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Sunday, June 30, 2013

4th of July Fun Facts!

We know the basics of the Fourth of July, the federal holiday marking the Colonies' adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which declared independence from the Great Britain and its king. It also is known as Independence Day. This holiday goes hand in hand with fireworks, parades and swilling beer as meat sizzles on grills.

Americans attend all manner of flag-waving festivities, including picnics, fairs, concerts and lawn sports.

It is not uncommon for politicians to take advantage of the day's political overtones by making speeches and attending ceremonies and various civic events to remind voters it soon will be re-election time.

But there are some things many people do not know about the Fourth. That's where PDQ comes to the rescue. Before the beer and hot-dog orgy get out of hand, take time to illuminate your mind about the day.

Did you know the following facts?

• The Fourth of July was not declared a national holiday until 1941.
• Malia Obama, George Steinbrenner, Neil Simon, Ron Kovic and Calvin Coolidge were all born on the Fourth of July.
• These events occurred on the Fourth of July: Henry David Thoreau moved into his shack on Walden Pond (1845); the U.S. air offensive against Nazi, Germany, began (1942); Beach Boys' "I Get Around" reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts (1964); Lyndon Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (1966).
• The stars on the original American flag were in a circle so all the Colonies would appear equal.
• Benjamin Franklin proposed the turkey as the national bird but was overruled by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who wanted the bald eagle.
• The musical "1776" premiered on Broadway in 1969 and ran for 1,217 performances. The production won three Tony Awards, including one for best musical.
• The number of Americans who will spend the holiday at other people's homes is approximately 41 million.
• The first official Fourth of July party was held at the White House in 1801.
• Approximately 150 million hot dogs are consumed on this day.
• The town of Patriot, Ind., has a population of 202 people.
• Presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe all died on the Fourth. Adams and Jefferson died on the same day within hours of each other in 1826.
• The percentage of American homes with an outdoor grill is 87 percent.
• The song "Yankee Doodle" was sung originally by British officers making fun of backwoods Americans.
• The amount of chicken purchased the week before the holiday is 700 million pounds.
• The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 men from 13 colonies.
• In 1776, there were 2.5 million people living in the new nation. (Today there are 311 million.)
• There are more than 30 towns nationwide that have the word "Liberty" in their names.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Another Real Estate Bubble?

The housing market is recovering so nicely that it has caused some to wonder whether a new housing bubble is forming. Today, we want to explain that the fear of a new pricing bubble in real estate is unwarranted.

Trulia revealed some great data on this point in a recent blog post. They explained that, even with the recent price increases, national home prices are still 7 percent undervalued. Trulia explained:

“Home prices nationally remain undervalued relative to fundamentals and much lower than in the last bubble. That’s why today’s price gains are actually still a rebound, not a bubble.”

Prices are below their fundamental value in the vast majority of the country (91 of the 100 largest metros). Even in the parts of the country that are now overvalued they come nowhere near the percentages we saw in 2006-2007. For example, let’s look at the two markets that are most overvalued today. In Orange County, California prices are currently overvalued by 9%. In 2006, prices in the region were overvalued by 71%! The second most overvalued market today is Austin, Texas at 5%. Texas real estate prices did not skyrocket as they did in many other parts of the country during the last boom. Austin prices were shown as being 12% overvalued at the time.

Again, prices are still undervalued in 91% of markets and, even in the markets that are overvalued, they are nowhere near the numbers of the 2006-2007 bubble.

Jed Kolko, Trulia’s Chief Economist, explained:

“So are we in bubble territory? No. Bubble-phobes can rest easy. Even with recent sharp home price increases, prices are still low relative to fundamentals and are far below bubble levels.”

Dr. David Stiff, chief economist for CoreLogic Case-Shiller agreed in a recently released report on prices:

“Even if double-digit price appreciation were to continue in former bubble metro areas, there is no reason to believe that new home price bubbles are forming. That’s because single-family homes in these markets are still very affordable, even after last year’s large price gains.”

Three reasons there will NOT be another bubble

Prices are determined by the ratio between supply and demand. Here are three reasons a bubble will be avoided.
  1. Supply is beginning to increase. A lack of inventory is creating a market of multiple bids which has caused prices to rise. The National Association of Realtors (NAR), in their latest Existing Home Sales Report, revealed that the months’ supply of inventory has increased from 4.3 to 5.2 months since January.
  2. Demand will decrease in certain demographics. For an example, investors have been a large part of the housing market over the last several years. As prices continue to rise, a certain percentage of these buyers will back off.
  3. As mortgage rates increase, buyers will be able to afford less. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae and NAR have all projected an increase in mortgage rates over the next year. Buying power will decrease as borrowers can no longer afford the same price point as monthly payments will increase.

For these reasons, we believe the fear of a new housing bubble is currently unfounded. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

It can be hard to find just the right gift for your grad. But here are some tips that will help, followed by a list of fifty great graduation gift ideas.

If you know that your graduate will be going to a trade school for a certain profession, check into what they may need to bring with them.

Understand that teens need money and don't be ashamed to give it.

If you will be purchasing more of a memento for a graduation gift, go with something classic as opposed to any of the fads or current trends.

Find out what technology or devices your teen grad has and purchase a cool accessory for it. Adding value to something your teen already uses makes an awesome gift.

Frames are great gifts, but photo albums are better.

Here are 50 ideas organized by price:

Big Ticket Items (Price is no object)

  • Vacation or travel tour
  • Car
  • Money
  • Laptop computer
  • Stock or CD
  • Cell phone complete with a paid plan
  • Furniture - Great gift for the college graduate who is moving out of mom and dad's house.
  • Small refrigerator - A very useful gift for the teen who will be living in a dorm room at college.

Mid-Priced Items (Priced $51 - $250)

  • Briefcase
  • Clothing gift card
  • Watch
  • Microwave
  • Toaster oven - This appliance is useful for college dorm living, especially if the student is not allowed microwaves in his/her dorm room.
  • Set of luggage
  • A package from a resume writing service - Excellent gift for the teen who will be looking for a job or a college graduate.
  • Camera
  • Television
  • DVD player
  • IPod
  • Recorder and cassettes for lectures
  • Bookshelf
  • Pure gold or silver coin with graduate year on it
  • Stereo
  • Printer
  • Tool box with basic tools
  • Engraved jewelry
  • Personalized graduation item
  • Money tree
  • Money clip complete with money
  • Wallet with some money

Economical Gifts (Priced under $50)

  • Book about future field of study or career
  • Devotional
  • Self-help Book
  • Inspirational book
  • Photo album filled with memories
  • Address book filled with friend's addresses and phone numbers
  • Fill a laundry basket with laundry soap, fabric softener or dryer sheets, roll of quarters and directions on how to separate your laundry - Perfect gift for the teen who is moving out or going to college.
  • A piece of luggage
  • Resume writing books
  • Set of sheets
  • Picture frames with pictures of high school years
  • Organizer or planner
  • Desk accessories
  • Umbrella
  • Iron
  • Coffee maker
  • Hot pot
  • Footlocker
  • Jump drive
  • Phone card

Denise Witner,