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Katherine Farber

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  1. Katherine Farber

    Story Branding 2019-2020

    Have you ever had one of those moments, where something just hits you in the face multiple times in a short period of time? Well, it started with my team leader Manda Price sharing a book with me, Building A Story Brand by Donald Miller. From there it has been crazy with the request I have received from my clients, Realtor Friends, and other community entrepreneurs, about the top marketing strategies for 2019 and 2020. If you have not noticed the Story feature FB & Instagram offers, well then you are missing out on some great opportunities on branding. Did you know that You Tube has created a beta for their version of Story Feature? You have to have 10k followers in order to use this feature right now but it will be coming soon to everyone. Also, Twitter has jumped on board with this idea and created their version of Story posts. So, I have experienced a serious trend that is taking over and I want to share with you all what I have learned and know about leveraging these features, marketing in real estate, and building an audience that will stick with you and keep your audience engaged with your posts on social media. Call me today 910.233.2442 to find out when my next class on how to leverage these social media features in your real estate business!
  2. Regardless of the type of space you're decorating, there's nothing more important than paying attention to details. Right now Floral farbrics and wallpapers are making a bold statement for 2019. IN: FLORAL FABRICS AND WALLPAPERS "The traditional beauty of floral patterns, either abstracted or straight up chintz, will be the pattern to use." — Erin Gates of Erin Gates Design GO BOLD IN SMALL SPACES Graphic prints can have a major impact in small spaces such as a powder room. Here, an Ellie Cashman floral wallpaper is the star of a powder room a New Orleans manse designed by Sara Ruffin Costello.
  3. Katherine Farber

    What to do with a low credit score

    Credit scores help lenders evaluate if they want to do business with you. FICO® Scores, which range from a low of 300 to a high of 850, are the most widely-used type of credit scores. However, other scoring models may also use the 300 to 850 scoring range. While 300 is the lowest credit score, the reality is that almost nobody has a score that low. For the most part, a score below 580 is considered " bad credit." The average FICO Score in the U.S. is 704. I Have a Low Credit Score. Why Does it Matter? If you have a very low credit score, you may find it difficult to qualify for credit cards and loans, or you may be required to pay a higher annual percentage rate (APR), or additional fees. When you apply for a loan or credit card, lenders want to know if you will be a responsible borrower who stays on top of payments. Credit scores are an important way businesses can get a sense of how good (or bad) you are at repaying your debts. How Can I Improve My Credit Scores? You are never stuck with a bad credit score. Work on your financial habits and you can improve your credit scores over time. Paying your bills on time, even if you manage to pay just the minimum amount due, accounts for 35% of your FICO® Score. Set up automated bill pay to avoid late payments. Your credit utilization ratio is another important credit scoring factor to be aware of. This takes into account how much of your total available credit you are using on a monthly basis. Your credit utilization ratio accounts for 30% of your FICO® Score. Focus on paying down your balances will help to lower your utilization rate. You might also want to consider a credit-builder loan. For full article http://bit.ly/2SPfXsR
  4. Editor's Note: This feature originally appeared in the December issue of MReport, out now. The year 2018 has been a good year for the economy that posted a solid GDP growth of around 3 percent in October. Unemployment, another key indicator of the economic health, is falling and the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded more open positions than unemployed at over 7 million compared with under 6 million for the latter. Yet, a recent Bloomberg report pointed out that the housing market “remained a weak spot posing the third consecutive drag on GDP growth with a contraction of 4 percent.” The year has clearly not been as good for housing as it has been for the overall economy. Will 2019 bring some relief? To know the future trends, we first need to understand the present. Recent housing market data indicates a slowing down amid higher prices, rising mortgage rates, and a shortage of affordable inventory. Home sales have been falling consistently over the past seven months according to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR’s) Existing Home Sales data that reported a decline of 4.1 percent in home sales at the end of September compared with the same period last year. NAR also predicted that home sales would flatten in 2019 as home prices continued to grow. But the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index found that home-price growth might be softening. For the first time this year, the index registered a home-price growth below 6 percent in August 2018. “Following reports that home sales are flat to down, price gains are beginning to moderate,” David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in the report. On the bright side though, the pressure on