The importance of homeownership, death of the check, and buh-bye Google Reader
U.S. News & World Report brings together studies discussing the importance of homeownership. Besides economic benefits, there are also social benefits. “Clearly, for most people there are distinct times to rent and own, based on income, marital status and other variables, and housing policy should provide a balance between these housing needs. However, given the ability of homeownership to generate family and community benefits, ensuring policies that facilitate sustainable homeownership must remain at the core of our nation’s housing policy agenda.”
U.S. consumers and businesses wrote 28 billion checks in 2009, a figure that’s been dropping about 1.8 billion a year. The deathrattle of checks started on September 11, 2001, when the terrorist attacks in New York put a halt to the daily $6 billion worth of checks flying around in planes from coast to coast. New technologies are quickly making even today’s use of checks obsolete.
Google has decided to shut down its RSS feed reader, Google Reader, as of July 1st. While blogs and RSS are yesterday’s shiny new toy, lots of people still rely on Google Reader to condense their information stream to a manageable flow. Forbes had an interesting piece on the shutdown, reminding us that although the internet is a ‘user-driven’ medium, it’s still controlled in lots of ways by corporate tech companies. Looking for alternatives to Google Reader to migrate your feeds? There still are several feed reader alternatives out there.
As a both a biker commuter and car driver, I know the frustration of reading bike riders’ hand signals for turning and stopping. People seem to do just whatever they want, if at all. Is this guy turning or stopping? An inventor has taken some of the guesswork out of the process with his new prototype helmet with built-in stop and turn signals. It’s pretty cool if it’s not too heavy.
In order to make the game more relevant to his 3-year-old daughter, a father hacked into Nintendo’s classic video game Donkey Kong and reversed the roles of the hero and princess. Now Princess Pauline jumps, climbs, and dodges barrels to save Mario.
Twinkies will be back! Is this a good thing or not?
2020: the next housing crisis, resilient agents, and a horse in the living room
Even as we’re still recovering from the last housing collapse, economists are forecasting the next crisis. Their best guess: 2020, as aging Boomers start leaving their giant suburban single-family homes for retirement living. The problem is there aren’t enough families in the following generations to meet demand, either because of finances or preference.
BloombergBusinessWeek has an interesting story this week on the rise (and so far mostly non-success) of Redfin, Zillow and Trulia. In looking at the internet startups that promised disintermediation, hollowing out the home buying experience as others had with travel agents, stock brokers and car dealers, the authors find that people still rely on the traditional agent for the largest purchase of their lives.
How can you spice up your listing photos? How about a horse in your living room? A REALTOR in Virginia helping to sell a $5.99-million horse farm is using a picture taken several years ago for a coffee table book that features the a horse standing in the stable apartment living room. The image was picked up by the Huffington Post, helping to generate some interest on the property.
The Bipartisan Policy Center released its blueprint for reform of the housing market. One suggestion is the elimination of both Fannie and Freddie, replacing the GSEs with a backstop guarantee much like GinnieMae does for FHA and VA loans. Some commentators feel this spells the end of the fixed rate 30 year mortgage as we know it.
We were shocked and saddened to learn about the man who died when a sinkhole opened up under his home in Florida. We wondered if homeowners’ insurance covers sinkholes. According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, it depends on the extent of damage. Standard homeowners insurance is required by law to cover “catastrophic ground cover collapse” but to qualify to that level, the home must be so damaged that it’s condemned. Luckily separate more general sinkhole coverage is available as an add-0n. Wondering if there are sinkholes in your neighborhood? A new service from Floodinsight will tell you for a small fee. You can also contact the Florida Geological Survey.
Samsung is set to unveil it’s new Galaxy IV phone later this month. CNN reports that some are speculating that the phone will have scrolling controlled by the users eyes. When you reach the bottom of the screen the phone will sense it and start scrolling the page for you.
You want to start a garden, but you don’t have a clue what to do. SproutRobot can help you. Sign up for free, and SproutRobot will create a personalized planting plan and send you seeds to plant. If only I had a yard!
North Korea’s been in the news lately. The latest dictate from Pyongyang: the country announced 28 approved haircuts for men and women. Interestingly, the current leader’s coif didn’t make the list…
The rise of ultraHD TVs, password keys, and Millennial debt
Having finally caught up to the 21st century with a plasma tv (or is that still 1990s?), I now see that the latest and greatest is Ultra HD (sometimes called 4K) sets from all the usual suspects. They were the stars of the just-concluded Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Before you start hyperventilating that you will need to start saving now for your new $20,000 set, Engadget talks us off the ledge. A lot of things are going to have to happen before these become even remotely popular. Best guess: not until after 2016 Olympic Games.
