Real Estate Crowdfunding – How These Investments Work, Pros & Cons

Real estate offers a fantastic counterbalance to stocks in your investment portfolio, especially in an era of low interest rates and bond yields. But not all of us have $300,000 just sitting around to start snapping up properties.

Enter: crowdfunded real estate investments. A relatively recent addition to the arsenal of investment options, crowdfunding allows thousands of investors to pool their funds, so each investor can invest a small amount of money in larger projects.

Like all investments, real estate crowdfunding has its own pros and cons, and comes in many flavors and varieties. Before you invest a cent in any asset, you must first understand the risks, rewards, and the role the investment plays in your portfolio.

How Does Real Estate Crowdfunding Work?

On the simplest level, real estate crowdfunding involves many people each contributing a small portion of the greater cost of a real estate-related investment.

But “real estate-related investment” can carry many meanings. Keep the following variations in mind as you explore real estate crowdfunding investment options.

Equity vs. Debt

When you invest money through a crowdfunding platform, does the money go toward the direct purchase of new properties, or toward loans servicing other people’s properties?

If you know publicly traded REITs, you understand the difference between equity REITs and mortgage REITs. The former buys and manages real estate; the latter lends money secured against real estate.

Crowdfunding works similarly. In fact, many real estate crowdfunding investments are REITs — they’re simply sold privately rather than on public stock exchanges subject to traditional SEC regulation (more on regulation differences shortly).

Many private crowdfunded REITs offer both equity and debt REIT options. As a general rule, debt REITs generate more immediate dividend income, while equity REITs include an element of long-term appreciation in addition to income. For example, Fundrise offers several broad basket portfolios weighted more heavily toward either real estate equity or debt investments.

Not all real estate crowdfunded debt investments come in the form of REITs, however.

Peer-to-Peer vs. Fund Investments

In the case of private debt REITs, you invest money with a pooled fund, and the fund lends money to real estate investors as it sees fit. The alternative model for crowdfunded real estate debt involves lending directly to the borrower.

Crowdfunding platforms that follow this model allow you to browse individual loans, so you can pick and choose which loans you want to put money toward. For example, Groundfloor caters to real estate investors — mostly house flippers — lending them money to buy and renovate fixer-uppers. As a financial investor, you can log into your account and review available loans, including details about the project and borrower, and then put varying amounts of money toward as many or as few loans as you like.

Your loan is secured by a lien against the property. If the borrower defaults, Groundfloor forecloses to recover all investors’ money.

Property Type

Some real estate crowdfunding platforms specialize in residential real estate, while others focus on commercial.

Within each of those wide umbrellas, there’s plenty of variation as well. Residential properties could mean single-family rentals, or it could mean 200-unit apartment complexes. Commercial real estate could mean office buildings, or industrial parks, or retail space.

Before investing, make sure you understand exactly what you’re investing in — and more importantly, why.

Availability to Non-Accredited Investors

Some crowdfunding services like FarmTogether only allow accredited investors to participate. Others are open to everyone.

To qualify as an accredited investor, you must have either a net worth over $1 million (not including equity in your home) or have earned at least $200,000 for each of the last two years ($300,000 for married couples), with the expectation to earn similarly this year. So, most Americans can only invest with crowdfunding platforms that allow non-accredited investors.

Before doing any further due diligence, check to see whether prospective crowdfunding platforms even allow you to invest. Otherwise, no other details matter.


Advantages of Real Estate Crowdfunding

These relatively novel investments come with plenty of perks, especially for everyday people with few other paths to invest in large real estate projects. I myself invest in several real estate crowdfunding platforms.

As you compare crowdfunding investments to other types of real estate investments, keep the following pros in mind.

1. Low Cash Requirements

Through crowdfunded real estate investing, investors gain access to expensive investments like hotels, office parks, and apartment complexes that would otherwise remain unavailable to them. I don’t have $5 million to buy an apartment building. But I do have $500 that I’m happy to invest in a private fund that owns apartment buildings.

Although every crowdfunding platform imposes its own minimum investment, some of those minimums remain quite low. Groundfloor, for example, allows investments as low as $10.

Other platforms impose minimums of $500 or $1,000, keeping the minimums within reach of middle-class earners. It marks an enormous advantage to investing in real estate indirectly: you don’t need a full down payment plus closing costs in order to diversify your investments to include real estate.

2. Easy Diversification

With crowdfunding investments, you can easily include real estate in your asset allocation.

And not just through publicly traded REITs, which often move in greater sync with the stock market than with real estate markets because they trade on public stock exchanges. You can invest money toward any type of real estate, residential or commercial, in any grade of neighborhood, spread across many cities in the U.S. or even around the world.

For example, I have a little money invested in commercial office space through Streitwise, and a little invested in residential real estate (equity and debt) through Fundrise’s REITs. I also have money spread among a range of individual loans through Groundfloor. All in all, these investments expose me to real estate in 15 states.

Imagine how much harder that exposure would be if I had to go out and buy individual properties in 15 states?

3. Strong Income Yields

Crowdfunded real estate investments tend to pay reasonably high income yields. Which is always welcome, whether you’re pursuing financial independence at a young age, looking to build more retirement income, or simply enjoy earning more passive income each month. Because when you have enough passive income to cover your living expenses, work becomes optional.

I’ve consistently earned income yields in the 8% to 9% range on my investments with Streitwise and Groundfloor. With Fundrise, I earn around 5% in dividend yield, plus long-term appreciation.

Not many stocks or ETFs offer those kinds of yields.

4. No Labor and Little Skill Required to Invest

As a direct real estate investor, I can tell you firsthand how much skill and labor it takes to find good deals, analyze cash flow numbers, renovate properties, hire and manage contractors, and so forth.

With crowdfunded real estate investments, you outsource all of that to someone else. You just click a button to invest your funds, and sit back and collect the returns.

Don’t get me wrong, direct real estate investment comes with many of its own perks, such as the potential for higher returns, greater control, and real estate-related tax advantages. But you have to earn those advantages with sweat and knowledge, much of it required before you even buy your first property.

This ease of investing through crowdfunding platforms comes with a side benefit: you can automate your investments. Set up monthly or biweekly investments to avoid emotional investing and build wealth and passive income on autopilot.

5. No Property Management Required

It takes an effort not to laugh out loud when tenants call you complaining that a light bulb burned out, and ask you to come over to replace it. Unless the call comes at 3 a.m. — that’s less funny.

Few landlords enjoy managing rental properties, between chasing down nonpaying tenants, hassling with constant repairs and maintenance issues, and all-too-frequent complaints from tenants and neighbors — “this person plays their music too loud,” “that one smells like weed when they pass in the hallway,” ad nauseum. It’s why so many landlords end up hiring a property manager to take the headaches off their plate.

You don’t have to worry about any of that when you invest in crowdfunded real estate investments.

6. Protection Against Inflation

“Real” assets such as commodities, precious metals, and, of course, real estate all have inherent demand. Regardless of the currency you pay with or its value, you pay the going rate based on the underlying value of these physical assets.

That makes these assets an excellent hedge against inflation. If rents drive inflation higher, rental properties only become more valuable, with higher revenues. If the dollar loses value, people pay more for housing and commercial space.

In contrast, investors actually lose money — in terms of real value — on a bond paying 2% interest when inflation runs at 3%.


Disadvantages of Real Estate Crowdfunding

No investment is perfect, without risks or downsides. Thoroughly review these drawbacks and risks before parting with your hard-earned money.

1. Poor Liquidity

It takes a few clicks to sell a stock or ETF. Investors can liquidate their holdings instantaneously, leaving them with cold hard cash.

Real estate is inherently illiquid. It takes months to market and sell properties, and for large commercial properties it can involve hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs. So investors usually hold them for at least five years, and when these investments are funded through a crowd of financial investors, that means individuals can’t easily pull their money back out of the deal.

Most crowdfunded real estate investments advise prospective investors to plan on leaving their money in place for at least five years. Some do offer early redemption to sell their shares, but not instantaneously, and usually at some sort of discount or penalty.

