In the coming year, CRT is going to include green and sustainable technologies in its discussion of technologies for our members. We are excited to be partnering with NAR’s Green REsource Council to bring you these features as part of an ongoing conversation on green technologies. Aside from CRT staff, we have some great writers from the real estate industry lined up as well.
Why Green Technologies?
For over a decade, CRT has been a think tank and hub for new technologies. Green and sustainable technologies are developing rapidly, which makes this an exciting time, as we feel that our forward-looking mission and charter is a perfect fit for this field.
Exciting changes are happening in green technology, like solar panel chargers for mobile devices, which are steadily coming down in price and becoming accessible to a wider market. We are also seeing devices with solar panels built into them. We are seeing smart home technologies come to the fore, with energy efficiency being the integral piece in that movement. We are seeing members working with more and more clients who are very interested in these emergent technologies. CRT will be actively involved in helping members understand what these technologies mean for them and how they can contribute to cost savings and conveniences that benefit their professional needs. Moving ‘off the grid’ makes it easier for members to be more mobile without having to worry about where their power will come from.
What Types of Technology?
Along with our guest contributors, we’ll be covering topics such as:
- Building Sciences (Creating High-Performance Homes)
- Materials that are less impactful on the environment, more sustainable and can increase the value of a home
- Building Materials
- Personal charging and power devices
- Solar power chargers
- Kinetic chargers
- Gas-free generators
- SmartHome Technologies
- Smart Thermostats
- Wifi-enabled LED light bulbs
- Metering devices
- Member and Brokerage movements
- Sustainable Brokerages leveraging technology
- Member-promoted initiatives
- NAR’s Green Designation and what it means for you
We’re very excited to discuss these topics and have you join the dialog. If you would like to be considered for a guest post or have a topic you would like to see covered, send us a note on Twitter. – @crtweet
Reminiscent of a hand-cranked bingo number generator, Poly Glu International of Osaka has developed an easy-to-use portable water purification system, Eco-Polyglu, intended for those cut off from access to clean potable water.
The mechanics of the system are simple: pour dirty water in need of cleaning into the 10-liter capacity tank, add a packet of polyglutamic acid, insert a filter, and use the hand crank to spin the tank for about one minute. Voila! You now have water that is safe to drink. Change the filter and you’re ready to go again. The system’s water tank can also be easily detached and carried like a bucket.
Full video of this fantastic little contraption turning filthy liquid into crystal-clear water after the break.
“Polyglumatic acid, a type of amino acid found in natto (traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans) and responsible for the dish’s gooey texture, becomes entangled with contaminants in the dirty water. Rotating the tank results in aeration which furthers the effectiveness of the acid making it easier to separate and remove toxicants such as colon bacterium and heavy metals,” said a company representative in explaining the science behind the device.
No electricity is needed to operate the system, just a little muscle power, making it suitable for those without access to electricity such as victims in disaster areas or people living in destitute regions lacking reliable energy sources. Furthermore, with production costs kept comparatively low, the Eco-Polyglu is a much more affordable alternative to portable water filtration systems we’ve seen previously.
When asked why the company pursued the product’s development, the representative responded, “We wanted households in developing countries to have access to a simple, inexpensive water purifier.” The company says its desire is to “have people around the world be able to safely drink unboiled water.”
In less fortunate countries, human suffering from contaminated water is a serious problem. Helping relieve such suffering became a prime task for Poly Glu International and is also the reason they focused on developing a water purification system that would not require electric power.
The system cannot purify all types of contaminated water. “It’s suitable for stored rain water and water in baths and pools and such, and can also purify water from ponds and rivers,” said the company rep. Water containing domestic sewage or hazardous substances, however, is beyond the device’s capabilities.
When asked how they planned to market the item going forward, the rep responded, “Overseas we will target the less-fortunate. In Japan we will market it as an item for emergency-preparedness kits, to be used in times of disaster when water supplies may be disrupted.”
Eco-Polyglu is currently available at Amazon Japan for 12,800 yen (US$145). Filters retail at 2,200 yen (US$25) for a package of 50 and a bundle of 100 Polyglu powder packets (polyglutamic acid) goes for 4, 500 yen (US$51).
Source: Excite News
Contrary to popular belief, loss of equity in their homes since 2007 has hurt adults in their late thirties more than their Baby Boomer parents, contributing to fears that they will not have enough income and assets for their retirement, according to a new Pew Research survey released today.
