Americans on the Move: 2013 Population Migration

Posted by Doug on February 26, 2014
Population / No Comments

Americans are on the move, and coming to a state near you. In 2013, a top moving company called United Van Lines performed a survey that measured the amount of citizens moving in and out of each individual state. This is not a newly designed survey. United Van Lines has been tracking and calculating inbound and outbound moves through America for the thirty-seven years. The results of the 2013 survey provide insight into various housing markets, and for some states, there are definitive reasons behind the loss or gain of population. Read on for a look at U.S. Migration in 2013, and see which states’ populations are decreasing in numbers while others are flourishing.

Rising in Population

Many states on the survey have experienced a surge of growth in 2013. States such as Oregon, South Carolina, North Carolina, D.C., South Dakota, Nevada, Texas and Colorado had a majority of inbound moves. Oregon, which rates highest on this list, had a 61 percent margin of inbound moves. The Carolinas followed just behind with 60 (South) and 58 percent (North) inbound moves. Low cost of living, economic and industrial growth and job availability are some of the reasons why these states may been experiencing their sudden growth.

moving vanDecreasing in Population

Some states were not so fortunate in the inbound move department, and experienced an insurgence of outbound moves. Citizens who once lived in these states, decided to move elsewhere. These states include New Jersey, Illinois, New York, West Virginia, Connecticut, Utah, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New Mexico. The state with the highest degree of outbound moves is New Jersey. The Garden State ranked number one in population loss with 64 percent of moves going elsewhere.

Balanced Population

Some states were fortunate enough to rank in the balanced population, which essentially means business as usual for them. Their ratio of inbound moves to outbound moves was roughly unchanged from the year prior. Some of these states include Nebraska, Tennessee, Iowa, Louisiana and Michigan. Michigan, who had previously been one of the states with a progressively high outbound move ratio for over fifteen years, finally found itself stabilizing with a balanced population.

The Bottom Line

There can be many reasons for shifting populations in states. From job opportunities to local amenities, each state is unique and has its own set of benefits to offer. In addition, scenarios and conditions change from year to year. This survey is a valuable tool to understand which areas of our country are suffering, while others are striving.

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Organizing Real Estate Records Digitally

Posted by Doug on February 20, 2014
technology / No Comments

Keeping digital files of your real estate records is a safe, green, and ever-increasingly reliable way to maintain important documents indefinitely. Better still, the right system makes everything searchable and easily accessible. The hardest part of any task is knowing where to start, so here is a step-by-step guide to getting all your relevant files prioritized, organized and, finally, digitized.

1. Figure out what documents you need

Odds are, if you worked with a realtor to find your house, there were a large number of emails exchanged, documents that you were asked to look over, perhaps sign and return. Some of it you will need to retain, other pieces can be safely discarded.

mortgage papersIf you are seriously worried about whether or not you need a particular document, there is no harm in keeping it aside, but make sure you are keeping things relevant to the sale of your house, not necessarily things like real estate listings or pages you downloaded off the Internet, even if they deal directly with the house you purchased. You only need the home inspector’s report, not his business card, for example. Odds are, that contact information is in the documentation should you ever need it again. Be smart about what stays and what goes.

Closing documents, inspection reports, easements, etc. are likely more of a necessity than an email from your attorney about the closing date or a text about a counter-offer from the seller. A good rule of thumb: if your signature is on it, you should definitely keep it. That accounts for most closing and inspection documents, among others. You will also want to keep records of ongoing escrow payments made by your lender including property taxes and PMI if applicable.

2. Get Organized

Chances are, at this point you are looking at a heaping mess of papers and a bunch of disorganized files on your computer. This is where various items will need to be more carefully scrutinized. You may find that once all relevant documents being gathered in one place, you may not need certain ones as badly as you previously thought. Quite often, the same information appears in more than one place and if it is going to show up anywhere, chances are it’s going to be in the papers you received at closing so check there first.

