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The Resurfacing of the U.S. Real Estate Market

It doesn’t seem that long ago that everyone was writing about the supposed death of the real estate market. The housing market appeared to have experienced a complete collapse; the mortgage industry attempted to stop the hemorrhaging of funds through toxic mortgage practices that produced an unprecedented number of defaulted loans.

Despite the common prediction that the industry had gone too far off of the edge for salvage, the market is currently making a powerful comeback and is approaching a stabilizing phase.

An improved scorecard

According to a scorecard produced every month by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, home sales are on a steady rise while the increase in prices has begun to slow. This creates the perfect conditions for an even better year in 2014.

According to the scorecard, foreclosures are down. In January, a total of 30,226 homes underwent foreclosure, which was down more than 40 percent from the same month in 2013. New home purchases increased in the month of January as well. Purchases of new homes rose a total of 9.6 percent.

Rise in positive equity

The scorecard also revealed that homeowners’ equity continues to grow, which confirms the predictions of Erin Carlyle of Forbes. Carlyle predicted that not only would positive equity continue to grow, but the ability of potential homeowners to obtain loans would also increase.

She asserted that the projected rate increases will cause the refinance business that many lenders are relying so heavily on right now to recede; which will force lenders to loosen restrictions for new home loans.

A rise in inventory

One of the primary indicators of a stable housing and real estate market is available inventory. When demand is up but inventory is down, the prices tend to soar. This is simply an expression of supply and demand economics.

An article in the Huffington Post suggests that the inventory will reach traditional seasonal levels. This coincides with the data released by HUD. As the inventory continues to increase and potentially reach normal seasonal levels, the rise in prices will gradually slow, which will stabilize the market and encourage more purchase activity.

If and when the increase in home values levels off, the nation is likely to experience a slight decrease in home affordability. The rate of increase should slow dramatically when the rate at which the values are rising begins to slow.

If the market continues to grow, everyone should benefit. Homeowners will certainly experience benefits as they return from beneath the water and achieve positive equity in their homes.

Home sellers should receive significantly more for their properties than they could have anticipated only a couple of years ago. Buyers will be able to find properties that increase in value, and also have a much easier time securing the necessary financing.

For major real estate brokers that handle massive volumes of transactions, such as Keller Williams, this is great news. The market is primed for some rich activity in 2014.


Cracked Smartphones and Tablets Lead To Repair Dilemmas

Consumers have found that their handheld devices, whether smartphones or tablets, have become critical everyday tools.

But the moment a device cracks, its structural integrity is compromised. Moisture and debris quickly infiltrate even the smallest hairline cracks.

When it comes time to arranges for repairs or replacement, consumers have several options today.

Repair it

A phone may have a simple crack to the front display glass. Most consumers can find replacement parts online, or even in retail stores, to replace the glass themselves.

However, a poorly installed part can lead to even more electronic problems, such as printed circuit board shorts and component failures. However, electronic resellers typically offer a repair service. Consumers pay for parts and labor, and receive their phone back with a brand-new look.

Essentially, you need to weigh the pros and cons of paying for labor versus doing the repair yourself.

Ask for a warranty

If consumers decide to repair their devices on their own, there’s no inherent warranty, unless the repair part is defective. If you rely on a repair shop, its warranty information should be clearly stated on the estimate paperwork.

Read all the pertinent information to stay informed of everyone’s rights and responsibilities. If the device is relatively new, say three months old, send it back to the manufacturer. Depending on the original warranty, the device could be repaired for free.

Rely on insurance

Consumers have the option of purchasing insurance when buying a device. Depending on the policy, you’ll receive a new or refurbished phone in the event of severe damage.

However, it’s critical to understand the deductible amount. With some deductibles as high as $100, the insurance may not be a good deal. A new phone could be purchased fior that amount, rather than placing it toward a deductible for a possibly used device.

Pay for new

If your device fails completely, and it isn’t under the original warranty, a brand-new phone may be your only choice. With contracts typically lasting two years, you could be relegated to paying full price for the device.

Under a contract, consumers pay a partial amount, based on the provider’s stipulations. A phone bought outright under a previous contract is not discounted, unless the provider pro-rates it. Talking to a provider may help you save some money with a discounted phone, especially if the customer is a good-standing account.

Refurbished like new

Consumers shouldn’t discount the value of refurbished devices. The manufacturer usually strips the device down, updates any hardware, and adds new software. It returns as a practically new device at a reasonable price.

Consumers with expensive phones to replace, especially for teenagers, can benefit from a refurbished model, which provides the same access to apps and communications without such a high price tag. The manufacturer has already gotten a profit on the device, so it can offer more movement on pricing compared to newer models.

