8 Simple Pool Rules for a Fun and Safe Summer

Summer is still officially one month away, but swimming pools everywhere will be opening this Memorial Day weekend. Sure, the summer is beach season, but at your apartment community pool, there’s no risk of painful jellyfish stings and hidden dangers lurking in the sand.

So to prepare you for the months ahead, here are eight pieces of advice to help you make the most of pool season before it’s too late!

As cliche as it may sound, we must remind you to keep safety first. Every pool has its own set of rules that need to be followed. They should be clearly posted in the pool area. You, your children and guests should become familiar with the rules to avoid being banned for silly things like splashing, diving or excessive cannonballing. Most importantly, never leave children in the pool unattended – not even for a quick run to the bathroom. Stay in the shallow end of the pool if you have to.

Read more: Practice Proper Pool Etiquette

Alta San Marcos Apartments in San Marcos, CAAlta San Marcos Apartments in San Marcos, CA
Alta San Marcos Apartments in San Marcos, CA

Come prepared

Life vests, towels, sunscreen, flip flops, sunglasses and a fully charged phone are a must. But bring some fun stuff, too. Foam noodles, inflatable floats and beach balls will all enhance your fun in the sun.

Waterford at Superstition Springs Apartments in Mesa, AZWaterford at Superstition Springs Apartments in Mesa, AZ
Waterford at Superstition Springs Apartments in Mesa, AZ

Be social

The pool is a common place for neighbors to chill out over the summer. So grab your beach towel and get your mingle on! Take a walk around the pool and finally introduce yourself to your neighbors. You never know who you might meet!

Read more:
How to Hang Out in Your Apartment CommunityMeet the Neighbors: Why It’s Smart to Make the Effort

Echo Apartments in Austin, TXEcho Apartments in Austin, TX
Echo Apartments in Austin, TX

Check if there’s a lifeguard

Some communities will schedule a dedicated person on-site while others will not. Whether or not there is someone on duty, you’ll need to keep an extra close eye on what’s going on around you. If you or or children don’t know how to swim, look into getting lessons this summer. And while you’re at it, see if you can find a free CPR training course in your area.

Laketown Wharf Apartments in Panama City Beach, FLLaketown Wharf Apartments in Panama City Beach, FL
Laketown Wharf Apartments in Panama City Beach, FL

Play water games

Tag, Marco Polo, volleyball and racing each other are all fun ways to enjoy yourself during pool time. Play fairly, and no cheating!

Encantada at Dove Mountain Apartments in Tucson, AZEncantada at Dove Mountain Apartments in Tucson, AZ
Encantada at Dove Mountain Apartments in Tucson, AZ

Note where drains, pipes and other openings are

Children should stay away from any parts of the pool that have suction features.

Towers at TPC Apartments in San Antonio, TXTowers at TPC Apartments in San Antonio, TX
Towers at TPC Apartments in San Antonio, TX

Clean up after yourself

Some pools are strict about no eating and drinking on the premises. If you happen to break this rule (which we do not encourage), at least pick up your trash and don’t leave anything behind. The pool area is a reflection of the residents and you don’t want to be the reason it looks unsightly. You know better.

Read more: Ways to Keep Your Neighborhood Beautiful

15777 Quorum Apartments in Addison, TX15777 Quorum Apartments in Addison, TX
15777 Quorum Apartments in Addison, TX

Use it or lose it

Unfortunately, pool season doesn’t last forever. In many communities, Labor Day weekend will be your last chance to take a dip until next May. If you ever find yourself bored, broke and looking for something to do, grab a towel and head down to the pool!

Happy swimming!



Source: apartmentguide.com

Are Home Prices Going to Surge in 2020?

It’s a new year, and with that comes old questions, like will mortgage rates go up or down in 2020? And will home prices rise or fall?

Well, a few months ago, you would have probably thought the answer to the home price question was a no-brainer.

After so many years of seemingly unsustainable appreciation, there’d just be no way home prices could eek out more gains, let along big ones.

But that logic has just been turned on its head thanks to a new report from Zillow, which claims we’re running out of homes again.

For-Sale Inventory Hits Lowest Point Since 2013

  • Uptick in housing inventory appears to have been short-lived
  • Lowest number of for-sale homes on the market since at least 2013
  • Supply is only expected to worsen from here with little home building and lots of demand
  • Could be the recipe for even higher home prices in 2020

This isn’t the first time we’ve run out of homes, but after an uptick in inventory over the past couple years, it appeared things were turning around.

However, that “inventory bump a year ago proved to be short-lived,” per Zillow, as we now have the lowest number of for-sale homes in at least seven years.

Yes, inventory is basically back to levels not seen since 2013, and if you recall, home prices were bottoming just before and around that time.

To make matters worse, supply is supposed to get even tighter before we see any relief.

While this is pretty much excellent news for existing homeowners, who will likely see their property values continue to surge, it’s especially bad news for renters trying to get into the game.

Zillow said there were just 1,489,417 homes listed for sale in December, some 120,000 fewer than there were a year ago.

That represents a 7.5% annual drop, and the lowest total dating back to 2013, when Zillow first began collecting such data.

The company referred to the temporary inventory relief seen in 2018 as a “false dawn,” led by a stock market swoon and a jump in mortgage rates, not the beginning of a “sustained trend.”

It turned out that the stock market only surged higher, and mortgage rates have since trickled down close to record lows again.

That has home buyers chasing after whatever’s out there, meaning demand continues to outweigh supply.

Where Housing Inventory Is Down the Most

Remember, real estate is local, and some metros are experiencing more inventory constraints than others.

In fact, housing supply actually went up year-over-year in four out of the 35 largest U.S. housing markets, including San Antonio (+8.1%), Detroit (+7.6%), Atlanta (+1.8%) and Chicago (+0.6%).

Here’s where inventory has dropped the most over the past year:

  1. Seattle (-28.5%)
  2. San Diego (-23%)
  3. Sacramento (-21.7%)
  4. Phoenix (-21%)
  5. Cincinnati (-16.8%)
  6. San Jose (-16.6%)
  7. Los Angeles (-16.5%)
  8. Portland (-15.7%)
  9. Austin (-15.6%)
  10. Riverside (-15.5%)

Home values increased the most in Phoenix (+6.5%), Columbus (+5.9%) and Charlotte (+5.9%) during 2019, and fell in only two markets, San Jose (-6.4%) and San Francisco (-1%).

Inventory is down quite a bit in the Bay Area, so it might not be everything when it comes to home price gains, especially when affordability hits the ceiling. But we’ll see how 2020 plays out.

Home Price Gains May Accelerate in 2020

  • Home prices rose 3.7% from December 2018 to $244,054
  • Significantly lower than the 7.6% annual increase seen a year earlier
  • With supply and interest rates low, we could see a reacceleration
  • Especially when you factor in the wave of coming-of-age home buyers

If 2019 was the year of slowing home price growth, 2020 might be the year it kicks back into gear.

Zillow pointed out that annual rate of home value growth slowed in December, marking the 20th consecutive month it had done so.

But perhaps more importantly, the gap seen between November and December was the smallest one-month decline since home price appreciation began to slow.

And with the traditional spring home buying season just around the corner, we could see a serious jump in home prices, given this supply and demand imbalance.

Last year, home prices rose 3.7% to an average of $244,054, markedly lower than the 7.6% increase seen a year earlier.

However, the value of the U.S. housing market is now a staggering $33.6 trillion. In the 2010s alone, U.S. property values increased by $11.3 trillion, a more than 50% increase.

Roughly 14% of the gain came from new construction, while the remainder was a result of higher prices on existing housing stock.

Now it appears we might be in for even more. This speaks to how long booms and busts take to actually play out.

You always assume it’s done before it goes up (or down) another notch. Just like the stock market, which continues to hit milestone after milestone. And I believe that’s what we’re seeing here.

Once you factor in the 45 million Americans reaching the average first-time home buyer age of 34 over the next decade, it becomes pretty clear. We need more homes, and fast.

Unfortunately, it also means trouble might be brewing since housing affordability has been a concern for several years now.

That might put us at a crossroads. Either we build more homes and deal with the supply issue head-on, or financing gets “creative” again to help more prospective buyers into homes they may not be able to afford.

