December 29th, 2017

New bit on the block

Posted by at 5:48 pm

In 2013, a Long Island, NY, homeowner made headlines by announcing he would take Bitcoin offers on his Southampton home. But today, the idea of using virtual money is gaining traction across the financial realm. Several major retailers, including Overstock.com, Expedia.com and Microsoft now accept Bitcoin for some or all transactions, and the world’s largest futures exchange – CME – launched a Bitcoin futures contract Dec. 18. Created about a decade ago, Bitcoin is based on an accounting software known as the blockchain. Unlike other currencies, Bitcoin and other so-called “crypto-currencies” are not regulated by a central banking authority. They exist only in cyberspace, and were conceived as a way to easily conduct international transactions. No matter what you think of the cryptocurrency craze – and things are getting crazy – the blockchain technology appears here to stay – and...
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December 21st, 2017

Taxing times for homeowners

Posted by at 7:43 pm

  It’s that time of year again. Thick in the heart of the Holidays with the property taxes already paid, most of us are thoroughly spent…both physically and financially. Of course, it also means January, and the New Year, are right around the corner. It’s time to start thinking about paying federal taxes. With big changes for homeowners looming, why not consider hiring a professional to prepare your return? For some, the thought of spending money to do something they COULD do themselves is particularly painful. That’s why so many struggle to keep up on housework instead of hiring a maid, or try to maintain a sprawling yard and garden instead of hiring a landscaper. Many may manage to keep spotless houses and beautiful lawns. But taxes are not sweeping and mowing. Home ownership significantly changes most people’s deductions and other tax situations. Hiring an accountant to help...
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December 14th, 2017

Disaster preparedness part of homeownership

Posted by at 4:22 pm

Talking points for a year-end wrap-up have to include the string of natural disasters that descended on the U.S.(and the Caribbean) in 2017. Whether hurricane, fires, tornadoes or even earthquakes, disaster can strike anytime, anyplace – and during any season. Every homeowner needs to be prepared. Mother Nature’s fury is exceedingly random. Not only will most of us weather the disaster’s initial mayhem, we must also be ready for the immediate aftermath. There could be countless folks in need of help, and rescue personnel may not arrive to help for some time. Roads could be damaged or inaccessible, making it difficult to get necessities. Prepare a 72-hour disaster kit. Make sure it contains enough food, water, batteries, clothing, essentials (medications, diapers) and warm blankets to last you and your family for at least three days. Include basic first aid supplies...
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December 5th, 2017

Millennials heading for the ‘burbs

Posted by at 6:26 pm

Decades ago, city dwellers had to weigh the high cost of “moving to the country” – a.k.a. pulling up roots to head for rural communities that required long, often inconvenient commutes. As cities pushed outward, and the automobile dominated American transit, the script flipped. Suburban development drew the working population to the country en masse. In the developing suburbs, larger homes on larger lots brought the promise of better living, and made the longer commutes worthwhile. Downtowns either languished or were transformed into trendy havens for the wealthy. A decade ago, many analysts wondered if the Millennial generation –  born roughly from 1985 to 2000 – was bringing the downtown-dwelling notion back into vogue. This generation seemed satisfied to rent high-cost apartment and condos just to be close to the action – and their jobs. But now, Millennials are growing...
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November 27th, 2017

Homeownership’s value overrides divisiveness

Posted by at 1:06 pm

With some pretty big issues on the table for Congress in 2018, America may seem more politically divided than ever these days. But one shared value stretches across the nation—homeownership. There may be difference of opinion on things like healthcare, immigration and tax reform, but a strong majority of Americans agree home ownership is a financially sound decision –  an instrument for gaining long-term wealth while raising a family and making ties within the community. According to real estate website Zillow, 68.7 percent of Republicans and 65.1 percent of Democrats see homeownership as a crucial part of living the American Dream. Homeownership builds equity over time, providing financial security for families and individuals. With stable monthly payments, it’s easier for cash-conscious consumers to plan and budget. Potential tax savings can also offset homeownership costs. But the real “value” comes in...
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November 17th, 2017

Seniors no longer a niche market

Posted by at 9:18 pm

Fueled by the baby-boomer generation, the population of Americans 65 and older is growing exponentially, and will become a major part of the housing and mortgage industries over the next several decades. According to the latest report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, one out of three U.S. households in 2035 will be headed by someone over 65. That’s an estimated 79 million people! Real estate agents and mortgage lenders who plan sales strategies with an eye on the aging will doubtlessly see more success. One unexpected backlash of the exodus to the suburbs over the last 40 years is the growing number of retirees realizing their neighborhoods no longer fit their needs. In a recent survey from Freddie Mac, seniors said they need major renovations in order to stay in their current homes as they age –...
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November 13th, 2017

Unused garages causing parking issues

Posted by at 10:15 am

Almost as long as there have been cars, there have been garages, and by the late 1950s, the attached garage had almost completely replaced the outbuilding model. At first, garages were actually reserved for cars, keeping the car dry and warm and protecting the paint job with no need for morning defrosts in cold weather. But somewhere around 1980 – no one is exactly sure –  garages turned another corner. They pretty much stopped being for cars. People had always stored a few items in garages, but over time they had become full-fledged storage rooms (sometimes full of junk). Slowly, the car got pushed out. According to a 2001 UCLA study, only about 25 percent of American homeowners still parked their cars inside. In the meantime, homes with three or more vehicles shot up 872% between 1969 and 2001. With...
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October 26th, 2017

2018 Housing market: A New Frontier?

Posted by at 12:06 pm

Heading into the back stretch of 2017, analysts predict more of the same for the 2018 housing market – moderate economic growth, solid job gains and low mortgage interest rates. Same old, same old – or is it? Could new construction rev up the housing market wrapping up the second decade of the 21st Century? Economists say low supply is driving high prices right now, but homes are selling fast; continuing to average 30 or fewer days on the market. Some potential buyers have acceded to  the sticker shock, but in most markets, they’ve shown a willingness to spend more. Builders report first-time buyers are skipping the traditional starter home and jumping straight to that new, move-up home instead. Waiting longer to buy a first home has increased the median age of a first-time homebuyer, and many are already higher...
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October 19th, 2017

Parks Enhance Urban Framework

Posted by at 9:59 am

Parks play increasingly important roles in the modern urban landscape. As America upgrades and expands its roads, sewers, and utilities, it needs also to improve green infrastructure; the ecological framework needed for environmental and economic sustainability. By planning and managing urban parks in concert with other development, cities can reduce flood control and storm water management costs, protect biological diversity, provide recreation and increase civic engagement. Appealing to humans’ intuitive love of nature and open space, a well-designed park improves the public health and brings together people of all ages and cultures. Best of all, it’s free to visit anytime. New homebuyers regularly rate access to parks among the Top 10 most important considerations in their decision-making process. Mostly funded by property taxes, parks generally do well in local bond and levy elections. In the old days, green space simply had...
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October 17th, 2017

Hit the savings ceiling

Posted by at 1:25 pm

There’s a looming retirement savings crisis affecting the country! Or is there? The perception is certainly real. According to a survey by the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI), only 22 percent of 2017 Baby Boomers feel adequately prepared for retirement, Mathematically speaking, saving the highest possible amount from the earliest point in your life increases your savings potential through the value of compound interest. But no matter what your age, a holistic financial plan – putting money aside consistently and automatically – can restore confidence and build savings for those post-working years. It’s no time to panic. It’s time to change your thinking about savings. Start with the simplest things: One of the hardest things about saving money is getting started. Record your expenses to help break down where you might be able to bank extra money. Focus on using your...
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