As the electronics world continues to expand, consumers will be faced with even more choices between repairs and replacements. With smart negotiations and attention to contractual details, you can save money on your favorite devices.

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last update: May 22, 2015


Google’s Search Results Currently Favor Brands

It’s no secret that most SEO strategies that used to work a few years ago get little or no results since the latest Google algorithm updates. What does Google want? Should you focus solely on social media?

According to Internet marketing experts, Google’s search results favor brands. If you want to get top rankings, you need to establish your brand.

Start by publishing quality content on your site or blog. Stay active on the major social networks and connect with your audience. Create and promote your own products to increase brand awareness and expand your reach.

Building a powerful brand takes time and money, but it’s well worth the effort.

Develop quality links

Marketers can build brand awareness by obtaining quality links. Guest posting, article submission, and press release distribution are some of the best ways to obtain links from highly relevant sites.

To get started, look for authoritative sites and blogs in your niche. The ones you choose should be relevant to your audience and provide excellent value. Focus on websites that your prospects are actually reading.

Approach the owners of those sites and offer to write guest posts for them. Provide fresh content that has not been published before. Always ask yourself: “How can readers benefit from this?”

Every time you publish guest posts, you’ll receive an author box where you can insert a short bio with a link to your site or blog. This is a great way to build your brand and establish your authority online. Guest posting can drive massive traffic to your website and help you get quality links.

Focus on social media

Social media marketing is one of the most powerful branding tools. Choose up to four social networks that are relevant to your audience, build your profile, and share content.

Be consistent and interact with your prospects. Show your human face and give customers a reason to choose your brand. Gather information about your audience and publish substantive content that will improve their lives.

Stay up to date on the latest social media news and use this information to improve your marketing campaign. Remember that brands must provide real value in order to be meaningful.

Take the time to share interesting stories, product reviews, how-to articles, video tutorials, infographics, and other types of content. Publish brand stories that build emotional connections.

Build personal relationships

Connect with other bloggers and let them know about your brand. Use social media sites to interact with your prospects. Leave comments on their posts, reply to their questions, and show how much you care about their opinion.

For example, if you launch a new product, ask your potential clients to share their thoughts. Encourage them to write reviews and testimonials.

Online branding is all about building relationships. Provide real value to your audience and you’ll soon reap the benefits. Write content with your customers in mind, request feedback, and create products that reflect your brand and values.

Reward your visitors with free books, coupons, and special offers. If you want to stand out from the crowd, dare to be different and create a unique brand.


4 Technological Advances That Have Transformed Home Improvement

Any homeowner or Pinterest user is probably aware that there are dozens of ways, both large and small, a home or apartment can be improved or revamped. Whether you’re giving your home a makeover to add value as you prepare to sell, or you just want to create some extra comfort and luxury for yourself and your family, remodeling has never been easier.

We largely have recent technological advances to thank for this. People might not readily think about the ways technology affects various industries and their daily activities, but they’ve played an undeniable role.

Here are four pieces of technology that have helped amateur and professional home improvement wizards with their projects.

1. The iPhone

In addition to the hundreds of apps that are available to help you do your home improvement projects, the iPhone also comes standard with a built-in level. Whether you’re putting up some new shelves, trying to get a framed picture hung just right, or want to make sure the bookcase you’re building isn’t going to be crooked, iPhone users can simply use their phone. How cool is that?

2. Instant Messenger

People who are doing home improvement projects to add value to their residence can now turn to a greeter or real estate agent live on most housing websites to consult him or her about which projects will be most productivel.

You can even ask the instant messenger assistant for suggestions on where to go to finish your project on a budget.

3. Green energy power strips

Vampire energy” has been mentioned in the media a lot. This refers to power that’s drawn from your outlets by appliances and electronic devices that are plugged in, but not currently turned on.

Homeowners who want to reduce their electric bill and make their home more environmentally friendly without the hassle of installing solar panels can switch out their regular power strips for higher-tech options that will reduce the amount of power lost to vampire energy.

4. Removable adhesive

Anyone who’s ever moved into a dorm room knows about Command strips and temporary adhesive for hooks. Increasingly, removable adhesive has been incorporated into other great products that are just as useful for home improvement projects, such as picture mountings, decals, and reusable/removable dry erase message boards.

5. Motion sensor technology

Motion sensor technology is one form of technology that can be incorporated into any home to make it greener, safer, and more efficient to live in. Whether it’s seen in motion sensor faucets, or turns up in an outdoor porch light, motion sensor technology is a great way to reduce energy costs in a home or apartment complex.

Technology has been at the forefront of making home improvement projects easier and faster for decades. With today’s advances, updating the look of your home or tackling a more complex project such as making your residence more energy-efficient or increasing its market value has never been easier.