Don’t invest anything you might need back within the next five years.

One notable exception includes short-term peer-to-peer loans secured by real estate, such as those offered by Groundfloor. These loans usually repay within nine to 12 months. Even so, you still can’t easily pull your money back out before the borrower repays the loan in full.

2. Complex Regulation and Performance Transparency

The regulation on crowdfunded investments can quickly make the average investor’s eyes cross. For a quick taste, investors have to navigate between Regulation D investments that fall under either 506(b) or 506(c), and Regulation A and Title III investments — also known as Regulation Crowdfunding or Reg CF.

Regardless, investors can’t use the familiar brokerage account tools that they’re already familiar with to research these investments. The SEC does require crowdfunding platforms to disclose a wide range of information, but it will look and feel unfamiliar for many retail investors.

There is one huge advantage that crowdfunded private REITs have over publicly traded REITs: the flexibility to reinvest profits to buy more properties. Publicly traded REITs must distribute at least 90% of all profits to investors in the form of dividends. That leaves them with high dividend yields but poor prospects for appreciation and asset growth. Private REITs like DiversyFund can employ far more flexibility to build their portfolios.

3. Limits on Participation

The SEC puts limits on how much money non-accredited investors can put into crowdfunded investments each year. Those limits are as follows:

“If either your annual income or your net worth is less than $107,000, then during any 12-month period, you can invest up to the greater of either $2,200 or 5% of the lesser of your annual income or net worth.

“If both your annual income and your net worth are equal to or more than $107,000, then during any 12-month period, you can invest up to 10% of annual income or net worth, whichever is lesser, but not to exceed $107,000.”

They provide a table by way of example:

Annual Income Net Worth Calculation 12-month Limit
$30,000 $105,000 greater of $2,200 or 5% of $30,000 ($1,500) $2,200
$150,000 $80,000 greater of $2,200 or 5% of $80,000 ($4,000) $4,000
$150,000 $107,000 10% of $107,000 ($10,000) $10,700
$200,000 $900,000 10% of $200,000 ($20,000) $20,000
$1.2 million $2 million 10% of $1.2 million ($120,000), subject to cap $107,000

Still, these speedbumps serve as reasonable cautions and protections for the average investor. These investments do come with an element of risk, and shouldn’t make up 70% of your retirement portfolio.

4. Less Protection from Default Than Other Real Estate Investments

When you own a rental property and your tenants stop paying the rent, you can evict them. You own the property, you can insure it against damage, and it comes with a certain amount of inherent value.

Real estate crowdfunding investments don’t come with these protections. You typically own paper shares of a fund, not all or part of a physical asset. Your investments aren’t even secured against the underlying properties with a lien in most cases.

Exceptions do exist, however. For example, when you invest fractionally in loans on Groundfloor, those loans are secured by a lien against real property. If the borrower defaults, Groundfloor forecloses in order to recover most or all of your money.

5. Lack of Control

Although stock investors have little control over the performance of their share prices, direct real estate investors do enjoy control over their returns and management. They can make renovations to boost the rents and property values, can tighten their tenant screening criteria to avoid deadbeats, can even insure against rent defaults.

But when you invest in real estate indirectly through crowdfunding, you surrender control to the fund manager. If they do well, you (hopefully) earn a strong return. If they mess up, you get stuck with the costs of their bungles.


Where Does Real Estate Crowdfunding Fit Into Your Portfolio?

While stocks belong in just about every investor’s portfolio, not everyone feels comfortable with real estate crowdfunding. Still, these investments offer a fine counterweight to stocks when used responsibly.

Your ideal asset allocation is personal to you, and depends on factors ranging from your age, target retirement horizon, net worth, and risk tolerance. I recommend thinking of crowdfunded real estate investments as an alternative to higher-risk, higher-yield bonds and public REITs.

For example, say you aim for an asset allocation of 60% equities and 40% bonds. Those equities include 57% stocks and 3% REITs, and your bonds include 30% low-risk government bonds and 10% higher-risk corporate bonds. You could take part of the 13% of your portfolio earmarked for REITs and higher-risk bonds and test the waters of crowdfunded real estate investments. If you like what you see, you can then move a little more, up to your comfort level.

However, real estate crowdfunding should not take the place of extremely low-risk investments in your portfolio, such as Treasury bonds or TIPS.


Final Word

With real estate crowdfunding, you have the luxury of investing small amounts to gauge the performance of your investments and your comfort.

These investments can play a role in any investor’s portfolio, but that role should start small. Don’t invest any money that would financially cripple you to lose, and do your homework on any crowdfunded investment’s past performance and risk management measures.

Most of all, always keep these investments in the perspective of your broader portfolio and asset allocation. These investments don’t exist in a vacuum — they play a role in a larger performance.

Have you ever invested in crowdfunded real estate? If so, what were your experiences?

Source: moneycrashers.com

Digital Conglomerate Stocks – What They Are & Why You Should Invest

Conglomerates have become an important part of the United States economy. A conglomerate usually starts with a small company that does well. When the small company builds into a large one with plenty of free cash flow and looks to expand, it purchases other companies. Soon enough, the once-small company becomes a massive corporation with several subsidiary companies working underneath it.

Over the past few decades, the world has become digitized. In light of this technological revolution, there’s a new type of conglomerate — and it’s proving to be more valuable than any other class of conglomerates in history.

These are digital conglomerates. Naturally, with the emergence of these titans, investing dollars are flooding into them.

Although there are definitely perks to investing in digital conglomerates, every investment comes with risk, and the risk-vs.-reward profile should be carefully considered before investing your hard-earned money.

What Are Digital Conglomerates?

Digital conglomerates are just like any other conglomerate in the sense that they generally start as small companies that work their way to becoming massive companies through both organic growth and acquisitions. The difference between digital conglomerates and the conglomerates of yesterday is technology.

Digital conglomerates start with one piece of cutting-edge technology, living and breathing around the perfection of that technology. Once the technology is perfected and a proven success, the company begins to grow, driving new revenues, profits, and eventually free cash flow.

Instead of paying this free cash flow out in the form of dividends, a growing technology company will sometimes make the decision to use its free cash flow to purchase smaller companies with complementary or competing technologies that the acquiring company can work to integrate or perfect.

In this way, over time, the small digital company with a great idea can become a massive digital conglomerate with several subsidiary companies under its belt.

Digital Conglomerate Example: Alphabet

Alphabet started as Google, a company founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in late 1988. The goal of the company was to create a digital directory that put a massive database of information at the fingertips of the average consumer.

The plan worked.

When people want to know the name of an actor they can’t quite place the name of, a new recipe for a pound cake, or where to get the cheapest gas, the common solution since the 1990s has been to Google it. Google started as a brand surrounding an innovative technology and has today become a verb.

As Google began to accumulate massive amounts of free cash flow, the company decided to start purchasing smaller companies in technology and biotechnology. By August 2015, the company had revenue coming in from so many different subsidiaries that the name Google simply didn’t make sense anymore.

As a result, the company changed its name to Alphabet. The company not only owns the world’s largest search engine and advertising platform, but also owns robotics companies, cloud computing companies, and companies across various areas of the digital world.


COVID-19 Greatly Accelerated the Emergence of Digital Conglomerates

Google and Amazon.com were already digital conglomerates well before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold around the world. However, COVID-19 has greatly sped up many corners of the digital revolution, and it has sped up the emergence of digital conglomerates.

Due to COVID-19, consumers around the world have been told to stay home and stay safe. Stepping foot into a crowded restaurant, department store, or convention could be dangerous. As a result, people are staying home.

Staying home changes the way you do things.

While younger generations were already visiting doctors, buying goods, and managing their finances online, there’s a large older population who liked doing these activities the traditional way, face to face. This is the same population that is at the highest risk of severe medical events as a result of COVID-19.

Because of this, the consumers who were previously the least eager to shop, bank, and visit their doctors online are now embracing the opportunity to do so. Due to social distancing measures, the company Zoom — a brand that offers online conferencing capabilities — may quickly grow to become a digital conglomerate. Like Google before it, its name is becoming a verb.

