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How Moms Add Up

May 11, 2012 5:32 am

While Mother’s Day presents a special opportunity to show appreciation and devotion to our respective moms, it’s also the perfect time to see how the “mom demographic” is evolving.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau included in a Washington Post article, mothers are—not unexpectedly—a diverse lot.

Here are some interesting stats on American moms:
  • Mothers total about 85.4 million, with about four million giving birth in the past year.
  • In 2008, the last year recorded, the average age for giving birth was 25.1 years old. That 0.1 is important because it represents a slight age increase from the previous two years. Analysts say that increase is due mostly to fewer births among the younger set of mothers.
  • The number of stay-at-home mothers has remained relatively stable despite the challenging economy. In 2011, 23 percent of married mothers with children under 15 were classified as stay-at-home. In 2007, before the recession, it was 24 percent.
  • The number of single moms, however, has spiked. In 2011, 10 million mothers of children 18 or younger were single. In 1970, that number was just 3.4 million.
  • In 2010, about 39 percent of women who gave birth were not married, or were separated, or “married but with an absent spouse,” according to the census.
  • The most popular names bestowed upon babies in 2010 were Jacob and Isabella.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Top U.S. Cities for New Home Construction

May 11, 2012 5:32 am

While construction activity came to a near-halt after the housing bubble burst, things are finally looking up, according to a recent report in Atlantic Cities.

As with all real estate, construction is also local, however. While construction is gearing up in some markets, it remains dormant in others. According to Atlantic Cities, understanding construction patterns is critical for understanding the future of cities, for two reasons.

First, construction activity is a bet on future growth, as developers will only build in areas where they believe future demand for housing is strong. Construction is a clear signal of builder confidence in an area. Second, construction has a long-term impact on urban patterns, affecting a city’s density and sprawl.

What do construction patterns say about the future of cities in America? Atlantic Cities cites recent Census Bureau data on construction permits issued by localities in 2011, including whether those permits were for single-family homes or units in multi-family buildings.

The metro areas with the most construction permits were:
  • Houston, Texas - 31,271
  • Dallas, Texas – 18,686
  • Washington, DC – 18,686
  • New York, N.Y. – 13,973
  • Austin, Texas – 10,239
  • Los Angeles, Calif. - 9,895
  • Phoenix, Ariz. – 9,081
  • Seattle, Wash. – 8,664
  • Atlanta, Ga. - 8,634
  • San Antonio, Texas – 7,127
More permits were issued in the Houston metro area than in any other metro, by far. Four of the top ten metros were in Texas. But this list is dominated by large metro areas, and bigger areas are expected to have more construction activity. Among the cities with the most amount of construction permits per 1,000 homes are: El Paso, Texas; Austin, Texas; Raleigh, N.C.; Houston, Texas; Charleston, S.C.; Dallas, Texas; Little Rock, Ark.; and Baton Rouge, La.

The rate of construction is highest in metros within Texas and the Carolinas and lowest in the Northeast and Midwest. The rate of construction is higher across Texas, the mid-South and Mountain states, but lower in New England, the Great Lakes, South Florida and most of coastal California.

Source: The Atlantic Cities – the

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Understanding Listings - Which One is Right for You?

May 10, 2012 4:00 pm

Finding an agent to represent you can often be a time-consuming and overwhelming process. While you want to find someone who will work with you and your needs, it’s also important to take the various types of listings into consideration. Although the Exclusive Right to Sell contract is the most common, there are other listing contracts you should be aware of so that you and your agent can choose the listing that will work best when it comes to selling your home.

Exclusive Right to Sell
With this contract, the listing agent has 100 percent control of the transaction, regardless of who finds the buyer. That means that even if you have a friend who wants to buy your property, the listing agent will earn the sales commission. If another cooperating agent is involved, the commission is typically split between the agents. Normal contract length runs 90 or 120 days, but if the house doesn’t sell and you are happy with your agent, you can still re-sign for an additional time period.

Open Listing
Similar to a For Sale By Owner listing, if you choose an open listing, that means you’re willing to work with real estate agents who want to show the home in an attempt to earn a commission. There is no exclusivity and the home seller can give the listing to as many agents as he or she wants. Of course, no commission is owed if the seller finds a buyer on his own, without any agent’s help. Many agents shy away from this type of listing because the seller can either sell the home alone or withdraw the listing without notice. Few agents will spend their time or money working on an open listing, except when the property is very unique or if the inventory of homes for sale is very low.

Multiple Listing
A multiple listing service distributes listing information and photos via the computer to members who are working with appropriate buyers. Most MLS listings are also available on the Internet, allowing homebuyers to research what’s for sale on their own. MLS members can submit exclusive agency and exclusive right to sell listings to the local MLS.