Trashy Tech Talk: How Technology Is Improving Waste Removal

People in metro regions across the United States are experiencing some subtle changes to their surroundings that may or may not be evident to the average passerby. They have to do with options in waste disposal.

Back when the American Dream was firmly in place behind the white picket fences of the suburbs, trash disposal consisted of tying up the family trash bags and leaving them on the curb for the garbage collectors — er, sanitation engineers — to come and remove. There weren’t very many rules and regulations about how, when, where, and what to throw away.

But necessity is the mother of legislation as well as invention. As our awareness of the larger effects of trash disposal has increased, so have our efforts to maximize the efficiency of addressing this need. Even technological advances have come into play, in seemingly small ways that have had a massive impact.

Automated trash collection

Many neighborhoods and cities have a regulated “trash day/night” on which the residents are asked to place their waste at curbside for pickup the following day. However, more populated areas such as colleges and apartment complexes now have an automated trash collection system in operation.

These systems not only help to accommodate the larger volume of waste that’s generated in these areas, but they also reduce the costs of manpower, fuel/energy, and time required to remove the trash.

Homeland Security regulations that govern waste disposal

When we think of the agenda of the Department of Homeland Security, trash disposal might not be one of the things that comes immediately to mind. However, after enduring and studying a series of security emergencies, American regulators have noted the need for a system that will ensure a clean and efficient way to deal with trash cleanup and disposal.

With a now highly regulated hierarchy of how and where trash disposal should take place following a Homeland Security emergency situation, as well as rules that address high-traffic public trash disposal receptacle options, it appears that we have come to realize as a nation that proper waste disposal and cleanup is an important element of maintaining the our national security.

Solar-powered trash compactors

A relatively recent innovation that’s being seen more and more in downtown urban areas is trash compactors on public streets. City waste disposal systems such as Philadelphia’s, which use “Big Belly Trash Cans” have supported a remarkably successful program that reduces the amount of litter on the streets while saving the city millions on trash removal costs.

The City of Brotherly Love has gone a step further and made these high-tech trash bins more environmentally friendly with the installation of solar energy cells to power these compactors.

Too often, we pay more attention to reducing the waste we make than we do to how to dispose of the garbage we generate in a safe and secure fashion. But with the technological innovations we’ve seen in recent decades, we’re finding ways to improve both our awareness of trash creation and the efficiency of our disposal options.

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How Technology Has Revitalized the Real Estate Industry

Technology seems to have reached into many different areas of our lives. Closing a deal for a Carlsbad home like this one can be done by connecting with a real estate agent online.

Social media is just one of the new ways that agents are communicating with prospective clients. Let’s take a closer look.

Online social media sites

Advertising a home on social media services is a powerful way to get free advertising. The popular reason for placing a home on a site like Twitter is that it will get re-tweeted between many people.

If a family likes the look of the place, they can re-tweet it to their friends. Now their friends can check it out and tweet it to their friends.

Considering almost 80 percent of people find their home online these days, it’s a pretty sharp idea to post on a social media website. People are nervous about approaching real estate agents, almost as much as they are uncomfortable about talking to a car salesman.

Providing service online has helped some agents reach new customers.

Fetchnotes and real estate

The housing crisis made many Americans wary of trying to purchase a new or used home. The interest rates have gone up and down in recent years and it can be hard for the average consumer to know the best time to buy.

This gives the real estate agent more work to do. More than in the past, an agent can expect to answer a variety of questions and show more properties without necessarily making a sale.

This is where a program such as Fetchnotes comes into play. This software program is designed to help agents organize their notes about certain properties. By creating a “hashtag” of each property, an agent can easily come back to that home when he or she needs to.

To give an example of how this program works, picture a newlywed couple who asks for a four-bedroom home that has skylights. The real estate agent can hop into Fetchnotes and use a hashtag that reads something like #4bed and #skylights.

This will point the agent toward each home in the books that meets both of these criteria. The representative doesn’t need to sift through every listing and look for the keyword “skylights.”

Using email to respond to ads

Many people who search for a home online will either call or email a real estate agent. The agent will ask the buyer a few questions and point the person in the direction he or she needs to go.

A good way for the agent to keep in touch with the buyer is to send out a steady stream of emails about new listings. This will keep the person up to date on what’s available with that agent.

Some real estate reps can get carried away with free email marketing, though. It’s important to send only a few emails, evenly spread out over time.

Clearly, technology is changing the way people do things in the real estate industry. Keeping up with the times requires the use of a computer, and you should consider the risks with sending out real estate emails.


Home Buyers Are Barely Hitting The Pavement Anymore

In the past, prospective home buyers contacted a real estate agent and started the process of visiting homes. Property after property was viewed and evaluated. At some point, the buyers decided on a home.

