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Brandon Farber

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  1. Brandon Farber

    How often does your credit report get updated?

    Your credit report is a record of your payment history of your financial accounts. Banks, credit card companies, auto lenders and mortgage companies that you do business with report your payment history monthly to one of more of the three main credit reporting companies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. However, all these companies may not report data at the same time in the month.
  2. Mortgage rates might start to increase again soon, and this can easily overwhelm any drop in home prices that might happen in the future. In other words, if you’re looking to buy a great house at a fair price, now might be a unique moment. To a prepared home buyer, there's often a vibe on the time to purchase a home - conditions like cash and opportunity are optimal, the seller of an attractive property is willing to sell at a good price, and the buyer's personal life (i.e., newly married, expecting a new baby, or just got a big bonus, for example) is in a place where the time to pull the trigger on a new residence is now - and not next month, or even next week.
  3. Brandon Farber

    An Affordability Boost for Prospective Homebuyers?

    An Affordability Boost for Prospective Homebuyers? December delivered a significant holiday housing affordability boost to prospective home buyers, according to Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American. The December 2018 First American Real House Price Index (RHPI), released on Monday, revealed that real house prices decreased 2.4 percent between November 2018 and December 2018. On a year-over-year basis, the real house prices increased 11.8 percent year over year. The report found that consumer house-buying power—how much one can buy based on changes in income and interest rates—increased 3.1 percent between November 2018 and December 2018, and declined 5.0 percent year over year. An increase in average household income was recorded at 3.1 percent since December 2017 and 55.0 percent since January 2000. On the other hand, real house prices are 12.0 percent less expensive than in January 2000. On an unadjusted basis, house prices are now 2.0 percent above the housing boom peak in 2006, real, house-buying power-adjusted house prices remain 37.2 percent below their 2006 housing boom peak. “Housing affordability is a function of three economic drivers: nominal house prices, household income, and mortgage rates. When incomes rise, consumer house-buying power increases. Declining mortgage rates or declining nominal house prices also increase consumer house-buying power,” Fleming said. Addressing other factors that have been driving affordability, Fleming pointed out that rising wage growth and lower mortgage rates are primary contributors. “In December, the labor market remained impressive. Annual hourly wage growth increased by 3.5 percent compared with a year earlier, and the labor market’s record streak of job gains continued. The labor market has increased average household income by 55 percent since January 2000,” Fleming added. Fleming also noted that affordability trend shifted toward buyers in December, as mortgage rates fell and household income continued to grow. He said that the December decline in mortgage rates from 4.87 to 4.64 percent “boosted house-buying power by an impressive $10,000—which means a homebuyer with a 5 percent down payment and a mortgage rate of 4.6 percent saw their house-buying power increase from $354,500 to $364,500.” The monthly increase in household income was reflective of an increase in house-buying power to $365,600. Overall, house-buying power increased by $11,100 in December compared with the previous month—the second largest monthly increase in house-buying power since the beginning of the millennium. According to RHPI, the five states with the greatest year-over-year increase in the RHPI are District of Columbia (+19.1 percent), Ohio (+17.0 percent), Montana (+16.7 percent), Nevada (+16.6 percent), and New Jersey (+16.4 percent). No states recorded a year-over-year decrease. The five markets among the Core Based Statistical Areas with the greatest year-over-year increase in the RHPI are Cleveland (+20.1 percent), Las Vegas (+19.9 percent), Orlando, Fla. (+19.8 percent), Charlotte, N.C. (+19.5 percent), and Columbus, Ohio (+18.2 percent).
  4. Brandon Farber