 3. Scan and File

There are a number of inexpensive software solutions that will let you take all your relevant paper documentation, scan it, merge it with existing digital files, and organize it in a way that will allow you to easily access any pertinent documents quickly and in a single, uniform file format. The most popular of these is PDF and the vast majority of document scanning software solutions have it as an option. If you are going through this process right now, consider asking your realtor, inspector and attorney if your documents can be prepared digitally once everything has been signed. It will save several steps and keep things more organized from the get-go.

Read about three ways to store and organize paperwork and schedules of all kinds on this page.

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Liberty Station – San Diego

Posted by Doug on February 06, 2014
Uncategorized / No Comments

Liberty Station is a 361-acre project that involves the conversion of San Diego’s former Naval Training Center into a self-contained community that will include residences, offices, a retail center, an educational district, a large arts and cultural center, a number of hotels, and 125 acres of parks and open space. The project site is rigidly zoned to separate each of the uses into their own homogeneous districts.

The development is very favorably situated on a waterfront location just west of the airport and only a few miles from downtown San Diego. The project is notable for its renovation of dozens of historical buildings that will be adapted for stores, offices, art and dance studios, schools, and a myriad of other purposes.

The project materialized after the Navy announced in 1993 that it was closing its training center. The City established a 27 member commission to determine the future of the site, then created a detailed plan that served as the basis for an RFQ solicitation for a master developer. After reviewing proposals from five applicants, the City awarded the contract to the Corky McMillin Co. in 2000. McMillin started construction of the residential district in 2001, then turned its attention to the educational, office, and retail sections. The principal components:

Residential. McMillin created three separate neighborhoods for the 348 homes that utilize only 37 of Liberty Station’s 361 acres. Those neighborhoods include the 80 single-family residences at Admiralty Row, 128 row houses (Beacon Point) and 140 condominiums (Anchor Cove). The residential construction started in 2001 and was completed by 2005.

Liberty Station was not for those who were light of wallet, as single-family homes started at $719,000 and ran to $900,000. The homes sit in a rather compact area at the west end of the project and are flanked by the project’s Educational District and a large complex of Naval housing.

The single-family homes sold rather easily and most were occupied by the spring of 2004. These homes are set well back from extremely wide streets that were retained in the same dimensions as the original Naval station. Sidewalks are only 48” wide and there are no planter strips. Porches are not particularly inviting. Exteriors are traditional stucco. Considered as a whole, the absence of front-loaded garages is about the only feature that distinguishes this neighborhood from a conventional subdivision.

A total of 128 Beacon Point row homes range in size from the Point Loma (1938 to 2281 square feet) to the Point Montara (2674 to 3162 square feet). These detached homes are 21′ to 24′ in width and are separated from their neighbors by a three-foot space. There are no planter strips between the 66″ sidewalks and the wide street.

Each of the two-story homes has a two-car garage accessed from a rear alley. A number of the row houses front on the lineal green that runs through the center of Liberty Station.

The 140 condominiums of Anchor Cove are all three stories in height and include four styles: The Avalon (1086 square feet for $429,000), Glorietta (1105 square feet for $450,000), the Providence (1345 square feet for $536,000) and the much broader Annapolis (1593 square feet for $593,000).

All units have a two-car garage that is accessed from a rear alley. Typical condo format with the entry on the bottom floor, kitchen-living room-dining room and one bedroom on the second floor, and two additional bedrooms on the top floor. The more spacious Annapolis has a less conventional floor plan with one bedroom on each of its three levels.

Adjacent to Liberty Station (on the south side) are the 500 homes of The Village at NTC, a 500-unit townhome community that serves military families stationed in San Diego. This was a joint development that involved the Department of the Navy, Clark Realty, Lincoln Property Company and architect Torti Gallas. It received national recognition in 2003 when it received an EPA Smart Growth Award.

The townhomes at the Village are set close to the sidewalks which, unlike the homes at Liberty Station, have planter strips separating the walkways from the street. All townhomes at the village are served by alley-accessed garages. The project includes a proposal for a seven-acre elementary school and community center, and families are already within walking distance of a Navy exchange which would pass for a corner market.