It might not have been the perfect home, but it felt good enough after doing all that legwork. Today’s age of online mortgage lending and home listings brings the real estate market into the home, however. Home buyers search for the right property right on the computer, and often find it.

Get pre-approved loan first

Buyers aren’t limited to their local bank anymore. If you go online, you’ll find many lenders looking for their next client. For most lenders, there’s no commitment to take the loan after a quote.

Simple information from the buyer is necessary for a rough estimate on maximum property principal and interest rates. One site can even have multiple lenders competing for a buyer’s business.

The lenders propose their best offer in hopes of winning the client. There are no awkward bank meetings or intimidating clerks. Buyers have a good chance at a perfect loan that fits their financial needs.

Earth view

As technology improves, buyers have a better view of the world than ever before. Specialized laptop, cell phone, and tablet apps and software allow buyers to look at a satellite snapshot of their potential new neighborhood.

Zoom in for a look at street level, from gorgeous park landscaping to unsightly vacant lots. If buyers are looking for a new property in a different neighborhood, a satellite view may give them a better look than a typical drive-by.

Access to statistics on crime and schools

A safe home another goal of buyers. However, it’s sometimes difficult to identify bad neighborhoods with one or two visits alone.

Several online resources offer statistical data regarding both crime levels and school performance. For example, buyers can find out about local sexual predators housed in the area, or last year’s robbery rate.

Alternatively, look up local school scores to find the areas with the brightest students. Schools with dedicated teachers, students, and parents often reflect a close-knit community. All these online resources provide another layer of information for a well-informed choice during house hunting.

Open houses online

Online property listings allow buyers to view dozens of homes in a day, without leaving their computer. As websites have expanded, each listing often shows photos of the living room, kitchen, bedrooms, and outdoor areas.

With more photos, properties have a better chance at a sale. Some listings offer a 360-degree view that gives buyers a look around the entire room. Descriptions of amenities, along with filtering applications, allow buyers to pinpoint the perfect property in a specific area. Once it’s found, buyers can ask their Realtor about visiting the property for a tour of the premises.

The online world has made it much easier for both buyers and sellers to find the perfect match. With the right descriptions and and photos on a reputable website, a beautiful home can really shine.


Which Weight Management App is Right for You?

Managing your weight, whether you want to lose, gain, or sustain, can be challenging. Swimwear season is just around the corner, and now it’s easier than ever to make a splash with the right weight management app.

There are a number of helpful apps available for both Android and iPhone, but how can you know which one is right for you? Luckily, the hard work has been done by other folks, and if you consult the high rankings and glowing reviews, you should know what to get.

Start with the BMI Calculator, an aptly named app that helps you keep track of your Body Mass Index (BMI). This has been a doctor-preferred method for gauging your overall health as it pertains to weight for more than 100 years.

It’s not perfect, especially for athletes, but it’s a good indication of where you fall on the spectrum and whether you should be focusing on gaining weight, losing it, or staying about the same.

An app for all bodies

My Fitness Pal is a popular website that can assist with all aspects of your health, whether you’re trying to figure out how many meals to eat per day or keep track of calories. The complementary app is also a great tool, because it enables users watch their caloric intake, and it’s very customizable.

You can choose from an existing database of 1.5 million foods or input your own. There’s a free barcode scanner and more than 150 trackable exercises to see just how many calories you’ve burned, too.

However, if you’re on Weight Watchers, getting their app is an absolute must. You’ll get access to new recipes, media reports on health and obesity, and detailed reports on exercise information to keep you on track.

The support system for Weight Watchers is incredible, and with easy social media and forum links within the app, you’ll find a stronger network than ever, right on your smartphone.

A little extra support

Are you looking for all the benefits of a personal trainer but don’t feel you have the money to pay those costly fees? Noom Weight Loss Coach is an app that lets you personalize a weight management plan and assigns daily tasks to help you get there, whether it’s reading the latest breaking health news or tackling a new exercise challenge.

You can easily log your success and steps, and it keeps you on track with reminders so you can make changes that will last over the long run. Plus, it even comes with a GPS and pedometer so you know exactly how much movement you get under your belt.

If working out is more your thing than measuring your kale salad, the 7-Min Workout might be right up your alley. You’ve heard about seven minutes in heaven? That’s exactly what your body will think happened with this quickie app that ensures you get an intense workout almost anywhere with zero equipment.

Enjoy clear directions and commands for switching it up, and you can know that you’re getting the regular cardio you need in intervals that even the busiest of professionals can handle. No matter which app you choose, whether one or all of the above, putting your health literally in your hands is a good habit not just for bikini season, but for life.


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