inventory, that was an overarching concern for the industry for most of 2018 seems to be easing a bit. The inventory of homes on the market grew by 2 percent nationally in October for the first time in four years, according to a report by Realtor.com. Are these indicators then a harbinger of another crisis for a market that finally pulled itself out of a recession only a few years ago? Not really. ears ago? Not really. “Think of it as a pause, rather than a slowdown,” advised Sam Khater, Chief Economist, Freddie Mac. “As long as the economy remains hot, housing should remain active.” The signs, according to Khater, have been there since late 2017, starting with the deceleration of home sales at that time, the rising mortgage rates since mid2018, and the “fairly elevated home prices” for most of this year. But it is the decline in affordability that has caused the biggest lag. Having said that, these five trends are likely to shape the housing market in 2019. 1. The Rate Roulette Khater’s sentiments are echoed by Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist at CoreLogic who saw rising mortgage rates as a key factor affecting the affordability of homes in the lowest price tier. While mortgage rates have averaged 4.9 percent recently, Nothaft noted during a recent webinar that the consensus in the marketplace for the coming year was towards an upward pressure of close to 5.2 percent by the end of 2019. “That will place mortgage rates at their highest level since 2009,” he said. For first-time homebuyers, especially millennials who were looking to transition from renting to homeownership, these rising rates would likely make them pause their decision. And not without reason. “For millennials who have been familiar with an extraordinarily low level of interest rates, they’ll see the highest mortgage rates that they have seen in their adult lifetimes,” Nothaft said. “Just over the last year, with the rise in mortgage rates coupled with the increase in home prices that translates to an approximate 20 percent increase in just this one year in the monthly principal and interest (P&I) payment to buy exactly the same home that you could have bought a year ago. In contrast, rents are rising about 3 percent on single-family homes and that underscores some of the challenges that millennials may be facing in the coming year in making that switch from renting to homeownership.” Home prices and mortgage rates are two key hurdles that Doug Whittemore, Head of Mortgage and Consumer Default Services at U.S. Bank, also foresees. The combination of rising home prices and mortgage rates could mean that the monthly P&I equivalent for the median home was likely to jump as much as 30 percent in 2019, compared to last year, if all things trended as projected. Sonu Mittal, SVP and Head of Retail Lending for Citizens Bank Home Mortgage, echoed this sentiment. “Rising rates, combined with home-price increases and low inventory in most markets in the U.S. are impacting affordability in 2018 and will likely continue to factor into affordability in 2019.” Existing homeowners, too, will feel the pinch of rising interest rates. “Considering the majority of the market now sits with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage below 4 percent, an existing homeowner could find a scenario where they would spend significantly more for less house than they already have,” Whittemore observed. “Jumping from a rate of 3.75 percent to 5.5 percent would result in a 22 percent increase in P&I for the exact same home.” The 5.5 percent projection by Whittemore is not far off the mark either with both Khater and Nothaft pointing to the possibility of rates rising to around these levels in 2019. “Rates have increased this year more than I would have expected if you would have asked me at the beginning of this year,” Khater said. “If you go back to September of 2017, they were down in the high three’s, and here we are already knocking on the door of 5 percent.” As far as existing homeowners are concerned, Nothaft projected rising rates would also mean that there would be less homeowners moving and putting their homes up for sale. They would be more likely to “choose to stay in the same home for a bit longer and choose to make improvements in their current home. So inventory levels are low relative to what they have been and that’s working to depress home sales.” Apart from home sales, affordability has been impacted by the continued rise in home prices outpacing wages and the slowdown in construction activity in the affordable space, according to Kathy Cummings, SVP, Bank of America. But, she said that lenders were looking to help homebuyers achieve homeownership, especially if they were creditworthy borrowers. What is important is education and preparing for homeownership. “According to Bank of America’s Fall Homebuyer Insights Report, 72 percent of millennials are prioritizing homeownership, and 38 percent of first-time buyers are looking to buy in the next two years, so it is important to educate prospective buyers on how homeownership can be achievable,” Cummings said. Giving an example of Bank of America’s low down payment programs, she said that not only did such programs provide low down payments and competitive rates, they also helped eligible buyers look into down payment and closing cost assistance programs available in their community. “A lot of would-be buyers are currently renting, and as rents increase, they’re not able to save as much or quickly enough to afford a down payment in the near future,” observed Mittal. Despite rising rates though, Mittal said that buying a home was still more affordable than renting in the long run. “As homebuyers compare a mortgage against the rent they would pay, even with rising rates, many would find that buying a home would be a cheaper option and has many long-term benefits, most notably the opportunity to build equity,” Mittal said. However, rising mortgage rates are only one part of the problem. Housing supply, especially at the lowest price-tier—the one that first-time homebuyers look at—is an issue that will be observed closely in 2019. 