    The Week Ahead: Holding Credit Bureaus Accountable

    The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Who’s Keeping Score? Holding Credit Bureaus Accountable and Repairing a Broken System” on Tuesday, February 26, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. EST in Room 2128 Rayburn House Office Building. This will be a two-panel hearing with Mark Begor, CEO, Equifax; James M. Peck, President and CEO, TransUnion; and Craig Boundy, CEO, Experian North America in the first panel. The second panel will consist of testimony from Lisa Rice, President and CEO, National Fair Housing Alliance; Chi Chi Wu, Staff Attorney, National Consumer Law Center; Jennifer Brown, Associate Director, Economic Policy, UnidosUS; and Edmund Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director, U.S. Public Interest Research Group. According to the House Committee memorandum, in 2017, Equifax experienced a cybersecurity breach that affected approximately 148 million consumers, which, in addition to releasing the personally identifiable information of these consumers, also highlighted deficiencies in the credit reporting. The hearing will also discuss two legislative proposals towards consumer credit reform aimed at making numerous changes to the existing credit reporting system, including increasing consumer rights to report and appeal credit report disputes. Author: Radhika Ojha Radhika Ojha, Online Editor at the Five Star Institute
  5. By Jane Chertoff | Feb 12, 2019 From those silky Hermès scarves to Chanel No. 5 to the iconic black-and-white-striped tee, French style is always, well, in style. So it should come as no surprise that the French approach to home decor should be something to aspire toward as well. One reason their homes look so fantastique is that the French don’t do cookie-cutter, explains Siham Mozouz, a French blogger, photographer, and author of "French By Design." “The French have a particular affection for old and for antiques, and they despise total looks,” she says, referring to the matching sets so commonly seen in U.S. big-box stores. Most importantly, the French take time to imbue their spaces with items that are distinctively them, Mozouz stresses. “The French approach to decor is very intuitive and personal ... just like you would pick your favorite outfit in a clothing store,” she says. “It’s not about creating a perfect space to impress your guests; it’s about setting up the ideal refuge and nest for you and your loved ones.” Ready to give your home that je ne sais quoi? Here are six decor secrets to steal from the French. Make the most of a midcentury modern touch Photo by be-attitude Don't fix it if it ain't broken, right? French style has spent centuries at the forefront of fashion and culture, so there’s no reason to veer far from this aesthetic, explains Lauren Lozano Ziol, a Chicago-based interior designer and former Parisian who often works with clients in France. “French people stay rooted in their classic sensibility,” she says. “The grandness of their heritage is important, so they like French antiques and fabric." But you don't have to be 100% old-world to get the authentic French feel. "The modern generation also loves contemporary, midcentury design and clean lines to incorporate into their classic and ornate architecture," Ziol says. "It always adds for a fun mix to see midcentury pieces paired with Louis-classic furniture, toning down the seriousness of a traditional and classic French home.”
  6. Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard about Marie Kondo's new Netflix show, "Tidying Up." Known for her best-seller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” the organizing guru has made decluttering a phenomenon on the small screen. So with all the buzz, there's a good chance that the early weekends of 2019 have seen you diving headfirst into decluttering. But if you’re doing it with a spouse or a significant other, sorting through your shared possessions can be a relationship powder keg. Disagreements about what to keep and what to ditch can get heated, especially when you start tossing sentimental items. “Opposites do seem to attract when it comes to people’s thoughts and feelings about their belongings,” says Lisa Zaslow, founder and CEO of Gotham Organizers in New York. “Clutter is more stressful for some people than it is for others.” So how do you keep the (life-changing) magic, and tidy up with your partner without killing each other? 