September 15th, 2017

Equifax breach affects millions

Posted by at 10:05 am

Vigilance is the watchword after 143 million consumers had personal data hacked from the computers of Equifax, one of the three large firms that handle credit reporting in North America. The FBI, Federal Trade Commission and Congress are investigating. But the incident drives home the point that today’s consumer must become his or her own chief privacy security officer. Identity theft experts say the best thing to do is be more on guard than ever about personal and financial information. Check your credit score – it can be done for free once a year at annualcreditreport.com. Watch bank and credit card statements for unusual charges, and don’t open suspicious emails. Consumers can go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com for updates on the company’s internal investigation, as well as check to see if their information was potentially exposed (almost everyone’s was). The company is...
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September 14th, 2017

Plan to maintain financial control

Posted by at 10:38 am

Sometimes the pressure of monthly bills can make you feel like you’re losing control of your personal financial situation. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently released a comprehensive list of strategies and advice to help prevent catastrophic financial breakdown. Start with a plan. Make a list of all bills and due dates to help assess financial obligations. To help get a total picture of monthly bills, set up a calendar to identify the weeks you have the most money due. The CFPB has a template you can use. Use the calendar to weigh the risks of falling behind on each different bill. While not ideal, this may prevent you from losing your car or house, having utilities shut off, or getting into serious default on a loan. Try calling your creditors if you think you’re going to miss a payment...
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September 8th, 2017

Virtually impossible to stop tech revolution

Posted by at 2:27 pm

The Tech Revolution continues to pick up speed   –  and the array of new gadgetry to help real estate industry pros is no exception! In the 1990s and 2000s, cellphones and smartphones freed agents from their office chairs (and chained them to their cars). Who knew that was just the beginning? Now drones soar high overhead, offering professional-quality listing photos from unprecedented perspectives. How about the virtual real estate broker? The concept has been around since at least 1987, when the movie “RoboCop” showed a home tour guided by an agent who popped up on screens as shoppers moved from room to room. With instant messaging apps like Skype and FaceTime, buyers can take home tours without actually being present. One company offers a robot that tours homes for you with a camera, broadcasting videos that can be streamed online. Some...
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Don’t let clogged drains stop you

Posted by at 4:25 pm

Many homeowners just assume they cannot do any sort of plumbing on their own. The term “plumbing” can be somewhat intimidating – but it literally means moving water from place to place. Clogged drains, then, are plumbing’s natural enemy. Stuck drains, like most plumbing problems, can be prevented through proper use and regular maintenance. Don’t let clogged drains stop you. Hard water – water with high mineral content – can leave deposits to clog pipes over time. Consider installing a traditional sulfur softener. These units require cutting the pipe, so it’s probably best to hire a professional plumber for this one. It will avoid a lot more visits from a pro in the future. You can also install a do-it-yourself unit that breaks up deposits from outside the pipe with electronic pulses, but will need a nearby outlet or a...
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Buyers explore longer commutes

Posted by at 12:50 pm

  Stopping short of saying it’s a “major” trend, extreme commuting – or at least extended commuting – is becoming an established feature of the American workplace. About 21 percent of workers commute more than 60 minutes each way to their jobs. More than half of these drive the whole distance alone. Extreme commuters – defined as people who spend 90 minutes or longer getting to work each way – are still rare, making up only about 3 percent of the work force. But the numbers are rising. By coincidence, many companies today are bringing telecommuting workers back to the office, demanding more collaboration and contact with customers. U.S. workers who performed all or some of their work at home fell from 24 to 22 percent between 2015 and 2016. With soaring prices, many commuters say they are willing to sacrifice...
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Millennial concerns constrain home ownership

Posted by at 11:59 am

If you’re 35 or younger and you own your own home in America, you are somewhat of a rarity – a lot of your peers haven’t gotten there yet. Only about 35 percent of young adults in the U.S. are homeowners, an all-time low. In fact, a recent U.S. Census report found that a full third of America’s young adults still live at home with one or both parents – more than the amount who cohabitate with a partner or live alone. There are many reasons America’s young adults are struggling. Along with facing the highest home prices in history, Millennials are shouldering some serious student loans – borrowers who graduated in 2016 will pay back an average of $37,000. Many took out those loans at the height of the crisis – at some pretty high interest rates. Terms as...
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August 10th, 2017

Odds are there is no housing bubble

Posted by at 4:04 pm

In the post-crisis era, it can be hard to believe there’s no negative outcome lurking behind today’s soaring housing prices. But new analysis of data from 14 developed countries shows there’s minimal risk of a dramatic decline in home prices any time soon, despite current fears of a “bubble-bursting” correction. The research comes as housing prices set new records nationwide, surpassing their 2006 peaks in almost all areas of the country. The median house price jumped 6.5 percent in June to an all-time high of $263,800 – the 64th straight month of year-over-year price increases. But the study showed sustained increases in real house prices have been the norm since 1950, rather than the exception. While there is always a chance of a correction, odds are it won’t happen. Simple models put the chance of a 20 percent (or more)...
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Home insurers can “non-renew” for too many claims

Posted by at 8:44 am

If you have a home mortgage loan, then your lender is going to require you to carry homeowner’s insurance. It may be the biggest purchase you’ve ever made, but the lender has a lot invested in that home too – and wants its investment protected. But be warned. Insurance is not a maintenance plan – home insurance coverage is designed for sudden and unexpected large losses. Homeowners who file more than one claim unrelated to weather in less than three years can expect to be “non-renewed.” Non-renewal is not cancellation. Insurance companies cannot cancel a policy that has been in force for more than 60 days except for failure to pay the premium, fraud, or serious misrepresentation in the application. But like any business, an insurer “reserves the right to refuse service to anyone,” so long as they provide you with...
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July 17th, 2017

Adding up the costs when selling

Posted by at 4:30 pm

The price of selling a home is about $15,190, according to a recent study.by Zillow. The price? But isn’t selling about making money? Sellers often forget there is also going to be money going out – staging, painting, landscaping and cleaning. Then there are the big chunks – the real estate agent’s fee and the closing costs. Since 63 percent of today’s sellers have never sold before, the “price of selling” can be a big surprise! Let’s start at the top. Most real estate agents’ fees are paid through a commission. Usually about 6 percent of the purchase price, the commission is subtracted from the proceeds of the home sale. The problem is thinking of the commission as something you are losing. A good agent builds the commission into the price of the home, and adjusts accordingly. The amount collected...
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July 13th, 2017

Spec construction poised for comeback?

Posted by at 10:10 am

With the rising price of existing starter homes, one segment of the new construction marketplace may be poised to take off at a pace not seen since the days following World War II. By the end of the 1940s, America had essentially ceased building homes – diverting usable materials to support the war effort. The demand for affordable homes created by the returning soldiers fueled the new “spec” home industry. “Spec” is another name for “speculative” construction, building new homes for sale with no particular buyer in mind. In the 1950s and 1960s, many builders turned out thousands of simple, mass-produced homes at an affordable cost. Most sold and the builders turned a tidy profit. Insert Millennials into the equation in place of GIs. Today, there are at least 30 million potential buyers younger than 36 looking to settle down. And it’s not...
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