One-Time Show
This type of listing is similar to an open listing and is often used by real estate agents who are showing a For Sale by Owner listing to one of their clients. The home seller signs the agreement, which identifies the potential buyer and guarantees the agent a commission should that buyer purchase the home. This keeps the two parties from negotiating later and trying to avoid paying the agent’s commission. As with an open listing, agents will not be spending money on marketing your home and it will not be placed in the Multiple Listing System.

For more information about various types of listing contracts, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Increase Your Home's Curb Appeal by Adding Flowers to the Mix

May 10, 2012 4:00 pm

Creating a positive first impression among prospective buyers is crucial in helping your home stand out from the competition, hopefully leading to a faster sale. If you’re looking to increase your home’s curb appeal, one of the easiest ways to freshen up the outside of your home is to add flowers to the mix.

In addition to creating a positive emotional impact on prospective buyers and open house visitors, flowers offer an easy and inexpensive way to put your home’s best foot forward.

Not only can flowers be put directly into the ground, they can also be arranged in planter’s boxes, which can then be placed on a porch, in a sunroom or on a windowsill.

If you’re looking to create a positive first impression through the use of flowers, marigolds, pansies, snapdragons and alyssum are typically the most manageable. While marigolds are typically bright yellow and vivid orange, pansies can be found in a range of colors from dark purple to pale violet. On the other hand, snapdragons are usually taller and range from pink to blood red. Alyssum is generally used to fill out between the plants and have tiny white or purple flowers on a bed of green.

While most real estate professionals agree that yellow flowers are the best at making people feel welcome, flowers come in a wide range of colors, making it easy to achieve the specific look you’re going for.

When deciding on the color scheme, remember that incorporating flowers of every color may be a beautiful sight, but it also entails a good deal of work. By choosing just one color for all the flowers, you can create a more cohesive look and one that doesn’t require as much work on your part.

Plus, a monochromatic color scheme will add depth to your garden, giving the impression of a greater abundance of flowers.

For added color and appeal, plant shade-loving flowers in between bushes, and choose wire baskets lined with moss to fill with hanging flowers and trailing vines.

Don’t forget to add plants as well. Large beds are most effective and you should design them so the plants are sequenced from shortest to tallest. Make room for a wide variety of foliage and color, with each plant installed in large enough groupings to have impact.

When it comes to shrubs, they should be chosen for their year-round ornamental value. Be sure to include shrubs with interesting architectural form and texture, fall color, berries, flowers, summer leaf color, and foliage variations.

You don’t need a green thumb to create an attractive look and increase your home’s curb appeal. Remember, potential buyers that drive by will want to see the inside of your home if the outside is attractive and inviting.

To learn more about increasing your home’s curb appeal, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Common Red Flags to Watch Out for When Searching for Your Dream Home

May 10, 2012 4:00 pm

More often than not, sellers don’t always disclose everything that may be wrong with their home when going through the selling process. While no house is ever as “perfect” as it may appear, a little due diligence on the part of you and your agent can ultimately save you headaches down the road.

Start by taking a look around the neighborhood and see if other real estate signs litter the lawns nearby. Go to the local stores and see if any are closing down or have been vandalized. If you notice that a lot of people are looking to leave the neighborhood, there’s probably a reason why. You may have found a great home, but if it’s in a bad neighborhood, it’s going to affect the value.

You also need to pay close attention to the way the exterior of the home has been treated. If you see extra layers of roofing, boards near walls, plants growing out of the gutters or lots of cracks in the pavement, chances are not much care went into maintaining the property.

While you’re outside, look at the yard grading. If the yard slopes toward the house, it could cause a serious water problem with water running down the foundation walls or into the basement. Scour the foundation for damage as bulges or cracks bigger than one-third of an inch can mean the house has serious structural issues.

Don’t be afraid to use your nose—as well as your eyes—to uncover potential red flags. If you smell sewage, gas or anything else that’s unpleasant, it could be because of some serious issues. If you are getting close to making the decision to buy, it might be a smart idea to hire a plumbing company to send a camera through the pipes to determine if there are any blockages or breaks.

When it comes to the inside of the home, one of the most important things to look at is the wiring. Be sure to flip the light switches to make sure they work and check the fuse box to see what condition it’s in. In addition, ask if the electric has been updated in the last 10 years, because that’s something that can be costly to fix once you move in.