Americans today are more worried about their retirement finances than they were at the end of the recession in 2009, especially younger and middle-aged adults rather than among those closer to retirement age-a major shift in the pattern that had prevailed at the end of the recession.
About four-in-ten adults (38 percent) say they are “not too” or “not at all” confident that they will have enough income and assets for their retirement, up from 25 percent in a Pew Research survey conducted in late February and March of 2009. Among adults between the ages of 36 and 40, 53 percent say they are either “not too” or “not at all” confident that their income and assets will last through retirement. In contrast, only about a third (34 percent) of those ages 60 to 64 express similar concerns, as do a somewhat smaller share (27 percent) of those 18 to 22 years old.
Fears over retirement are driven by a companion Pew Research analysis of data collected by the Federal Reserve Board in its Survey of Consumer Finances. For most Americans, equity in their homes represents most of their wealth and the collapse of housing values in the middle of the past decade sent personal wealth into a nose dive for most homeowners, regardless of age.
Overall, the Consumer Finances survey found that median home equity-the fair market value of a home less the amount of the outstanding mortgage and other liens-fell by about a third (32 percent) from 2007 to 2010. And U.S. Census data released in June found that most of the decline in median wealth between 2005 and 2010 can be attributed to sinking home values.
Median home equity-so-called housing wealth-declined the most for homeowners ages 35 to 44. Between 2007 and 2010, the equity of homeowners in this age group was cut in half (52 percent). In contrast, housing wealth fell by 30 percent among those 55 to 64 and by 20 percent among adults 65 and older.
Adults 35 to 44 years old have a much greater share of their wealth represented by their home equity because they have not yet had the time to accumulate financial wealth. Moreover, these younger adults have had less time to build equity, so the market collapse cut into a greater share of a smaller base than for longtime homeowners. Finally, this age group benefitted less than older adults from the rise in stock market values since many sold their holdings when stocks fell in 2009.
The S&P 500 Index peaked at 1,576 in October 2007 but then fell to a modern low of 667 in March 2009. Since then, the stock market began a steady rise, closing at 1,258 on the last day of December 2010. It now stands at about 1,450, nearly back to its earlier peak.
During this decade of wild market swings, ownership of stocks and retirement accounts, such as 401(k) and thrift accounts, fell among most age groups. But the declines were greatest among those ages 35 to 44. The proportion of adults in this age group who directly held stocks declined by nine percentage points from 2001 to 2010, with half of this drop occurring before 2007. In contrast, the share of adults 65 and older who directly held stocks declined only 3 percentage points from 2001 to 2010, from 21 percent to 18 percent.
The proportion of 35- to 44-year-olds who held stocks indirectly through retirement accounts also disproportionately fell by 9 percentage points, about double the decline among those younger than 35 or between 45 and 54 years old (4 percentage points for both groups). As a consequence, those in the 35 to 44 age group have benefited less from the rapid increase in stock prices since 2009 because they were less likely than their older counterparts to own stock and retirement accounts.
CHAPPAQUA — The immense winged Pegasus statues will stay — but only because the symbols of Reader’s Digest are too heavy to be moved from atop the Georgian cupola. The stretch of blacktop off the Saw Mill River Parkway is still called Reader’s Digest Road. But the company that gave these things to Chappaqua is gone. Some might say Reader’s Digest as they knew it has been gone for a while. But this month the Digest officially moved its last workers out of the building in Chappaqua where it put out the world’s largest-circulation magazine since 1939. The Digest’s new headquarters are in Manhattan and a few departments work out of White Plains. The Chappaqua headquarters building that was for decades filled with thousands of employees will be leased to other companies by its new owners. But the memories of the Digest’s days in Chappaqua will linger.
In its heyday during the lifetime of its founders, DeWitt and Lila Wallace, the company took its place as the premier corporate citizen of Chappaqua, a place where locals could go down and get a job and employees were treated to legendary perks. But after its founders died and the company went public in 1990, the things that made both the magazine and the business distinctive began to change as it tried to remake itself to fit a new media landscape.
For decades, though, the Digest was different.
“It was a very great place to work,” said Ed Thompson, a former editor-in-chief for The Reader’s Digest Association. “I can’t imagine a company being better.”
For DeWitt Wallace, the most important thing was his employees, not the readers, said Thompson, who joined the company in 1960 and lives in North Salem.
