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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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

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

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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

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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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

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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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.”

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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

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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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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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 ( 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

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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

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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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.


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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 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 “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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Avocado: A True Game-Changer for Real Estate

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 05/27/2017 - 00:04

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

Who knew that creamy, verdant avocados could make or break one’s future in real estate?

According to Australian developer Tim Gurner, (who is 35 and worth half a billion dollars, nbd) millennials are poor and unable to buy homes because of their infatuation with the single-seeded berry (yes, it’s technically a fruit—The More You Know!)

On a recent episode of Australia’s “60 Minutes,” he said: “When I was buying my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for 19 bucks and four coffees at $4 each.”

I would propose that maybe only millionaires would pay $19 for guac, but I digress.

Also noteworthy, Gurner was handed $34,000 from his grandfather at the age of 19, which led to his early success in real estate, and he wants to chastise me for my love of guacamole!? Get outta here. What does he think? That if I was given free money, I would’ve bought 22,667 avocados instead of investing it? (Actually, that sounds like a pretty OK investment, if you ask me.)

Snarks aside, Australian real estate company Ray White is latching on to the avocado craze and offering buyers a delicious deal: free avocado toast for 12 months is up for grabs for anyone willing to shell out for a new two- or three-bedroom townhouse in Queensland.

Now, millennials can save their pennies for a townhouse and guacamole in one fell swoop! If you’re an avocado aficionado, you’d better get that passport renewed ASAP: the deal expires June 30.

What a time to be alive.

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

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Nature Lovers: 6 Towns for True Outdoorists

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 16:40

If you’re a nature lover, then you probably want to live somewhere where Mother Nature is knocking at your door. Of course, there is an allure to the high-rise skylines of big cities and all of the perks that come with them, but for some folks, it’s not the bright lights that entice them, but the endless opportunities that await them in the wild.

Many people have predetermined places where they’ve dreamed of living for their entire life, and then there are people who have absolutely no idea at all. If you find yourself in the latter of the two categories, then consider this list. Allow your imagination to run wild and really try to envision living in some of these spectacular outdoor-centric towns from all around the nation. These places are known to quench the insatiable thirst of all outdoorists who, above all else, crave proximity to Mother Nature, adventure and the peace that comes with living wild and free.

Move On Up in Billings, Mont.
Tell your kids to pick their new passion. It can be rock climbing, mountain biking or anything in between, because in Billings, Mont., you’ll have access to all of it. If you love steep inclines and summit vistas that stretch for miles, then Billings is the place for you. This town gives off a rather laid back vibe, but it won’t take long to realize what a strong sense of community it offers, as well. Many of the people who have lived in Billings their entire lives are ranchers and farmers—you know, the salt of the earth kind of folk—and they love their town and all it has to offer.

If you plan on visiting Billings before you buy, we suggest bringing along some climbing gear or renting while you’re there, so you can get a little taste of adventure while you are getting a feel for the place.

Become One With the Last Frontier in Valdez, Alaska
Do you have a desire to spend your afternoons skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing, snowshoeing, hiking, mountaineering, fishing or even going on some extreme hunting trips? Enter Valdez.

This small town is home to 4,000 individuals and is one of the most important fishing and freight ports in the state, so you’ll always have fresh seafood. The best thing about Valdez is the winter—that is to say, if you like the winter. We’re talking snow, and lots of it. Valdez is rated the snowiest town in the U.S., even though their winters don’t get quite as cold as other similar climates in Alaska.

Be careful visiting Alaska, because there is a good chance you’ll never want to hop on a plane back down to the lower 48. Yet, if you do visit before you buy, there is one thing you should absolutely bring, especially if you’re visiting before the warmer weather rolls through. You’re going to need to bring a down jacket—I mean real down and real heavy.

A parka is a must and, if you’re a lady, we would actually suggest a down skirt. They are incredibly warm and an extremely popular fashion item up north.

