How Should You Gauge Your Home for Hazards and Disasters?

By Susanne Dwyer

Do you know how disaster-prone your home or community really is? Smack in the southern end of California—one of the nation’s most disaster-weary states—bloggers at inscenter.com started reaching out to clients years ago to share important data regarding residential risk assessment.

In 1992, University of Colorado’s Dr. William Gray accurately forecasted Hurricane Andrew, and predicted a sharp rise in the number and severity of hurricanes in the near future. The website also flags eerily accurate predictions about floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes, too.

While many states and localities have adopted building codes aimed at reducing damage caused by wind, flood and earthquakes, those codes may not always be enforced. Take Hurricane Andrew, for instance.

Construction industry experts found that Andrew’s posted losses could have been reduced by 30-40 percent had existing building codes been properly enforced.

Did you know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maintains a Building Science Branch for developing and producing guidance on creating disaster-resilient communities? They conduct post-disaster engineering investigations for both man-made and natural hazard events.

These building scientists take a lead in developing publications, materials, tools, technical bulletins and recovery advisories incorporating the most up-to-date building codes, floodproofing requirements, seismic design standards, and wind-related requirements for new construction, and the repair of existing buildings.

For property owners, FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance or HMA grants provide funding for pre- and post-disaster mitigation with a goal of reducing the risk of loss of life and property due to natural hazards.

The agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) assists in implementing long-term hazard mitigation measures following Presidential disaster declarations, and its Pre-Disaster Mitigation or PDM initiative provides funds on an annual basis for hazard mitigation planning—and the implementation of mitigation projects prior to a disaster.

The goal of the PDM program is to reduce overall risk to populations and structures while reducing reliance on federal funding from actual disaster declarations.

Source: FEMA.gov/protecting-homes

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

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Keep plumerias indoors until Easter to avoid threat of freeze

By By Kathy Huber Q: When should I move my plumerias back outside?
Joe Peddy, Houston
A: In around Thanksgiving and out around Easter was the motto of Eulas and Lake Stafford, the late plumeria experts who generously shared their advice with area gardeners. Of course, first check the forecast. It’s best to move plumerias indoors for winter storage when night temperatures drop below 50 degrees, often around the fall holiday. Return the tropical plants to fresh air and encourage them out of dormancy when spring nights remain 50 degrees and warmer.
The long-range forecast shows no freezes, and day and night temperatures look promising as we near Easter on April 1.
Q: I’ve seen blueberries in some local nurseries.

From: Gardening

    

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HQ2: How the Experts Think Amazon’s Decision Will Shake Out

By Susanne Dwyer

DeVita_Suzanne_60x60

Since Amazon announced its search for a second headquarters site, experts have speculated on what city will become home to HQ2. In January, the company narrowed down its selections to 20. The area Amazon chooses can expect its economy to surge, and, in the housing market, an influx of new residents.

According to experts recently surveyed by Zillow, Atlanta and Northern Virginia are frontrunners. Twelve of the 85 experts who participated in Zillow’s 2018 Home Price Expectations Survey believe affordability, the availability of land and business-friendly incentives are what make Atlanta a prime spot.

Another 12 experts believe that, though costly, Northern Virginia is ideal for its proximity to Washington, D.C. Eleven others chose Austin, nine chose Raleigh and six chose Denver.

Los Angeles, Miami, Newark and New York are the least likely to be selected, according to the experts, chiefly due to congestion, high home prices and lack of incentives.

Whichever city wins, how Amazon has benefitted Seattle—where its current headquarters is located—could indicate how it will impact HQ2’s market.

“As the experience of Seattle suggests, Amazon will not only directly bring thousands of high-paying jobs to the chosen city, but also has the potential to transform the regional economy,” says Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “The local jobs boom that Amazon’s HQ2 promises will spur demand for the full spectrum of housing types, ranging from urban apartments to suburban single-family homes.