Managing passwords is a constant battle. Make them all the same and one hack and your life is wiped out. Make them all different and good luck remembering even a few of them. There are some doable fixes like 1password, but they aren’t for everyone. Google is working on another option, trying to develop a password token that slides into a USB port or even a ring that transmits your information wirelessly at short range. While for now these fixes are only good on google browsers and sites, Google is talking of trying to develop an independent standard that might find acceptance across the industry.
While talk of debt among Millennials tends to focus on college tuition, credit cards are another area of concern, according to Time. A new study out of Ohio State University found that young adults are racking up credit card debt at a more rapid rate than other age groups, and that they’re slower at paying it off.
How well is Microsoft’s new tablet, Surface, doing in terms of sales? Not great….
This will help answer the most pressing question of our time—where are my missing socks? WiseBread helps you locate your lost socks in this helpful article.
Downsizing dilemmas, Google Maps, and the start of Best of 2012
As Baby Boomers age more and more people are thinking about downsizing. Trading the McMansion for something more economical and practical. While most people think that downsizing is going to be the magic cure for their still-depressed retirement account, it doesn’t always work that way. It’s hard to give up your lifestyle or your years of possessions, kids might balk at the sale of their childhood home or things, and unless you’re going to a cheaper part of the country, it might not cost as little as you think.
One way to get through the holidays—Dysfunctional Family Bingo! The Wall Street Journal has tips on how to play and how to cope with your family during the festive season!
If you had $29 to purchase one week’s worth of food, what would you buy? Newark Mayor Cory Booker made a few rookie mistakes, detailed in this article by NJ.com.
It’s that time of year again: Holiday office parties. If you’re attending, Time has some advice beyond the ‘don’t make an ass of yourself’ generalities.
Google came out with its annual search Zeitgeist for 2012 video [also posted below].
More investor visas, MID in jeopardy, ch-ch-Chia!
“Buy a home, get a Visa” programs have been in existence in a few European countries for awhile. Evidence to the effectiveness of the programs in helping housing markets however is scant. Now legislation has been introduced in the US. The Atlantic looks at what some legislators have proposed.
Tiny homes come to the Nation’s capital.
As the Fiscal Cliff draws near, experts are beginning to question the survivability of the mortgage interest deduction. As the Obama administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill scramble to defuse automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect Jan. 1, a herd of sacred cows — from Social Security and Medicare to deductions for charitable giving and mortgage interest — are in danger of losing their untouchable status.
OMG! The abbreviation is older than you think!
Chia seeds, those quick growing green miracles that can transform a piece of ordinary pottery into a delightful Chia Pet, are actually really good for you. Start eating!
As we search for alternative, clean energy sources any development on this front moves us forward. Rice University researchers are on the path to making steam without boiling water. The implications of such research are promising.
And last, we end on a positive note with a story of a selfless cop who does a good deed that goes viral. New York Police Officer Lawrence DiPrimo did the right thing to help a shoeless man in Times Square—he bought him a new pair of boots and socks. A tourist from Arizona snapped a picture of that act and let the world know that Office DiPrimo is a hero!
Veteran REALTORS®, the street in literature, ice cream banking, and talk like Inspector Gadget
With the flurry of articles harping on the financial, career, and general life failures of the Millennials, the Fiscal Times’ slide show 7 Recession Status Symbols gives this generation a much needed ego-boost. The sluggish economy gives rise to a socially and eco conscious, non-materialistic, and open-minded generation.
Koenig & Strey is helping veterans become REALTORS®. This program will provide assistance to qualified veterans, including real estate school and licensing fees, NAR dues, insurance and other fees and costs. Veterans are highly disciplined and used to overcoming obstacles—a perfect fit for real estate.
Sometimes you want to have a bit of background music but you’re not sure what you want to hear. Songza, one of Time‘s 50 best websites of 2012, will help you pick based on your mood.
The New Yorker recently noted how several recent novels, as well as some from the past, use real estate or a home as almost a character itself, representing the rise and fall of a family or neighborhood.
Tired of low returns on your savings account? How about interest in ice cream or coffee coupons? One entrepreneur in Pittsburgh has opened a community bank alternative as part of his ice cream parlor after being hit by multiple overdraft fees from his own bank. Customers who deposit $100 can earn $5.50 a year in coupons for ice cream, coffee or waffles. The bank also makes loans and cashes checks. However, there’s no FDIC insurance or other guarantees…
Flowers are not only beautiful to look at, but will boost your productivity. Having flowers at your desk and in your office can ease depression and negativity and promote creativity.
‘Handsfree’ is certainly a popular term in mobile phone technology, but a new invention goes to the other extreme. Hi-Call Gloves have a built in mic and speaker so you can look just like Inspector Gadget as you listen through your thumb and talk through your pinkie. Of course you’ll also look crazy, but at least your hands will be warm as you talk. Still in the development stage, the gloves use bluetooth technology so are compatible with most smart phones. And capacitive touch build in so you can text and surf Facebook without taking the gloves off.