2. The Inventory Conundrum It’s true that supply has increased slightly over the past few months. But the paucity in home inventory has impacted home sales and prices through most of the year, in fact, according to Khater the chronic lack of supply has actually been “a decades-old issue, but was only masked by the last boom and bust.” Giving the example of manufactured housing—a traditional source of affordable supply—he said that property types that were historically affordable were decreasing consistently over the past few decades. “Manufactured housing boomed between 1993 and 1998. It busted in 1998, and has not recovered since then. We are producing about 90,000 manufactured housing units today where we used to be up in the 300,000s during the boom for these units,” Khater said. Explaining the impact of inventory on competition among homebuyers, Nothaft said, “The months of supply available for sale over the past year has been running at the lowest level that we have seen in the last 20 years and consequently, the amount of time that a home is on the market before it sells has really shortened. So the percent of homes selling within 30 days of their listing has risen over the last couple of years.” Looking at 2019, Jeff Taylor, Founder and Managing Director of Digital Risk, projected that housing supply would remain tight. Khater agreed, “We’re just not building enough,” he said, adding that one way of starting to solve the problem was to approach policymaking from the supply angle. “Unlike past cycles which could be managed by sorting demand, the problem this time is on the supply side and there are no federal interventions or levers to deal with that,” Khater said, adding that while states had the ability to intercede they delegated to the localities. “But some states are starting to rethink and are looking at intervention in a variety of ways such as increasing production or looking at rent controls. Creating policies and incentives to increase production are the two main ways to solve this issue,” Khater observed. “The problem is that you have local resistance in the form of homeowners who are concerned that the increased supply will lead to a decline in home values.” 3. Price Pains Inventory’s also affecting prices, especially at the lowest price points of the market. “Sellers are pricing their homes higher and higher as they want to make a big profit from their last purchase, but all this seems to do is force prices even higher, particularly for today’s first-time buyers,” said Matt Clarke, COO and CFO, Churchill Mortgage, observing that the low inventory was also affecting the purchase loans market. “Homes may not be so “overvalued” today, but rather, “overpriced, with a severely limited supply of affordable housing.” Looking at 2019, Whittemore projected that although the pace of home price appreciation was slowing, forecasts for 2019 still showed a 4-6 percent home price growth annually across the country with some markets in California seeing double-digit growth. “If home price growth continues to exceed wage growth, the spread for a firsttime homebuyer will continue to be a problem until rates come down, home prices drop, or wages grow. I don’t see the latter happening fast enough.” However, home prices have been softening in the recent months and Taylor projected that this trend is likely to continue into the next year. “Prices may come down a little bit because ultimately, people are trying to price to what somebody can afford to buy the house at.” The forecast though calls for a slowing in the rate of appreciation to about roughly 3-4 percent over the next couple of years. “I think that’s good and that it’s really important that we see a slowing in home price growth,” Nothaft said. 4. Rising Equity Prices and home values will also be the biggest opportunities for growth for some of the markets, especially those that are seeing a rising influx of homebuyers from the more unaffordable markets. “If you look into the open West, meaning markets like Reno, Carson City, Boise, Coeur d’Alene, Provo, and Salt Lake City, all these medium-sized Western markets are booming of an outflow from the unaffordable West Coast coastal markets like San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and, to a lesser extent, Seattle,” Khater said. And while prices are likely to soften, homeowners have seen their equity grow manifold over the past few years. In fact, according to a TransUnion study, household home equity, currently nearing $15 trillion, has surpassed its prior “housing bubble” peak in Q1 2006 by over $1 trillion. “Home equity levels have been rising at a rapid rate each year since hovering around $6 trillion between 2009 and 2011. While the S&P/Case-Shiller House Price Index (HPI) increased by 42 percent between Q1 2011 and Q1 2018, home equity levels outpaced home prices in that same timeframe,” the study revealed. For lenders, already grappling with drying