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Homeownership

LifeDoor automatically closes doors to save homes and lives

(TECH NEWS) LifeDoor is one of the smartest devices we’ve seen in ages and could save peoples’ lives and protect their homes.

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The way that we build our homes, with synthetic materials, furniture, and cheaper construction is making our homes more flammable – House fires spread 600% faster today than 40 years ago, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This means that every second counts.

And while most us have some warning system: smoke detectors, and maybe even fire suppression systems built into our homes, there is a very easy way to help slow the spread of fire in your home: closing your door.

Research by the UL Fire Safety Research Institute concluded that closed doors do a number of things including:

  • A closed door can help keep back heat and prevent rooms reaching dangerous temperatures.
  • A closed door keeps more oxygen away from the fire so it allows you to breathe better.
  • Closing the bedroom door at night gives you more time to react to a smoke alarm.
  • Closed doors keep dangerous smoke away from you – smoke and toxic gasses can incapacitate you and keep you from escaping the fire.
  • Closing door cuts fire off from a fuel source and can better contain the fire.

And of course, where there is an opportunity, our internet of things has a solution.

In case you don’t automatically shut your doors (perhaps you’re a free spirit, a Gemini? Who knows?) There is a gadget for that. Lifedoor is a gadget that integrates with existing smoke detectors and does three things: it closes the door of the room, illuminates the room to help the occupant make a better decisions, and sounds a secondary alarm that can help wake your more heavier sleepers.

The product easily installs onto the hinge of a door and then attaches to the door with screws or even double sided tape. It activates when it hears the tone of the triggered smoke alarm (which is standardized at 85 decibels, #FunFacts).

For those of you who may fear the worst – this does not render the door unopenable and the battery should last 18-24 months depending on use. The product is currently in pre-order and is set to ship in the fall. (if you’re interested, there is a promo code floating around).

One particular note about this new product is that its support has largely come from firefighters – and those guys know their stuff.

Hopefully, you won’t have to experience a housefire. But even if you don’t invest in LifeDoor – remember that closing your own door can keep you safe by giving you more time. And nothing is more important than being prepared: make sure you follow the best home fire practices you can – learn more from the American Red Cross.

Kam has a Master's degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and is an HR professional. Obsessed with food, but writing about virtually anything, he has a passion for LGBT issues, business, technology, and cats.

Homeownership

How the foreclosure crisis still dictates many American’s lives post-recession

(REAL ESTATE) A decade after the Great Recession began, the foreclosures of many Americans still rocks the housing market – and beyond. 


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Foreclosure. The word alone can shake any struggling homeowner. And a decade after the Great Recession began, foreclosures continue to burden U.S. families, stifling economic growth, and leaving uncertainty about how those struggling the most will make it through the next crisis.

Sure, the nation’s unemployment rate holds steady at a pre-recession low of 4.4 percent and there are more jobs in the market today. However, for some Americans, the recession and its costs have been significant and seemingly never-ending. From job losses to home losses and everything in between, many are wondering when they will be able to get back on their feet.

According to Alana Semuels of The Atlantic, if the U.S. is to weather another economic crisis, understanding why recession recovery has been so tough for some families is crucial. If not, losses could be even more devastating next time around.

So what’s the deal?

On a macro level, economic conditions seem brighter, but it’s only when you dig into the nitty gritty data that the struggles reveal themselves. For example, the labor-force participation rate (which measures the ratio of adults who either have jobs or are actively seeking one), fell sharply during the recession and remains at 62 percent, according to Bureau of Labor statistics.

Additionally, Census data shows lower-income tier families have experienced an average annual income decline of more than $500 between 2006 and 2016, while the top 20 percent of Americans experienced average income growth surpassing $13,000. That’s dramatic difference.

And then there’s the housing market.

While the population has grown significantly, there are now 400,000 fewer homeowners. Before the recession, the homeownership rate was 69 percent and today it’s 63 percent, per the Federal Reserve. That seemingly minute 6 percent drop actually represents millions of families who have lost their homes and livelihoods in the past 10 years.

Money disappeared, credit scores were ruined, and many are still trying to rebuild. Approximately 9 million families lost their homes to foreclosure between 2006 and 2014 in addition to their financial stability.

The recession created an unstable job market and many families just focused on making ends meet instead of moving up the career ladder or accumulating wealth. As a result, they fell to the bottom of the economic ladder, as Semuels put it, and are still trying to climb back up.

The foreclosure crisis was also focused on individuals who were already vulnerable, hitting Latino and black families the hardest. Many such families were first-time homeowners who really wanted a home but lacked access to traditional financial products. On top of less savings, education and wealth connections, foreclosures have really set these families back.

The detrimental effects of foreclosures spiral into other aspects of life, too. Researchers have found families in foreclosure visit emergency rooms more often, their mental health declines, and children struggle in school, to name a few.

Foreclosure often means leaving a community and the connections in that area that could otherwise be used to find jobs or get financial assistance, too.

For these reasons, many families are still struggling today, and their plight continues to be controlled by the economy. Millennials who have entered the workforce post-recession have made historically proportionately lower wages than previous generations and, as a result, have not been able to save as much money. In fact, anyone who lost their job during the recession (about 8 million people) lost substantial financial footing.

To this point, it’s not surprising that first-time homeowner rates are suppressed, as the National Association of Realtors 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found. Fewer homebuyers has led to fewer homes built, a situation that has slowed economic growth a decade post-recession.

If the pace of homebuilding had returned to a more normal level, there would’ve been $300 billion more in the U.S. economy last year, boosting GDP by 1.8 percent, according to Ken Rosen, chair of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at Berkeley.

“The failure of the housing sector to recover is the main reason we have subpar economic growth,” Rosen told The Atlantic.

