October 19th, 2018

Think pickles

Posted by at 4:15 pm

How does your garden grow? Well, after the uncommonly warm growing season of 2018, the answer is probably “pretty darn well.” With bountiful backyard harvests coming in faster than families can eat, many home gardeners are making up more farm-to-fork soups, pies and salads than they ever thought possible. But the onslaught continues. As the late season crops come in, this prodigious produce inevitably makes its way to the office, to church and the family reunion. At first, the people in your life may appear to appreciate it, but there’s a limit! Remember, they have their excesses too! Have you considered pickling? Pickling is an old-school, economical method for keeping fruits and vegetables out of the compost bin. The basic process is simple. First, add slices of fruits and/or vegetables to sterilized jars. Pretty much everything that grows can be...
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October 17th, 2018

Itemize cut down to size

Posted by at 9:36 am

It’s hard to believe, but it’s almost 2019. Time to start thinking about your 2018 tax return in the first year of the Trump-Republican tax reform. Whether the changes help or hurt you, there’s one thing that seems nearly certain – a lot fewer filers are going to be itemizing. The standard deduction has nearly doubled, from $6,350 to $12,000 for single filers and from $12,700 to $24,000 for married filers filing jointly. Theoretically, far more taxpayers will be discouraged from itemizing, leaving a lot fewer deductions for IRS workers to verify. Even with the lower standard deduction, only about 30 percent took the time to itemize last year. With the big increases, it could go down to single digits. But the increased standard deductions aren’t the only reason taxpayers might skip itemization. Many deductions have been reduced or eliminated...
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October 4th, 2018

Millennials moving out from the middle

Posted by at 4:32 pm

Cities across America are facing similar infrastructure problems – a lack of housing suitable for middle-income residents. Starter homes within city limits are increasingly hard to find, forcing new workers to move further and further into the periphery. An appropriately balanced housing stock helps cities retain college graduates and other skilled workers. For most of the last decade, young adults have often been targeted as the reason for slowing home sales, supposedly shunning suburbia in favor of rentals in hip urban neighborhoods. But the number of Millennials buying homes in urban areas is declining – dropping from 21 to 17 percent in recent years. Millennials now make up the largest share of suburban buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), and the rising prices are only pushing their search further out. Their younger counterparts in Generation Z are...
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September 28th, 2018

A bit about buying via blockchain

Posted by at 7:20 pm

Though Bitcoin still hogs most of the blockchain headlines, it’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of applications likely to be affected by this burgeoning technology. However, Bitcoin does provide a simple way to illustrate how many different blockchain transactions might be conducted in the future. As a publicly-accessible ledger, blockchain record-keeping is far more efficient and secure than traditional central-server transactions. When a Bitcoin sales transaction occurs, imagine the users of the blockchain as members of a large audience. The seller and buyer are on a digital “stage,” in front of thousands, or millions, of “people.” In front of all those people, the seller transfers an item to the purchaser, and the purchaser hands over the Bitcoin. Thousands of witnesses can now vouch that the buyer owns the item, and the seller received payment. Since all the...
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September 20th, 2018

Bidet making headway in America’s bathrooms

Posted by at 3:44 pm

Surveys today show Americans are open to all kinds of home innovation, and the bathroom is no exception. But acceptance of the bidet – the common personal cleaning fixture that graces commodes throughout much of Europe and Asia – has been a bit of a tough sell. It’s unquestioned that the quality of cleaning with a bidet fixture is superior to toilet paper alone, so why the American reluctance? One of the keys to selling a better toilet is marketing. And in America, talking about the best ways to clean up after the loo has always been a bit taboo. Many anthropologists believe American GIs coming back from World War II associated the bidet with bordellos visited overseas. Given America’s puritanical past, they may have been uncomfortable introducing the bidet to neighbors, afraid they might have to explain exactly where...
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September 12th, 2018

Is a home warranty for you?

Posted by at 10:46 pm

Spend any amount of time watching television, and you’re likely to encounter a barrage of advertisements for home warranties. Well-written and engaging, the ads play on consumers’ well-founded fears of suddenly being faced with a major repair bill on an appliance or vital home system. Right after purchasing a home, a nominal monthly fee in exchange for peace of mind can be very enticing. Maybe you even know someone who saved plenty when their home warranty covered multiple breakdowns. Trouble is, home warranties often don’t deliver what’s expected. These “service contracts” cost $350 to $500 in premiums a year, but unlike insurance policies, don’t cover losses from theft, or catastrophes like floods or fires. The basic package usually covers breakdown of your plumbing, most kitchen appliances, water heater, heating and electrical components, sump pump and fans. Optional coverage is available...
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August 31st, 2018

Lending in the gig economy

Posted by at 7:20 pm

Plans are underway at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make home loan qualification easier for people earning money in the “gig” economy. For those not familiar, the “gig” economy refers to the pursuit of flexible, freelance employment instead of full-time work on a traditional career path. In today’s ever-changing economy, finding stable, salaried positions that cover the bills isn’t always so easy. Other people simply find working as an independent contractor better fits their lifestyle. Workers in the gig economy often make similar income to salaried positions. Arguably, their income is more dependable than that of salaried employees, whose jobs are closely tied to the success of their employer and stability of their field. But in many cases, gig earnings don’t qualify as income under existing mortgage-industry guidelines. Typical mortgages tend to require W-2 forms and IRS information going...
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August 22nd, 2018

Escalating the situation

Posted by at 6:58 am

In the increasingly vigorous – and competitive – real estate market, motivated homebuyers may want to consider an “automated” method for making bids on a property of particular interest. You can often match or beat offers that come in later than your own by including an “escalation clause.” Here’s how it works: Say you put in an offer of $260,000, and someone comes along later and offers $265,000. Your escalation clause might come with instructions to match it, or to offer $5,000 more than the highest offer, so your offer automatically goes up to $270,000. The escalation clause can also include a “cutoff” or a maximum amount you are willing to pay – say $275,000. If someone comes along and bids $280,000, you’re not going that high. In situations where a property is likely to see multiple offers and even...
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August 14th, 2018

E-cycle to recycle your tech waste

Posted by at 10:17 pm

According to the Consumer Technology Association, the average American household owns 24 consumer electronics products at any given time. Replaced for upgrades on a regular basis, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns these products are also the fastest-growing component filling our nation’s landfills. And it’s like throwing away a gold mine. Seriously. Products like computers, TVs and cell phones contain precious metals like silver and gold, rare earth elements and other valuable materials like aluminum, copper and steel that could be extracted and reused. Cellphones by themselves represent a mountain of wasted resources. Only about 10 percent of discarded cell phones are actually recycled out of millions replaced each year. For every one million phones thrown away, 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver, 33 pounds of palladium and more than 35,000 pounds of copper goes in the trash...
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August 8th, 2018

Looking out for Generation Z

Posted by at 6:51 pm

It seems that almost every segment of the real estate profession today is aimed at the Millennial Generation. Makes sense. At 80 million strong, Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, are the largest demographic in history. And now, most have graduated college, begun careers and families, and are settling nicely into the prime spending years. But time moves inexorably forward, and it’s not too early to be talking about the next wave of potential homeowners – Generation Z. Made up of the 75 million Americans born since 1996, Generation Z is expected to start buying homes in earnest within five to 10 years. Analysts say they’re going to be a bargain-hunting, tech-loving, real estate–savvy force to be reckoned with. Watching the Great Recession unfold, most are financially conservative. They know the value of a dollar and the mathematics behind long-term...
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