If it’s the latter, that bust we were worried about in 2019 could be right around the corner. Just remember, it takes a little longer than you expect to get to the corner…

Read more: When will the next housing crash happen?

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

36 Best Amazon Prime Benefits to Use in 2021

Back in the day, a big reason to hook up with the bargain-shopping online retailer Amazon.com was the free two-day shipping, the very roots of Amazon Prime.

That was then. Now, since my Amazon shopping addiction has waned (and my annual membership is due), I thought I’d explore what other perks being an Amazon Prime membership gets me, along with the other 100 million or so Prime subscribers worldwide paying $119 a year for membership (or you could pay $12.99 a month, but that comes out to $155.88 a year). You may be surprised by some of today’s best Amazon Prime benefits — besides free two-day shipping (and quickly becoming one-day, same day and in some locations, one-hour shipping).

Take a look at 36 of these perks that surround the free shipping of Amazon Prime.

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Free Same-Day Delivery

Amazon package handed to a customerAmazon package handed to a customer

Free two-day shipping is so 2005, the year Amazon launched Prime. Today’s Amazon Prime is all about getting more stuff to members at an ever-faster pace as Amazon builds more distribution centers (above its recent efforts to speed up free two-day delivery to free one-day delivery; I’ve recently started getting several Amazon-shipped items in one day, free; the order defaults to one-day at checkout).

Now this: Free same-day delivery. It doesn’t apply everywhere, mind you, but more than 10,000 eligible cities and towns — mostly major metropolitan areas — and counting is a fairly wide swath. If your ZIP code, which you can check out right here, offers same-day service, when you order before noon and choose the same-day shipping option at checkout, Amazon says the package will be delivered by 9 p.m. (Sundays included, and don’t be surprised to see the U.S. Postal Service delivering, even on Sundays, though I’m seeing more and more Amazon-branded delivery vans; keep an eye out for Amazon-owned electric delivery vehicles). If you order past noon, an option is next-day delivery. Two caveats: The same-day order must total $35 or more, and not every product Amazon stocks is eligible (but more than 3 million are marked with the “Prime FREE Same-Day Delivery” logo, so there). If your same-day-delivery swag is under $35, Amazon will dock you a surcharge of three bucks, so you might want to slow your roll. Oh, and if you don’t have a Prime membership and want that certain something-something delivered the same day, you can do so, but you’ll be clipped $12.99 per item.

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Free Two-Hour Delivery

Amazon delivery vans going down a highwayAmazon delivery vans going down a highway

Talk about impulse shopping. Amazon’s Prime Now service delivers the grocery goods to Prime members for free within two hours, currently in more than 100 (and growing) select markets, including Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego, Virginia Beach and central New Jersey (Hi Mom and Dad!). Free two-hour delivery includes grocery orders from Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, or the online Amazon Fresh. Can’t wait two hours? You can pick up your goodies at your Whole Foods market in one hour. Prime Now specializes in delivering items ranging from prepared foods and produce to canned goods, fresh meat and seafood, household essentials and more.

Oh, and FYI, if you were an Amazon Pantry customer you aren’t any longer. Amazon recently discontinued that service as it consolidated its grocery-delivery services. Don’t worry; all the grocery products are still there.

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Get Paid for No-Rush Delivery

A turtle walks along a kitchen floor with a package tie on top of its shellA turtle walks along a kitchen floor with a package tie on top of its shell

Hey, if you can have patience with some of your orders, it just may pay off. Choose free no-rush shipping at checkout, and you can earn either a discount or a promotional award that can be used for future Amazon purchases. Your no-rush order will arrive within six business days, rather than the standard two days for Prime members (and I’ve found that “six days” was really three days a couple of times I’ve used no-rush). Awards are applied after your no-rush order ships. Typical givebacks include digital swag including instant video downloads, digital music, eBooks, and Amazon app store apps. You don’t choose the rewards. Amazon does.

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Get Your Prime Wardrobe on

A man gets dressed near his wardrobe closetA man gets dressed near his wardrobe closet

With dressing rooms closed in most clothing bricks-and-mortar retailers during the pandemic, we’re unable to try on clothes before we buy them. Now, Amazon has you covered — in clothes. Prime Wardrobe is Prime’s answer to the dressing room. Pick out women’s, men’s, kids’, and baby clothing, shoes, and accessories online at Amazon Wardrobe. Select up to 8  items (making sure they have the Prime Wardrobe logo) and they’ll be shipped for free and at no charge to you. You have seven days to try them on and check out what you want to buy. It’s free to return anything you don’t want to purchase. Your Prime Wardrobe order comes in a resealable box or bag with a prepaid return label. You just have to haul it over to a UPS outlet or other retailers taking Amazon returns (see below). They’ll take care of the rest.

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Give to Your Favorite Charity

Closeup of a person holding a symbolic heart in their handsCloseup of a person holding a symbolic heart in their hands

Did you know you could shop, buy and give to your favorite registered charitable organization through Amazon Prime? Neither did I, until a year or so ago. This charity-driven alt form of Amazon shopping is called AmazonSmile. Simply pick a charity you wish to receive donations from Amazon and do all of your Amazon.com shopping on your personal AmazonSmile page. It has the exact same products and prices as your regular Amazon.com page, and you can switch between your regular Prime account and AmazonSmile. Amazon will gently nudge you to AmazonSmile if you forget, but here’s a hint: Just as you’ve bookmarked your regular Amazon.com account, you can bookmark your AmazonSmile account and toggle if you wish. There are more than a million eligible 501(c)(3) public charitable organizations to choose from, and the one you pick will receive 0.5% of the value of your eligible purchases (there are tens of millions of eligible products). I’m helping support Friends of Frying Pan Park Farm, a county park in Virginia that is a working farm interpreting farm life of the 1920s to the 1950s.

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Membership Sharing

Closeup of the hands of three people texting on smartphonesCloseup of the hands of three people texting on smartphones

You can share your Amazon Prime membership with your household via Amazon Household. Here’s the deal: Your Prime benefits can be shared with one other adult in a household — as long as you both agree to share your payment methods (you link your accounts viaAmazon Household). That’s fine for, say, a spouse or significant other, but giving your roommate access to your credit or debit card might be a deal-breaker. Your partner in Prime has to have a separate Amazon account to be able to be added to your Prime membership. You’ll then be able to share certain Prime perks including free two-day shipping, digital content and more. Teens and younger children can also be added (up to four) but they have parental-restricted access, praise be (younger children cannot buy anything on Amazon; with parental controls, they can access certain digital content).

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Access to Exclusive Brands

Vitamin pills spilling out of a bottle on an isolated on a white background Vitamin pills spilling out of a bottle on an isolated on a white background

Amazon is expanding its private-label offerings — an area that holds huge business potential, as we pointed out in our story about Costco’s Kirkland Signature brands. Amazon Elements (vitamins, nutritional supplements, baby wipes, etc.) products, for example, are already available only to Prime members, and the company is rolling out other exclusive private-label brands. Also unique about Elements: Scan a special code on the product — using your Amazon Shopping app — and you will see where every ingredient in the product was sourced, down to the water in the baby wipes. 

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Unlimited Photo Storage (Videos, Too)

A grandfather takes an image of his grandchild on an enclosed porchA grandfather takes an image of his grandchild on an enclosed porch

Amazon Prime members get unlimited, full resolution photo storage. Yes, unlimited. Plus, you can add up to five others, as in family and friends, connected in the, er, Family Vault. Photos are accessible from any device anywhere you can tap into your Amazon Prime account. If you’re like me, doubling down by having an Amazon Prime account and paying Apple every month for cloud storage for those precious pix, it may be time to trim some costs.

You also get 5 GB of storage for videos, documents, and other files just for you, not the crew from the Vault. Want more storage? You can buy it.

Oh, and no worries about tagging photos. Amazon’s scary servers will automatically sort your photos. Want to free up storage on your phone? Use the Amazon app, upload them to Prime Photos and delete them from your phone. What could possibly go wrong?

