborhoods

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sun, 09/24/2017 - 13:03

Buying in a hot housing market while prices are reasonable is a sure ticket to wealth. Analysts at GOBankingRates recently spotlighted 20 up-and-comers. The top 10 are:

1. Jungle Terrace – St. Petersburg, Fla.
Median List Price (as of July 2017): $239,900
Price Change Year-Over-Year: +44.5 percent

2. Beacon Hill – Seattle, Wash.
Median List Price: $569,995
Price Change Y-O-Y: +31.2 percent

3. Point Breeze – Philadelphia, Pa.
Median List Price: $295,000
Price Change Y-O-Y: +40.5 percent

4. Heather Gardens – Denver, Colo.
Median List Price: $278,750
Price Change Y-O-Y: +27.3 percent

5. Pinehurst – Seattle, Wash.
Median List Price: $350,000
Price Change Y-O-Y: +24.8 percent

6. Hazelwood – Portland, Ore.
Median List Price: $324,450
Price Change Y-O-Y: +22.4 percent

7. Twin Lakes – Las Vegas, Nev.
Median List Price: $182,450
Price Change Y-O-Y: +41 percent

8. Fairgrounds – Indianapolis, Ind.
Median List Price: $179,900
Price Change Y-O-Y: +29 percent

9. Bayside West – Tampa, Fla.
Median List Price: $229,900
Price Change Y-O-Y: +32 percent

10. Highland Hills – San Antonio, Texas
Median List Price: $135,000
Price Change Y-O-Y: +35.3 percent

Source: GOBankingRates

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

The Latest and Greatest Fall Home Trends

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 16:05

As the days shorten and autumn arrives, it’s time to start considering holiday gift items, or even a couple of household goodies you might just want to keep for yourself.

Take, for example, the remotely controllable slow cooker from WeMo, which lets you check on your meal in progress without actually having to be in the kitchen. Quickly and easily adjust your device’s temperature and cook time via the WeMo smartphone app, or just turn it on or off completely while you’re away. Plus, its six-quart oval stoneware cooking chamber is removable and dishwasher-safe.

Forget fall foliage and Indian corn—add some festive color to any of your home’s doorways with a natural or faux berry fall wreath. Many retail and online home stores and garden centers are offering stemmed bittersweet wreaths gleaming with russet red and persimmon, instead of autumn’s more understated browns and oranges.

Or, add rustic charm to any abode with small-scale set of burnished-bronze Anthropologie Airen antlers (Anthropologie.com, $21). Their hefty aluminum build is sturdy enough for holding purses and scarves by the door, or can just as easily be displayed in the living or bedroom as cruelty-free, cabin-inspired wall art.

Match them up with a pair of Pier 1 Imports antler-shaped candle stands ($28 each). Substitute in lieu of a traditional cornucopia to open up the visual space, while giving any tabletop or nook a more dramatic feel.

If you’re not ready to panel an entire room, or looking to add a few natural woody accents, try Target.com for one or more sets of decorative Weathered brand wood panels. Their eye-catching geometric design is described as the perfect home decor for the minimalist household.

Or if you want the easy-to-apply—and remove—effect of wood, JCPenny.com offers extremely authentic-looking and American-made Beachwood Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper. Use it to freshen up a backsplash, as intriguing shelf-backing, to accent small areas, or on an entire wall.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

Revealed: 100 Best Places to Live in America

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 15:55

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

Ever wondered who is living the good life, and where? A new study done by MONEY with the help of realtor.com® runs down the top 100 best places to live in the U.S.

But how does one quantify “best,” a term that feels quite subjective? The study’s methodology focuses on towns with a population of 10,000 to 100,000, to avoid the big cities and spotlight smaller suburbs and towns that often get overlooked as folks gush about Portland, Ore. and Austin, Texas.

The variables MONEY focused on with these smaller places included job availability, school systems, crime rates, convenience, home values and community/cultural outlets. Realtor.com stepped in to assist with the real estate aspect, and together the two sources unveiled 100 great places to live across the country, from North Dakota to New Jersey and back again.