“He wanted them to be as happy as can be and paid well,” he said.
The Wallaces spent a lot of money keeping their staff cheerful and intellectually stimulated, sending editors on annual trips to destinations of their choosing and clerical employees to Colonial Williamsburg, buying museum-quality art to hang in the halls and offices of the headquarters and bringing in famous people from presidents to Arctic explorers for lunches in the Guest House on the Digest grounds.
NEW CASTLE — When Brenda Kelly Kramer had an 1890 cottage put back together piece by piece next to her house in Chappaqua, she left rafters exposed on each side of the upper floor to show the red and blue color coding that kept the pieces in order while the roof was disassembled, moved and reconstructed.
Downstairs, a strip of wood across the floor shows where the bottom level was cut in half so it could be trucked through Chappaqua.
The house spent its first 120 years on Taylor Road, originally as a coachman’s house for the estate known as Annandale belonging to Moses Taylor, a prominent banker and grandson of the founder of Citibank who once owned a large swath of Chappaqua. It arrived at Kramer’s house in January, and was put together over the next several months.
“We had all the rafters on the lawn,” Kramer said.
Now the Dutch Colonial cottage, reborn as an addition on South Place three miles away from where it was first built, is nearly done and Kramer, an interior designer, is working on the final touches. Kramer has decided to decorate the house with a Bermuda theme with sea-glass blue popping up on chairs, a bar sink, lamps and elsewhere. Bottles of island sand wait to be used in the decorating. Pictures dotted around the cottage evoke a vacation at the beach.
The cottage was to be torn down by a developer who had built a larger, modern home on the Taylor Road property. When Kramer said she wanted the house, he gave her the time to figure out how to move it.
Kramer said as she has been working on the restoration, she has talked to many people who felt they had a connection to the house, even if it was just admiring it as they drove by.
“It was sweet, this little sweet cottage,” Kramer said.
After it was put back together, it still needed a lot of work to upgrade the plumbing and other systems, add an energy-efficient heating system and enclose the walls. The contractors on the job had experience with the difficulties of rebuilding a house without plans and with old materials.
In some cases, I suppose the family of the deceased may be able to handle the estate sale in a garage sale manner but for the greatest amount of profit, a true estate sale is the key. This is especially true if you are dealing with an enormous amount of sellable items.
The first thing you want to do is NOT throw anything that could be sold. Old rotten clothes or broken glass items are one thing that you may do away with but there are so many other things most people consider trash but others find as a treasure. Some of these are old matchbook covers, business ballpoint pens, children’s games (even if missing some pieces), books with ratty covers, any age magazine (even the National Enquirer types), costume jewelry (the gaudier the better), fake flowers in ugly flower pots, lighters, family photos, old shoes, hats and even underwear. For everything your family member held onto, there is someone else in the world that will be willing to buy it. The price on the item may only be twenty-five cents but that is a quarter more than you had before.
The second thing you will want to do is decide if you want to do the sale yourself or hire a professional. The advantage to doing the sale yourself is you don’t have to pay a percentage of the money to someone else. The true professional give you a large number of other advantages IF you pick a good one.
Check into the person before signing any contract. Find out if the person does estate sales on a regular basis or only when the notion (or a desperate person) strikes. Check with your local Better Business Bureau. They may have comments on the person you are using. These comments may even be good ones. Avoid the fly by nighter that isn’t knowledgeable in all the various item possibilities. A professional will come with a virtual library of reference books, the amateur tries to bluff their way through and stick any price on something.
The next step in a profitable estate sale is advertising. I am sure most people have seen the homemade, garage or estate sale signs tacked up to fence posts or telephone poles with writing that is too small or simply illegible. In most cases the only thing you can do is hope there are arrows on each sign and that they are facing in the correct direction.
Most professionals will have signs printed up with the address, directions and some of the top merchandise (dolls, antiques, depression glass and tools) listed. In fact they may even have two different sets of signs created. The only difference being one will say Estate Sale while the other said Garage Sale. About three days before the big event post the signs in about a five-mile radius of the house. Remember signs aren’t all the advertising possibilities.
For the entire week before the sale ads should be placed in all the major (and minor) newspapers. This may cost $50 to $60 but in the long run will pay off. Make sure the ads give exact directions from the closest freeways or major roads as well as greater detail than the signs as to what all is offered. There are people that check for these types of sales on a regular basis. Not all of them are going to be antique dealers either. That is why you want to list as much as you can to catch the eye of readers.