“Atlanta has the benefit of being one of the most affordable markets in the country, and is undergoing an urban renaissance with new public infrastructure providing attractive opportunities for employers seeking to lure young urbanites,” Terrazas says. “Northern Virginia has its benefits, as well, as it’s close to a highly educated workforce and a well-developed public transit infrastructure in the D.C. area.”

Amazon’s benefits, however, could come with drawbacks. A boom in the housing market could pressure prices, and more commuters could impact infrastructure.

“The potential economic benefits of hosting Amazon HQ2 are tantalizing, and will tempt the 20 municipalities still in the hunt to dangle significant tax incentives to get a deal done,” says Terry Loebs, founder of Pulsenomics, which conducted the survey with Zillow. “These cities should be prepared not only to justify their financial inducements, but to carefully weigh the social risks and costs that could accompany their HQ2 commitment. The mix and degree of these potential risks, such as diminished affordable housing stock, more congested roadways, and greater income inequality, vary considerably across the 20 markets.”

Amazon announced it would build the headquarters in October. The contenders: Atlanta, Ga.; Austin, Texas; Boston, Mass.; Chicago, Ill.; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colo.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Miami, Fla.; Montgomery County, Md.; Nashville, Tenn.; Newark, N.J.; New York, N.Y.; Northern Virginia; Philadelphia, Pa.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Raleigh, N.C.; Toronto, Canada; and Washington, D.C.

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Property Coin: Crypto Investors Looking to Fix and Flip

By Susanne Dwyer

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Is blockchain the future of real estate transactions? So far, only a few contracts have closed through Bitcoin or other forms of cryptocurrency; however, with offerings being introduced, that could quickly change.

Aperture Real Estate Ventures, a real estate technology and investment firm based in Los Angeles, Calif., claims it has launched the first-ever real estate-backed digital currency, Property Coin. Aperture’s model relies on coin proceeds to power its real estate investment business, which focuses on acquiring distressed residential properties and rehabbing them, as well as writing loans to smaller investors who have the same objective.

“Unlike many cryptocurrency offerings, Property Coin’s proposition is straightforward,” said Andrew Jewett, co-CEO of Aperture, in a statement. “One-hundred percent of the net proceeds from sales of Property Coins will be used to invest in properties and loans identified by our proprietary software and our experienced team. Accordingly, Property Coin is designed to be 100-percent backed by real estate assets, giving each coin holder a fractional economic interest in the investments made by Aperture or its affiliates with the net proceeds realized from the sale of Property Coins.”

When buying Property Coins, investors are not only receiving a fractional percentage of assets owned by Property Coin and its entities, but coin holders will also own 50 percent of the net profits from the loan and property investments.

Built on Ethereum—another blockchain-based cryptocurrency not far behind Bitcoin in popularity—Property Coin is completely backed by U.S. real estate assets. Aperture asserts that all investments will be made using the experience of Wall Street and real estate investment professionals while also incorporating industry technology powered by data science.

Property Coin’s public sale began on Feb. 26 for its initial offering at 50 U.S. dollars each, or through the equivalent value of Ethereum or Bitcoin currency. Property Coin purchases are restricted to Accredited Investors who buy at least $1,000 worth of coins.

“We’re very excited to be able to offer this proprietary formula to cryptocurrency investors who want access to a diversified, tech-powered, professionally managed portfolio of real estate assets through Property Coin,” said Matt Miles, co-CEO of Aperture.

Of course, volatility remains an issue with blockchain technology. Aperture is relying on its reinvestment strategy to add token stability and to create renewed interest in the real estate investment market.

Stay tuned to RISMedia for more developments.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Do You Have the Right Tools to Dig Into Spring Gardening?

By Susanne Dwyer

As sure as winter will turn to spring, before too long folks will be looking forward to planting gardens and digging into landscaping projects around the yard. So we turned to research from gardenoid.com, which gathered 34 gardening experts to find out their opinions on the top must-have tools for making your garden look stylish in 2018.

Among the most popular tools touted for gardeners is a mattock, which is used for clearing the ground, removing stones and digging out deep roots that create roadblocks.