Bend, Ore.: It’s Kind of a Big Deal


You’ll be pleasantly surprised when the winter months roll around. The weather cools off and snow falls, but that’s about all that will change. You’ll likely still want to spend every day outside snow camping, skiing, snowboarding, climbing, snowshoeing or just hiking through the enchanting wilderness.

If you plan to visit Bend, make sure you bring a camera. There is a reason Bend was rated one of the top 10 places to live by Men’s Journal. It’s truly gorgeous and there are endless outdoor activities available to the people living here. For your visit, you might want to bring a detailed map so you can circle all the super cool places you visit, from the parts of town you might like living in to all the hip breweries and restaurants you don’t want to forget about on your next visit.

Be a Beach Bum in Kauai, Hawaii

Somewhere along the line people forgot that lounging on the beach is actually an outdoorsy thing to do, even if you have a drink in your hand. On Kauai, you get all the delights of true island life without all the touristy backlash. You can really let your hair down and become one with this place. Learn to surf and I guarantee you’ll never want to leave.

If you plan a trip to visit Kauai to see if it’s the spot for you, then please heed this one bit of advice: bring practically nothing. Seriously, keep your carry on limited to the essentials. You’re going to be in your swimsuit the majority of the time, anyway. You’ll get the true experience of this place if you visit with a minimalist perspective and a decent pair of flip flops.

Duluth, Minn.: Not Just a Trading Co.
This little town has witnessed a rise in popularity over the years simply because it offers up a little bit of everything: canoeing, kayaking, biking, hiking, sailing, fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and rock climbing, to name a few. The size of its community is small, but the sense of adventure looms large and you’ll never run out of stuff to do. During the summer months, there isn’t a single weekend where an event isn’t being hosted in town, pulling in thousands of tourists from across the nation.

Duluth is a true gateway to exploration and outdoorsy fun, especially because it sits on the edge of Lake Superior, so there are plenty of water sports to take advantage of. If you want to visit and feel out this buzzing little port town, be sure to book a hotel room and plan to visit when you can catch a free concert, touring show or theater performance during your stay.

Wow Factor of Wausau, Wis.
This little Wisconsin town has a few secrets up its sleeve that make it quite the interesting place to live. First, because there is a ski hill in town, you can enjoy delightful alpine skiing during the winter months. Second, you can spend your summer going on whitewater rafting trips. And thirdly, because the roots of this town are very much steeped in German and European culture, you have lots of beer to pick from, and most Wausau bakeries have warm, gooey Nutella-drizzled breakfast croissants at the ready on a daily basis.

If you want to plan your trip to Wausau and you’re a big fan of hunting, Wisconsin offers plenty of opportunities to hunt various types of game; if you plan your trip during the right time of year, you’ll get to hear the gobblers going off during your visit. I advise bringing along a turkey call so you can get some practice in before next year’s season!

It’s a big step to move your family, but it’s well worth it if you are surrounded by the scenery and activities you love. Sure, some of these towns are a little off the beaten path, but they serve as major gateways to vast outdoor opportunities. Plus, these tight-knit communities make for strong friendships, great schools, and happy dispositions, even if you have to start online shopping more. It’s worth it.

Casea Peterson is a freelance copywriter and content marketing specialist for businesses in the outdoor industry.

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Florida Friendly to First-Time Buyers, According to Zillow

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 15:48

First-time homebuyers up against high prices this spring could have a better chance of staying in-budget in the Sunshine State, where homes are still relatively affordable, according to a recent Zillow analysis. Orlando and Tampa took the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, in order, in its ranking of the best housing markets for first-timers, considering median home values and home value forecasts, as well as inventory, price reductions and time it takes to break even on a home purchase.

Why is the Theme Park Capital of the World tops? The median home value in Orlando is $202,900, with a forecasted appreciation rate of 3.8 percent. Supply stands at 10,344, with prices cut on 17.4 percent of listings. The time it will take to break even is one year and 11 months—all factors that, combined, make for first-time homebuyer-friendly conditions.

Keeping out of the red is a challenge for first-time homebuyers, who, according to the 2016 Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends, are more likely to go over budget than others.