Estate sales take time. Depending on the volume of merchandise, the sale can take from a week to several weeks to get ready. Garage sale mentality will be to slap everything on the floor or on a table as is. When having an estate sale, take the extra time to clean the better pieces like glassware, pottery, porcelain and nice pieces of furniture. People are more likely to not only buy but to pay more for something that looks good and not covered in greasy dust or dirt.
You may also want to group like items together. If you have sixteen complete sets of carnival glass, each with their own punch bowls, compote, candy dishes, pitchers and egg dishes, have an area set aside for the carnival glass lovers. If you have fine china, Depression glass, stem wear, Waterford crystal and such, display them so their beauty can be seen. You could even set the items up as if for a dinner party so buyers could see the pieces “in action.”
If you have a large volume of knick-knacks put up additional shelving to spread the items out. By placing thirty or so items on a small table, you have a greater chance of someone’s clumsiness getting something broken. Most buyers don’t worry about being careful since it isn’t their stuff they are dealing with. Nor is it their money.
Money is an issue in itself. A professional will usually make sure there is only one person handling it and only one person who can mark the price down on an item to make a sale. A great deal of money can be lost if you have five friends helping you and each one is knocking fifty cents to a dollar of each item sold. The best rule of thumb is to not mark anything down during the first part of the sale. If it is a three-day sale, wait until that third day to mark things down. Also go through before the sale several times and check prices on items to get them firmly planted in your mind. Buyers switching prices on a $70 1959 Barbie with a fifty-cent McDonalds toy isn’t at all uncommon. Security is always an issue.
If you are going to have possibly large amount of money exchanging hands, hiring a security guard or off duty policeman is often a good idea. Other precautions include making sure there is only one way into and out of the house, anyone coming in with large purses or coats are watched continuously and station a person in each room of the house. These will greatly reduce the theft rate. You will also want to make sure you do not keep any large sums of money. Make repeated trips to the bank if necessary. This may be difficult if you are running the sale yourself.
If you decide on a professional estate seller you should check them out thoroughly. Get references from previous clients. Make sure you get a written contract spelling out exactly what you get for your twenty-five to thirty-percent. Find out how often they do estate sales. Do they stay busy and if not, why? Go to one of their sales as a buyer before signing the contract. This is an excellent way to develop a true impression of how the person will run the sale. Research, advertising and professionalism are the keys to a successful estate sale. If the customer looks and sees a poorly run, cheap type of set up, they are more likely to pay only garage sale prices. If the customer sees a professionally run outfit that has taken the time to display, clean and mark each item, they are much more likely to not only pay better prices but also return on the following days.
One last thought on having a true professional do your estate sale. They have an established clientele that follow them to the various sales. If you plan on selling the real estate property where the estate sale is being held, let them know. Many times the professional can sell the house by letting the word out to anyone who asks and the best thing is you don’t have to pay a commission for the sale unless you want to as a thank you. A professional can relieve so much of the headache and heartache that goes with an estate sale but you must make the final decision of which way you want to do the sale. Regardless of the way, remember the difference between the estate sale and garage sale mentalities as far as display, advertising, security and pricing.
“Happy Festivus” is the traditional greeting of Festivus a holiday featured in “The Strike” episode of Seinfeld. The episode first aired on December 18, 1997. Since then many people have been inspired by the goodness of the Seinfeld holiday and they now celebrate Festivus as any other holiday.
According to the Seinfeld model, Festivus is celebrated each year on December 23rd. However many people celebrate it other times in December and even at other times throughout the year.
The original slogan of Festivus is “A Festivus for the rest of us!” Instead of a tree an unadorned aluminum pole is used, in contrast to normal holiday materialism. Those attending Festivus may also participate in the “Airing of Grievances” which is an opportunity to tell others how they have disappointed you in the past year, followed by a Festivus dinner, and then completed by the “Feats of Strength” where the head of the household must be pinned. All of these traditions are based upon the events in the Seinfeld episode.
What does the American economy need to get back on its feet? The key may lie in housing, which remains in the doldrums. Recent data does show existing home sales are rising, but increasing mortgage rates won’t aid recovery. What would help tremendously would be fewer roommates.
While it’s true that stalled construction and population growth are gradually taking a bite from the country’s glut of vacant homes, hard times mean more people are shacking up together and fewer immigrants are climbing the fence. When this trend reverses, better times for everyone — from cable operators and builders to Home Depot — will follow.