Retail. A total of 57 acres have been designated for retail and service uses. They are split into two distinct areas–the smaller ‘Marketplace’ located near the center of the development, and ‘Seller’s Plaza’ which is located at the north end of the station. The retail establishments will be housed in 27 buildings that have been retained from the original Naval Station. Many of the Marketplace buildings were nearing completion in late 2006.

Liberty Station developers have had surprising success in recruiting some highly valued tenants. Most developers would be a grateful to land a single grocer, but McMillin has managed to capture both a Von’s Supermarket and a Trader Joe’s for the Marketplace. In addition, the Seller’s Plaza was able to lease space for an Ace Hardware Store.

Other early tenants include an ice cream shop, pizza parlor, bread store, wine shop, private postal center and a credit union. And, of course, a Starbucks. A number of restaurant operators were also considering locations at the station.

Many commercial ventures have rejected space at Liberty Station because they were unwilling to house their operations in existing buildings. Others were nervous about the availability of parking.

Educational District. Twenty acres at Liberty Station are designated for educational uses. Most will be housed in existing buildings, but others will involve new construction. Early tenants include the High Tech High School, Explorer Elementary, and a new campus and training center for the Rock Church. The High Tech and Explorer schools are both privately chartered institutions that have attracted more than 2000 students. The educational buildings are located in an area located between the residences and the Marketplace.

Office District. A total of 22 acres have been set aside for offices, including one for the headquarters of the McMillin Company. The office area has seven buildings that will offer 368,000 square feet of Class A space.

More than a dozen companies leased space after the first buildings were renovated, but interest slowed thereafter. McMillin is hopeful that completion and occupancy of the retail stores in the adjacent Marketplace will spur interest in the office buildings.

Among the early tenants were several CPAs, a law office, and corporate offices for the Cubic Corporation, Novonics, TriWest, Telisimo, Gnostech and the Lifewellness Institute.

NTC Promenade (Art and Cultural Center). Twenty-six historic buildings on 28 acres were donated by McMillin to a newly created non-profit corporation this is establishing an arts and culture center. The buildings will become venues for artists, musicians, dancers, exploratory programs, science, technology, and various multi-cultural pursuits. Buildings will be used for practice and performance studios, museums, environmental organization offices, and a culinary arts institute. A renovated Luce Auditorium will be available for larger music and drama performances.

Parks and Open Space. Fully one-third of the space (125 acres) at Liberty Station has been set aside for parks and open space. This includes Sail-Ho, a nine-hole golf course near the northern gate.

The most significant space (46 acres) is positioned along the waterfront of San Diego Bay. This area will eventually include 18 acres of ball fields and basketball courts, an athletic club, and other facilities consistent with the bay access.

Other major amenities are a lineal park that runs through the center of the residential area and extends north as either a green or plaza through the office district and the Promenade.

US Communities with Highest Property Taxes

Posted by Doug on February 03, 2014
Real Estate / No Comments

Home owners can’t seem to catch a break in the U.S. Property taxes are crippling home owners’ finances and budgets across the country and are having an effect on commercial property investment. Some communities have definitely been hit hard than others, though. The majority of U.S. counties require a property tax bill between $500-$1500 annually.  Sadly, that amount is nothing compared to the tax bill required in some U.S. counties. Read on for a look at some of the communities with the highest property taxes in the country.

New York at nightNew York

New York has one of the highest property taxes in the United States. Nassau County, New York has an average property tax bill of $9,088. This staggering total is well above the national average, and can be crippling to families who are working with a budget. While New York boasts some beautiful properties, the property tax bill alone may have you rethinking your decision to move to the Empire State.

New Jersey

New Jersey is another state that has astronomically high property tax bills. New Jersey residents pay an average 1.89% of their total home value. This is very high in comparison with some of the lowest property tax bills in the state including Louisiana at .18 percent, Hawaii at .26 percent and Alabama at .33%. While the Garden State has many wonderful features, an affordable property tax is not one of them.

New Hampshire

Another east coast state that has a high property tax bill is New Hampshire. On average, the property tax bill in this state is 1.86 percent of the total property value. This is a hefty tax bill, especially for anyone who lives paycheck to paycheck and it is easy to imagine that individuals in this state apply part of their income tax return to their property tax bill.


