Halloween Decorations

Photo: Randy Robertson via flickr.com

WalletHub, one of our favorite sources for all of those ranking lists that pit cities against each other on a wide variety of somewhat pointless criteria, just crunched the numbers to discover what American cities are the best places to celebrate Halloween. Now, this annual day of spooky decor, jack o’ lanterns, and politically incorrect costumes that are shared all over the internet is big business, expected to net $8.4 billion in 2016, WalletHub claims. But what towns get their Samhain on better than anyone else?

Jump to find out!

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Ranch style home

Photo: Realtor.com

What is the quintessential American home? That’s a question that can creates a hot debate. Is it the Colonial beauties on the East Coast, or the classic traditional? How about a Cape Cod?

A recent Realtor.com study points to another style that is the most popular in 29 of the 50 states: the ranch style home.

“The ranch style signals a lifestyle change of that age. Front porches went away, and people are more into backyard living and protecting privacy,” said Tim Cannan, president of PreservationDirectory.com.

This isn’t a big surprise, because ranch houses can be built quickly and relatively inexpensively. They’re also highly customizable for buyers and regional preferences. Their low-slung style may be inspired by the Old West, but it quickly spread from that coast across the nation with the rise of automobile culture in the 1960s. Their design naturally accommodated one or even two cars and became popular in newly built suburbs.

But what about other styles of homes?

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The Perfect Name for a Hong Kong Real Estate Brokerage (“wasted” on a restaurant)

The Perfect Name for a Hong Kong Real Estate Brokerage (“wasted” on a restaurant)

In case you missed Part One, you can read it here.  In that section I wrote about how the thirst for safe investments that return a decent profit has changed the real estate markets in cities across the globe, particularly Hong Kong. You may think Dallas is nowhere near the bustling city of Hong Kong, but consider that Hong Kong’s population is roughly 7.24 million and the Metroplex is roughly 7.1 million — where we differ is land mass.  The Metroplex sprawls over 9,286 square miles while Hong Kong manages on a much more restrictive 1,064 square miles … nine times the density.

Hong Kong housing can be thought of as a compressed version of Dallas.  There are insights to be gained. This installment covers the results of investment, development, and the shortfalls of grand government plans.

Empty Homes

The results of parking income in real estate can be seen in cities like Seattle, Vancouver, and London where vacant, investor-owned properties are used as oversized piggy banks to park excess cash.  Most of these properties aren’t in the rental pool, depriving the local market of a housing unit. It’s been estimated that between 40 to 50 percent of London homes are empty on a given night … and London is not alone. (Homelessness in these markets is the height of irony.)

As Dallas housing continues to trend, it’s important for governments to study the mistakes and successes of other hot markets.  In hot markets, owners are rewarded on the backs of tenants and those forming households.

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Hong Kong Real Estate Broker Window

Hong Kong Real Estate Broker Window

Many of the hottest global real estate markets didn’t get that way due to local requirements.  They’re hot because of investors looking to either park money or seek a better return on investment than can be found in traditional banking.

I had thought about writing about second home opportunities in Hong Kong for CandysDirt.com’s sister blog SecondShelters.com, but I think there’s more value for Dallasites to learn.  I won’t say, “there but for the grace of god …” but in smaller ways Dallas should learn lessons from cities that already have high-growth.

Many readers are old enough to remember when money market accounts, bonds, CDs and even savings accounts could be combined for a decent, low-risk annual gain. Today we know all too well those instruments offer rates equivalent to mattress stuffing.  After all, the same low interest rates found on residential mortgages and business borrowing are killing returns on those low-risk investments (interest paid to savers is tied to interest generated by loans).

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Lincoln Ave

Happy Birthday America! We are so proudly grateful to be Americans today, and so fortunate we live in a country that lets us say pretty much what we want, build (generally) what we want, and encourages home ownership. Our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers gave their youth and in some cases, their lives, to fight to keep the American standard of liberty free. In my case, one set of ancestors can be traced back to World War I and II and probably even further back to other wars. But my mother’s set fought instead to leave their native country behind and immerse their children in a brand new land free from the persecution they endured at the hands of Communism. My maternal grandmother kissed her mother goodbye and was sent to the U.S. to live with her older brothers when she was 12 years old. She never saw her mother again. Her pride was the home she bought, birthed and raised her family in, and kept intact during the Great Depression by selling moonshine, I was told. She lived in that home until a few weeks before her death. For awhile, the family ran a grocery general store on the first floor. When my uncles returned from World War II, she had created an apartment for each one of them that she later turned into rentals. In this way, her home became her piggy bank and she refused to leave it until she had no physical choice. She bought her home with cash before mortgages existed, before FHA loans, before PMI.

That piece of dirt was my grandmother and grandfather’s rock of Gibraltar.

A recent essay by Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist of the 1.1 million strong National Association of REALTORS, in Forbes, outlines a concern I have that people in America today are not partaking of home ownership as previous generations have. We hear from pundits that the younger generation prefers sharing over owning, from apartments to cars to clothing. Hogwash: maybe they like Uber, but they cannot afford homes because of college debt they were lured into by banks. And now those same banks, the ones we bailed out during the Great Recession, are demanding higher lending thresholds.

Yun argues that Americans are doing well overall, fabulously well, the “net worth of everyone combined reached $88 trillion as of the first quarter of this year, which has essentially doubled since the turn of the new century in 2000. In 1980 the total net worth was $10 trillion. Some of the increases are due to inflation and from a growing population. Still, the increase over the years has been quite stellar.”

But guess who is not partaking in that celebration? Young people under age 35… some Millennials, some Generation Z, some whatever you call them: (more…)

Floorplanet 1

I will never buy a home with a bathroom opening into a kitchen or dining room.  I will never buy a home with a fireplace in a corner, off-center or next to the front door.  I will never buy a home with an enclosed kitchen that can’t be opened, nor one requiring off-site laundry.  Deal-breakers — we all have them for every aspect of our lives.  I won’t date smokers or the tattooed.  I won’t buy a non-white car.  Of course my deal-breakers are someone else’s checkbox item.  One man’s trash … blah, blah, blah.

Agents, how many times have you shown a property, and within seconds heard “no” from a buyer? How much of your and your buyer’s time has been wasted getting to that visceral “no”? The home buying process has already been made more efficient by using the MLS and creating listings that offer pictures, virtual tours, room and lot dimensions, school districts, and the like.   So why doesn’t the average U.S. home listing include a floor plan while other countries do?

Oh, and it’s doubly maddening to see high-rise listings without a floor plan when all that’s typically required is a stop by the front desk to pick up a copy.

In order to move the needle a bit, I’ve looked into the costs and offers of three companies offering a floor plan creation service specifically for real estate agents. (more…)

houseforsale

For a homebuyer, it’s an age-old question: Do I buy a new home (or even build one from the ground up) or do I stick with a tried-and-true existing home?

As with anything, there are pros and cons to both buying a new or existing home. Existing homes can often save you money — though that’s not always true — and new homes tend to be safer, that is if you get an inspection every step of the way.

The truth is, both home buying options have their advantages, and both have their downsides. Not sure which choice is right for you? We break it down after the jump.

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Dallas was named the third-hottest real estate market in the country for February, according to Realtor.com. (Graphic: Realtor.com)

Dallas was named the third-hottest real estate market in the country for February, according to Realtor.com. (Graphic: Realtor.com)

It seems like the rest of the world is discovering what we already knew — Dallas is full of tech-savvy buyers who are going online first to start their housing search. Dallas real estate was named the third-hottest U.S. market in February for online home searches, and evidence of that activity is being seen in sales.

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