Composting is another way that homeowners can promote environmental responsibility. Making compost can now become much easier when you make use of a chipper shredder. While a leaf shredder can be used primarily for shredding small-sized leaves and twigs, if you want to chop and shred branches, then gardenoid.com recommends buying a chipper.

At Gardendesign.com, Jennifer Nelson says gardening can turn into a thorny and splintery hassle without the right pair of gloves.

Madaline Sparks at Realsimple.com agrees that while one good pair of garden gloves can be as essential a tool as a shovel or a rake, owning three pairs will make a multitude of tasks easier:

Washable synthetic gloves – For general maintenance, such as deadheading, weeding in dry soil, and handling seeds, the thin fabric and snug fit allow fingers maximum dexterity.

Latex-coated cotton gloves – For dirty, wet jobs, like picking up leaves or planting shrubs, and for working with thorny plants (the latex coating is puncture-resistant)

Heavy-duty leather gloves – For tough jobs, like digging holes, clearing brush, and carrying firewood

Brendan Huggins of Moore Farms Botanical Garden (moorefarmsbg.org) says pruners are one of the most used tools in the garden, and are often one that people skimp on, but a high-quality set of pruners can last a lifetime.

Huggins suggests looking for replaceable blades, a sturdy lock, a replaceable spring, and a place that you can readily purchase replacement parts from when deciding what pruners to buy.

Moore Farms’ Kirk Laminack, on the other hand, says a Japanese planting hoe is an ideal addition to your gardening arsenal when it comes to loosening soil and removing weeds.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Volatile Market Threatens Retirement Real Estate

By Susanne Dwyer

Dominguez_Liz_60x60_4c

The stock market has been on a volatile patch after plunging nearly 1,600 points at the beginning of February—and, while stable now, consumers and investors are watching closely. With many public pension plans tied to stocks, the incoming retirement community is hoping for a full recovery to recoup losses.

Many public pensions have already reported a loss. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System—the largest public pension fund in the nation—lost $18.5 billion in value over 10 trading days at the beginning of the month, according to the Wall Street Journal. While diversifying from traditional stocks and bonds decreases the risk of massive losses during a market drop, investing in alternative assets can introduce complex selling regulations and added fees.

Millions of government workers are relying on these plans, and with various states in a pension shortfall, employees are at risk of losing much-needed funds. The Wall Street Journal reports that most pension funds need to earn between 7-8 percent each year in order to pay for future benefits. According to Kiplinger, a few states are struggling to meet this goal: Illinois, Connecticut and Kentucky need to recover half of their estimated liabilities. In order to meet these objectives, hired firms are setting aggressive investment targets, which can potentially fund these accounts at a quicker pace, or may cause a steep fall-off, depending on stock market activity.

While most pension plans do not provide enough funds to financially carry an individual through their retirement, for many, they are the primary benefit they will rely on. For 30 percent of public-sector workers in 12 states, Social Security is not an option, according to CNN Money. The inability to control which assets their employer’s hired firm decides to invest in can be frightening for soon-to-be retirees who are watching funds diminish in the wake of this month’s market downturn.

What does this mean for real estate?

Future retirees, for one, may not have as many options when it comes to housing and paying off existing mortgages. Retirement-aged consumers who owe on their mortgage and do not receive the necessary funds to pay their debt, in addition to living expenses, may find themselves in a difficult situation. Individuals that were initially planning on downsizing and/or investing in a vacation property may find they need to refinance or risk losing their home to foreclosure or bankruptcy. These public pension plans in relation to stock market activity may also prompt homeowners to stay in their homes and at their jobs longer to secure more funds and ensure a financially safe future. With less downsizing, market inventory may be affected, creating shortages for move-up buyers.

With pension funds dwindling, the Public Pension Project—created by the Urban Institute’s Program on Retirement Policy and State and Local Finance Initiative—is working toward reform by examining current public pension trends and activity throughout the U.S. A State of Retirement map compiles this data to present detailed state-by-state information on plan rules.