These rapid, large-scale changes in consumer behavior may prove to be good or bad for digital conglomerates — unless you can see into the future, it’s impossible to know.

When the economy reopens completely and life goes back to normal, digital conglomerates are likely to continue to benefit from online users who tried these new technologies, but the real question is how many users will go back to more traditional services once the option is available to them again.

That question is impossible to answer until the economy fully reopens, and it represents an increased level of risk when considering an investment in one of today’s emerging digital conglomerates.

Pro tip: Earn a $30 bonus when you open and fund a new trading account from M1 Finance. With M1 Finance, you can customize your portfolio with stocks and ETFs, plus you can invest in fractional shares.


Digital Conglomerates Stocks Pros and Cons

No matter what type of investment you’re considering, it’s important to dive into the pros and cons before risking your hard-earned dollars.

Digital conglomerate stocks, as with any other type of stock, come with their own list of pros and cons that should be carefully considered before deciding to invest in the space. Without taking the time to do so, you’re not investing, you’re gambling with your money.

Pros of Digital Conglomerates Stocks

Digital conglomerates are massive, well-known companies that come with a sense of stability not seen with up-and-comers.

As a result, there are several benefits that come with investing in these types of stocks. Some of the most significant of these benefits include:

1. Digital Conglomerates Are Established Companies

Any company that has become a conglomerate has been around for a while and has seen incredible success. Think of the digital conglomerates that have already emerged. Alphabet paved the way with Google, and now has its fingers in nearly every area of the technology industry.

Amazon is another great example. The company revolutionized the way Americans shop by bringing great prices on one of the world’s largest catalogs of items to your computer, simplifying shopping and achieving great success in the process.

Today, Amazon owns Amazon Web Services, Audible, Zappos, and a long list of other digital shopping, media, and entertainment companies.

There are several traits these two massive digital conglomerates have in common, but the most important to consider are:

  • They’re Popular. Could you imagine a world without Google or Amazon? Neither could most people. These companies are popular companies that have become household names.
  • They’re Profitable. Both of these companies also have a strong history of generating free cash flow for their investors.
  • They’re Established. Combining a history of strong popularity among consumers and profitability tells you that Amazon and Google are well-established companies.

Investing in companies that are well established greatly reduces the risk associated with your investment.

2. The Digital Revolution Will Continue

At the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impressive growth in the digital revolution may slow, but it will not stop. The move to a digital world is one that surrounds simplicity.

Human instinct is to follow the path of least resistance. Digitizing the world simply creates a path with less resistance for the end consumer to do something valuable.

For example, when a salesperson rang your doorbell in the past, you would have to stop what you were doing, go to the door, and tell them you’re not interested. Today, Nest — an Alphabet subsidiary — provides a doorbell with a camera and a speaker, allowing consumers to answer someone at the door from their phones, simplifying the process. This is great in a time of social distancing, but also convenient during normal times too.

As long as human beings follow their instinct to take the path of least resistance, the technological revolution will continue. So, opportunities in the emerging digital conglomerates space will continue as well.

3. Gain Ownership In Companies You’re Already Familiar With

If you’re like most Americans, you have an intimate knowledge of Google, Amazon, and other digital conglomerates. Unless you live under a rock, the names at least ring a bell.

The most successful investors invest in what they know best. The idea is that the more you know about a company you’re considering investing in, the better your chances are of understanding the true long-term value that the company has to provide.

So, there’s significant value in familiarity when you’re considering an investment.

Because digital conglomerates are massive, well-known companies, you likely already know a great deal about the underlying story of the company you’re considering investing in and have a sense of its potential to yield long-term value.

Cons of Digital Conglomerates Stocks

Digital conglomerates are great investment vehicles for some. However, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all investment vehicle.

As with any rose, digital conglomerates come with a few thorns that investors should be aware of before they dive in headfirst.

1. Valuations Suggest a Bubble in Some Digital Conglomerates

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in digital conglomerates has been overwhelmingly high. In the stock market, high demand for a stock or a class of stocks results in increased prices, the result of the law of supply and demand.

With the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, investors are looking for opportunities to achieve monumental growth in their portfolios through the stocks that benefit from the crisis. This has led to tremendously high valuations.

According to Investopedia, the average price-to-earnings ratio across the S&P 500 ranges between 13 and 15. Moreover, traditionally a price-to-book value of somewhere between 1 and 3 is considered to be an acceptable average range.

Now look at these key valuation metrics for the stocks of digital conglomerates Alphabet and Amazon as of September 2020:

Alphabet:

  • Price-to-Earnings Ratio. Alphabet currently trades with a price-to-earnings ratio of 34.05.
  • Price-to-Sales Ratio. Alphabet currently trades with a price-to-sales ratio of 7.09.

Amazon:

  • Price-to-Earnings Ratio. Amazon currently trades with a price-to-earnings ratio of 119.78.
  • Price-to-Sales Ratio. The stock also has a price-to-sales ratio of 4.94.

As you can see from the valuations above, Alphabet and Amazon shares currently trade at around double what their average valuation should be according to these traditional valuation metrics. These high valuations suggest that a bubble may be taking place in the space.

Should this be the case, at some point the bubble could burst and substantial losses may be the result.

2. Significant Growth Has Already Taken Place

When you invest in a conglomerate — digital or otherwise — you’re accepting the fact that the stock you’re investing in has already undergone significant growth.

The fact of the matter is that as a company gets bigger, it becomes harder to grow. Think of it this way:

A young company with a cutting-edge product that nobody knows about yet has plenty of room for growth. For example, a young Google in the early ‘90s had the world to capture. However, when a company has saturated its market to the extent that Amazon and Alphabet have, there is far less of a pool from which to grab new customers.

As a result, growth tends to slow and, in some cases, plateau. As a result, an investment in digital conglomerates isn’t the best option for those looking for more momentous growth opportunities in the stock market.

3. Diversification Is Difficult

Digital conglomerates fill some big shoes:

  • They have a massive following.
  • They’ve achieved a position of market leadership.
  • They generate incredible revenues.
  • They own a significant number of subsidiaries.

In other words, these companies have achieved a level of success that few companies ever do. That’s a great thing, but it also creates a problem for investors.

The most successful long-term portfolios tend to be well-diversified portfolios. Diversification is a great way to shield your portfolio from significant losses.

When investing in a class of stocks in which there are very few options, proper diversification becomes difficult. After all, the 5% rule suggests that you should never invest more than 5% of your portfolio in a single stock, no matter how little perceived risk it comes with.

That means to invest only in digital conglomerates, you would have to find 20 compelling opportunities. That’s nearly impossible to do.

Pro tip: Before you add any digital conglomerate stocks to your portfolio, make sure you’re choosing the best possible companies. Stock screeners like Stock Rover can help you narrow down the choices to companies that meet your individual requirements. Learn more about our favorite stock screeners.


How Much Should You Invest in Digital Conglomerates?

No single sector, asset class, or stock should encompass your entire investing portfolio. But how do you decide how much of your portfolio should be invested into digital conglomerates?

Here are a few tips that will help you decide:

Consider Your Appetite for Risk

There are some serious risks to consider when investing in digital conglomerates as the world seeks solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There’s a chance that the vast majority of people who have been reluctantly introduced to online services will continue to go digital. There’s also a chance that the opposite will happen when it becomes safe to venture away from home.

Should the economy reopen and revenues among digital conglomerates suggest that market valuations have gone too high too fast, significant losses may be the result.

As such, at least until a few months following the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, an investment in digital conglomerates should be considered a medium-risk investment at best, and potentially a high-risk play.

Therefore, if you have a weak stomach and are not a fan of high-risk, high-reward opportunities, digital conglomerates may not be the place for you to be right now.

However, with the chance that consumers will continue to veer toward digital options post-pandemic, there’s also the opportunity for significant growth. If you have a healthy appetite for risk, you could scratch your itch by adding digital conglomerates as a relatively small (10% or less) portion of your portfolio.