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Prime for Students

A student studies on her laptop lying on the floor of her dorm room at collegeA student studies on her laptop lying on the floor of her dorm room at college

Should normal return and your kids are physically back at college, here comes Amazon Prime Student, just right for sitting around the dorm room and streaming the highly anticipated next installment of Stranger Things or Coming 2 America and other just-released films, during study breaks. It’s free for the first six months with a legit “.edu” school email address (along with proof you’re actually taking at least one class; maybe not going to class, but taking it). The one-time-only free trial includes free two-day Prime shipping (ramen noodles and Doritos don’t buy themselves), free same-day pickup, unlimited movie streaming, access to Amazon Music Unlimited for the bargain price of 99 cents per month, and more. After six months it costs $6.49 a month or the less-expensive $59 a year for Prime Student. Oh, and you can buy textbooks on the cheap, if textbooks are your jam. Plus many, many more essentials for students.

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Free Music

A young woman listens to music on her headsetA young woman listens to music on her headset

Why pay for ad-free Pandora, Spotify or Apple Music when you’re already making beautiful music with your Amazon Prime account? Included in Amazon Prime Music is free access to more than 2 million “hand-crafted” songs and more than a thousand playlists and stations programmed by Amazon’s music experts at no additional cost. The drawback? Music fans argue that Amazon’s free playlists and stations aren’t as deep as those of competing streaming services — and it’s true. (I couldn’t access OneRepublic songs on the Prime freebie.) Per Amazon: “The selection of songs and albums available with Prime Music is always changing. New titles are added to the Prime Music catalog, and occasionally titles are removed.” But before you fork over an extra $9.99 a month for Apple Music or Spotify, download Amazon’s music app and take it for a test run. It might be all you need. If not, an upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited, which features more than 70 million songs including new releases (there you are, OneRepublic), runs $7.99 a month for Prime members, and Amazon runs deals giving you 30 days gratis, so you can try before you buy.

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Free Books, Magazines, Audiobooks

A computer tablet with an Amazon screen.A computer tablet with an Amazon screen.

You don’t need a public library to get a free loaner when you have Amazon Prime. That’s because the cost of an Amazon Prime membership includes access to a fairly wide collection of 1,000 books, magazines and audiobooks nestled in Prime Reading. Prime Reading allows you or your household to borrow up to 10 titles at a time and from a selection of Kindle books, magazines, short works, books with Audible narration, comics, and more. The available content is updated periodically, says Amazon, and titles are added and removed. Prime Reading can be viewed on Amazon’s proprietary Fire tablet and Kindle e-reader, or via the Kindle reading apps for iOS and Android.

As a bonus, Prime members also get free access to certain podcasts and other audiobooks and series through Audible Channels, a limited version of Audible. You need to download the Audible app and log in with your Prime account to start listening. Otherwise, a subscription to the full version of Audible, owned by Amazon, costs $14.95 a month (there’s a 30-day free trial).

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Binge on Your Favorite Shows

A computer screen showing video streaming appsA computer screen showing video streaming apps

Look at you, Amazon Prime member: Binge-watching at no charge the new Amazon series Tell Me Your Secrets or the exceptional One Night in Miami, another Amazon original. Yes, I am increasingly taking advantage of watching free movies and TV series via Amazon’s streaming service, Prime Video. If you have a newer TV, the Prime Video app comes built in, so click on it and boom! You’re in the movies. Oh, and don’t you worry. While you’re watching Prime Video, Amazon is watching you. The “personal recommendations based on your viewing history” can be both creepy and convenient.

You can even download movies and TV shows to mobile devices for later viewing (and what you buy, you keep in Your Video Library at Amazon). Cable TV and satellite cord-cutters may be pleased to know they can binge on HBO, Showtime, Starz and many more streaming services via the Amazon Prime app. Additional fees for those channels run from $4.99 to $14.99 a month for Prime members.

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Early Access to Lightning Deals

Closeup of a stopwatchCloseup of a stopwatch

You like your deals fast and hot. And you want to be at the front of the pack getting them. Amazon Prime members enjoy access to those one-off, deeply discounted Lightning Deals 30 minutes before the great unwashed as part of Prime Early Access. Lightning Deals are only good for a few hours (or as long as supplies last) so if you really want what’s on sale early access is an advantage. But even then, Amazon warns some deals could sell out during the early access period, before opening up to the general public. Recent Prime Early Access Lightning Deals included 28% off an APOSEN smart Wi-Fi robot floor vacuum to 32% off a 50-pack of disposable face masks.

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Something for New Moms and Dads

A mother holds her smiling infant in the airA mother holds her smiling infant in the air

The former Amazon Mom benefit has morphed into Amazon Family, a Prime perk that includes up to 20% off diapers, baby food and more, free shipping and free returns, which we don’t want to think about when we’re talking diapers. Oh, and Amazon Family has lots of other nice perks, meaning discounts on kid-friendly items.

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Say Hello to Alexa

Amazon Echo Dot on a wooden desktop.Amazon Echo Dot on a wooden desktop.

If you own an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot device or anything else built with the ears and voice of Alexa, your Prime membership allows you to place orders through Alexa, the voice-activated digital assistant. For example, if you just ran out of fresh batteries for your flashlight, say “Alexa, order AA batteries” and a 20-pack of AmazonBasics AA batteries will arrive on your doorstep two days later. Shipping is free for Prime members, natch, and Alexa is already aware of your Prime status.

Also, say “Alexa, what are your deals?” to learn about special Alexa-only discounts, although I find her voiced descriptions a bit difficult to follow. She does, however, tell some pretty corny jokes, and will sing “Happy Birthday” upon request.

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Whole Foods Discounts and Delivery

A sign in the produce section of a Whole Foods storeA sign in the produce section of a Whole Foods store

Amazon purchased the Whole Foods supermarket chain in the summer of 2017. Since then, shoppers have been able to order on Amazon.com the upscale grocer’s private-label products, including those from 365 Everyday Value, Whole Paws and Whole Catch, and other items. Amazon also rolls with free two-hour delivery of groceries from Whole Foods to Prime members in select cities. Or you can opt for free one-hour pickup and still let store workers do the shopping and bagging for you.

Amazon gives Prime members an extra 10% off on sale items at Whole Foods stores (look for the yellow signs) plus other seasonal deals. To receive the discount, in-store shoppers must download the Whole Foods Market app to their phone, log in with their Prime account and have the code scanned on their phones at checkout. The Whole Foods Market app will also alert Amazon Prime shoppers to exclusive in-store deals; virtual coupons, don’t you know?

More, you can also have any of your online Amazon.com orders shipped to Whole Foods stores that have Amazon Lockers (see below). You can also do Amazon.com returns at Whole Foods for free, no box or label needed. That Amazon-to-Whole-Foods connection is perfect if porch pirates are prevalent in your neighborhood.

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Fun With the Treasure Truck

A woman reacts in surprise while working on her laptopA woman reacts in surprise while working on her laptop

Amazon has wheels: A fleet of bubble-blowing, music-spewing panel trucks roaming the streets in more than two dozen U.S. cities, hauling hot deals on cool items. You buy them online with your Prime membership and hoof it over to the Amazon Treasure Truck to pick up your treasures.

Well, you used to. And maybe in the future you will again. The actual physical trucks are offline doing community service during the pandemic. But when they return, here’s the deal:

First rolled out in 2016 in Seattle, Amazon’s hometown, Treasure Trucks are now popping up in 29 major U.S. cities and metro areas, including Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Nashville, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Tampa, and Washington, D.C., getting all hip selling tech trends, outdoor essentials, fresh foods including giant porterhouse steaks, the latest Nintendo releases and more. You use the Amazon app (or sign up for text notifications) to see what the day’s deals are on your local Treasure Truck (or in the city you’re visiting), and make your purchase with the app by clicking “I want this.” You’ll get a confirmation email that will also tell you where the Treasure Truck is parked (think Whole Foods). It’s your job to go claim your purchase. Warning: You may see dancers, costumed characters, costumed dogs, games and more at the tricked-out TT, but expect that at a later time, what with social distancing at the moment.

So for now, Amazon is still texting you the Treasure Truck deal of the day, and if you buy it, it will be shipped to your favorite place for receiving Amazon packages.

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Free Release-Date Delivery

Two people are seen gaming on a living room couchTwo people are seen gaming on a living room couch

Are you waiting for that hot new video game, book (yes, we still love print) or movie, or the latest jam from your favorite band? Get it by 7 p.m. the day it’s released, courtesy of Amazon Prime.