Firms are adapting to the volatile market, selling off stocks and diversifying where needed, but only time will tell if these are sound investment decisions that will provide enough funds for the millions of Americans that need this income for their retirement and future real estate needs.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Buyers Entering the Market Solo Struggle

By Susanne Dwyer

Zillow_Down_Payment

Accumulating a down payment is a struggle—and even more so for singles, according to a new report.

Singles are facing more than 10 years of saving, assuming they make a 20 percent down payment on a median-priced property, an analysis by Zillow reveals. Conversely, couples can do it in half the time: 4.6 years.

In addition, buyers have limited options when solo: 45 percent of inventory, compared to couples, who can afford 82 percent of supply.

“Nearly two-thirds of Americans agree that buying a home is a central part of living the American Dream, but for unmarried or un-partnered Americans, that dream is increasingly out of reach,” says Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “Single buyers typically have more limited budgets, which means they are likely competing for lower-priced homes that are in high demand. Having two incomes allows buyers to compete in higher-priced tiers where competition is not as stiff.”

The challenge is intensified in markets with rising values, the report shows. Couples face 14 years of saving in San Jose, Calif.—already a haul—but for singles, that span stretches over 30 years. In San Francisco, Calif., couples can amass enough for 20 percent down in 12.6 years, but singles have a longer road, at 27.8 years.

A handful of markets are more realistic for singles: Indianapolis, Ind. (7.5 years of saving); Cleveland, Ohio, and Detroit, Mich. (8 years); and St. Louis, Mo., and Pittsburgh, Pa. (8.1 years).

Across the largest metros:

Analysts assumed buyers are portioning off 10 percent of their income each year to savings. According to 2016 Census data, annual earnings were a median $80,800 for couples and $34,500 for singles.

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Don't murder the crape myrtles when pruning

By By Kathy Huber Q: It pains me to see so many crape myrtles chopped down to ugly stubs. I see it everywhere, with properly pruned myrtles almost outnumbered by crape “murdered” trees. Will you provide pruning advice?
Betty Pritchett, Houston
A: The annual “crape myrtle murder” discussion has begun, so here are guidelines to prune these low-maintenance flowering trees.
Crapes do not need to be pruned to bloom. However, a tree can benefit from late-winter pruning to remove dead, weak or crossing branches and suckers at the base. But avoid mutilation.
Trim to maintain or restore a natural shape. Remove branches 2 inches or less in diameter, if necessary. Don’t top the trees.

From: Gardening

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

All You Need to Know About Garage Security

By Susanne Dwyer

According to SafeBee.com, recent reports and social media posts are advising homeowners to use a zip tie to secure their door release mechanisms on the emergency latch present on automatic garage door openers. Although the advice is meant to help reduce burglaries, SafeBee.com says the practice can put homeowners in danger.

Using a zip tie to “lock” this mechanism basically removes this safety feature from the door operator system, putting homeowners and others at risk, as the safety function may not work when needed.

Although reports recommend the addition of the zip tie to avoid garage break-ins, those reports leave out the important safety function that may be disabled by doing so.

To enhance the security of your home while helping to ensure the safe operation of your garage door, SafeBee.com shares these tips from UL and the Door and Access Systems Manufacturer’s Association (DASMA):

  • Never interfere with or defeat the manual emergency release mechanism on your garage door operator.
  • Check with your garage door opener dealer or retailer to see what other safety or security features are available for your particular opener or door model.
  • Consider adding an automatic lock, if available, for your opener.
  • Always lock the entry door between the garage and your house, and any other door or windows that may be in your garage.
  • Consider arming your home or premises with a security system.
  • Do not leave valuables, such as bicycles, tools and equipment, visible from an open garage.
  • Do not leave the garage door transmitter visible in your car, and keep car doors locked if a transmitter is inside the car.
  • For garage doors with windows, use a frosted glass coating, if possible.
  • Finally, if your garage door operator has this feature, enable “vacation mode” when leaving home for an extended period of time, which locks out remote controls from activating the door.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893