up refinance loans, this could provide a world of opportunity, especially in home equity lending. According to Joe Mellman, SVP and Mortgage Business Leader at TransUnion, “The recession caused a home equity lending pull-back, which all but eliminated consumer marketing and education. We think there’s an opportunity to re-introduce that education to consumers and help them evaluate how and when tapping home equity could make sense.” Mellman was particularly optimistic about the long term rise of home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) moving forward. “HELOC’s are going to be a primary driver of home equity lending products,” he said. “We have observed that this segment has been growing for the past seven years and will become even more important as cash out refinancing options decline because of the rising mortgage rates.” But HELOCs aren’t the only opportunity for lenders going into 2019. 5. Innovation in Lending We’re seeing a lot more non-QM products and similar types of loans coming to the market. People are looking to expand their credit box and see what types of different loans they can put in the marketplace and what the appetite might be from the investor base,” Taylor said. “The higher the interest rate, the higher the payment, the more risk tolerance people will be willing to take from a nonQM type loan, and the expansion of these mortgage products into different areas.” According to Taylor, inventory may affect the purchase loan market especially since “the refinance market has dropped off significantly and the purchase market is much more of a focus for all lenders.” In such a case, lenders who invest in technology and streamline operations are likely to see the best opportunities come their way in 2019. “The biggest trends for me are how all lenders, whether they’re a bank or an independent mortgage lender, are having to actually successfully utilize technology in order to strengthen their reach to the customer base,” Taylor said. “It’s not as simple as going ahead and buying technology and implementing it, but implementing it correctly and making sure that the people and technology work together to be able to reach their intended customer base and provide a much more dynamic customer experience, whether it be to digital solutions, telephone or anyways the borrower wants to interact.” Clarke concurred, saying that while technology had the potential to improve the overall mortgage process by streamlining many of today’s cumbersome processes, there was a significant demographic of borrowers that still wanted to work intimately with their lender. “Lenders will want to use technology to enhance their relationships with borrowers and help them make smarter mortgage decisions. This will help lenders build stronger, lifelong relationships because after all, technology is not here to replace us, it’s here to complement how we work on a day-to-day basis.” Despite falling delinquencies, lenders will also be looking closely at this trend as the market takes a pause in 2019. “As a default executive, for me, what will be key in 2019 and beyond in the new world is less macro and more microtrends. The future will require you to identify patterns and behaviors at a much more granular level in order to effectively understand and manage your default,” Whittemore said. According to Mellman, “No one talks about delinquencies right now because they are at all-time lows and have been experiencing a decline year-over year. But while there’s nothing to worry about in delinquencies yet, I would always want to keep an eye on those as the housing market evolves.” What Will You Bring to the Table? At the end though, 2019’s housing market will be one where lenders will be set apart from each other through the additional value they bring with each and every deal—whether it is for homebuyers or owners. “This means providing educational resources for borrowers, having strong partner relationships, and an efficient or nimble operations team,” Clarke said. “Lenders in 2019 will want to think of themselves as teachers and coaches for their borrowers—guiding them through the mortgage process to ensure they’re making the best decision for their given financial situation.” About Author: Radhika Ojha Radhika Ojha, Online Editor at the Five Star Institute
  5. Katherine Farber

    A rise in mortgage applications

    Mortgage applications increased by 1.6 percent this week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) latest Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey. The volume of refinance loan applications recorded the highest level since March 2018 at 41.5 percent of total applications. The refinance share of mortgage was at 40.4 percent the previous week. An increase in adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) activities reflected at 7.6 percent of total applications. In government lo an applications, the FHA share went up to 10.8 percent from 10.2 percent in the past week. The survey revealed an increase in VA share of total applications at 10.2 percent this week compared to 10.0 the week prior. The USDA share of total applications increased to 0.7 percent from 0.6 percent the week prior. Here’s how the average contract interest rates performed for various loans: For 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances decreased to 4.96 percent, the lowest level since September 2018. The rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances decreased to 4.80 percent, the lowest level since September 2018. FHA-backed 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.97 percent, the lowest level since September 2018, from 5.05 percent. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.41 percent, the lowest level since September 2018, from 4.50 percent. The rate for 5/1 ARMs decreased to 4.24 percent from 4.33 percent. The effective rate for all the above loan types recorded a decrease from last week. About Author: Donna Joseph