Maybe you’re looking forward to Metroid Prime 4 for Nintendo Switch releasing Dec. 31, 2022 (yes, 2022). Choose “release date delivery” when you make your purchase and, hello, Primer, you’re among the first to be checking out something hot and fresh.

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Amazon Prime Day Deals

A stack of Amazon packages delivered to a front porchA stack of Amazon packages delivered to a front porch

Amazon.com launched its Black-Friday-in-July Prime Day back in 2015, ostensibly to celebrate its 20th anniversary. In reality, Prime Day (or really, day-or-two) is a way for Amazon to juice sales in mid-summer, when consumers tend to spend more time on vacation and less time in stores and online. Amazon tries to grab the attention (and dollars) of its 100 million Prime members worldwide by offering them exclusive deals on Prime Day itself, as well as in the days leading up to the big event.

Prime Day 2020 was a bit different as the coronavirus pandemic rattled the world. Instead of mid-July, Prime Day was in October, and not only triggered record Prime Day sales for Amazon, it launched the 2020 end-of-the-year holiday shopping season a month early.

We don’t yet know when Prime Day 2021 will be this year — will Amazon move it back to summer, or keep it in October for a shot at repeat success? Whichever, iIf Prime Day stays true to form, Prime members can expect red-hot deals on a smorgasbord of gadgets and geegaws, especially on Amazon’s proprietary products including Alexa-activated devices. You have to be a Prime member to buy, but news flash: You can sign up for a 30-day free trial. Some shoppers cancel after Prime Day and before the 30 days are up to dodge the $119-a-year Prime membership fee. Just sayin’.

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Easy Re-Ordering

Two delivered Amazon packages on a front porch Two delivered Amazon packages on a front porch

Sometimes, you just forget. You forget where you purchased the water filter for your fridge, and when it’s time to get it replaced. Or you forget where (and when) you bought those fading off-brand, discount (but excellent) replacement ink cartridges for your printer. Or you just want to do price comparisons on those items between Amazon and the manufacturer’s online store. Prime has you covered.

Click on the Orders button at the top of your Amazon.com page (near the cart). It will take you to the Your Orders page and will default to show you your purchases from the last six months. You can also go back to the very first order you made. My first order was on Oct. 24, 2007, and it was a schizophrenic cart containing an electric toothbrush, a 24-pack of canned salsa, a book (In the Shadow of No Towers) and a pack of replacement heads for the new toothbrush. This is a no-judgment zone, people.

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Free Delivery to Your Car

An Amazon delivery van is seen on a suburban streetAn Amazon delivery van is seen on a suburban street

Amazon has this delivery option paused due to the coronavirus crisis, but when it restarts, if you own a certain make and model car, Amazon will deliver your Prime packages to your car instead of your front porch, the better to deter porch thieves. Starting off in 37 cities, the service is only available for 2015 or later Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC vehicles that have active OnStar accounts or Volvos with active Volvo on Call accounts. Select Ford, Lincoln, Honda and Acura vehicles are now part of the pack.

If you have an eligible vehicle, you’ll need to download the Key by Amazon app, which will give the delivery driver access to your ride. Amazon said the car must be parked in an “open, street-level, and publicly accessible area.” Depending on the type of vehicle it is and how much space is available, the package will be stowed in the trunk or the cabin.

The rest is done by voodoo. You’ll get a four-hour window notification of delivery, you’ll be notified when the driver arrives, the driver will notify Amazon, your car will be unlocked, package inserted, car locked and you’re notified again.

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In-Home Delivery When You’re Not Home

A hand is seen punching a code into a digital lock on a homeA hand is seen punching a code into a digital lock on a home

This one is also on pause during the coronavirus pandemic, but in-home deliveries by Amazon when you’re not home will likely restart at some point. Here’s how it works: You outfit your home with an Amazon-enabled smart lock and camera (Ring, owned by Amazon, works, too). If your residence is in one of the 50 metropolitan areas where Key by Amazon delivers in this manner, you’ll be able to allow delivery drivers to drop your package inside your home using the Key by Amazon app. You just have to fork over a couple of hundred bucks to outfit your home with a special Amazon kit that includes a smart lock and an in-home camera to eyeball the delivery. Again with Key by Amazon, you’ll be notified when the delivery is about to be made, and remotely unlock your door. The package is placed just inside your door and you notice this because you’re watching, remotely, through that camera via your mobile device. You’ll spend around $220 (plus installation fees if you’re not comfortable installing the smart lock) for this one-time setup.

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In-Garage Delivery When You’re Not Home

woman entering pin in smart phone while unlocking garagewoman entering pin in smart phone while unlocking garage

Also driven by the Key by Amazon app, Key by Amazon In-Garage Delivery is not on hold during the pandemic, and is touted by Amazon as a perfect contactless delivery method to keep your purchases safe from porch pirates. It’s free for Prime members and available in more than 4,000 cities. You can even have your Whole Foods Market and Amazon Fresh (see below) groceries left in your garage.

Here’s how it works: Drivers get temporary access to open your garage door when the Amazon delivery app confirms the driver’s identity and delivery route. The vetted drivers are instructed to go no more than 5 feet inside your garage to drop off the package. You can also follow their moves via an optional in-garage camera. 

See if your garage door opener will play nice with Amazon Key for Garage. If it is not and you still want the service, you can install a myQ smart garage hub to make your garage compatible with Key by Amazon.

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In-Gate Delivery When You’re Not Home

Black wooden gate across a hedge-lined drivewayBlack wooden gate across a hedge-lined driveway

This is a new one from Amazon: In-Gate Delivery from Key by Amazon. Designed for single-family homes with gated driveways or fences with electronic locks, as well as small apartment complexes. You’ll need the Ring Access Controller Pro and the Key by Amazon app to allow Amazon drivers access to your locked gate so they can safely secure your package behind the locked gate.

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Take Your Amazon Returns to Kohl’s

An exterior sign of a Kohl's department store An exterior sign of a Kohl's department store

Amazon.com has partnered with Kohl’s department stores to provide Amazon shoppers with another place to return their Amazon products — and stir up some foot traffic for Kohl’s.

The team-up makes it a win-win for both retailers. Amazon shoppers have another place to drop off returns besides UPS, Whole Foods stores and Amazon Hub locales (see below), and Kohl’s will gain some potential shoppers, who must drop off their Amazon returns at customer service. Why is it a win for Kohl’s? In my experience, the customer service desks at Kohl’s are deep inside the store (in one local Kohl’s, it’s in the back of the second level of the store). That’s a whole lot of merchandise to pass by as you drop off the Amazon package and leave the store.

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Amazon Hub Locker

A woman picks up a package at an Amazon Hub lockerA woman picks up a package at an Amazon Hub locker

Whether receiving or returning, Amazon Hub Locker is a nice perk for Prime shoppers who live in porch-delivered, package-theft-prone areas. Amazon-owned Whole Foods stores and other retailers have the self-serve locker kiosks installed. They’re free to use for picking up items or returning them.

Here’s the drill: Sign into your Amazon account and find the closest Amazon Locker to you. Put that address in your address book and choose it as the default delivery site for your goods when you check out and pay for your order. When the package is delivered, you’ll receive a code to unlock the locker. Follow the instructions on the screen.

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Pick Up or Return Your Amazon Purchase at an Amazon Hub

Opened Amazon box sits on a tableOpened Amazon box sits on a table

It’s not just Kohl’s getting into the return-your-Amazon-buys-at-my-store business. Small retailers are getting in the game now for many of the same reasons, including ginning foot traffic so Amazon shoppers might buy something from their store.

Here’s how it works: A retailer (or apartment complex) reaches out to Amazon to become an Amazon Hub store. As a hub, shoppers can return as well as pick up orders at that Hub. That way the Amazon shopper doesn’t have to worry about porch pirates. Their Amazon order is safely tucked into the Hub store. Don’t like your Amazon order? Just like at Kohl’s, you can take your order to the Hub location and they’ll pack it up and return it to Amazon, all at no charge to you (as a Prime member, returns on most products are free).

That Hub station owner just hopes you might have a look-see at the items they’re selling and maybe buy an item or two — and tell your friends about the service.

Hub partners also have the option of just playing host to an Amazon Locker, such as the ones many Whole Foods, malls and other retailers have.