1. Talk through your decluttering goals beforehand When it comes to decluttering, it's easy for conflict to fester before you even get started. There's a good chance that you and your partner have very different ideas of what a tidy space looks like. “With one couple I worked with, the husband wanted the kitchen counters entirely clear, with not even the coffee maker in sight,” Zaslow says. “His wife didn’t even notice, or care, if the counter was strewn with bags of chips, a fruit bowl, a pile of mail, and four appliances.” Keep the magic: The key to identifying and working through these differences is to talk through your goals. Decide what you both want out of the process before the first garbage bag comes out. “Setting goals and determining functional needs of your space together is an essential part of beginning this process and honoring both of your needs and desires,” says Jessica Salomone, interior designer and owner of Lotus and Lilac Design Studio. Salomone suggests asking yourself the following questions: What isn’t functioning in the space due to the clutter? What do you need to keep in the space? What would you like to be hidden, but still accessible? “Be realistic in your goals,” Zaslow says. “This is about creating a functional, pleasant home for both of you, not about being Instagram-perfect.” 2. Start by focusing on your own stuff Once you’re aligned in your approach, the fun part (for some of us) begins: purging. But before you go nuts tossing out your partner's wagon wheel coffee table, take a step back—along with a good look in the mirror. You'll want to ease into decluttering by focusing on your own corner of the room, not your partner’s. “Since people are so different, it’s definitely helpful for each person to start by decluttering their own things,” Zaslow says. Keep the magic: Think of it as a warmup: You can each begin with the stuff that's clearly yours before you move on to work through common areas together. But what if you’re raring to go and your partner hasn’t caught KonMari fever? Kondo herself recently told fans the best way to convert a skeptical partner into a tidying die-hard: Simply start decluttering your own possessions and let your S.O. witness the benefits. After all, who can resist the urge to organize after beholding the beauty of perfectly folded socks? 3. Withhold judgment on sentimental items Eventually, you’ll begin to notice what your partner is (or isn’t) putting in the “purge” pile, and you might want to chime in with your 2 cents. Resist that temptation. “The expression ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ often applies to couples,” Zaslow says. Keep the magic: Even if you can’t comprehend why someone could possibly want to keep that ratty bar crawl T-shirt from college, remember that it can have sentimental value. Avoid accusatory language, and be mindful of the way you talk about items that are close to your partner’s heart. “It’s not helpful to say, ‘You have too many CDs,’” Zaslow says. “It isuseful to point out, ‘With the bookshelves filled with CDs we rarely listen to, there’s no room to display our photos and travel mementos.’” 4. Set limits to your decluttering—and make it fun Finding the right pace for decluttering can be rife with potential conflict. Maybe you want to clean the entire garage in a day, but your partner needs a whole day to focus on one corner of it. Keep the magic: Give yourself a time limit for decluttering; try not to go more than a few hours at a time, to avoid burnout. Keep your favorite snacks and beverages stocked, and turn on some music or a podcast you both love. (Shameless plug: Check out realtor.com's "House Party.") You can also plan a fun, nontidying activity for the two of you to enjoy after you finish decluttering a space—it never hurts to have a light at the end of the tunnel. If things do get tense, remember that your stuff is just stuff—at the end of the day, your relationship matters more. Don’t lose sight of your love for each other over a disagreement about a box of Beanie Babies. “Really listen to your partner to find out why certain things are important to them, paying attention to the needs and values that are connected to the stuff,” Zaslow says. “You may learn things about them that will make you fall in love all over again.” Lauren Sieben is a writer in Milwaukee. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Washington Post, Milwaukee Magazine, and other outlets. Follow @laurensieben
  7. Brandon Farber