Think About Your Goals

Digital conglomerates are hard to fit into most investing goals as they stand. Although these stocks have achieved tremendous growth in recent years, most growth investors look for opportunities for continued growth ahead.

With more questions than answers about the potential for continued growth without a correction post-pandemic, this space may not be the choice for growth investors.

At the same time, valuations are incredibly high among most digital conglomerates. As a result, value investors who are looking for a discount on the future potential of the company won’t find what they’re looking for here either.

Finally, at this stage of the game, most digital conglomerates are going through an expensive growth phase in which they are acquiring other brands. As a result, there’s not much cash left for dividends, making it a tough play for dividend investors too.

Nonetheless, digital conglomerate stocks do have their place. Again, these are large, highly successful companies, most of which have a strong history of growth. So, although there are definitely risks to consider, there’s a possibility that growth will continue in the space and make all the risks mentioned above moot.

Investors often make great returns banking on unorthodox moves like this. For example, Amazon has been overvalued from a traditional valuation perspective since the stock hit the market. Investors justified the overvaluation by looking at the company’s potential to revolutionize shopping. That bet paid off, and Amazon stock has seen tremendous gains.

Now, the company is working to revolutionize cloud computing, biotechnology, transportation, and much more. So, the high valuations can be justified by its work to revolutionize these industries and the potential profits that could come from success.

Yes, it’s a risky play. But for the speculative investor who enjoys risk from time to time, digital conglomerate stocks could become a big win. Again, just keep investments in these stocks to a minimum, with the combined total investment in the space not exceeding 10% of your portfolio, given current market conditions.

A Variation on the 5% Rule

The 5% rule is one of the most important general rules for beginner investors to follow. It is a method of diversification that protects your portfolio from significant losses, should one of your investments take a turn for the worst.

The rule suggests that you should never invest more than 5% of your portfolio into a single security and no more than a total of 5% high-risk securities.

Digital conglomerates come with serious risks to consider and fall in the gray area between low- and high-risk stocks. You don’t want to limit yourself to 5% on all digital conglomerates as you would with high-risk stocks, but you also don’t want to overallocate to this category because there are some added risks.

As such, it’s best to keep exposure to a minimum or no more than 10% of your portfolio’s total value. This means that if you have $10,000 to invest, no more than $1,000 of your portfolio should be invested in digital conglomerates.

You might also cap your investment in each digital conglomerate stock a little more conservatively than you would other individual investments.

For example, let’s say that you are interested in Alphabet, Amazon, and Apple. Because of their high valuations and concentration in the tech sector, you should invest no more than 2.5% of your portfolio value into any single option listed.

In this example, let’s say that you believe Alphabet has great potential, Amazon has medium potential, and Apple is a long shot but worth consideration. In this case, you might invest 2.5% of your portfolio value in Alphabet, 1.25% of your portfolio in Amazon, and 0.5% of your portfolio in Apple.

That works out to a $250 investment in Alphabet, a $125 investment in Amazon, and a $50 investment in Apple.


Final Word

Digital conglomerates have quickly become some of the largest companies in the world. With strong investor interest leading the charge, it seems like there’s nowhere for these stocks to go but up. However, the harsh reality is that there’s always a possibility of declines.

While high valuations and COVID-19-related risks may be red flags for many investors to stay away, savvy investors with a healthy appetite for risk and a belief that digital conglomerates will continue to fly may be in for strong rewards ahead if all the cards are dealt just right.

Nonetheless, given current valuations and market conditions, if you decide to invest in digital conglomerates, it’s important to limit your positions and heavily diversify to protect yourself from the potential for significant declines ahead should things go in the wrong direction.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Reduce the Cost of Summer Plans for Kids With a Camp Co-Op

Summer camp doesn’t come cheap. Parents can end up doling out thousands of dollars to keep their children occupied while school is out.

However, some families find a financial break in organizing their own summer camp cooperatives.

In a cooperative, or co-op, a group of parents collectively provide child care for their children over the summer. As Care.com puts it, parents generally take turns watching each other’s children, supervising activities similar to what kids might experience at traditional summer camps.

This informal arrangement keeps the summer fun without the summer-camp prices.

Families can customize their co-op to fit whatever works best for them. Some groups need only a week or two of camp, while others need the camp to last all summer. Some parents restrict the co-op to close friends or family members, while others are open to setting up an arrangement with neighbors or co-workers they know only casually.

There’s no one-size-fits-all plan for forming a summer camp co-op. Here’s how one set of parents made it work for them.

Taking Summer Camp Into Their Own Hands

Olivia Delgado, 5, plays at a playground during co-op camp in Chestnut Ridge, New York, in 2012.
Olivia Delgado, 5, plays at a playground during co-op camp in Chestnut Ridge, New York, in 2012. Olivia’s mother, Vicki Larson, helped organize the co-op camp with friends and neighbors. Photo courtesy of Vicki Larson

Several years ago, a group of friends and neighbors in Rockland County, New York, decided to develop their own summer-camp co-op.

“We found ourselves looking at the summer — 12 or 13 weeks of no school — and the cost of camp being unaffordable for most of us for that length of time,” said Vicki Larson, one of the parents who organized the camp.

Her daughter was 5 the first year of the co-op, which continued for three summers.

Larson said the original idea was to get about a dozen families to participate, alternating houses each week. The host parents would take a week off work to lead the camp. But that wasn’t ideal for everybody, so instead they ended up hiring their own camp counselors: parents, college students and teachers on summer break.

Larson said parents took turns hosting the camp in their homes, and the kids also spent time in neighborhood parks and at other local venues. Like a traditional summer camp, the children spent time doing arts and crafts, playing outside and exploring nature.

“One week, they would go to the pool every day,” said Adam Gorlovitzki, another parent. “One week they would go mountain hiking.”

Each family paid about $225 a week to cover the cost of the camp counselors, food and supplies — about half the cost of traditional summer camps in the area.

4 Tips for Setting Up a Summer Camp Co-Op

With a little planning, you can recreate a similar summer camp co-op that fits the needs and desires of your family. Here are four things you need to know.

1. Decide Who Will Be a Part of Your Summer Camp Co-Op

The Rockland County, New York, group mostly included children who attended the same school, although some were friends who just lived in the same area. They ranged from preschoolers to early elementary school students.

Gorlovitzki said it was great for the kids because they already had friends in the camp, and favorable for the parents because they got to select the teachers and could weigh in on camp activities.

When creating your own summer camp co-op, consider your child’s friends and classmates. Keeping it to one narrow age group will make it easy to plan age-appropriate activities. Choosing families who live in the same neighborhood or close by will make drop-offs and pick-ups a breeze.

Children sit on a thick tree limb in a forest somewhere.
Getty Images

2. Choose a Location (or Locations)

Larson recommended putting a lot of thought into where the camp will be held. The places should be child-friendly, the hosts must be comfortable opening up their homes and there needs to be enough space to accommodate all the children, she said.

“Kids need a variety of activities during the day, so you want to make sure the space lends itself to [that],” she said.

“It makes sense to not commit to one location if it’s someone’s home because you really are kind of taking over their space,” added Leslie Laboriel, another of the camp’s organizers. “It’s nice to be able to move [the camp] around a little bit to give [host parents] the opportunity to have their homes back.”

3. Figure Out What You Want to Do

One of the benefits of forming a summer camp co-op is that parents have a say in how their children will spend their days. Beyond reaching a consensus among other parents, the sky’s the limit in what you choose to do.

Larson suggested parents identify who is comfortable with doing the administrative tasks, organizing the spreadsheets and figuring out rates.

In planning sessions, organizers should think about how they’d like to structure the camp, what types of activities they want the kids to do, who will handle communicating with all the parents and how they’d like to deal with finances without making it cumbersome, Laboriel recommended.

4. Have Parents Sign a Waiver

Larson said it’s important to get all the parents in the group to sign documents absolving the host family and teachers of liability should any incidents arise.