So what are the top 10 spots? Some may surprise you:

  1. Fishers, Ind.
  2. Allen, Texas
  3. Monterey Park, Calif.
  4. Franklin, Tenn.
  5. Olive Branch, Miss.
  6. Dickinson, N.D.
  7. Lone Tree, Colo.
  8. North Arlington, N.J.
  9. Schaumburg, Ill.
  10. Bozeman, Mont.

For more details, check out MONEY’s post here, and to see how realtor.com broke down what is occurring in the “Best Places” housing markets, click here.

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

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

What You Need to Earn to Live in the Cheapest and Priciest Metros

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 16:05

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

Ever wonder how much bacon you need to bring in to live comfortably in some of our country’s largest metros? HSH.com recently revealed the salaries needed to live in a median-priced home in 50 of the hottest areas of the U.S., and the numbers may surprise you. While the national average of median home prices cost $255,600, requiring a salary of just over $56,000, the salary difference between the least expensive and the most expensive is nearly $200,000 (!!).

5 Least Expensive Metros

  • Pittsburgh: $35,329.29
  • Cleveland: $36,553.26
  • Indianapolis: $37,429.34
  • Oklahoma City: $37,854.04
  • Memphis: $37,964.05

5 Most Expensive Metros

  • San Jose: $221,363.63
  • San Francisco: $181,341.49
  • San Diego: $116,875.11
  • Los Angeles: $101,531.66
  • New York City: $99,136.79

It’s no real surprise that four of the five priciest metros are all in the state of California. Get the full results from HSH.com and see how realtor.com broke down what is occuring in the “Best Places” housing markets.

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

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Realty News

Driving the Smart Home Surge

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 00:01

More homeowners are adopting automation, according to a recent survey by CEDIA, a trade association, and HomeAdvisor, relying on professionals in a “smart home surge.” Seventy-five percent of the professionals surveyed, in fact, say they have received more smart home inquiries in recent months, and requests for maintenance once per month or more.

“This report shows that when it comes to smart home technologies, homeowners are migrating away from DIY to more of a ‘do it for me’ mindset,” says Dan DiClerico, smart home strategist at HomeAdvisor.

Smart home devices permeate every part of the home, including doors and windows, landscaping and security, the survey shows. Most professionals report including smart home technology in a larger renovation.

Over 1,400 smart home professionals were surveyed for the report.

Source: HomeAdvisor

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Categories: Realty News

Understanding Energy Costs

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Wed, 09/13/2017 - 16:00

I was recently contacted by the Consumer Energy Alliance, which provides consumers with unbiased information on U.S. and global energy issues. Its affiliates represent sectors from the energy industry, academia, small businesses, conservation groups to travel-related industries.

The CEA recently released a sweeping study of energy consumption across the country, and analyzed various regions, states, even major municipalities promoting ideas to enhance efficiency and preserve an uninterrupted flow of energy based on expected future population shifts.

To the end consumer, the report paints a fascinating picture of who is paying what for their energy, and why it costs so much, or, in some regions, so little.

According to the CEA study, the average mid-continent family currently enjoys some of the lowest electricity costs in the nation. While these low costs are attributable to the region’s access to natural resources and booming energy production, the report suggests that could end in only a few years unless new infrastructure and pipeline
projects are hastily approved.

This planning is especially important, as some of the nation’s poorest communities like Camden, Ark.; Opelousas, La.; Deming, N.M.; Commerce, Okla.; and San Benito, Texas, dot the mid-continent region. The average household income in these communities is $24,857—55.43 percent less than the national average, the CEA report states.

Even small increases in energy prices could have a devastating effect on families in the mid-continent region where median household incomes are $10,000 to $25,000 less than the national average. In this region, the CEA reported that low-income households pay roughly 22 percent of after-tax income on residential utility bills and gasoline.

While most mid-continent families currently pay, on average, a rate roughly 9 percent lower than the national average of 12.90 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), it is also home to states like Texas, where the average monthly bill is 17 percent higher than the national average.