    Flipping a House? How to Flip a House the Right Way

    Stephan Zabel/iStock Wondering how to flip a house? In real estate, flipping houses has become all the more popular thanks to TV shows such as HGTV's "Flip or Flop" and "Masters of Flip." The goal is to buy a run-down home, put money into renovations, list it on the real estate market—and profit, big-time! For real estate investors, flipping houses may have hit its peak in the bubble years leading up to the 2007 housing market crash, but this is one dream that definitely hasn't died. Many investors are still making money. However, just because you've watched a lot of HGTV shows doesn't mean that you know how to flip a house for a profit. Earlier this year, RealtyTrac reported that investors who had flipped a property in the first quarter of 2016 had yielded the highest average gross flipping profit—the difference between the property purchase price and the flip price, not counting the cost of renovations—in 10 years. The magic number: $58,250. But just how much money you make will hinge on taking the right approach—so be sure to check out these pointers on flipping houses. For real. How to flip a house in real estate to make money "Stick with the age-old adage of buying the cheapest property in the nicest neighborhood," says Eric Workman, senior vice president of marketing at Chicago-based Renovo Financial, a private lender specializing in the real estate house-flipping space. But don't pick just any old shack—look for a home with "good bones,” Workman says. Translation: Look for a property that's structurally sound and has a decent roof, newer windows, and an HVAC system that's less than 10 years old, as well as modern electrical and plumbing. Next, an ideal flip should need only cosmetic changes such as new cabinets, countertops, flooring, and paint. Any other renovations will be more costly and cut into your profit on the property. "These renovations can usually be done without the delays of permits, plus the upgrade costs will be relatively fixed, helping to eliminate unforeseen expenses," says Workman. And always look for a house in a neighborhood close to public transportation or in a good school district as these properties tend to sell quickly. How much should you pay for a house you'll flip? Investors should set a goal of making a 10% to 20% return on their investment. So how do you crunch the numbers? For starters, find out what your fixer-upper will sell for once you're done with it by looking at the sales price for similarly sized real estate in the same neighborhood that are move-in ready, says broker Bobby Curtis at Living Room Realty in Portland, OR. Let's say, for instance, that homes in tiptop shape in the area sell for $300,000. To get a ballpark figure for a run-down property, cut that price by three-quarters (75% of $300,000 = $225,000). Then subtract the cost of repairs (if repairs cost $30,000, that would be $225,000 – $30,000 = $195,000). That's about the most you should pay for your flip without cutting too much into the money you'll walk away with. As for financing a flip, it isn't that different from buying a regular home. You'll either pay cash or take out a mortgage—just consider going for a 10- or 15-year mortgage, which will offer a lower rate. If you're right on the money, odds are you won't own this house for long anyway. Hard money loan You can also acquire a hard money loan, which is simply a short-term loan secured by real estate. “It’s synonymous with a private investor,” says Don Hensel, president of North Coast Financial, which specializes in hard money loans. “A lender could be an individual, a group of investors, or a licensed mortgage broker who uses his own funds. This differs from a bank that uses money from its depositors.” Getting a hard money loan is generally less of a hassle than a standard mortgage, and they're especially popular with people flipping houses who prefer not to go through the hassle of taking out a 15- or 30-year mortgage on the property. How fast should you flip a house? Don't kill yourself (or more accurately, flip yourself into an early grave) to rush your real estate flip. But also note, you don't want this house sitting around for long. Curtis recommends looking for a property that will take four to six weeks to renovate. A short deadline ensures you'll buy and sell the house in that same housing market. Plus, owning a house for less than two months keeps costs like interest and taxes at a minimum. This means that finding contractors who do quality work quickly is key to your success. For that reason, it's crucial that you do your due diligence before you hire one: Make sure to meet with at least a few contractors, and get their license number, references, and real estimates of what they think renovations on the property will cost. Keep an eye out for red flags—e.g., contractors who ask for money upfront or in cash aren't playing by the usual rules, and might be trying to take your money and run. That said, you should accept the fact that the cost of repairs will almost always run over. As such, "you absolutely, positively must overbudget" so you have a financial cushion for those inevitable overruns, says Joseph Chiera of The Realty Cousins of Poughkeepsie, NY. Design backups will also help you solve your money problems. "If you’re planning to use high-end hardwood flooring priced at $5 per square foot, have a nice backup at $2 per square foot," he adds. Here's a list of renovations and how much they pay off at resale. Margaret Heidenry is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine.
  8. By Daniel Bortz | Feb 15, 2019 Have you ever wondered "How much is my house worth?"? If you're hoping to sell your home, knowing your property's value is essential for pricing it right to make buyers bite. Or, maybe you don't want to sell your home right now, but are just curious whether your real estate investment has risen in value (which would merit some much-deserved back-patting). In either case, having an accurate grasp of your home's estimated market value can come in handy. And there are a variety of ways to do that, many of which are free and easily within reach online. Here's how to find that magic number, and why having an accurate estimate matters whether you want to sell your home or own it for the long haul. How to find home value estimates online One easy starting point with a home valuation is to enter your address into an online home value estimator, which will, within seconds, present you with a free estimate of what your home is worth, based on data such as its square footage and recent home sales in the area. How real estate experts determine their own home value estimates Real estate agents specialize in answering the question "what is my home worth?" for their clients, which they do by running a comparative market analysis. This process involves finding similar properties (“comps”) that sold within the past 90 days. The most accurate comp is a home that’s nearby, similar to yours in square footage, and has the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms. (Ideally, the lot size is also equivalent, but that's more important in rural areas, where homes are set on multiple acres.) Once your agent finds a few comps, then she averages those figures to come up with a baseline of your own home value. So if you are looking for the answer to how much your home is worth, contact us today!
  9. Brandon Farber

    What’s New With Existing Home Sales?