Definitely have parents sign a waiver,” she said. “It’s not ironclad, but it gives you a little sense of security that if something happens, you’re not going to get sued.”

In addition, make sure the adults hosting the co-op or serving as camp counselors know about any allergies or medical conditions the children have. The parents should also all be on the same page about following COVID-19 guidelines. Summer camp is all about fun, but you want everyone safe and healthy, too.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

The Best Parks and Green Spaces in Philadelphia

From the moment William Penn, founder of the Colony of Pennsylvania, set aside Philadelphia’s Five Great Public Squares as part of his “Greene Countrie Towne” city plan, Philadelphia has been recognized for its amazing public green spaces and parks, large and small, urban and woodsy. Nearly every neighborhood contains an inviting, safe, inspiring public space. But what are some of the best?

Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park PhiladelphiaFairmount Park Philadelphia
Fairmount Park

Every discussion of Philadelphia parks must start with Fairmount Park, the largest space within the world’s largest urban park system.

Stretching from the Strawberry Mansion to the Spring Garden neighborhoods, the East Park half of Fairmount Park lies on the Schuylkill River’s east bank. This side features scenic running and biking trails that wind past historic sites such as The Philadelphia Museum of Art and Boathouse Row, with its famous light display, large plateaus near Brewerytown, which include the Sedgley Woods Disc Golf Course and Strawberry Green Driving Range and the vast Fairmount Park Athletic Field, where you can hop into a pickup hoops game or join an organized sports league. For a quieter outing, the recently renovated East Park Reservoir is one of the best bird-watching enclaves in the city.

Across the river, though still in Fairmount Park, the West Park runs from the Wynnefield neighborhood down to Mantua. Here you can take the kids to the first-in-the-nation Philadelphia Zoo, the Please Touch Museum or the John B. Kelly Pool right next door.

For a more adult excursion, take in a concert and an amazing view at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts or fling a Frisbee at the Edgely Ultimate Fields. In the winter, Philadelphians of all ages take to Belmont Plateau for the city’s best sledding hills.

Wooded parks

Wissahickon Valley ParkWissahickon Valley Park
Wissahickon Valley Park

For everything Fairmount Park has to offer, other city parks boast their own perks. The expansive Wissahickon Valley Park extends from Chestnut Hill through East Falls in North Philly. There you’ll find people on mountain bikes and on foot traveling the winding gravel paths of forested Forbidden Drive, youngsters learning while having fun at the Wissahickon Environmental Center Tree House and anglers casting into the trout-stocked Wissahickon Creek.

Running from Bustleton to the Delaware River in Northeast Philly’s Holmesburg section, Pennypack Park is a 1,300-acre wooded creekside hiking and biking oasis that provides nature programs at Pennypack Environmental Center, a full working farmstead with cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens at Friends of Fox Chase Farm, and King’s Highway Bridge, the oldest in-use stone bridge in America.

In extreme South Philly, you’ll find Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park, adjacent to the professional sports complex, which contains a full 18-hole golf course, a nationally-celebrated skateboard park and the Meadow Lake Gazebo, long a popular spot for wedding photos.

The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, a little farther south in Eastwick next to the Philadelphia International Airport, is a top hiking, canoeing and fishing spot within a stunning environmentally-protected tidal marsh.

Urban parks

Spruce Street Harbor ParkSpruce Street Harbor Park
Spruce Street Harbor Park
Photo courtesy of Anastasia Navickas

If you prefer parks that feel part of the city rather than those that feel like you left the city, Philadelphia won’t disappoint.

Atop the Circa Centre South Garage in University City is Cira Green, a new rooftop greenspace boasting seasonal coffee carts, summer movies and some of the best views of downtown.

Named by Jetsetter Magazine as one of the “World’s Best Urban Beaches,” Spruce Street Harbor Park at Penn’s Landing is an eclectic recreational sanctuary along the Delaware River with seasonal food and beer trucks, a riverside boardwalk and a cluster of more than 50 cozy hammocks, which hang under spectacular LED lights strung amongst the trees.

From biking to basketball to bird-watching, Philadelphia’s city parks and green spaces offer unlimited means of escape from the bustle of urban life.

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10 Best Health Care ETFs of 2021

Technological innovation is everywhere you look, especially in health care. New technologies are making simple work of some of the most pressing medical conditions known to man.

Even the COVID-19 pandemic has been proof that the health care sector is evolving, with vaccines being created and marketed within a year of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Of course, the health care industry is massive. Well-researched investments in a variety of health care stocks and bonds have proven to be lucrative moves. But what if you don’t have the time or expertise to do the research it takes to make individual health care investments?

That’s where health care exchange-traded funds (ETFs) come in.

Best Health Care ETFs

Health care ETFs are funds that pool money from a large group of investors and then invest in health care stocks and other health care-focused investments.

As with any investment vehicle, not all health care ETFs are created equal. Some will come with higher costs than others, and returns on your investment will vary wildly from one fund to another.

With so many options available, it can be difficult to pin down which ETFs you should invest in. Here are some of the best options on the market today:

1. Vanguard Health Care Index Fund ETF (VHT)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.10%
  • One-Year Return: 29.89%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 15.10%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.42%
  • Morningstar Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UHC), Abbott Laboratories (ABT), Thermo Fisher Scientific (TOM), Pfizer (PFE)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 14
  • Years Down Since Inception: 2

Vanguard is one of the best-known wealth managers on Wall Street. So, you can rest assured that when you invest in a health care ETF or any other Vanguard fund, your money is in good hands.

The Vanguard Health Care Index Fund ETF is focused on investing in companies that sell medical products, services, equipment, and technologies using a highly diversified portfolio.

As a Vanguard fund, the VHT comes with an incredibly low expense ratio and a strong history of providing compelling returns for investors.

Pro tip: Have you considered hiring a financial advisor but don’t want to pay the high fees? Enter Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. When you sign up, you’ll work closely with an advisor to create a custom investment plan that can help you meet your financial goals.


2. Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.12%
  • One-Year Return: 23.75%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 13.15%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.49%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Abbott Laboratories (ABT), AbbVie (ABBV), Pfizer (PFE)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 17
  • Years Down Since Inception: 5

The Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund is offered by State Street Global Advisors, one of the largest asset management companies on Wall Street. The firm behind this health care ETF is one with pedigree.

As a passively-managed fund, the XLV was designed to track the returns of the Health Care Select Sector Index, which provides a representation of the health care sector of the S&P 500.

As a result, the XLV ETF provides diversified exposure to some of the largest U.S. health care companies. The fund provides compelling returns and relatively strong dividends for the health care industry.

As is the case with most funds provided by State Street Global Advisors, this ETF comes with incredibly low fees, far below the industry average.


3. ARK Genomic Revolution ETF (ARKG)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.75%
  • One-Year Return: 174.19%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 43.78%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.93%
  • Morningstar Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Teladoc Health (TDOC), Twist Bioscience (TWST), Pacific Biosciences of California (PACB), Exact Sciences (EXAS), Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 4
  • Years Down Since Inception: 2

The ARK Genomic Revolution ETF is offered by ARK Invest, yet another highly trusted fund manager on Wall Street.

The ETF is designed to provide diversified exposure to companies that are working to extend the length and improve the quality of life for consumers with debilitating conditions through technological and scientific innovations in genomics.

Essentially, this fund invests in companies focused on the editing of genomes, or base units within DNA, to solve some of the most pressing problems in medical science.

With genomics being a relatively new concept that’s showing incredible promise in the field of medicine, companies in the space are experiencing compelling growth, making the ARKG ETF one of the best performers on this list.

However, it’s also worth mentioning that this is one of the higher-volatility ETFs on the list, which adds to the risk of investing.


4. Fidelity MSCI Health Care Index ETF (FHLC)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.08%
  • One-Year Return: 29.76%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 15.11%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.46%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Abbott Laboratories (ABT), AbbVie (ABBV), Pfizer (PFE)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 6
  • Years Down Since Inception: 1

Fidelity is a massive company that has grown to become a household name thanks to its insurance division. It’s also one of the biggest and most well-trusted fund managers on Wall Street.