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Fast-Gift Others

A smiling woman opens a package in her kitchenA smiling woman opens a package in her kitchen

If you’re not at all concerned about gift-wrapping gifts during the holidays or on birthdays and anniversaries, you can fast-gift family and friends via Amazon Prime (and, of course, with free two-day shipping). Add their address to your Amazon address book, shop, and when you’re paying for your cart, choose their address as the default shipping destination. Just remember to change the default address back to your home when shopping for yourself.

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Shop Women-Owned Businesses

A business owner smiles in her shopA business owner smiles in her shop

Here’s a discovery: You can shop at women-owned businesses parked in the Amazon world to give budding female entrepreneurs a boost. The service is available on Amazon Storefronts, and offerings include everything from clothing and spa goods to books and party supplies.

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Make Any Day Your Amazon Day

A laptop computer with a calendar on its screenA laptop computer with a calendar on its screen

Now you can tell Amazon what day (or two) of the week you prefer to get your Prime deliveries. This one is especially good if you subscribe to items on Amazon.com for regular delivery, or if you want to be home when your packages arrive, or if you want to cut down on packaging, or if you just want to say hey to the delivery driver. Tell Amazon which day of the week you designate as “Amazon Day” and they’ll lock it in. You can choose up to two Amazon Days.

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Discounts at Amazon Stores

The exterior of an Amazon 4-star storeThe exterior of an Amazon 4-star store

And you thought Amazon was just an online shopping site. Say hello to Amazon 4-star, Amazon Books, Amazon Go, Amazon Go Grocery and Amazon Fresh, five brick-and-mortar store concepts from the retail giant.

Amazon 4-star stores sell a range of products that get 4-star reviews by Amazon customers, plus a smattering of new products that might not have that top rating, but are popular and/or new and trending. This includes Amazon-proprietary products such as Echo, Kindle and Fire TV devices. Anyone can shop in Amazon 4-star stores, but only Prime members get the same Prime prices they see online. There are 31 Amazon 4-star stores open or in “coming soon” phases, and they’re scattered throughout the country. Note that some of the stores are operating under limited hours during the pandemic.

Amazon Books is exactly what you’d expect in the name: Amazon Books is a bookstore chain, a fitting tribute to Amazon, which cut its teeth as an online-only  bookstore 26 years ago. In its 24 locations, Amazon Books sells a curated selection of bestsellers, new releases, or books rated four stars and above by Amazon customers (as with its other stores, anyone can shop at Amazon Books, but only Prime members get Prime prices). You’ll also find Amazon’s Kindle reading devices and more, but people: This is Amazon Books, not Amazon 4-star or Amazon Go, so don’t expect a sammich or a lot of gadgets.

Amazon Go stores sell already assembled, ready-to-eat meals and snacks for breakfast, lunch and snack time. The stores are true grab-and-go. There are no registers. Shoppers use the free Amazon Go app and scan it at the entrance to get in the gate, then scan the QR code of items they want, bag them and leave the store. Your Amazon account will be automatically charged. There are currently 26 Amazon Go stores, in Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle. Two Amazon Go stores are temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Amazon Go Grocery takes the Amazon Go concept and adds in fresh seasonal produce and local baked goods. There are currently only two Amazon Go stores, both in the Seattle area.

Amazon Fresh stores are small fresh food markets offering produce, meats and seafood, as well as prepared foods made fresh in the store. There currently only a handful of Amazon Fresh stores, all located in Southern California.

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Game for Free and Score Loot

Father and sons using controllers to play on a video game consoleFather and sons using controllers to play on a video game console

Prime Gaming is the place to be if you’re a gamer and you have Amazon Prime. You can play online games for free, and you can even up your game with free loot. How about upgrading your Madden Ultimate team or get the Kosatka Submarine Station in Grand Theft Auto online? Other offers include playing “Hole.io” ad-free for 21 days and power-up bundles for free on several games. You also get a free monthly channel subscription on Twitch.TV, the live streaming platform for gamers. It’s owned by Amazon.

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Make Amazon Your Prime Prescription Drugstore

Daily pill dispenser with prescription medicationsDaily pill dispenser with prescription medications

Here’s a fresh one in the Amazon Prime lineup: Amazon Pharmacy. Amazon will take over delivering your prescriptions within two days, for free. Amazon promises more savings, too, but you’ll want to check to see if your scripts are less expensive at Amazon Pharmacy compare to your current pharmacy or online service.

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Shop Used in the Amazon Warehouse

Exterior of Amazon Fulfillment Center located in Silicon ValleyExterior of Amazon Fulfillment Center located in Silicon Valley

Amazon Warehouse: Where all the things you returned to Amazon go to be resold. Here you’ll find millions of used and open-box items sold at bargain prices. Those items range from used home and kitchen goods, used computers, Amazon devices, digital cameras, used TVs and unlocked cell phones.

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Head Over to The Shop by ShopBop for Designer Deals

A clothing rack holding designer apparel for womenA clothing rack holding designer apparel for women

You can get fashioned up, even find designer work-from-home gear, in the The Shop by Shopbop on Amazon. Amazon bought the Wisconsin-based fashion retailer in 2006, and The Shop by Shopbop offers stylish clothing, shoes, designer goods, accessories and bags. 

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Hoof It to Zappos and Get Premium Shipping

Two Amazon shipping boxes sit on a Zappos shipping boxTwo Amazon shipping boxes sit on a Zappos shipping box

Betcha didn’t know Amazon also owns online shoe giant Zappos, now did you? It does. And if you link your Amazon Prime account with your Zappos account, you’ll earn 2 Zappos shopping points for every $1 you spend. That’s twice what run-of-the-mill Zappos VIPs earn.

Source: kiplinger.com

Top 5 Places You Should Consider Moving To This Summer

San Antonio, Texas riverwalk at night

The vibrant Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas

There are a million and one “best places” lists out there. The best places to find a job, best places to get a cup of coffee, top cities to save money, and so on. We’ve read them all, but the most important list we watch is where people want to move to get a great apartment. While all the lists have their own unique spins, ours is a little different.

We have analyzed all of the lists and also taken a close look at jobs that upcoming college grads are seeking. All of this, combined with the cost of living, ways to have fun, and the availability of affordable apartments, have led us to bring you our list of the top 5 places you should consider moving to this summer.

City #5: San Antonio, Texas

Not everyone can afford cities like New York, Chicago, and Boston. And other Texas cities like Austin and Houston have become oversaturated during the past few years. Enter San Antonio. Here, there are lots of jobs waiting for you and a lot of living at your fingertips. It is very affordable. In fact, it made the US News & World Report’s Most Affordable Cities of 2017 list. There is a ton of fun to be had here as well, including The Riverwalk, Six Flags and other theme parks, plus museums and the botanical gardens. However, all of this means that apartments in San Antonio will go fast this summer, so you better start looking now.

City #4: Minneapolis – St. Paul, Minnesota

The Twin Cities are known for being affordable and renter-friendly. But there has also been a massive job boom in the past few years. More and more people are taking notice of the benefits of renting an apartment in Minneapolis. It’s a foodie’s paradise and offers a million things to do! You could spend a year eating out and never have the same meal twice. Sure, winters in Minneapolis – St. Paul are brutally cold, but if you love fun in the snow and great city living, Minneapolis – St. Paul may be calling your name.

City #3: Charlotte, North Carolina

What do Bank of America, Harris Teeter, and Duke Energy all have in common? They are all in Charlotte and they all have jobs to fill. To top it off, this city ranked 15th on the most desirable places to live list. The climate has the right mix of all seasons. And talk about fun! Charlotte is a sports fan’s paradise with pro football, pro basketball, Triple-A baseball, NASCAR, and collegiate sports, right in your back yard. Immerse yourself in southern hospitality and great food when you find your next apartment in Charlotte.

City #2: Columbus, Ohio

“OH…IO!” You can hear the chant all around you when you arrive and settle into your new Columbus apartment. Serving as a huge hub in the Midwest for finance and medical jobs, Columbus has much more to offer than one of the most popular colleges in America. Locals love going to the Columbus Zoo and Franklin Park, and families with kids can spend days at the COSI. And, if you love German food, you have found the right place to call home in Columbus.