  6. Katherine Farber

    Poised for Growth? - The MRreport

    TransUnion’s 2019 Consumer Credit Reportforecasts an increase in originations and consumer balances for most credit products, while serious delinquency rates are likely to decline or remain steady. This will lead to lenders expanding their base of subprime and near-prime borrowers—a positive sign for both lenders and borrowers, according to the report. The report also predicts lenders will be less risk-averse with the steady pace of delinquency rates. This will also help borrowers to showcase their ability to better manage their finances, it said. Subprime borrowers will continue to have access to loans, it noted. Interestingly, the percentage of subprime borrowers originating loans remains far below what was recorded at the onset of the last recession, according to the forecast- wherein 9 percent of borrowers in this group originated mortgage loans in 2007. Pointing to home prices, the forecast indicated that though homes are becoming more expensive, the increase in home equity will benefit buyers. The downward trend in mortgage originations which has been steady over several quarters in the past will continue into 2019 as a result of rising interest rates, surging home prices and supply constraints, the report noted. A surge in average balances is expected in 2019, growing from an anticipated $208,831 at the end of Q4 of this year to $218,490 by the end of Q4 2019, a 4.6 percent increase. Delinquencies will also continue to drop from 1.62 percent by the end of this year to 1.45 percent by the end of 2019—a consistent downward trend since 2010 on a year-over-year basis, the report stated. “While overall originations will be down in 2019, increases in home prices are resulting in record levels of home equity, which provide homeowners more opportunities to tap into low APR home equity products. This will particularly benefit consumers deciding to pay off other higher interest rate products, as well as consumers finding it difficult to afford a new ‘move up’ house, who instead opt to invest in improving their existing home,” said Joe Mellman, SVP, Mortgage Line at TransUnion. TransUnion expects non-prime originations to decrease by 2.4 percent “as the composition of new accounts changes.” The prime segment will see a resurgence in origination growth in the coming year, indicating lender’s desire for credit quality for their portfolios as delinquency continues to increase. About Author: Donna Joseph Donna Joseph is a Dallas-based writer who covers technology, HR best practices, and a mix of lifestyle topics.
  7. On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced the nomination of Dr. Mark Calabria, who is currently the Chief Economist to Vice President Mike Pence, to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency for five years after the term of the current FHFA Director, Mel Watt expires in January. “The American $10 trillion mortgage market is the envy of the world, and to keep us on top we need an FHFA Director who is dedicated to capitalism and economic growth. Dr. Calabria is that man,” said House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). “At a moment in time when the future of housing finance policy in our country will be permanently shaped by the next FHFA Director, I can think of no better or more responsible person for the role than Dr. Calabria and applaud President Trump for his outstanding pick.” “I congratulate Mark Calabria on his nomination as director for the Federal Housing Finance Agency,” said Ed Delgado, President and CEO of The Five Star Institute. “Housing finance policy is approaching a critical juncture and we look forward to working with Dr. Calabria and the team at FHFA towards implementing regulations that preserve and protect homeownership.” 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
  8. Take a look at what Forbes is saying for 2019 Real Estate Forecast: Millennials will keep buying home — despite those rising rates. "The housing market in 2019 will be characterized by continued rising mortgage rates and surging millennial demand. Rising rates, by making housing less affordable, will likely deter certain potential homebuyers from the market. On the other hand, the largest cohort of millennials will be turning 29 next year, entering peak household formation and home-buying age, and contributing to the increase in first-time buyer demand.” — Odeta Kushi, senior economist for First American “Millennials will continue to make up the largest segment of buyers next year, accounting for 45% of mortgages, compared to 17% of Boomers, and 37% of Gen Xers. While first-time buyers will struggle next year, older Millennial move-up buyers will have more options in the mid-to upper-tier price point and will make up the majority of Millennials who close in 2019. Looking forward, 2020 is expected to be the peak Millennial home buying year with the largest cohort of millennials turning 30 years old. Millennials are also likely to make up the largest share of home buyers for the next decade as their housing needs adjust over