The company’s MSCI Health Care Index ETF has become a prime option for retail investors who want to gain diversified exposure to the U.S. health care industry.

The ETF was designed to track the MSCI USA IMI Health Care Index, which represents the universe of investable large-cap, mid-cap, and small-cap U.S. equities in the health care sector.

As can be expected from the vast majority of Fidelity funds, the FHLC is a top performer on the market with a relatively low expense ratio.


5. iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.46%
  • One-Year Return: 38.14%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 13.38%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.19%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Amgen (AMGN), Gilead Sciences (GILD), Illumina (ILMN), Moderna (MRNA), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 15
  • Years Down Since Inception: 4

iShares has become yet another leading fund manager on Wall Street, and the firm’s Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF is yet another strong option to consider if you’re looking for diversified exposure to the U.S. health care sector.

The fund was specifically designed to provide exposure to the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals subsectors of the health care industry. It does so by investing in biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies listed on the Nasdaq.

As an iShares fund, investors will enjoy market-leading returns through a diversified portfolio of investments selected by some of the most trusted professionals on Wall Street.

The IBB expense ratio is around the industry-average ETF expense ratio of 0.44%, according to The Wall Street Journal, but the fund’s expenses are justified by its outsize returns.


6. iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF (IHF)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.42%
  • One-Year Return: 31.67%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 16.5%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.54%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: UnitedHealth Group (UNH), CVS Health (CVS), Anthem (ANTM), HCA Healthcare (HCA), Teladoc Health (TDOC)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 13
  • Years Down Since Inception: 1

The iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF is designed to provide exposure to a different area of the health care industry.

Instead of investing in companies that create treatments and therapeutic options, the IHF fund invests in companies that provide health insurance, specialized care, and diagnostics services.

To do so, the ETF invests in an index designed to track large U.S. health care providers.

The fund comes with an expense ratio that’s slightly lower than the average for ETFs while providing performance that’s hard to ignore. While IHF isn’t the best dividend payer, the iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF does provide compelling returns, making it a strong pick for any health care investor’s portfolio.


7. iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF (IHI)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.42%
  • One-Year Return: 36.77%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 23.60%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.50%
  • Morningstar Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Abbott Laboratories (ABT), Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO), Medtronic (MDT), Danaher (DHR), Stryker (SYK)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 12
  • Years Down Since Inception: 2

The iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF gives investors access to a diversified portfolio of stocks in the medical device subsector.

Investments in the company center around products like glucose monitoring devices, robotics-assisted surgery technology, and devices that improve clinical outcomes for back surgery patients.

In order to provide this exposure, the iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF tracks an index composed of domestic medical devices companies.

While the expense ratio on the fund is about average, its performance over the past 10 years has been anything but, with annualized returns throughout the period of more than 18%, earning it a perfect five-star rating from Morningstar.


8. iShares Global Healthcare ETF (IXJ)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.46%
  • One-Year Return: 19.93%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 11.51%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.27%
  • Morningstar Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Roche Holdings (ROG), Novartis (NOVN), Abbott Laboratories (ABT)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 12
  • Years Down Since Inception: 3

If you’re not interested in choosing subsectors of the health care industry to invest in and would rather have widespread exposure to all sectors of health care in all economies, whether developed or emerging, the iShares Global Healthcare ETF is a strong pick.

The ETF comes with an expense ratio that’s nearly in line with the industry average, but its holdings are some of the most diverse in the health care ETF space.

Moreover, the IXJ ETF is known to produce relatively reliable gains year after year, closing in the green in 12 of the past 15 years.


9. Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight Health Care ETF (RYH)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.40%
  • One-Year Return: 27.93%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 13.81%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.51%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Illumina (ILMN), Eli Lilly (LLY), Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN), Abiomed (ABMD), Catalent (CTLT)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 11
  • Years Down Since Inception: 3

Founded in 1935, Invesco is a fund manager that’s been around the block more than a few times. It’s all but expected that the firm would make an appearance in just about any “top ETF” list.

Based on the S&P 500 Equal Weight Health Care Index, the ETF provides diversified exposure to all health care stocks listed on the S&P 500. That means when you purchase shares of RYH, you’ll be tapping into a wide range of health care stocks.

In fact, the S&P 500 represents more than 70% of the market cap of the entire U.S. stock market, which is why it’s often used as a benchmark. So, by tapping into every health care stock listed on the index, you’ll be tapping into some of the highest quality U.S. companies in the space.


10. SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (XBI)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.35%
  • One-Year Return: 66.31%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 22.56%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.2%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Vir Biotechnology (VIR), Novavax (NVAX), Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND), Agios Pharmaceuticals (AGIO), BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (BCRX)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 11
  • Years Down Since Inception: 3

Another fund offered up by State Street Advisors, the SPDR S&P 500 Biotech ETF is an impressive option. While it’s the last on this list, it’s also been the top performer on this list over the past year and the third-best performer in terms of annualized returns.

The XBI ETF was designed to track the S&P Biotechnology Select Industry Index, an index designed to track the biotechnology subsector of the health care industry. As a result, an investment in this fund means you’ll be investing in all biotechnology companies listed on the S&P 500.

Not to mention, while returns on the XBIO have been impressive, to say the least, the expense ratio on the fund is below the industry average.

While the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF isn’t the biggest income earner on this list, it is a strong play with a relatively consistent history of producing gains far beyond those seen across the wider market.


Final Word

Health care ETFs are a great option for investors who are interested in using their investments to create some good in the world.

Not only are the top ETFs in this space known for producing incredible returns, it feels good knowing that your investment dollars are helping companies produce medications, devices, and services designed to improve quality of life and extend the length of the lives of your fellow man.

Although investing in health care ETFs is a promising way to go about building your wealth in the stock market, it’s important to remember not all ETFs are created equal. So, it’s best to do your research, looking into key stats surrounding historic performance and expenses before diving into any fund.

Nonetheless, the ETFs listed above are some of the strongest performers in the health care industry and make a great first watchlist for the newcomer to health care ETF investing.

Source: moneycrashers.com

The Hidden Costs of Moving: 11 Extra Fees to Watch For

While some extra services are optional, other charges are out of your control. Know what to expect when you get the final bill.

Besides shipping your household items, most moving companies offer additional services for an extra charge. But it’s not always a matter of choice. Often, the circumstances of your move will necessitate a specific service, such as carrying your belongings upstairs if you move to a building without an elevator.

Each moving company specifies the extra services it offers and sets the rates. While shopping around for movers, see which companies offer additional services that meet your needs and budget. When you receive a moving estimate, make sure it includes all the requested services, and double-check the conditions and charges before making any decisions.

Packing and unpacking

Packing is not only the most time-consuming task in the relocation process but also one of the most crucial aspects of the moving preparations. If you don’t wrap and pack your cherished possessions properly, you risk damaging them during transit.

If you can’t dedicate enough time, or if you just don’t have proper packing and padding materials, find a moving company that will pack for you. The movers will complete the task quickly and efficiently, and they’ll be liable for any damage.

For delicate pieces of art or other valuable and oddly shaped possessions, consider investing in crating — a packing service that places your items in custom-built wooden crates or cardboard boxes cut apart and form-fitted around each piece for better protection.

Unpacking services are available upon request at an additional fee, usually calculated on an hourly basis. If you want the moving company to collect the packing materials and dispose of them, you will pay a disposal fee as well.

Furniture disassembly and reassembly

Your movers can dismantle your larger furniture, but you’ll have to pay for the service. However, if you aren’t sure how to properly disassemble a valuable piece, don’t risk ruining it while trying to separate the detachable parts. Your movers will have the required equipment and knowledge to do it without damaging anything.

Once you reach your final destination, the movers can reassemble the furniture. You’ll have to pay for the service, of course, but it will allow you to jump in and start unpacking.