Many Americans do not feel financially secure right now.

Some are still just trying to find stable housing options.

And until they are able to raise their standard of living, it remains uncertain how the families who suffered the most during the Great Recession will weather the next (inevitable) economic downturn.

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Homeownership

What can you expect with property values in 2018?

(REAL ESTATE NEWS) Although property values fluctuate depending on location, we can spot regional trends to showcase what 2018 has in store.

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MID mortgage interest deductions existing home sales

One question property owners and potential buyers are constantly asking as 2017 winds down is: What can I expect with my property values for the next year? While there may be no crystal ball for property values, there are certainly trends that can be helpful in making decisions in the New Year.

According to data analysis on property value trends from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) using federal American Community Survey (ACS) numbers, good things are in store for property owners and hypothetical buyers.

“Using data from the American Community Survey (ACS), we can analyze the gains and losses of property values over time,” Michael Hyman, research data specialist for NAR said. “Looking at the 2005 – 2016 period, the figures point to trends, which vary by region and state.”

Using data from the ACS from years 2005 to 2016, NAR found only a few states for this 11-year period are showing property value stagnation or devaluation. More specifically, property value growth was the strongest in the Southern region. The Northeast had the weakest growth in property values.

NAR’s regional analysis of the of Northeast, Midwest, South, and West goes further in the weeds to describe what types of value trends are occurring. The South’s lead on property value growth is lead by Louisiana, with a ratio of 57 percent price growth with four percent average annual price growth. This finding falls in lockstep with the idea that many property flippers that are now turning their attention to Louisiana (specifically Baton Rouge).

In contrast to the South, the Northeast (which normally has the slowest price growth) had one of the biggest losers in terms of price trends, with Rhode Island’s value dropping 11 percent, and negative one percent change annually. If your eye is on the Northeast at any cost, Pennsylvania is your best bet, with a 40 percent price growth and 3 percent annual growth.

But the big winner in the property growth trends? The Midwest’s North Dakota, with a whopping 106 percent increase in price growth and 6 percent growth annually. The big loser for this time frame is Nevada, with negative 16 percent growth and a decrease of one percent annually.

While this data can’t guarantee that any current or future property venture will turn profitable, it can highlight some areas of interest. It’s no crystal ball, but it can give you a great perspective on future property value forecasting.

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Homeownership

Experts, politicians say improving homeownership will be complex

(REAL ESTATE) As tax reform remains hotly debated, experts and politicians discuss the way forward to protect homeownership, and thus the economy.

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jeb hensarling on homeownership

The consensus is that if more Americans can sustainably buy homes, the economy and taxpayers will benefit.

As the nation’s homeownership rate hovers around a 50-year low, it’s time to acknowledge and start addressing the range of issues suppressing the market today, according to individuals at a Realtors and S&P event this month.

“When there is no hope for owning real property, we are taking a huge step backwards for the future of our country,” said Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in her opening remarks.

Politicians and industry experts at this event outlined a number of key issues that need to be addressed to improve homeownership rates and market stability in the U.S: Buying incentives, student loan debt, and affordability.

But most of all, it’s important that the complexity of the housing market never be ignored. There’s not just one issue to be addressed, or a single solution that will fix it all.

For example, leading up to the 2007 housing crash, home buyer enthusiasm peaked as mortgage rates were low and investment return rates high. It was an environment that many Americans felt was too good to pass up.

Many also feared getting priced out of the market if they didn’t buy right away and take advantage of the current market state, a phenomenon dubbed “buyer’s panic,” according to economist Dr. Robert Shiller. Shiller noted that public sentiment about the risks of home buying peaked in 2006, but homes were still bought left and right.

Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) of the House Financial Services Committee observed that sustainable homeownership plays a key role in protecting the overall economy, citing the “unsustainable housing finance rollercoaster” that caused the Great Recession, a “lost decade” of lost economic growth.

“The lesson is clear: Housing unsustainability doesn’t just create unaffordability,” stated Rep. Hensarling. “It can create economic catastrophe.”

Overall, interest rates and tax law aren’t the only market drivers, something industry leaders should keep in mind as tax reform legislation enters the House and the economy continues to slowly bounce back from the Great Recession.

Post-recession debt burdens aren’t helping the nation’s homeownership rate, either. Student loan debt is suppressing young adult homeownership in particular.

“Eventually, time will start to soften the impact of those high student loans,” Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global Ratings, explained during a panel. “Jobs are coming around, wages are picking up.” But this is not to say the issue isn’t having real ramifications right now.

For those struggling to repay student loan debt, homeownership is simply not an option right now, according to Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research and communication at NAR.

Meanwhile, many who are managing their student loan debt well aren’t in position to buy a home, either, a trend also identified by the National Association of Realtors 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

Another panel comprised of Dr. Lawrence Yun of NAR, Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute, and Boyd Campbell of Century 21 discussed affordability concerns involving the supply and demand issues facing the housing market today.

Debt burdens aside, homeownership is just becoming too expensive for many Americans. “Prices have risen roughly 40 percent in the past five years, while people’s income has risen at a much slower rate,” Yun said. “This rise in prices forces an affordability concern.”

This particular issue isn’t just a real estate matter. The labor market plays a role as college-educated workers are priced out of areas where the job market is strong but housing prices are high.

As the number of families buying their first single-family homes remains well below the 50-year average, conversations about the range of issues impacting the housing market must continue.

“Prospective homebuyers face headwinds from the market, in the halls of Congress and in their own family’s budgets,” said NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall, a sixth-generation Realtor and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty. “We can’t solve them all, but we know more can be done to smooth the way for creditworthy borrowers who want to own a home.”

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