City #1: Las Vegas, Nevada

It might seem an odd choice to top the list, but it is here for a reason. Las Vegas has it all. An abundance of affordable apartments, lots to do (even if you are on a budget), and tons of jobs. You will even be able to watch the new stadium for the Las Vegas Raiders rise from the ground. The only thing hotter than the summer heat is the fun you can have living here. Maybe the time has come for you to look to the Nevada desert for an apartment in Las Vegas!

Ready to start your apartment hunting today? Visit ApartmentSearch.com and start your free search. You can even earn up to $200 in rewards when you tell your next apartment community you found them on www.apartmentsearch.com.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

Zillow Will Now Buy Your Home for Its Zestimate Price

Posted on February 25th, 2021

Zillow appears to be putting its money where its mouth is by offering to buy properties at their Zestimate price.

No longer is the Zestimate just a number you can fantasize about, assuming your home qualifies for the company’s iBuying program known as Zillow Offers.

The Zestimate Turns 15 Years Old

  • Zillow introduced the Zestimate all the way back in 2006
  • They claim it was the first time homeowners had instant access to free estimated home values
  • Zestimates are published for nearly 100 million homes nationwide with a median error rate for on-market homes of just 1.9%
  • Today’s algorithm uses public records, feeds from MLSs, artificial intelligence, computer vision, and a deep-learning neural network that even factors in photographs

Zillow’s new initiative coincides with the 15th anniversary of their popular home valuation tool known as the Zestimate.

The free quasi-appraisal tool was launched in 2006 and essentially put Zillow on the map by providing homeowners and prospective home buyers with a quick tool to see what a home was worth.

Today, their complex algorithm goes beyond public data and MLS feeds and uses things like artificial intelligence and computer vision that allows it to incorporate data from photographs.

In other words, if images are uploaded that show a new kitchen or bathroom, or even just new paint or more expensive fixtures, your Zestimate might get a boost.

They claim all these improvements to the always-evolving Zestimate give it a median error rate of just 1.9% for on-market homes.

While that sounds pretty impressive, it doesn’t mean you should just sell your home to Zillow and call it a day.

Where Zillow Is Buying Homes for Their Zestimates

Sell for Zestimate price

  • If your home is eligible you’ll see an initial cash offer prominently displayed at the top of your property listing page
  • The initial offer is before taxes/fees are factored in and also subject to the accuracy of property information
  • Currently available in a large number of markets including Phoenix, Charlotte, Orlando, San Diego, and Los Angeles
  • The company plans to expand the pool of eligible homes over time as the Zillow Offers platform grows

At the moment, the company’s “buy at the Zestimate price” deal is available on a limited number of homes in markets where Zillow Offers currently operates.

This includes a pretty large number of cities, including:

  • Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona
  • San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside, and Sacramento, California
  • Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa, Florida
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas

To see if your home is included, simply head over to your property’s listing page on Zillow and look for a prominent “Sell to Zillow for your Zestimate” box.

If it’s there, this means you can begin negotiations at that price, before the company factors in things like taxes, fees, and repair requests.

Their offer is also subject to eligibility and accuracy of property information. In other words, they’ll need a human being to back up the findings of their Zestimate technology before they proceed with an offer.

My assumption is the more cookie-cutter the property, the more likely it is to have one of these instant offers.

That means a property in a housing tract that is moderately priced and similar to other properties nearby.

Conversely, they probably aren’t doing this for high-priced properties or homes that have unique features.

Is Selling at the Zestimate Price a Good Deal?

  • Zillow has referred to the Zestimate as a starting point in the past
  • And that could still be the case if you take them up on this offer once they negotiate the price
  • They’ll also factor in repair costs, listing costs, their service fee, and more
  • When all is said and done you could be looking at sales proceeds that are 10%+ below the Zestimate

While Zillow boasts about its high accuracy rate for the Zestimate, it doesn’t mean it’s a no-brainer to just sell your home to Zillow.

While they claim their median error rate is just 1.9% for listed properties, what about properties that aren’t listed, i.e. YOUR HOME.

Personally, I always feel that the Zestimate is lower than the comparable Redfin Estimate, and often lags home price data.

In other words, the Zestimate typically displays a price that feels a little bit in the past, whereas the Redfin Estimate appears to show a more forward-looking price.

Put another way, the Zestimate seems to mirror what someone paid for a home, while the Redfin Estimate often feels more like what a buyer would pay.

That’s just my personal opinion, but I’ve been tracking these numbers for years, and I’ve rarely seen a Zestimate that’s higher than a Redfin Estimate.

This is especially important given the fact that it’s a seller’s market at the moment.

Lastly, you need to consider the fees charged for selling to Zillow Offers, including prep and repair costs (they’ll be reselling your home quickly), along with the Zillow service charge.

They say that service charge is 2.5% on average, which is on top of the ~6% in selling costs that mirrors what a pair of traditional real estate agents would earn, along with 1-2% for closing costs like transfer taxes, escrow, etc.

All said, you could be looking at 10% off the Zestimate, not including repair requests, so your actual walkaway cash could be much lower.

Of course, the same can be said of a traditional sale (minus that service charge), and you get to sell immediately without the usual inconvenience, aggravation, and uncertainty.

But that’s where the service fee comes in. It’s more like a convenience fee.

In any event, this is an interesting development and a sign that Zillow wants its Zestimate to serve a larger role than just a free home price estimate.

About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for nearly 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

7 Cities Experiencing Record Low Temperatures

Freezing woman outside
Leszek Glasner / Shutterstock.com

Just when it looked like the nation was about to turn the corner on winter — with spring barely a month away — another polar vortex has blown across the U.S., putting millions of households into a big chill.

Some cities are suffering worse than others, including places not typically known for sub-freezing days and nights. Residents of those cities are shivering through bone-rattling cold that is shattering thermometers — and historical records.

Following are several cities experiencing record-low temperatures.

Oklahoma City

Hoarfrost near Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City
Richard G Smith / Shutterstock.com

Low temperature on Tuesday: -14 degrees Fahrenheit (coldest temperature since 1899 and second-coldest on record)

Weary residents of the Sooner State are more than ready to say “later” to the record cold that has swept in unexpectedly. Some residents have been without heat for more than a week.

One city resident — Angie Smith — is hoping that a very modest dream will become reality soon. “I just want a working heater,” she told local TV station KFOR. She added:

“I understand even a day or two — I’m an understanding person — now we’re eight days into it. It’s negative whatever it is outside.”


Record cold grips Dallas in February 2021.
Marouanesitti / Shutterstock.com

Low temperature on Tuesday: -2 degrees Fahrenheit (coldest temperature since 1930 and second-coldest on record)

The cold that has plunged all the way down to Texas has gripped the nation’s attention — and its collective sympathy. At least 21 Texans have died as a result of the brutal cold snap, and millions are without power.

Fingers of blame are pointing everywhere in light of the still-unfolding tragedy. Some reports suggest frozen wind turbines and limited gas supplies are largely responsible for the power failure.

Some deaths in the state have been attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from residents running cars or generators indoors. As one medical official in Houston said to local television station KPRC-TV, “This is an absolute public health disaster.”


Ice and snow on a car in Houston during a cold snap in February 2021.
Si Vo / Shutterstock.com

Low temperature on Tuesday: 13 degrees Fahrenheit (coldest temperature since 1989)

It’s rare to see Arctic cold weather seeping all the way down to Houston, but this polar vortex did not spare Space City.

Officials have told residents to boil water or use bottled water, as many homes are getting little or no water pressure due to several days of power outages. One resident is using melted snow to flush his toilet, the Weather Channel reports.

San Antonio

San Antonio in winter
lise Vanasse / Shutterstock.com

Low temperature on Tuesday: 12 degrees Fahrenheit (coldest temperature since 1989)

How cold is it in San Antonio? The National Weather Service office in the city issued its first-ever wind chill warning.

City residents are trying to be resourceful, but remain worried. Juany Torres, a University of Texas graduate student and San Antonio resident, told NBC News:

“We just have so many blankets, like quite a bit, and we are going to the car and trying to heat up there and get a charge for phones and trying to brave [the electricity] switching back and forth. It’s not sustainable.”

Little Rock, Arkansas

Winter in Arkansas
Olikbas / Shutterstock.com

Low temperature on Tuesday: -1 degrees Fahrenheit (coldest temperature since 1989)

Winter’s icy grip has left Little Rock — and the entire state of Arkansas — bundled up against the teeth-chattering cold. Local television station KARK reports that several inches of snow have fallen on “every square mile of the state,” and that several locations in Arkansas recently fell below zero for the first time in 60 years.