As an investment theme, “household formation” may sound wonky. In fact, it’s a key factor in how the economy will perform in the coming year. The measure basically calculates how many healthy cells there are in the U.S. real estate body. When foreigners move in and buy a home, or the kids move out and into an apartment, the number of households increases. That, in turn, creates an economic ripple effect.
A small rise in household formation has a beneficial effect on large swaths of the economy, and with it on earnings and the stock market more broadly. Most obviously, sales of new homes and the materials needed to build or refurbish them increase. Homeowners buy appliances from General Electric, speakers from Best Buy and Sherwin Williams paint. Cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner sign up new customers, and utilities turn on more light bulbs. Allstate writes more homeowner policies.
The trouble is, despite robust demographic numbers, this figure has been growing sluggishly in recent years. The government estimates that fewer than 400,000 households were formed in each of the past two years ending in March. The average should be around 1.4 million per year, based on how people behaved prior to the financial panic.
Indeed, it’s a big reason for the continuing overcapacity in the housing market. Fewer than 800,000 new housing units were erected in 2009 and the number should be roughly the same this year. That’s the slowest pace by far in four decades. The real estate glut should largely be history given such a glacial pace of construction. Yet rental and homeowner vacancies remain at elevated levels.
So why is household formation down? Difficult economic times have forced people to try to save money — and the biggest cost to cut is habitation. People are more likely to shack up and share apartments, and homeowners take on renters to help with the mortgage. The footprints in the data are easily spotted. The percentage of 25-to-34 year-olds living at home is at a three-decade high, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even divorce rates are down. Arguing, it seems, is cheaper than paying two mortgages.
Hard times also mean America isn’t as attractive a destination to jobseekers. The number of legal immigrants living in the United States fell in 2009. Moreover, illegal immigration appears to have fallen sharply, based on border interdictions.
Some of these changes should unwind over time. Checking accounts fill, mortgages amortize, and thirty-somethings realize how hard it is to meet prospective mates when living at home. Eventually, people strike out or decide that having a tenant in the basement is not financially worth the noise and invasion of privacy.
Moreover, real estate prices have fallen by about a third from their peak in most cities, according to the Case-Shiller index. This makes it easier to afford rent or a down payment. Rental vacancies peaked last fall, and home vacancies in late 2008.
Yet higher rates of employment, and more certainty over jobs, would be a greater spur, as they are strongly linked to household formation. People are reluctant to move out or buy a home if they aren’t working, or think mass firings are imminent.
Therein lies the chicken and egg enigma. Construction is typically one of the first sectors to recover from a recession. The continuing property glut means employment is about 2 million below its 2006 peak, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since it hasn’t revived, the United States is attracting fewer immigrants and people aren’t forming households.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) predicted the housing market would improve by the end of 2010. In September 2010, Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said that he expected the housing recovery to be “slow and gradual because of lingering economic uncertainty.”
The 2010 housing market has been characterized by lower sales volume than a year ago. However, the median price increased 0.08 percent in August from a year ago. The number of homes sold nationally in August increased 7.6 percent from July, 19 percent below the August 2009 level.
August closings reflect sales made in April when the homebuyer tax credit was still available. We could see lower sales volume and median sale prices moving forward. This will vary from one area to the next.
Real estate is a localized business. In California, home sales for 2010 are predicted to rise 2 percent from the 2009 level. The median sale price is expected to increase 11.5 percent from a year ago to $306,500 and another 2 percent in 2011, according to the California Association of Realtors. The state’s median sale price was $522,700 in 2005.
Research by First American CoreLogic indicates that 24 percent, or more than 11.3 million homeowners, have negative equity. Negative equity occurs when the unpaid mortgage balance exceeds the market value of the property. According to CoreLogic, homeowners with negative equity are unlikely to reach positive equity until 2015 or early 2016.
Foreclosures are one of the factors putting brakes on a housing market recovery. According to NAR, distressed sales accounted for 34 percent of homes sold in August, up from 32 percent in July and 31 percent in August 2009. Foreclosures will continue to impact the housing market in 2011.
Prudential Holmes and Kennedy buy of the week in Chappaqua NY.
Asking $659,000. Will sell in the $500s because it needs updates. Over 1 acre of land.
Neighbors are Million dollar homes. I have heard buying the cheapest home in the neighborood is a good thing.
This is it.