Last but not least, check for bugs, ants and traps hidden in the corners or under baseboards. A savvy home seller won’t leave mousetraps out, but they often forget about the little roach motels. While little creatures in the house shouldn’t immediately scare you away, if you see a lot of ants—especially carpenter ants around wood—it could be a sign that there’s a problem.

Remember, the job of the home seller is to make the house as attractive as possible and hide all of its faults. With a little detective work, you can save a lot of time and money in the long run and make sure the house is good enough to become your home.

Contact our office today to learn more about warning signs that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Out of the Box Ideas That Take the Stress Out of Saving for a Down Payment

May 10, 2012 4:00 pm

For those dreaming of owning a home, the thought of coming up with money for a down payment is enough to scare many perspective buyers away. However, even if you don’t have the necessary funds for a down payment in the bank, there are other options that you should take into consideration to come up with the money you need to put a down payment on your dream home.

The easiest way to get a down payment for a home is to borrow against one’s retirement account. Many people have been investing in a 401(k) plan or traditional IRA for years, and first-time homebuyers may borrow up to $10,000 for their down payment without incurring a penalty. For those who are self-employed—or if your employer allows it—you can also borrow up to $50,000 from your current 401(k) and pay yourself back over five years at a low interest rate.

In addition, you can do some research and look for down payment assistance grants. Down payment assistance and community redevelopment programs offer affordable housing opportunities to first-time homebuyers, low-income and moderate-income individuals and families who wish to achieve homeownership.

Family is another option that you may want to take into consideration when it comes to securing funds for a down payment. Sure, you may be too proud to want to ask for money, but if your family can help you and your family move into your dream home, isn’t it worth it? If you do get help from a family member, the lender will ask you to sign a form called a gift letter, attesting to the relationship. The lender may also require your parents to explain where they got the money and prove that they are financially able to make such a gift.

If you’re still not finding the money to put together for a down payment, there’s always the creative lease/purchase agreement. Homeowners who can’t sell their homes in this market will be more amenable to cutting a deal with buyers and may be willing to take part in a lease/purchase agreement, where you rent the home you want to buy and a percentage of your rent is applied toward the down payment. If you go this route, make sure you get a contract outlining all the details so both parties are safe.

Adding a down payment option to your wedding registry is gaining popularity among those just starting out in life together. Several mortgage companies allow those getting married to set up a down payment registry. What a great way to celebrate the joining of two people in holy matrimony than to help them buy a house.

If none of these things will work for your specific situation, there’s always the old fashioned “saving for a rainy day” tactic. Try putting aside 10 percent of your paycheck each week and make an effort to bring a lunch to work instead of going out. If you’re married, use the money you would spend on birthday, anniversary and Christmas presents and put that toward your down payment. You might also need to forget that vacation this year. It may seem like a lot, but the sacrifice will be well worth it when you’re living in your new home.

For more tips on how to save for a down payment, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Keep Miscommunication at Bay: Establish What Stays and What Goes from the Get-Go

May 10, 2012 4:00 pm

Believe it or not, after months of searching for the perfect home, agreeing to a price and going forward with the deal, a sale can fall apart over a disagreement about something as simple and trivial as curtains.

If you’re in the process of getting your home ready for sale, it’s important that you are very clear from the start about what you are taking with you and what you are leaving behind. The general rule is that if something is attached to the structure or the ground, it is real property and stays with the house. In other words, if removing the item would ruin or disfigure the walls—or if you need a tool to remove it—it stays.

Legally, these items are known as fixtures and typically include everything permanently attached to the property such as a fence, built-in appliances, ceiling fans, flowerbeds and shrubs.

Conversely, if you can disconnect, unhook, or detach an item from the home with bare hands, it’s free to leave when you do. Items that fall into this category include furniture, potted plants, free-standing appliances and even an outdoor grill. These items should never be assumed to be part of the sale.

In order to avoid any possible confusion about what is and isn’t part of the sale, a good rule of thumb is to remove any fixtures you plan on taking with you before showing the home. Replacing these items is an even better option, as they can provide a bargaining chip when negotiating price since you would be willing to let them stay with the house.

While every real estate agent has a story about a deal falling through because of an argument about what a buyer thought was staying, it’s important to take the time to walk through each room in your home with your agent and make a list of everything you’ll be taking with you.

If you decide to leave an item such as the curtains or chandeliers, or you’re open to leaving behind some of the outdoor furniture, it may just help with a sale. People like the notion of getting something for free, and a savvy agent will hint to a perspective buyer that they may be able to get the seller to throw in that great wall unit, knowing full well it would be more of a headache for you to take it out.