At least one city — Arkadelphia — has never experienced weather this cold in its recorded history, which goes back to 1899.

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Fayetteville, Arkansas, Washington County Court House
shuttersv / Shutterstock.com

Low temperature on Tuesday: -20 degrees Fahrenheit (possible coldest temperature on record)

Temperatures in the Fayetteville area dropped to a bone-rattling -20 degrees Fahrenheit at the weather station at Drake Field, a municipal airport.

The temperature might be the lowest ever recorded in the city. It certainly is the lowest recorded at the Drake Field weather station, with records dating back to 1905.

However, a weather observation site at the University of Arkansas reportedly recorded a temperature of -24 degrees Fahrenheit in 1899.

Hastings, Nebraska

Frozen lake in Hastings, Nebraska
Todd Stahlecker / Shutterstock.com

Low temperature on Tuesday: -30 degrees Fahrenheit (coldest temperature on record)

There is cold weather — and then there is positively glacial weather.

Temperatures dipped to a mind-numbing -30 degrees Fahrenheit in Hastings on Tuesday. That might be a walk in the park for hearty folks in the far north — the unofficial record low in Embarrass, Minnesota, is -64 degrees Fahrenheit, after all — but it is plenty cold for most of us.

The record cold snap in Hastings allowed temperatures to fall 48 degrees below normal for two days straight. But keep your chin up, folks — spring is right around the corner.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

How Shaquille O’Neal Become a Real Estate Investor

Shaq became famous as a basketball player, a very large basketball player! He was 7-1 and was well over 300 pounds when he was playing in the NBA. Not only is he one of the best basketball players of all time but is a real estate investor as well. He has also been a major part of many other businesses like Ring doorbells, Five Guys Franchise, and he was an early investor in Google. After leaving the NBA, he has become even more involved in real estate and been a part of some very large deals! It is hard to find the exact information on what Shaq has done real estate-wise, but he has given hints over the years in interviews on how he started and what he is involved in. From what I could find out he started by flipping houses with a partner in New Jersey. He has also been involved in low-income housing in Denver and done deals in Florida as well. He currently is focusing on large projects in the New Jersey area where he spent time as a kid.

Where did Shaq live growing up?

Shaq was born in New Jersey and his father was a basketball player as well. However, his father had drug problems and was never a part of Shaq’s life. Shaq did have a stepfather who was in the army and Shaq ended up living in Texas and Germany as a kid because of his stepfather’s career. Shaq ended up going to high school in San Antonio and leading his team to a state championship. Shaq was a always big kid. He was 6-6 when he was 13! I was 6-1 when I was 13, but I stopped growing at 13 and Shaw did not.

It is important to know where Shaq grew up because it impacted his real estate investing later on. He was not a real estate investing just to make money. As he said on CNBC Make It:

I don’t invest in companies just to try and get the big hit,”  “I [invest] because I know it’s going to change people’s ideas… change people’s lives.”

How did Shaq blow his first million?

Shaq had an amazing interview with Daymond John (The Shark Tank) about how he spent a million dollars the first day he made it. He spent $150,000 on a Mercedes for himself, then his dad wanted a car so he bought him one, and then he bought his mom a $100,000 car. He bought jewelry, suits, CD changer, went to Vegas, etc. Then his banker called him in to warn him about his spending. Shaq had no idea about taxes and that he had spent the entire million without realizing it!

From that point on, he made sure to take care of his money and learn from those who know about money. He credits Magic Johnson with helping him learn a lot about money and investing it instead of wasting it.

How did Shaq start his real estate investing career?

During Shaquille O’Neal’s long playing career, he earned an estimated $292,198,327! He definitely had a head start as an investor by earning so much money in the NBA. However, he did not start with huge projects although some of the articles you read will have you believe he did. In a 2002 article from the Denver Post about an affordable housing project he said:

“We started buying homes out of foreclosure and paying $10,000 or $12,000 for them, fixing them up, and maybe selling them for $25,000 or $35,000,” Shaq said.”It would be easy for me to develop a housing community around a golf course or buy strip malls, but that’s not how I want my book to go.”

He was talking about Mike Parris, who was his uncle and business manager, and mentioned that he was doing this 4 years ago, which would have been 1998 when he was 26. Shaq started small in his hometown. At the time he would have been playing with the Orlando Magic in Florida.

While he may not have been the one swinging the hammer, he was definitely investing in real estate at a young age.

How did Shaq’s real estate investing evolve?

Shaq started the O’Neal group in 2006 which invests heavily in real estate, but as we know he was involved in investing before that. In the article in the Denver Post from earlier, he was also involved in buying big projects before that as well. In 2002 Shaq said;

“My dream is to own $1 billion a year in affordable housing,”

  • He started by purchasing a $65 million affordable housing project in the Denver area that eventually cost $100 million after property improvements and other costs were factored in. The project consisted of 1,500 units and the seller would only sell to investors who were willing to keep the affordable housing aspect of the project.
  • In 2006 his company invested in The Met in Miami which was a highrise with 1,000 units.
  • He also recently opened an $80 million apartment complex in New Jersey and has plans for another $150 million high rise.

What is a little frustrating is the giant gap you see from 2006 to 2018! it is hard to find much information on the O’Neal group or his real estate investments during that time. There was another project he was involved in Atlantic City, but I could not find out if that project was ever completed. However, he was not just investing in real estate during his career. He has done many things!

What other businesses has Shaq been a part of?

Shaq has said he loves real estate and obviously has been a part of some huge deals but he has done many other things as well! Here are a few of them:

  • Pre-IPO Google stock: He bought into Google before it even went public.
  • He started a clothing line
  • He has owned 17 Auntie Anne’s Pretzels restaurants
  • He has owned 150 car washes
  • He has owned 155 Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises
  • He has owned 40 24 Hour Fitness gyms
  • He has been a partner in Las Vegas nightclubs
  • He has owned a movie theater
  • He was a partner with Muscle Milk
  • He was a partner with Vitaminwater
  • He was a partner with Loyal3
  • He has released albums with commercial success
  • He has been in movies and on TV
  • He is super involved with law enforcement

I am sure I am missing many other things he had done or been a part of! I have no idea how many of these things he has sold or still owns but he has sold many of his investments and business over the years. He is obviously very diversified!

How involved is Shaq in real estate investing?

I have no idea how involved Shaq is or was in real estate. He sounds very passionate about it when he talks about so he could be very involved. However, he has so many other things going on it would not surprise me if he is mostly the money guy and other people find the deals and put together the projects. There is nothing wrong with that as the best investors learn how to make money without doing a ton of work! If Shaq happens to read this and has some more information to add, I would love to hear from you! Mark @ Investfourmore.com

Source: investfourmore.com

The Income Needed to Afford Home Payments in 15 Cities

Couple with house key
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on SmartAsset.com.

Housing costs eat up more of the average American’s salary each month than any other single expense, reaching about one-third of average expenditures in 2019, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And while homeownership is coded into the DNA of the American dream, buying a home isn’t easy for many. Car payments, student loans, credit card bills and other debts can make it difficult to qualify for a home loan and keep up with mortgage payments. That’s why SmartAsset analyzed data from the 15 biggest U.S. cities to estimate how much money you will need to make — and not exceed the recommended 36% debt-to-income ratio — to afford monthly home payments.

Our study compares these cities using the following factors: median home value, property tax rate, down payment, homeowners insurance and other monthly non-mortgage debt payments. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s fourth study on the salary needed to afford home payments in the 15 largest U.S. cities. Check out the 2020 version of the study here.

1. San Jose, CA

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Homeowners in San Jose, California, need to have the highest income out of all 15 cities to afford their home payments. Our study shows that they have to earn $143,233 (with no debt) to afford a property with a median home value of $999,900. That income goes up to $159,900 when a homeowner has $500 in monthly debt payments, $168,233 if he or she owes $750 a month and $176,657 with $1,000 of additional monthly debt. On a more affordable note, the property tax rate in San Jose is relatively low, at 0.76%.