    On Thursday, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) will release its monthly data on existing home sales for January 2019. The report includes existing home sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops and is based on transaction closings from multiple listing services. According to NAR, this report differs from the U.S. Census Bureau's series on new single-family home sales which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. The data for December 2018 that was released last month indicated that existing-home sales declined in December with completed transactions decreasing 6.4 percent month-over-month from November to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.99 million in December. Year over year, sales declined 10.3 percent from December 2017. "The housing market is obviously very sensitive to mortgage rates. Softer sales in December reflected consumer search processes and contract signing activity in previous months when mortgage rates were higher than today," said Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist, NAR about the decline in December existing-home sales. "Now with mortgage rates lower, some revival in home sales is expected going into spring." About Author: Radhika Ojha Radhika Ojha, Online Editor at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Pune, India, where she received her B.A. in Commerce with a concentration in Accounting and Marketing and an M.A. in Mass Communication.
  10. Brandon Farber

    The Key to Sustained Housing Growth

    Increasing the affordability of housing will be key to ensuring healthy, sustained growth of the industry according to the latest quarterly report released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The report, which looks at metropolitan median area prices and affordability for Q4 2018 indicated that while inventory increased and metro market prices rose at a slower pace during the period total existing home sales decreased 1.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted 5.18 million in Q4 down from 5.2 million in Q3 2018. On a year over year basis, home sales fell 7.4 percent from 5.59 million during the same period in 2017. Home prices for single-family homes increased in 92 percent of NAR's measured markets in Q4 with 163 of the 178 metros showing sales price gains in the fourth quarter compared to a year ago. However, the report indicated 14 metro areas experiencing double-digit increases, down from 18 in the third quarter. “Home prices continued to rise in the vast majority of markets but with inventory steadily increasing, home prices are, on average, rising at a slower and healthier pace,” said Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR. The inventory also increased during the quarter with 1.55 million existing homes available for sale compared with 1.46 million at the end of Q4 2017, showing an increase of 6.2 percent. The average supply during the quarter was four months, up from 3.5 months during the same period in 2017. Despite these increases, Yun said that housing affordability would be the "key to sustained healthy growth in the housing market" in the near- to long-term. "Housing starts fell far short of historically normal levels, with only 9.6 million new housing units added in the past decade; compared to 15 to 16 million that would have been needed to meet our growing population and 20 million new job additions," Yun said. Looking at the most and least expensive housing markets of the quarter, the report indicated that four of the five most expensive markets were in California with median existing single-family price ranging from $1.2 million to $626,000. The only non-California market on this list was Urban Honolulu, Hawaii, where median home prices stood at $812,900. The five cheapest housing markets were Decatur, Illinois, $89,300; Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio, $97,200; Cumberland, Maryland, $109,100; Elmira, New York, $111,400; and Erie, Pennsylvania, $113,300. About Author: Radhika Ojha Radhika Ojha, Online Editor at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Pune, India, where she received her B.A. in Commerce with a concentration in Accounting and Marketing and an M.A. in Mass Communication.
  11. Brandon Farber