Handling special items

Movers are not responsible for disconnecting or connecting electrical appliances. If you want them to take your devices to their rightful places and set them up, you’ll have to pay an extra appliance servicing fee.

And many movers charge an extra fee if they need to handle extremely heavy and bulky items that require special packing and treatment, such as pianos, hot tubs, safes and pool tables.

Long carry

If the movers must park more than 50 to 75 feet from your new home’s entrance, the movers are not required to take the shipment inside unless you pay an extra fee. They will just unload the truck and leave, and you’ll have to find a way to move it all inside.

If you want the moving crew to perform this service for you, you’ll have to pay an additional long-carry fee, which is based on the distance the movers need to carry your shipment from the moving truck to the residence.

To avoid this extra fee, reserve a parking space directly in front of your new property for the delivery’s duration.

Climbing stairs

Many movers assess an additional flight charge for taking your household items up the stairs. The cost is calculated either per step or per flight of stairs.

An elevator will partially solve the problem, but movers usually charge an extra fee if they have to wait for it. So, if possible, reserve an elevator in the building for the time when your belongings will be unloaded from the truck and moved to your new place.

Lowering or hoisting (rigging)

If your furniture doesn’t fit through the doors or along narrow staircases and hallways, your movers may set up a rope-and-pulley system to take it through a window. This service comes at an additional price, and it’s only offered if the moving company has the specific equipment and skills required to perform it safely.

Exclusive use of the moving vehicle

Your household items may be loaded on the same truck with a couple of other shipments transported along the same route — especially when you’re moving across the country. Consolidating shipments helps moving companies deliver goods more efficiently and keep your final moving costs down.

However, you may have to wait longer to receive your items, and there will be no guaranteed delivery day. If you don’t want your household goods to be consolidated with other shipments, you may need to pay for the exclusive use of the moving truck.

Shuttle services

If a larger moving truck cannot access your property due to its size, the movers may use smaller vehicles to transport your items — but you’ll be charged extra for the service.

Split pickup and delivery

If your items must be picked up from several different locations, or if you need some of your belongings delivered at your final destination and others someplace else (such as a storage unit or temporary housing), you’ll have to pay an additional fee for split pickup or delivery services.

Waiting time and re-delivery

If you can’t meet the moving truck at your new property on the agreed date, the movers may charge a fee for waiting, or they may store your belongings at your expense.

Storage and warehouse handling

Storage-in-transit may be required if unexpected problems arise. The moving company will charge an extra fee, and the longer your belongings stay in storage, the more you will have to pay.

Remember that any specialty services provided by third-party companies are not included in the standard relocation services, so they’ll incur additional charges.

Additional services and their rates vary from one company to the next. Research all your options carefully, and make sure all the services you request and the charges your movers require are explicitly set in the mover’s paperwork.

All photos from Offset.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published June 12, 2015.

Source: zillow.com

Everything You Need to Know About Bill Gates’ Extraordinary House, Xanadu 2.0

Not many houses have their own Wikipedia page. But then again, few residences have owners with a net worth greater than the GDP of over 100 countries.

Once the richest man in the world, the Microsoft co-founder is now #4 on the list of wealthiest people, surpassed only by Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and French LVMH founder, Bernard Arnault. Bill Gates’ net worth is a mind-boggling $130 billion, though in recent years he’s stepped aside from most of his business endeavors to run the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private charitable foundation.

Despite his vast wealth, Bill Gates didn’t stray too far from home. Born and raised in Seattle, WA, the billionaire lives in a 66,000-square-foot mansion built into a hillside overlooking Lake Washington in Medina — a small city on the opposite shore from Seattle. Ironically, the tiny city (which had a population of just under 3,000 people at the 2010 census) is also home to fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos.

Bill Gates house near Seattle, Washington
Bill Gates’ home near Seattle, Washington. Image credit: house via reddit, snapshot via Wikimedia Commons, author Simon Davis/DFID

Gates’ house — which goes by the name of Xanadu 2.0, after the fictional home of Charles Foster Kane, the title character of Orson Welles’ infamous Citizen Kane — is worth well over $100 million and boasts some unique features worthy of its owner’s deep pockets. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

The house has almost as many kitchens as it has bedrooms

The massive 66,000-square-foot home fits many rooms with very different uses between its numerous walls. To list some of the most conventional ones first, Gates’ house has 7 bedrooms, 24 bathrooms (yes, you read that right, that equals over three bathrooms for each bedroom suite), and an impressive total of 6 kitchens.

If you think that’s one burner stove too many, it will make more sense once you learn that the billionaire’s home has a 2,300-square-foot reception hall that can accommodate up to 200 people. The dining room alone sits 24.

There’s also a 60-foot pool, a 1,500-square-foot art deco theater, and a 1-bedroom guest house where Gates reportedly wrote his book, The Road Ahead, while the main house was still being built.

Another unique feature is a massive 2,500-square-foot fitness facility that has a trampoline room with a 20-foot ceiling (which tells you quite a bit about the billionaire’s favorite way to blow off some steam). It also has a sauna, steam room, and separate men’s and women’s locker rooms.

Xanadu 2.0’s most striking room is the library

An avid reader whose book lists hold headlines every year, Bill Gates made sure his house has with a massive — and downright impressive — library.

bill gates in his home office
While images from inside of Bill Gates’ home are hard to come by, Netflix’s documentary Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates gave us a sneak peak of how the billionaire lives. Pictured here: Bill Gates in his home office. Image credit: Saeed Adyani courtesy of Netflix

From a design perspective, the paneled library spans 2,100 square feet and features a domed reading room and two secret pivoting bookcases, one of which was fitted with a bar. At the base of the dome, there’s a memorable quote inscribed, taken from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. It reads, “He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it.”

But the value of the room extends beyond its design, to the books and manuscripts you’ll find inside. Among them is Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th-century collection of scientific writings, the Codex Leicester, which Gates purchased for a whopping $30.8 million.

Bill Gates’ house is as tech-heavy as you’d expect

As you’d probably expect from a man who once revolutionized the world of personal computers, the Microsoft cofounder’s home is heavy on tech, incorporating some very unique uses for technology.

The house features an estate-wide server system, a 60-foot swimming pool with an underwater music system, and about $80,000 worth of computer screens lined up around the house to display art. In fact, visitors and guests of Gates mansion are given devices (worth an extra $150,000) to pick and choose their favorite paintings or photographs to display.

According to Business Insider, the house also comes with a high-tech sensor system helps guests monitor each room’s climate and lighting. When visiting Gates’ house, guests receive a pin that interacts with the sensors, allowing them to change temperature and lighting settings as they see fit. Moreover, there are also speakers hidden behind the wallpaper, which means music can follow visitors as they move from one room to the next.

The house took 7 years to build

In a tribute to its moniker (the word Xanadu is defined as an idealized place of great or idyllic magnificence and beauty), Bill Gates’ home is an architectural feat that took 7 years — and lots of manpower — to complete.

Bill Gates' house as seen in summer 2015 from Lake Washington.
Bill Gates’ house as seen in summer 2015 from Lake Washington. Image credit: Dllu via Wikimedia Commons.

Xanadu 2.0’s architecture, a modern design in the Pacific lodge style, is the result of the combined efforts of Cutler-Anderson Architects and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. Ironically, the latter is most known for creating the signature aesthetic of the Apple Stores.

What sets it aside is that it’s also an “earth-sheltered house”, which means it uses its natural surroundings as walls for temperature and to reduce heat loss.

According to an older report, the house was built with 500-year-old Douglas fir timbers rescued from an ancient lumber mill, painstakingly sanded and refinished. In total, half a million board feet of lumber was used during construction.

More homes with famous owners

“Neverland” No More! The Past & Present of Michael Jackson’s Former Home
The Mysterious Allure of Stephen King’s House, the Beating Heart of Bangor, Maine
The Three (Tragic) Lives of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin HouseErnest Hemingway’s Iconic House in Key West Stands Tall and Mighty After 170 Hurricane Seasons

Source: fancypantshomes.com

10 Cities Near Dallas To Live In 2021

Dallas is the largest inland metropolitan area in the U.S., which probably seems daunting if you’re considering a move. Luckily, there are plenty of great suburbs and nearby cities that let you take advantage of everything the Big D offers from a lower-key base camp.