“As millennials reach the typical home-buying age, they are coming into a tough housing market with low inventory and lots of competition,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “These markets have more favorable conditions for first-time buyers to become homeowners. More challenging metros aren’t out of reach for new buyers, but they should be prepared to face a more competitive buying environment.”

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Drool Over These Epic Indoor Slides

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sun, 05/14/2017 - 13:05

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

We’ve covered many-a-fun house features here on Housecall, from 3D floors to wacky kitchensaquatic living rooms and bedazzled bathrooms. But when it comes to cool features, what is more fun (and frivolous) than a house decked out with an indoor slide?

These homeowners know how to have a good time, and I’ll bet not all of these slippery babies are for the kids. Behold, four fun indoor slides to make you super jelly.

Zippy Yellow

Image Credit: Buzzfeed, Pinterest

Seemingly straight out of the movie “Big,” this vibrant London townhouse allows you to slip from the master bedroom to the dining room in seconds. And doesn’t that sunflower yellow give you all the good feels? Also, pay mind to that pillow pit. This setup is ideal for hours of safe, slippery fun. Just look how happy that family is! This could be you, if only you would install an indoor slide…


Image Credit: Pinterest

Something about the style of this slide makes me think of Play-Doh. But still, it’s pretty rad, or at the very least, a great pick up line. “Want to come back to my place and check out my slide…?” Who could say no to that?

Sleek Ride

Image Credit:

This silver baby is marketed as a kid’s slide, and if that’s the case, call me a child and sign me up! It’s rare something as ostentatious as a giant indoor slide looks good with the decor, but this design nailed it. Can’t you just imagine some hotshot CEO sliding downstairs in the morning in her bathrobe and slippers? Maybe even somehow balancing a coffee cup?


Image Credit:

If you have an indoor pool, an indoor slide is sort of a must. If this was the sitch in your home, you’d have a guaranteed party spot. Just stand at the top and holler, “I am a golden god!”

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

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First-Time Homebuyers Shell Out More for Upgrades

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 05/13/2017 - 00:04

While first-time homebuyers are facing certain challenges entering the housing market, that doesn’t mean they aren’t spending on upgrades to the homes they end up owning.

According to a recent report by Houzz, first-time homebuyers in 2016 dropped more than ever on renovations, spending an average $33,800. Homeowners overall spent an average $60,400.

First-time homebuyers aren’t starting with small changes, either—in fact, many have taken on remodeling four rooms at once, including more involved projects like bathrooms and the kitchen. Most, as well, are focused on outfitting their new homes with smart home technology.

“Younger and cash-constrained first-time buyers are responding to the low inventory of affordable homes by purchasing properties that require more than just cosmetic upgrades,” said Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz, in a statement on the survey. “Not surprisingly, we are seeing their spend on home renovations increasing significantly in 2016 and expect this trend to continue through 2017.”

That lack of cash for a more expensive home could explain why first-time homebuyers rely more on credit cards to finance renovations than other homeowners, according to the survey. Ninety-one percent of homeowners overall fund renovations, at least partially, with cash. Eleven percent fund them by taking out a loan, mainly a home equity line of credit (HELOC).

First-timers are also having trouble keeping renovations within budget, with 47 percent of those surveyed reporting it challenging to stay out of the red. They are, however, willing to ask for help, being just as likely as other homeowners to hire a professional.

Source: Houzz

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These 3D Floor Designs Are Perfect for Hours of Trippy Entertainment

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sun, 05/07/2017 - 13:03

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

It looks like 3D is not just for blockbuster films and street art anymore. Now, you can take 3D home with a 3D floor design.

These hip geometric floor patterns can give your home an artsy, innovative vibe, with their cool colors and minimalist patterns. Put out by Atra Flooring, these vinyl designs come in a variety of styles, and all of them are pretty trippy. From the never-ending swirls of the “Hula” pattern to “Giants Causeway,” reminiscent of the famous M.C. Escher lithograph, your floors will definitely be a source of conversation (and perhaps a bit of vertigo).