time.” — Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com Now my question to you is, "Do you know how to market to millennials?" If your answer is no then I want to speak with you about how to get the right buyer leads while building your branding. Millennials are more likely to use you as their REALTOR and do business with you, if you are able to establish their trust first. How is this possible? Digital Marketing of course. Engage them on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Youtube with video ads that are entertaining, solve their problems that they are facing with deciding to purchase their first home, and build that trust so you can sell some homes. Fun fact: Google is intent base, whereas YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram are emotion base. Creativity is needed to capture that emotion and captivate your audience on social media. Facebook rewards those who know how to achieve this with a lower CTR (click through rate). You can then use pixels to re-target people that actively engaged with your video. This is how you build that trust and brand and save money! How do you save money with using this method? I will go over this during our consultation at NO COST TO YOU! That is right I will share all my success, with clients just like you, for FREE.
  9. Katherine Farber

    How much credit should you use?

    How much credit should you use? Credit cards can be wonderful tools if you know how to use them to your advantage. For example, you should use them in a way that helps boost your credit scores—which will, in turn, help you qualify for the best cards with the best perks and rewards. One key thing to keep in mind while using your credit cards is to make sure you're not using too much of your own credit. If you do, you'll end up with a higher credit utilization ratio, which can pull your credit scores down. In general, the less of your available credit you're using, the better: Aim to use no more than 30% of the credit available to you. For the best credit scores, keep it under 10%, but above zero. Have more questions about credit and home ownership? Contact us today!
  10. Katherine Farber

    Context Is Everything...

    Context is Everything “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize” – Voltaire It’s always funny when you see two people arguing on a news channel about some problem that needs to be fixed. Both sides will claim, not only that their viewpoint is the only reasonable one, but that the solution is simple, obvious, and easily achieved. But contrary to what pundits say, most thin gs in life are complicated. Nuance, environment, and the details surrounding each individual case not only make the solution harder to find, but often are the very things that determine what is in fact the right solution. The quote above is a great example. Voltaire was one of the great thinkers of what came to be called the Enlightenment. When we see that quote, we begin to think about the time in which he lived, how he fought for freedom of the press and against censorship, and the audience toward whom those words were likely aimed. And because he was a respected intellectual, we might even think about how those words could apply to us today. Because we respect the source, we almost naturally respect the quote. The problem is that the quote isn’t actually from Voltaire. It is regularly misattributed to him but was in fact said by Kevin Alfred Strom – a neo-Nazi and pedophile. The quote suddenly takes on an entirely different (and more horrifying) angle, doesn’t it? Why does this matter? Because context is everything. But some people, especially when it benefits them, will try to say otherwise. I see this with unfortunate frequency in some small businesses. Some salespeople – hoping to close a sale – will market to or accept customers that they are not fully equipped to handle. They will try to tell you that the particular details of your situation do not change anything and that all businesses/jobs in their industry are more or less the same. And to some extent that is certainly true – it is not as if they are changing from electrical work to dentistry. But in some situations, the “minor” details can make monumental differences. Here are a few examples of what my clients have run across just in the past few months: An attorney wrote a contract for a client for a type of transaction the attorney was not particularly familiar with. While the contract was by and large correct, it omitted some key provisions that should have been included. An insurance agent recommended and sold policy to a business client who was in an industry the agent did not understand. It was discovered later that the policy contained protection for things the client did not need, but also had major gaps in protection coverage for the very things he did A real estate agent took on a listing in an adjacent town where she normally did not get listings. Based on her recommendation the client purchased a house to flip. But when the work was done, there was zero buying interest in the house. It took an extra twelve months to sell and ended up selling for $100,000 less than the agent originally estimated. I find this often with clients that come to me wondering why they have to pay so much to get desired rankings with Google, better engagement on their social media platforms, and more leads off their listings. So we need to be cautious, do our own research, and work with true specialists whenever possible. It’s one of the best ways to protect ourselves.