    10 Clever Uses for Hydrogen Peroxide

    In Your Kitchen 1. Clean your cutting board and countertop. Hydrogen peroxide bubbles away any nasties left after preparing meat or fish for dinner. Add hydrogen peroxide to an opaque spray bottle — exposure to light kills its effectiveness — and spray on your surfaces. Let everything bubble for a few minutes, then scrub and rinse clean. 2. Wipe out your refrigerator and dishwasher. Because it’s non-toxic, hydrogen peroxide is great for cleaning places that store food and dishes. Just spray the appliance outside and in, let the solution sit for a few minutes, then wipe clean.3. Clean your sponges. Soak them for 10 minutes in a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and warm water in a shallow dish. Rinse the sponges thoroughly afterward.4. Remove baked-on crud from pots and pans. Combine hydrogen peroxide with enough baking soda to make a paste, then rub onto the dirty pan and let it sit for a while. Come back later with a scrubby sponge and some warm water, and the baked-on stains will lift right off. In Your Bathroom 5. Whiten bathtub grout. If excess moisture has left your tub grout dingy, first dry the tub thoroughly, then spray it liberally with hydrogen peroxide. Let it sit for a little while (it may bubble slightly), then come back and scrub the grout with an old toothbrush. You may have to repeat the process a few times, depending on how much mildew you have, but eventually your grout will be white again. 6. Clean the toilet bowl. Pour half a cup of hydrogen peroxide into the toilet bowl, let stand for 20 minutes, then scrub clean. In Your Laundry Room 7. Remove stains from clothing, curtains, and tablecloths. Hydrogen peroxide can be used as a pre-treater for stains — just soak the stain for a little while in 3% hydrogen peroxide before tossing into the laundry. You can also add a cup of peroxide to a regular load of whites to boost brightness. It’s a green alternative to bleach, and works just as well. Anywhere in Your House 8. Brighten dingy floors. Combine half a cup of hydrogen peroxide with one gallon of hot water, then go to town on your flooring. Because it’s so mild, it’s safe for any floor type, and there’s no need to rinse.9. Clean kids’ toys and play areas. Hydrogen peroxide is a safe cleaner to use around kids, or anyone with respiratory problems, because it’s not a lung irritant. Fill an opaque spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide and spray toys, toy boxes, doorknobs, and anything else your kids touch on a regular basis. You could also soak a rag in peroxide to make a wipe. Outside 10. Help out your plants. To ward off fungus, add a little hydrogen peroxide to your spray bottle the next time you’re spritzing plants. Use a 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide added to one gallon of water for your plants.
  12. Dishes in the sink, toys throughout the house, stuff covering every flat surface; this clutter not only makes our homes look bad, it makes us feel bad, too. At least that’s what researchers at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) discovered when they explored in real time the relationship between 32 California families and the objects in their homes. The resulting book, “Life at Home in The Twenty-First Century,” is a rare look at how middle-class Americans use the space in their homes and interact with the things they accumulate over a lifetime. Our over-worked closets are overflowing with things we rarely touch. Related: Tiny Change, Big Impact: Organize a Small Closet in a Weekend (video) It turns out that clutter has a profound affect on our mood and self-esteem. CELF’s anthropologists, social scientists, and archaeologists found: A link between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in female home owners and a high density of household objects. The more stuff, the more stress women feel. Men, on the other hand, don’t seem bothered by mess, which accounts for tensions between tidy wives and their clutter bug hubbies. Women associate a tidy home with a happy and successful family. The more dishes that pile up in the sink, the more anxious women feel. Even families that want to reduce clutter often are emotionally paralyzed when it comes to sorting and pitching objects. They either can’t break sentimental attachments to objects or believe their things have hidden monetary value. Although U.S. consumers bear only 3% of the world’s children, we buy 40% of the world’s toys. And these toys live in every room, fighting for display space with kids’ trophies, artwork, and snapshots of their last soccer game. Although “Life At Home” documents the clutter problem, the book offers no solutions. But there are some simple things you can do to de-clutter your home and raise your spirits. Adopt the Rule of Five Every time you get up from your desk or walk through a room, put away five things. Or, each hour, devote five minutes to de-cluttering. At the end of the day, you’ve cleaned for an hour. Be Ruthless About Your Kitchen Sink Pledge to clear and clean your kitchen sink every day. It takes a couple of seconds more to place a dish in the dishwasher than dump it in the sink. A clean sink will instantly raise your spirits and decrease your anxiety. Put Photos Away Return to yesteryear when only photos of ancestors or weddings earned a place. Put snapshots in a family album, which will immediately de-clutter many flat surfaces. Unburden Your Refrigerator Door Researchers found a correlation between the number of items stuck to the fridge door and the amount of clutter throughout the house. Toss extra magnets, file restaurant menus, and place calendars in less conspicuous places. Test Whether You'll Miss It Fill a box with items you don’t love or use. Seal the box and place it in a closet. If you haven’t opened the box in a year, donate it (unopened!) to charity. LISA KAPLAN GORDON is an award-winning, Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer who contributes to real estate and home improvement sites. In her spare time (yeah, right!), she gardens, manages three dogs, and plots to get her 21-year-old out of her basement.
  13. Brandon Farber