It’s also common for perspective buyers to see a piece of furniture, billiards table or antique lamp that they really want, and many will go as far as asking that the item be part of the sale. Unless the item is really important to you, don’t let something insignificant like this stop a sale in its tracks. Instead, use it to get the price you want and then buy a new one when the sale is complete.

Be sure to put down in writing all the things that are staying and going and take care of these issues in the beginning so that there’s no miscommunication come closing day.

For more information about getting your home ready for sale, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Down Payments, Curb Appeal

May 10, 2012 4:00 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines how taking the time to discuss what is and isn't included in the sale of your home will not only keep miscommunication at bay, but will also pave the way to a successful sale. Other topics covered this month include common red flags to watch out for when you're searching for a home and various listing contracts you can take advantage of when you're ready to sell. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Record Summer Forecasted for International Air Travel

May 10, 2012 5:32 am

Airline passengers can expect full flights this summer thanks to an improving economy and a record number of people traveling internationally.

In its annual summer forecast, Airlines for America (A4A), the trade association for leading U.S. airlines, predicted that from June through August, U.S. airlines will carry an average of 2.24 million travelers globally every day. Total passenger volumes remain 5 percent below the summer 2007 all-time high of 217.6 million.

A4A also expects a record number of people to travel internationally. Of the 206.2 million total passengers expected to travel on U.S. airlines this summer, 26.8 million will be traveling on international flights. This estimate surpasses last summer's record of 26.3 million passengers flown on international flights. Domestically, 179.4 million passengers are expected to fly this summer, comparable to summer 2011.

The good news for travelers, says A4A, is that airfares have not kept pace with the inflation rate, which rose 31 percent since 2000. Over the same period, average domestic airfares, per the Department of Transportation, rose just 9 percent, or 15 percent including optional ancillary services – less than half the rate of U.S. inflation.

A4A encourages passengers to consult its resource page for recommended travel tips. In particular, travelers are advised to keep in mind the following:
  • Review the website of the airline on which you are flying for respective policies, amenities, customer-service plans and flight-operation alert notifications.
  • Before departing to the airport, be sure to check the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airport delay map.
  • Remember that TSA requires that air travelers follow its 3-1-1 Rule for liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on bags when passing through security checkpoints.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


95 Million Americans Use Social Media to Shop

May 10, 2012 5:32 am

According to a new study, "SocialShop," released by Leo Burnett/Arc Worldwide, 42 percent of Americans are using social media to shop – this equates to nearly 95 million social shoppers in the U.S. – and that number continues to rise. In fact, when asked how often social media is used to shop today versus a year ago, almost 73 percent of people confirmed they are using it more.

SocialShop – a national quantitative and qualitative research study – looks at social media usage from the eyes of a shopper to understand the influence each respective platform has on a person's buying behavior.

From Facebook and Twitter to YouTube and Groupon, people of all ages are using social networking sites and other user-generated content platforms as shopping tools. In fact, SocialShop found 42 percent of social shoppers are using Facebook more than they were a year ago, while 55 percent of shoppers are utilizing daily deals more and 46 percent of shoppers have increased engagement on review sites and forums.

For brands, using social media in the wrong way can have a negative impact on relationships. Forty-four percent of social shoppers said they had stopped interacting with brands on Facebook due to lack of relevant or valuable posts.

Within SocialShop, researchers identified six shopper archetypes reflecting the needs and habits of today's social shoppers:

Savvy Passionista - The Social Trendsetter
The Savvy Passionista is a heavy social shopper using social media channels to broadcast the latest trends and stay connected with favorite brands. Savvy Passionistas are indulgent and use social channels to express feelings and stay relevant and "in-the-know."

Opportunistic Adventurer - The Daily Dealaholic
Opportunistic Adventurers are on a mission to score fun and unexpected deals. With impulsive social shopping tendencies, this shopper demands timely and relevant deals.

Quality Devotee - The High Maintenance, High Standards Shopper
Quality Devotees use social media to shape purchasing decisions, validate choice and to feel empowered when making a purchase. No matter the time or research involved, Quality Devotees will find the best product available.

Strategic Saver: The Black Belted Negotiator
Strategic Savers use social media to comparison shop and spend time deal-digging only for their favorite brands.

Efficient Sprinter: The Few Dollars Shorter, Several Minutes Richer Shopper
Efficient Sprinters want to save time and use social media to select items that are considered most popular to simplify their shopping process.

Dollar Defaulter: The Dollar Sign Connoisseur
The Dollar Defaulter has just one social shopping goal: find the cheapest alternative. With utilitarian shopping needs, Dollar Defaulters choose only the lowest prices and do not feel loyal to specific brands.

Published with permission from RISMedia.