In addition, the study found:

  • The bottom 20 percent of earners spend almost 10 percent of their income solely on electricity—more than seven times what the top 20 percent pays.
  • Of those low-income earners that spend 10 percent of their income on power bills, half are African-American families.
  • The average household in the U.S. currently pays 13 cents per KwH using, on average, 901 KwH per month totaling $116 in electricity bills. That represents almost one-fifth (4.78 percent) of the average income of the poorest mid-continent families.

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Categories: Realty News

The Best States for Single Parents

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 09/09/2017 - 00:00

Parents raising children solo have unique needs. A recent study by GOBankingRates identifies the states with the most favorable conditions for meeting those needs, including an ideal median income:

  1. New Jersey
    Median Household Income: $72,093
    State Support: Expanded Medicaid, earned-income tax credit and paid family leave program
  1. Rhode Island
    Median Household Income: $56,852
    State Support: Expanded Medicaid, earned-income tax credit and paid family leave program
  1. Michigan
    State Support: Expanded Medicaid and earned-income tax credit
    Bonus: The average grocery cost and home list price in Michigan are among the lowest in the nation.
  1. Washington
    State Support: Expanded Medicaid, earned-income tax credit and paid family leave program (effective 2019)
    Bonus: There is no state income tax in Washington.
  1. Illinois
    State Support: Expanded Medicaid and earned-income tax credit
    Bonus: Illinois has the fourth-lowest employee contribution amount for employer-sponsored family health coverage.

Source: GOBankingRates

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Categories: Realty News

Consumer Confidence Keeps Improving

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 09/02/2017 - 00:05

Consumer confidence kept improving in August, posting a 122.9 reading in the latest Consumer Confidence Index® from The Conference Board. The Expectations reading of the Index rose to 104.0, while the Present Situation reading rose to 151.2. July’s reading was 120.0.

“Consumer confidence increased in August following a moderate improvement in July,” said Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board in a statement. “Consumers’ more buoyant assessment of present-day conditions was the primary driver of the boost in confidence, with the Present Situation Index continuing to hover at a 16-year high. Consumers’ short-term expectations were relatively flat, though still optimistic, suggesting that they do not anticipate an acceleration in the pace of economic activity in the months ahead.”

The percentage of consumers who believe business conditions are “good,” as defined by the Index, increased from 32.5 percent in July to 34.5 percent in August; the percentage of those who believe business conditions are “bad” decreased from 13.5 percent in July to 13.1 percent in August. The percentage of those who expect business conditions to improve decreased from 22.4 percent in July to 19.6 percent in August; the percentage of those who expect business conditions to worsen decreased from 8.4 percent in July to 7.3 percent in August.

The percentage of consumers who believe jobs are “plentiful” increased from 33.2 percent in July to 35.4 percent in August, according to the Index; the percentage of those who believe jobs are “hard to get” decreased from 18.7 percent in July to 17.3 percent in August. The percentage of those who expect more jobs in the coming months decreased from 18.5 percent in July to 17.1 percent in August; the percentage of those who expect less jobs in the coming months decreased from 13.2 percent in July to 13.0 percent in August.

The percentage of consumers who expect higher incomes increased from 20.0 percent in July to 20.9 percent in August; the percentage of those who expect a decrease increased from 9.5 percent in July to 7.8 percent in August.

Source: The Conference Board

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Categories: Realty News

WalletHub: 10 Best Housing Markets

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 09/02/2017 - 00:01

What makes for an attractive housing market? Analysts at WalletHub recently identified several indicators of desirability, using a 100-point scoring system in 300 markets to rank the top 10 in the nation:

  1. Frisco, Texas
  2. McKinney, Texas
  3. Allen, Texas
  4. Cary, N.C.
  5. Richardson, Texas
  6. Seattle, Wash.
  7. Bellevue, Wash.
  8. Carrollton, Texas
  9. Nashville, Tenn.
  10. Denver, Colo.