Atra Floor isn’t the first to take a stab at 3D floors. From a bedroom resting atop a waterfall to lava oozing across the living room floor, the designs can get pretty daring. Check out some of these crazy options.




Whatever design you choose, a 3D floor is sure to up your home to a whole new level of cool. Good luck keeping your guests from staring at their feet.

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

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Americans Find Moving More Stressful Than Weddings

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Thu, 05/04/2017 - 16:28

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

Shopping for a new home can be one of the most exciting times of your life, but after the excitement of finding that perfect space, making an offer and closing, you have to face the harsh task of packing up all your belongings and moving.

Whether you’re moving across the ‘hood or across the country, moving is always stressful. Unfortunately, unless you plan to live in the same place for the rest of your life, moving is also inevitable. The U.S. Census Bureau projects 40 million Americans will add another home to their list this year, with 65 percent moving between Memorial Day and Labor Day. With the spring moving season upon us, many are packing up their boxes and hitting the road.

According to a new survey released by, Americans have moved an average of six times throughout their lives. Below are the top findings from’s study on the emotional side of moving:

More Stressful Than a Wedding – Surprisingly, 58 percent feel moving is a bigger challenge than wedding planning. Move over, Bridezilla. Say hello to…Movezilla?

Argument-StarterStress often leads to arguments, so it makes sense that 31 percent of Americans who have moved in with a partner–including 46 percent of millennials–have had some of their worst arguments while moving.

A Time for Parents to Be Selfless Prior to a move, 69 percent of American parents claim they prioritize their child’s needs over their significant other’s needs.

It Takes Longer With Kids Like grocery shopping, traveling, and, well, most things you do with your children, the actual process of moving can take up to eight days longer when your kiddos are in tow.

Finders, Keepers Wading through sentimental items may make your move take longer. The study found that 81 percent of parents admit they have kept a child’s possession, even when given permission to get rid of it. Take our advice: No one cares about those second grade art projects and that box of nubby stuffed animals. Let them go.


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

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Homeowners Making Improvements Despite Political Uncertainties

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Sat, 04/29/2017 - 00:04

Homeowners are springing more for upgrades to their homes, despite unknowns that have the potential to impact their spending—a full 60 percent more than what they spent in 2016, according to a new report by HomeAdvisor.

“Home improvement activity is showing resilience in the face of political shifts,” says Brad Hunter, chief economist at HomeAdvisor. “While there is a sharp divide in how homeowners feel about the economy and the current presidential administration, that divide is not affecting their willingness to take on home projects.”

Thirty-five percent of the homeowners surveyed for the report, the 2017 True Cost Report, are confident the Trump Administration will put policies in place that will improve their finances—but 80 percent will carry out upgrades, anyway.

The report also found:

HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Report Infographic (PRNewsfoto/HomeAdvisor)

Source: HomeAdvisor

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How to Have a More Modern Office: Alternative Work Arrangements

Rismedia Todays Top Story - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 16:05

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

In modern office settings, the 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday work experience is becoming extinct. For companies focused on building a collaborative office culture with happy, invested employees, alternative work arrangements are the new norm. Think working from home once a week or spending only part of your work week in-house, telecommuting and flextime.

According to a new study from staffing firm The Creative Group, 76 percent of advertising and marketing executives surveyed said their company offers alternative work arrangements in some form or another. The most common? Part-time in-house hours, great for students or parents, are offered by 61 percent of employees. Another 33 percent of professionals are bagging flextime, with 30 percent telecommuting from elsewhere. Of those 30 percent working remotely, they are doing so an average of three days a week.

Why should you offer alternative work arrangements? According to the study, you will attract a younger crowd. Younger professionals between the ages 18 and 34 are more likely to work for companies that offer alternative work arrangements than those of other generations. You will also provide more comfortable working situations for those with kids, those pursuing higher education, or those who have to travel further to get to the office.

Plus, your office will snag major cool points, and who doesn’t want those?

The following infographic from The Creative Group offers further insight.

Source: The Creative Group

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

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