  11. 1. USE PINTEREST RESPONSIBLY. Browse for inspirat ion, but remember that offices in design magazines may not be set up to accommodate a 50-hour work week. Upholstered dining room chairs look amazing, but they won’t support your back. 2. FOLLOW ERGONOMIC RULES. The top of your computer screen should be at eye level or a little below. 3. EMBRACE NATURAL LIGHT. Move your desk close to the windows, but place it parallel to the panes. This ideal set-up gives you the happiness benefits of natural light, and a good reason to turn away from your computer every few minutes to take in the scene. 4. BUT DON’T FORGET THE LAMPS. Even with great natural light, you’ll still need additional lighting for darker hours of the day. 5. GET CREATIVE WITH STORAGE If you’re the sort of person who needs to see something to remember it exists, try wall storage: magazine type racks, or children’s library-style display shelves. 6. CREATE SOME COMFY SPACE. Your desk is for active work, but you probably need a place to think or read, too. 7. ADD GREENERY. Plants make people happier. 8. PERSONALIZE THOUGHTFULLY. rotate the photos, and include mementos of success, cartoons that make you laugh, even a scent that makes you happy–something you definitely can’t get away with in a cube. 9. HIDE THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO LOOK AT. Modern offices have lots of cords. Run a power strip behind your desk and plug everything into that. 10. OVERSTOCK. Keep all your office supplies–pens, scissors, stapler, stamps–handy. Consider a small fridge or coffee maker if you like to enjoy a few beverages during the day.
  12. The Changing Middle-Class Household Demographics A report by the Brookings Institute assesses what metropolitan areas the middle class most inhabits, as well as how concentrated middle-class communities are, what forces shape them, and how they’ve changed since 2000. Defining the middle class as the middle three quintiles of the national income distribution—only adjusted to take account of regional price parities and household size—the study found that the metropolitan areas with the largest concentration of middle-class families are manufacturing centers, military towns, and Mormon communities: what the Brookings Institute refers to as “one of the three M's’’” These areas tend to have a high number of workers not only in manufacturing but also construction and administration. They also are mostly suburban in nature, lacking the subsidized housing and public transit found in older cities with a greater percentage of low-income residents. Demographically, they also tend to be less diverse, with predominately white populations. While small and mid-sized metro areas have the most homogenous middle-class communities, the majority of middle-class families can nevertheless be found in or around larger cities that tend to support the same labor force in addition to lower-paying and higher-paying jobs. The study also revealed fluctuations in the middle class since the beginning of the millennium. Overall the middle-class community has shrunk slightly, but this is due to a corresponding increase in higher incomes. The number of middle-class families in the areas described above have also decreased in relation to the number found in larger metro areas. Since 2000, the concentration of middle-class families in the South has grown substantially but fallen in the Northeast, along with the West Coast, and in a few cities located in the Midwest. Areas, where the middle class has grown, tend to have developed as newer metropolitan areas with distinct suburban characteristics. Metropolitan areas with the lowest share of middle-class families tend to be tech capitals and college towns. Whereas tech capitals are predominantly populated with high-income workers, college towns are mostly split between high-income faculty members and low-income students. For this reason, areas like the San Francisco Bay and towns like Boston, Boulder, and Huntsville, Alabama tend to have a much lower percentage of middle-class families. Also, older cities tend to have smaller middle classes, such as many cities in the Northeast like Bridgeport, Philadelphia, and New York. Author: J S Khan J S Khan is a contributing writer for DS News and MReport.