    Home Values Cooling Off

    While home value appreciation in some of the hottest housing markets is beginning to decelerate, some of the nation’s more affordable markets, especially in the South, are picking up speed, according to the December Zillow Real Estate Market Report, released Thursday. San Jose, California, and Seattle, Washington, have hit the brakes harder than any other major market, while Atlanta, Georgia, pulled ahead. Home value appreciation in San Jose slowed from 16.8 percent in December 2017 to 9.9 percent in December 2018. In Seattle, home values grew at a pace of 12.4 percent in December 2017 and slowed to a rate of 5.0 percent in December 2018. On the other hand, home values in Atlanta accelerated from 8.1 percent in December 2017 to 13.2 percent in December 2018. Seven markets experienced double-digit rent growth in December with Atlanta leading the pack. Atlanta was followed by Las Vegas, Nevada; Indianapolis, Indiana; Dallas, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Tampa, Florida; and Kansas City, Missouri. Outliers aside, national home value appreciation “seems stabilized at an arguably aggressive pace,” according to Skylar Olsen, Director of Economic Research and Outreach at Zillow. Nationally, home values rose 7.6 percent over the year in December, similar to the previous year’s 7.4 percent growth. The national median home value as of December was $223,900. Olsen clarified, “The exceptions to the rule are the metros that saw the fastest appreciation over the past few years, where home values far outpaced incomes.” In total, home value appreciation slowed down in 19 of the 35 largest markets in December, according to Zillow. Rents also increased in December, rising at their fastest rate since June. The national median rent in December was $1,460, up 1.4 percent from a year ago. The largest increase in rents took place in Orlando, Florida, where rents rose 6.4 percent over the year. Riverside, California, followed with a 5.3 percent increase in rents. While overall home prices continued their upward trajectory, housing inventory backpedaled. After three months of growth, inventory retracted 0.4 percent on an annual basis in December, which according to Olsen is an indication to buyers “that the pendulum hasn’t fully swing in their favor for this year’s home shopping season.” Despite the national contraction, Zillow noted that a few markets “that were starved for homes for sale are seeing big gains, led by San Jose (up 47.6 percent), Seattle (up 32.9 percent) and San Diego (up 32.2 percent).” About Author: Krista Franks Brock Krista Franks Brock is a professional writer and editor who has covered the mortgage banking and default servicing sectors since 2011. Previously, she served as managing editor of DS News and Southern Distinction, a regional lifestyle publication. Her work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications, including Consumers Digest, Dallas Style and Design, DS News and DSNews.com, MReport and theMReport.com. She holds degrees in journalism and art from the University of Georgia.
  14. Brandon Farber