The indicators applied in the ranking included average days on market, median home price appreciation, the share of homes selling for a gain, and the share of underwater homes.

Five of the top 10 markets are in Texas, which also dominates as the state home to four of the top five in the ranking. No. 1 Frisco boasts the second-lowest home maintenance costs of the 300 markets evaluated, while No. 3 Allen has the third-lowest and No. 4 Cary has the fourth-lowest. No. 6 Seattle is tied for first for the lowest average days on market, while No. 7 Bellevue has the fourth-lowest foreclosure rate.

View the complete ranking and methodology.

Source: WalletHub

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Categories: Realty News

Research: Gardening Knows No Borders

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 09/02/2017 - 00:00

Homeowners the world over get down and dirty in the garden, according to recently released findings by market researcher GfK, with outdoor grooming most common Down Under. Forty-five percent of Australians spend time in the garden daily or weekly—the most of the 17 countries surveyed. Gardening is also popular in China, Mexico, the U.S. and Germany, where one-third or more of those surveyed get out in the yard daily or weekly.

Green-thumbing is a chore in some countries, however, especially in Argentina, Japan, Russia, Spain and South Korea, where most of those surveyed do not garden at all.

Twenty-four percent of survey respondents across all the countries surveyed garden at least once per week, while 7 percent garden “every day” or “most days.” Thirty-six percent of those aged 60 or older garden daily or weekly—on par with the 35 percent of those in their 30s who do the same.

Unsurprisingly, homeowners are twice as likely to garden daily or weekly than renters.

Source: GfK

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Categories: Realty News

14 Times Pop Culture Predicted Future Technology

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Thu, 08/31/2017 - 16:17

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

When the film-makers of yesteryear contemplated the future, it didn’t look like a very happy place—and not much has changed. You don’t need to look much further than the dystopian dramas that Hollywood is so fond of producing. But while sci-fi movies rarely predicted the nature of society, they did happen to predict a few items of futuristic technology. Did you know that 3D printing, the Roomba and Siri were all predicted by movies and television shows decades before they existed?

So the next time you scoff at a Hollywood blockbuster for being too far-fetched, take a minute to ask yourself if your grandfather would have believed that he would see a flying car in his lifetime. In the meantime, check out this visual guide which explores the 14 times pop culture accurately predicted the future!

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Categories: Realty News

Most Important Features Millennials Want in Their Homes

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Mon, 08/28/2017 - 16:10

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

There have been a lot of studies, think pieces and discussions trying to figure out millennials. Business owners were skeptical about hiring millennials a few years ago and now, as this younger generation continues to grow and succeed in life, the housing market seems to be the next millennial-facing industry.

There’s no doubt that millennials have finally entered the housing market. In fact, they currently make up 35 percent of buyers throughout the United States. Approximately 68 percent of all first-time home buyers fall into this age bracket, as well. But what do they want inside their homes?

Let’s take a look and see what millennials are looking for when it comes to buying a home.

Separate Laundry Rooms – Say what you will about millennials and their laundry habits, the majority of millennial homebuyers are searching for homes with an additional room just for laundry. Roughly 92 percent of homebuyers want a separate laundry room, coming in as the No. 1 thing millennials are looking for.

Outdoor Lighting – The second most desired feature for millennial homebuyers is exterior lighting. Roughly 90 percent of all people searching for a home in the current market want exterior lighting to illuminate their landscape.

Energy-Efficient Appliances – Another aspect of home-buying that cracks the top 10 for millennials is having energy-efficient appliances inside the home. (In fact, across every generation of homebuyers, 90 percent of people are looking for this feature.)

Hardwood Floors – Millennial homebuyers also prefer hardwood floors for their homes. Rather than choosing carpeting, approximately 82 percent of homebuyers are searching for properties with open hardwood floor plans.

There are still plenty of millennials who aren’t ready to buy a home just yet—but it looks like these are the kinds of features they will be looking for when they are ready to enter the housing market.

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Categories: Realty News

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