  13. The Connection Between Jobs, Wages, and Housing The unemployment rate in September fell to its lowest since 1969 to 3.7 percent, according to the latest jobs and wages data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. However, the growth of jobs softened to 134,000 in September compared with an average monthly gain of 201,000 over the last one year, the report revealed. Wage growth, though slow, continued its upward trend during the month rising 2.8 percent year-over-year. Despite this slow growth in wages and weak hiring, the report shouldn't spark any concerns regarding the strength of the labor market and the broader economy, according to Doug Duncan, Chief Economist at Fannie Mae, who put the three-month average increase in jobs at a "healthy 190,000." "In addition, Hurricane Florence may have temporarily suppressed hiring, as suggested by the first drop in leisure and hospitality payrolls since last September, shortly after Harvey’s landfall," Duncan said. According to Tendayi Kapfidze, Chief Economist, LendingTree, despite the disappointing jobs report, the "job market remains robust, emphasized by upward revisions to job numbers for both July and August totaling 87,000." "Although September’s wage increase pales in comparison to growing home prices—which rose another 7 percent last month—any increase is helpful for buyers trying to get in the market," said Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at Realtor.com. "However, if this growth is seen as a sign of higher inflation, it could prompt mortgage rate increases, which would eat into home buying power." However, though home buying power has seen a decline, it hasn't been as much thanks to rising household incomes, according to Mark Fleming, Chief Economist, First American. "In September, consumer house-buying power declined by $28,000, compared to a year ago. If household income had not increased compared to a year ago, the increase in mortgage rates would have reduced consumer house-buying power by $38,000," he said. However, despite rising incomes, wages have continued to disappoint throughout this year. "The low labor force participation rate may offer a clue as to why. The large pool of available people to enter the labor force is a drag on wages as it reduces the bargaining power of workers who are already employed," Kapfidze explained. However, according to Duncan, the "Annual growth in average hourly earnings, which slowed one-tenth from the expansion high in the prior month, shouldn’t stoke inflationary concerns." Wage growth, in fact, is a wild card, said Hale, that could have a significant implication on the housing market. "If we see significant wage increases, we could start to make up ground in home sales, which have been woefully behind last year’s gains. If wages remain stagnant, home sales will likely continue to taper," she said. The recently rising mortgage rates are also likely to have an impact according to Fleming. "While recently rising mortgage rates have reduced consumer house-buying power, rising household income increases house-buying power," he said. Looking at construction jobs which increased at a slower pace by 23,000 in November, Duncan said that the impact of Hurricane Florence was felt on the construction jobs market too. However, he said that any lost construction jobs associated with the hurricane should be recouped as the affected areas recover. Author: Radhika Ojha Radhika Ojha, Online Editor at the Five Star Institute
  14. The Key Elements of a ‘Green’ Home Improvements What is the biggest difference between a truly green home and a property with eco-friendly features? The answer lies in the value of the home. According to the Appraisal Institute homeowners looking to increase the value of their home must look at making six key elements of their property truly energy-efficient. They include site; water efficiency; energy efficiency; indoor air quality; materials; and operations and maintenance.
  15. Largest 45 U.S. Cities Ranked by Home Size Having analyzed data pulled from their property value database, LendingTree has created a list that ranks the 45 largest U.S. cities by the overall size of single-family homes. With its lower density population overall, the South dominates the list—with only wealthier cities like Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and Boston acting as outliers to edge their way into the top 10. With three of the top five cities, Texas lives up to its outsized reputation; Houston ranks first, with the average home being 1,952 square feet, while Dallas takes fourth to beat Austin by a single square foot (1,862 and 1,861 square feet respectively). Citing the Census Bureau, Tendayi Kapfidze—LendingTree’s Chief Economist—also points out that the cities with the largest homes on average typically have more recently built homes. The median size of single-family homes constructed in the second quarter of the year was 2,412 square feet, down slightly from a few years ago, in the third quarter of 2015 when the size of new homes peaked at 2,488 square feet. Up to this point, newer homes constructed on average trended bigger than homes constructed in prior generations which on average were built almost four decades ago. Conversely, the cities with the smallest homes tend to be found in major cities of the Midwest, particularly in the Great Lakes region. Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Detroit round out the list’s bottom, with Detroit having the smallest homes on average (1,333 square feet). As a state, Missouri has the most urban areas on the lower end of the list as well, with St. Louis and Kansas City just barely beating the three cities mentioned above. To make the ranking of cities more intriguing, LendingTree has also calculated the average median price of homes per square foot, appending this information to the list and giving homebuyers a quick means for calculating the cities with the best price on average per size. Author: J S Khan
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