No matter what reason you have your sights set on the area, the following 10 cities near Dallas should also be on your radar.

Richardson, TX.Richardson, TX.

  • Distance from downtown Dallas: 12.8 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,442 (down 1.9 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,763 (down 7.3 percent since last year)

With a population of just over 120,000, Richardson has a tight-knit community feel with big-city amenities.

The University of Texas at Dallas is in Richardson, and within the city, there are very desirable public and private schools. It makes living here attractive to young families.

There are excellent city services and fun community programs, including farmer’s markets, festivals and events.

The recreational facilities are top-notch and include gyms, aquatic centers, over 35 parks, playgrounds and nature preserves.

Richardson’s location is perfect — it’s bordered by Dallas and Plano and also provides access to four different DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) stations, which can get you to downtown Dallas in 20 minutes.

farmers branch txfarmers branch tx

Source: Apartment Guide / The Luxe at Mercer Crossing
  • Distance from downtown Dallas: 14.1 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,343 (down 0.5 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,993 (up 7.2 percent since last year)

Farmers Branch is one of the fastest-growing cities near Dallas and a great place to call home. Over 4,000 companies and more than 250 corporate headquarters are in Farmers Branch, making it Texas’s third-largest business center.

Its restaurant and entertainment scene have fully blossomed, and the area is now in high demand for families especially. The neighborhoods are safe and the schools are both excellent while the recreational facilities are state-of-the-art.

Farmers Branch is known as “The City in the Park” because it’s so green with over 30 award-winning parks, a community garden, rose gardens, walking trails and a 104-acre nature preserve.

Addison, TX. Addison, TX.

  • Distance from downtown Dallas: 14.3 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,533 (down 13.4 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,181 (down 17.1 percent since last year)

If you’re looking for a cool city near Dallas to work and live in, Addison fits the bill.

Many perks include free membership to the Addison Athletic Club, a front-row seat to the famous firework show called Kaboom Town and easy access to the plethora of shopping and dining options.

There are more than 180 restaurants within the 4.4 square miles that make up Addison, ranging from fine dining to family-style establishments.

Addison is a small town in terms of numbers, but it doesn’t feel far from the action. It’s just 20 minutes from Dallas’s downtown with easy access off the tollway.

Plano, TX.Plano, TX.

  • Distance from downtown Dallas: 18.3 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,764 (up 12.8 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,372 (up 12.5 percent since last year)

Plano is a highly desirable city to live in near Dallas. It’s just a short commute north of Dallas’s downtown and is home to some large corporations like J.C. Penney Company, Frito-Lay and Toyota, to name a few.

Plano is a great place to live and work. It takes on a life of its own with a small-town vibe even though it’s anything but small. Plano stands out because it has a charming historic downtown area with trendy shopping and dining, excellent schools and a strong sense of community.

There is no shortage of recreational activities in this city either with over 70 parks to explore, including hiking and bike trails.

carrollton txcarrollton tx

  • Distance from downtown Dallas: 18.6 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,312 (up 4.4 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,660 (up 4.7 percent since last year)

A precious gem tucked into the Dallas metro area is Carrollton. Residents enjoy a high quality of life with top schools, safe neighborhoods and lots of recreational parks.

In this city, slightly northwest of downtown Dallas, you’ll find beautiful, spacious homes to fit a relaxed lifestyle. Carrollton real estate is some of the most expensive in Texas but proves to appreciate in value faster than neighboring cities.

The pristine Indian Creek Golf Club, a 36-hole golf course, is in Carrollton. You can also find many hiking and biking trails, picnic areas and playgrounds scattered throughout the city.

Additionally, there are more than 250 restaurants in Carrollton — so much variety, your tastebuds will thank you.

Grapevine, TX.Grapevine, TX.

  • Distance from downtown Dallas: 22.2 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,419 (down 3.3 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,966 (down 3.5 percent since last year)

Located in between Dallas and Fort Worth is the city of Grapevine. Home to DFW International Airport, the third-largest airport in the world, this city offers accessibility like no other.

Living in Grapevine provides major conveniences with a suburban feel. There are plenty of restaurants, boutiques, wineries, art galleries, jewelry stores and more in the Historic Main Street District, a hot destination.

The beautiful Lake Grapevine offers 8,000 acres for outdoor recreation like fishing, stand-up paddleboarding, boating and hiking, making this an exciting place to live.

As the name Grapevine might hint, you’ll find many wineries linked by the city’s Urban Wine Trail. There’s even a multi-day annual wine festival called GrapeFest.

Rockwall, TX.Rockwall, TX.

  • Distance from downtown Dallas: 23.4 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,472 (down 5.3 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,750 (down 1 percent since last year)

Rockwall is one of DFW’s best-kept secrets. The city has much to offer its residents, making it an attractive place to live near Dallas. Rockwall Parks and Recreation offers year-round events and classes for kids, as well as summer music events and movie nights in the park.

It’s a great city to raise a family and combine work with play. There are a few large employers in Rockwall, including many manufacturing companies and Texas Health Hospital Rockwall, which employs more than 600 people.

One of North Texas’s largest lakes, Lake Ray Hubbard, is in Rockwall and is great for fishing, skiing and recreational boating. Overall, Rockwall is a fun and relaxing place to live.

Allen, TX.Allen, TX.

  • Distance from downtown Dallas: 24.2 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,330 (up 1 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,648 (down 3.7 percent since last year)

Allen is a booming suburb and a great place to live near Dallas. It’s known for premium shopping, excellent attractions, safe neighborhoods and a highly-ranked school system.

Some of the best shopping destinations in Allen are Allen Premium Outlets, which has over 120 outlet designer and name-brand stores, and Watters Creek at Montgomery Farms, a scenic, resort-style shopping center and entertainment destination.

Another perk of living in Allen is the number of recreational offerings. You can head to Don Rodenbaugh Natatorium, which offers an indoor water park, a competition-sized swimming pool and a rock-climbing wall, or try wakeboarding at Hydrous at Allen Station. Meanwhile, skaters can enjoy the Edge at Allen Station Skate Park, the largest outdoor skatepark in Texas.

Frisco, TX.Frisco, TX.

  • Distance from downtown Dallas: 26.4 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,624 (up 17.3 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,269 (up 22.1 percent since last year)

Frisco has so much to offer — in 2018 Money magazine put it at number one on the “Best Places to Live in America” list. The city has undergone extreme growth in the last couple of decades and is an ideal place to raise a family.

Frisco is safer than surrounding areas, with a crime rate of 86 in 2019, which is 3.1 times lower than the U.S. average. Families also appreciate the excellent education opportunities. The school district is known for academic excellence and innovative programs.

Frisco is additionally becoming the epicenter for football fans since it’s the site of the Dallas Cowboys’ 91-acre campus, known as the Star.

McKinney, TX.McKinney, TX.

  • Distance from downtown Dallas: 30.8 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,277 (down 4.7 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,704 (up 1.5 percent since last year)

McKinney is an excellent option if you’re looking to live near Dallas but crave a slower-paced feel.

This blend of big-city and small-town culture is one of the many reasons young professionals and growing households move to the area. The historic downtown square draws visitors from all over with its unique locally-owned boutiques, gift stores, art exhibits, restaurants and coffee shops.

There are a few breweries in McKinney which add to the life of the city. There’s also a plethora of picturesque parks and the eight-mile Erwin Park Hike and Bike Trail for residents to enjoy.

Make one of these cities near Dallas your next home

If you’re looking for the amenities of a metropolis but prefer a more laid-back vibe, you’re bound to find it in these 10 great cities near Dallas. No matter where you decide to hang your hat, there are some things you’ll need to know before living near the Big D.

Get the 411 on living in Dallas and start preparing for your move today.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory pulled in April 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

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Source: apartmentguide.com