2. New York City, NY

New York City homes neighborhood
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The Big Apple comes in second, but if you want to buy a home in New York City, you will need to earn at least $98,867 with no additional debt to afford house payments. If you owe $1,000 in monthly debt payments, you will need a salary of $132,200. The median home value in NYC is $680,800, and the median real estate tax bill is $5,633.

3. Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles neighborhood.
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Los Angeles’ median home value is slightly higher than New York City’s and the second-highest in the study ($697,200). The property tax rate, however, is the second-lowest overall – at just 0.68%. If you have no debt, you’ll need to earn at least $98,333 to make home payments and keep your debt-to-income ratio less than 36%. But if you owe $500 each month, you’ll need an income of at least $115,000.

4. San Diego, CA

San Diego home
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San Diego, California’s median home value is $658,400, fourth-highest in the study. The average property tax rate, however, is third-lowest at 0.69%. If you have monthly debt payments of $1,000 before you take out a mortgage, you’ll need to earn at least $126,367 to afford house payments in San Diego. By comparison, if you have a monthly debt of $750, you will need to make $118,033.

5. Austin, TX

Row houses in Austin, Texas
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Austin, Texas, homeowners without debt must earn a minimum of $64,600 to make their housing payments. Their income requirement rises to $81,267 if they have a monthly debt payment of $500. The median home value in Austin is significantly lower when compared with the top four cities on this list, at just $378,300. But the property tax rate is more than twice as high, at 1.75%.

6. Chicago, IL

Chicago row houses at sunset
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The median home value in the Windy City is $275,200. Chicago homeowners have to pay a fairly high property tax rate, at 1.54%. If they do not have any monthly debts, they’ll need to earn at least $45,400 to afford monthly home payments without exceeding the 36% debt-to-income ratio. If they owe $1,000 in debt payments outside their mortgage, they’ll need to earn $78,733.

7. Dallas, TX

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Dallas has the fifth-highest property tax rate in this study, at 1.66%. The median home value in the city is $231,400. Homeowners without debt must earn at least $38,933. But if they owe $750 in monthly debt, they’ll need to make at least $63,933 to afford a mortgage.

8. Charlotte, NC

Home surrounded by greenery in Charlotte,NC.
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Charlotte, North Carolina, has a median home value of $252,100 and a property tax rate of 0.94%. Homeowners here must earn $37,367 without any additional debt to afford housing payments. If you owe $500 in monthly debt payments outside your mortgage, you’ll need to make at least $54,033 for your housing payments.

9. Fort Worth, TX

Fort Worth Texas
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The property tax rate in Fort Worth is 1.98%, the highest rate across all 15 cities. The median home value is $209,400, and homeowners with additional monthly debt payments of $750 need to make $62,100 to live comfortably in this city. By comparison, if their non-mortgage debt obligation is only $500 each month, they will need to earn $53,767.

10. Phoenix, AZ

Aerial view of Phoenix, Arizona
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The property tax rate in Phoenix, Arizona, is 0.58%, the lowest in this study. The median home value is $266,600. Homeowners can afford making mortgage payments with an income of $36,867 as long as they have no other debt. But if they have $750 in monthly debt payments, they’ll need to earn at least $61,867.

11. Houston, TX

Houston homes neighborhood
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Houston’s property tax rate, like in the other Texas cities in the top 15, is fairly high — third-highest in the study, in fact — at 1.78%. The median home value, though, is much lower on the list, at $195,800. To afford the home payments without breaking the 36% debt-to-income rule, you’ll need to earn at least $50,267 if you have $500 in other monthly debt. If you’ve managed to stay debt-free before the mortgage, you’ll only need $33,600 in annual income.

12. San Antonio, TX

San Antonio, Texas outdoors
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The median property tax rate in San Antonio, Texas, is 1.91%, the second-highest property tax rate in the study. The median home value is $171,100. To afford payments on the median San Antonio home, you’ll need to earn at least $29,967 and have no additional debt payments. If you owe a monthly debt of $1,000 outside your mortgage, you’ll need to earn at least $63,300 to afford home payments comfortably.

13. Jacksonville, FL

Jacksonville homes neighborhood
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Jacksonville, Florida’s median home value is $200,200, and the property tax rate is relatively low at 0.87%. This means that you’ll need to make $29,300 to afford an average house payment as long as you have no additional monthly debt. If you are making other debt payments of $500 each month, you’ll need to earn at least $45,967 to afford home payments in Jacksonville comfortably.

14. Columbus, OH

Columbus, Ohio
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Columbus, Ohio’s property tax rate is 1.60%, and the median home value is $173,300. Homeowners with additional debt payments of $500 each month must earn at least $45,533. Doubling those monthly non-mortgage debt payments to $1,000 means that they’ll need a salary of at least $62,200.

15. Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia neighborhood homes
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The median home value in the city of Brotherly Love is $183,200, and the property tax rate is 0.91%. If you have no other debt, you’ll need a salary of at least $27,000 to make home payments in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If you owe $750 in monthly debt payments outside your mortgage, you will have to earn a minimum of $52,000 per year.

Data and Methodology

Business woman working from home in a dress
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To find the minimum required salary to afford home payments in the 15 largest U.S. cities, we used data from the U.S. Census Bureau. First, we took the median home value in each city and calculated the cost of a 20% down payment. We then used the average real estate taxes paid in each city and the median home value to find the average property tax rate. Using those figures and our mortgage calculator, we found the average monthly home payment in each city assuming a homebuyer would get a 30-year mortgage with a 3% interest rate for 80% of the home value (the balance after paying a 20% down payment). We also factored in an annual homeowners insurance payment of 0.35%.

After finding the average monthly home payment, we calculated the income needed to make those payments while not exceeding a 36% debt-to-income ratio. We also considered the necessary income to make home payments based on prospective homebuyer debt levels, which ranged from no monthly debt payments to debt payments totaling $1,000 per month.

We ranked each city from the highest minimum income (with no additional debt) needed to afford home payments to the lowest minimum income (with no additional debt) needed. Median home values and median household incomes are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

George Strait Slices Price of Custom-Built Home in San Antonio to $7.5M

The country music star George Strait has recorded a price cut on his custom-built San Antonio, TX, estate. The King of Country’s residence is now available for the discounted sum of $7.5 million.

The musician’s estate first appeared on the market in 2019 for $8.9 million, so the price reduction is a hefty discount on the earlier asking price.

For a buyer, the offering hits all the right notes.

On 12.2 secluded acres in the exclusive community of The Dominion, the home, built in 1997, offers a Santa Fe-style design by Bill Tull of Arizona. The acclaimed designer moved to San Antonio, along with his crew, to build the estate for two years while the work was carried out.

Noted for its “endless attention to detail,” the home’s standout features include 14 hand-sculpted fireplaces, stained-glass windows, saguaro cactus rib shutters, and hand-painted murals. Tull, who has since died, leaves behind a one-of-a-kind residence that could never be recreated.

“Now’s a better opportunity than ever,” says the listing agent, Tamara Strait with Phyllis Browning Company.

“Inventory is at an all-time low, and this house is spectacular. To have the acreage. the privacy, and the views of downtown San Antonio, it’s really hard to come by,” she says.

She noted that last year, the home came off the market after a hailstorm forced the owners to redo the exterior completely. It now boasts a brand-new roof and windows.

The almost 8,000 square feet of living space include three bedrooms and six bathrooms. The master suite features dual bathrooms and closets. Two oversized guest suites come with custom bathrooms. A detached casita offers one more bedroom, a living room, full bathroom, and kitchenette.

In addition, the layout offers a large living area with two fireplaces, as well as a custom-designed copper bar top with seating. In addition, there’s a gourmet kitchen and a formal dining room.

The fireplaces and some areas around the home have handpainted designs done by local artists, Strait notes. Some of the photos show virtual staging to give a sense of the interior space.

Outside, the infinity-edge pool and spa feature a mosaic finish. The patio includes a built-in grill, and was recently updated. The property also has a sport court.

In 2019, Strait, the listing agent, who is a family member, noted that although the musician and his wife, Norma, loved the house, they decided to move farther out from the city.

“They really still do love the house,” she says of the owners.

Noting that she gets phone calls about the listing every day, the agent adds that the unique abode is “a very taste-specific home,” which will appeal to someone who appreciates the custom details overseen by the country music legend.

Strait has sold over 100 million records, which makes him one of the best-selling performers of all time.

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Source: realtor.com