    Economy Shifts The Balance of Housing

    What can we expect in the way of inflation, job losses, and spending? Pretty much the same as last year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The bank's Center for Microeconomic Data released the December 2018 Survey of Consumer Expectations this month, and it turns out that consumer expectations, in general, remained flat, even though some subsets were a little more scattered. Median home price change expectations declined to 3 percent in December, marking the sixth consecutive decline since June. But within the overall household finance realm, there was much to notice. While median expected household income expectations declined to 2.9 percent, median household spending growth expectations remained unchanged at 3.5 percent. Perceptions of credit access improved by 2 percent (to 28) from a year earlier; at the same time, about 1 percent fewer (21.7 percent) of respondents said they expect improving conditions in credit access. About 35 percent expect credit access to get tougher. The most notable change in what to expect from the varied economic sectors was a worsening idea of what might become of the stock market. “The mean perceived probability that U.S. stock prices will be higher 12 months from now than they are today decreased to 39.6 percent in December,” the report stated. That's the lowest level since October of 2016. Slightly more people in December said they expect to be worse off financially, possibly fueled by a drop in the number of people who said the government could avoid growing debt. That said, confidence in the current labor market remained essentially flat, though 3 percent more people said the job market will be worse off a year from now. Almost 36 percent of people said unemployment will be worse a year from now, even as fewer people said they worry about actual job losses. Even if a job is lost, nearly the same number of people – just north of 58 percent – said they wouldn't be worried about being able to find a new one. Meanwhile, median inflation expectations at the one-year horizon remained unchanged at 3 percent. Inflation uncertainty–or the uncertainty expressed by respondents regarding future inflation outcomes–also remained unchanged. About Author: Scott Morgan Scott Morgan is a multi-award-winning journalist and editor based out of Texas. During his 11 years as a newspaper journalist, he wrote more than 4,000 published pieces. He's been recognized for his work since 2001, and his creative writing continues to win acclaim from readers and fellow writers alike. He is also a creative writing teacher and the author of several books, from short fiction to written works about writing.
  15. Brandon Farber

    2018 Natural Disaster Damages Exceed $1 Billion

    The United States experienced 11 natural disaster events that exceeded $1 billion in damage during 2018, according to data released by CoreLogic.While the wildfires scorched the West Coast of the U.S., hurricanes Michael and Florence battered the Gulf and East Coast. From typhoons and cyclones to earthquakes, natural disasters in the past year ravaged places such as Indonesia, Japan, and Alaska. Volcanoes made the news in Hawaii, expanding the island’s terrain. Per CoreLogic report, a total of 11 western states in the U.S. had at least one wildfire that exceeded 50,000 burned acres; the leading states being California and Oregon. The number of acres burned the past year is the eighth highest in U.S. history as reported through November 30, 2018. The report also noted that 1,000-year flood events took place in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin. Out of Dallas, Texas, and Colorado Springs, Colorado experienced severe convective storms with large hail. A total of 82 tornado outbreaks ravaged several parts of Western Louisiana and Arkansas, all the way down to Southern Florida, and up to Western Virginia. In addition to the data on damages exceeding $I billion in the U.S. alone, quoting data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, CoreLogic stated that last year’s count of billion-dollar events is a decline from the previous year. Both 2017 and 2018 have tracked far above the 1980-2017 annual average of $6 billion in total dollar amount in one year, it indicated. Over 1,600 significant flood events occurred in the U.S. in 2018, wherein 59 percent of which were flash flood-related. The residential and commercial flood damage caused by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia is projected to be at $19 billion to $28.5 billion—out of these, roughly 85 percent of residential flood losses were uninsured—according to CoreLogic. The damage caused by the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane season that saw 15 named storms resulted in landfall along the U.S—making 2018 the third back-to-back season of above-average hurricane activity in the Atlantic, the report noted. “No one can stop a hurricane in its tracks or steady the ground from an earthquake, but with more information and an understanding of the risk, recovery can be accelerated and resiliency can be attained,” said Howard Botts, VP and Chief Scientist - Insurance and Spatial Solutions at CoreLogic. About Author: Donna Joseph Donna Joseph is a Dallas-based writer who covers technology, HR best practices, and a mix of lifestyle topics. She is a seasoned PR professional with an extensive background in content creation and corporate communications. Joseph holds a B.A. in Sociology and M.A. in Mass Communication, both from the University of Bangalore, India. She is currently working on two books, both dealing with women-centric issues prevalent in oppressive as well as progressive societies. She can be reached at donna.joseph@thefivestar.com.