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…
Downpayment saving, new Kindle next week? and enormous new TVs
How long will it take to save for your home? The Atlantic analyzed data to calculate times for major metro areas. They based their numbers on saving a standard 20 percent down on an average home with a worker making an average wage putting aside 10 percent of earnings each month. Now they use pretty conservative estimates, but if you’re looking to buy in Honolulu it would take over 28 years to save that downpayment. San Francisco is another place where the kids will be in college when you finally buy, coming in at over 20 years.
To get the best prices, don’t buy gas right before a holiday or Wednesday mornings after 10am. Gas stations usually raise their prices before heavily traveled holidays, such as Labor Day and after gas station owners have checked out their competitors’ prices.
Will the Kindle be given away for free some time in the near future? Farhad Manjoo of Slate predicts that it will. Manjoo even thinks that one day signing up for Amazon’s Prime service – $79 a year for fast shipping, streaming content, etc – will net you a free Kindle at some point down the road. And watch out: Amazon shows that Kindle Fires are ‘sold out‘ currently, meaning an update is just days away.
Time reports that Icelanders are more than twice as happy as Americans in general. What can American business learn from our northern neighbors to better our workplaces? Create a community, have a hobby, put family first, and provide healthier food. Oh, and eat fermented shark occasionally…
Love your new flat screen TV? You didn’t think electronic makers were going to let you stop there, did you? Start saving your pennies cause a whole slough of companies announced so-called ’4K’ sets this week. Boasting a resolution of nearly 4000 pixels on the horizontal (vs today’s 1080 pixels on the vertical), most sets start at 84 inches wide. But why stop there? Panasonic recently demo’d an 8k set. Of course there’s no content yet and you’ll have to sit wwaaayyy back but hey, there you go….
Housing declines dragging down broader economy, visas for int’l buyers, and why you might suck at twitter
The New York Times had an article that diagnoses our national economic gloom to be a result of falling housing prices. The story cites a 2007 CBO review that calculates that:
people reduce spending by $20 to $70 a year for every $1,000 decline in the value of their home. This “wealth effect” is significantly larger for changes in home equity than in the value of other investments, such as stocks, apparently because people regard changes in housing prices as more likely to endure.
In these belt-tightening times, money from a permit to drill for natural gas on your property would sure be welcomed by most. But before you sign, realize that it could cause you to default on your mortgage. Banks are beginning to scrutinize these leases, wondering if at the end they are going to be stuck with a toxic waste site that they can’t sell.
More on a story from last week’s WWR blog entry: two Senators are preparing to introduce a bill that would give residence visas to foreigners who spend at least $500,000 to buy houses in the U.S. Overseas buyers spent $82 billion buying up U.S. homes in the 12 months ended in March, up 24 percent from a year earlier.
Gmail is getting a new look.
First Class mail goes up by a penny on January 22 to $0.45.
Social Media expert Chris Smith offered a Twitter webinar this week with enlightening and useful take-aways on how to improve one’s Twitter presence. Jeff Turner shares a nice write-up of the event and gives reasons why you might suck at twitter.
New iPhone 4S on sale, some customers notice yellow tint to screen.
Simplified mortgage disclosure a priority at CFPB, trade associations need to keep up with the times, and Disney doesn’t always get its way with copyright
In its first major move, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released two prototypes of shorter and easier-to-understand disclosure forms that lenders must give home buyers when they apply for a mortgage. The LA Times reports that the new federal agency is making simplified mortgage disclosures a priority as it prepares to start operations in July.
RIS Media recently discussed a few apps for the iPad focused on REALTORS® and real estate. They say the iPad delivers on connection and collaboration and gives an ‘enhanced experience’ for both REALTORS® and clients.
Trade associations have been around for several centuries – even further back if you include guilds. They’ve served as an idea exchange, a way for members to share knowledge, discuss trends, lobby congress, and keep up on their fields. But with the internet and social networking, is the age of associations at an end? NPR takes a look at the future of the trade association – and manages to make some frightful puns in the process.
Although social media is still relatively new, more and more studies are emerging on sites like Facebook. And the results sometimes speak more about our own changing society than to anything else. Pete Cashmore of Mashable summarizes 10 fascinating facts about Facebook and what they tell us about ourselves. What I found interesting: 25% of households don’t use the any of Facebook’s privacy controls.
In the world of copyright and trademark, Disney has typically come out on top, rumored to play a hand in the development of more than one federal copyright act. The buck stops with the Navy Seals, who according to the Wall Street Journal, did not take kindly to Disney’s attempt at trademarking the name “Seal Team 6.”
Housing recovery, international buyers, and exploding watermelons
On CBS’ Face the Nation House Speaker John Boehner is “skeptical” there is “anything the government can do” to alleviate America’s housing crisis – arguing that, ultimately, “you’re not gonna have more buyers until the economy improves.”
The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article this week on the continued growth of international players in world real estate markets:
Some of the biggest residential real-estate buyers in many cities are emerging from halfway around the globe. In London, one report finds that 65% of buyers in the luxury market hail from abroad. According to the Miami Association of Realtors, nearly 60% of all sales last year throughout the city were to buyers from foreign countries.
Have you tapped into this market? Are you prepared to work with clients from around the world? How are you getting your message out?
And you thought you had problems: China is facing a rash of exploding watermelons. Some think it’s from growth chemicals sprayed on the ripening fruit, but others aren’t sure as some non-chemically enhanced melons are blowing up too.