Texas has a most unsavory average property tax bill with a rate of 1.81 percent. While property values tend to be a bit less expensive than the average norm in Texas, 1.81 percent is still a high price to pay for the American Dream every year. For example if you own a home in San Antonio, Texas with a property value of $315,000, you can expect to pay a property tax bill of $5,701.50.


Wisconsin is another state that has a less than favorable average property tax bill. Home owners in Wisconsin pay an average 1.76 percent property tax bill. If you’re planning to move to this state, you will want to factor in the property tax bill before making your big move.

guest post by Bert Welles, a financial and tax blogger.  Welles has written guides to real estate investment, mutual funds, and small business taxes as well as numerous blog posts about money.

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Best Cities for Commercial Real Estate Investing

Posted by Doug on December 29, 2013
Commercial Real Estate / No Comments

Commercial real estate is a huge market that generates billions of dollars worldwide.  The global research team Cushman and Wakefield present an annual report that examines commercial real estate; in which they write where the most investing happened in the past year and where the investing is likely to occur in the following year.  According to the report, in 2013 the top ten biggest cities for commercial real estate investing were as follows: New York City, London, Los Angeles, Tokyo, San Francisco, Washington DC, Hong Kong, Paris, Houston and Chicago.  The report continues to rank 15 more cities worldwide.  Although unlisted, within the report the research team examines the top 100 cities to look at trends of commercial real estate investing.  These top 100 cities account for 86% of the property investment activity worldwide.

San FranciscoMost of the commercial real estate in confined to certain areas of the world.  Of the top 25 cities, 15 are in North America, 4 are in Europe and 6 are in Asia; there are no leading cities for 2013 in South America, Africa or Australia.  Not all of the top 25 cities received equal attention in every investing market.  Although all kinds of commercial investing occur in all cities, the following cities are leaders in certain investing markets:  New York leads in the multifamily and hospitality market, London in the office market, Los Angeles in the industrial market and Hong Kong in the retail market.

There are many factors that drive people to invest in commercial real estate.  When investing, the investor looks at the quality of human capital; being the education, health and living standards of the city in which they are investing.  The social structure in the city- a good social structure creates a higher quality, more satisfied work force.  The political structure of the country in which they are investing is also examined.  They examine the cost base and if it allows for an efficient, flexible office environment.  Lastly, they look at technology and the use and accessibility of technology within the city.

According to Cushman and Wakefield, 2014 should also be a good year for commercial real estate investing.  They predict that property demand will continue to increase in the big cities including New York and London.  They believe that Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai will start to experience more commercial investing.  The predicted up and coming cities for next year will be: Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, Taipei, Auckland and Melbourne.

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Top Real Estate Mutual Funds

Posted by Doug on November 22, 2013
Financial / No Comments

With the Dow Jones topping 16,000, more investors are looking to the stock market for new opportunities.  Some are realizing that the economic recovery has begun to revitalize the real estate market as well as other parts of the economy.  This is making real estate mutual funds attractive to savvy investors for the first time since the mortgage crash in 2007-2008.

NYSEExperts note that real estate is usually a good investment, in terms of mutual funds, because property prices are actually less volatile than general stock prices.  This makes them a relatively stable investment and a number of analysts recommend that real estate funds be a part of any healthy, diversified portfolio.

Here are three of the top-rated real estate mutual funds:

VALIC Company I Global Real Estate is managed by Joe Rodriguez, Jr. It posted an 11.79% return over the last year.  The fund is comprised almost entirely of companies involved in real estate activities.  The fund has a 75% cap on the amount of assets that are invested in foreign rather than domestic securities.

ING International Real Estate A has been managed by Steven Burton since 2006.  Over the last year, the fund had a 14.07% return. As with VALIC, ING’s fund focuses on real estate companies and companies engaged in real estate or real-estate related activities.  The cap on this fund for foreign investment is 65%.

Forward Real Estate Long/Short A is a non-diversified fund that reported a 7.32% return for the last year.  This fund focuses on long-term capital growth and includes investments in both real estate companies and REITs.  The fund invests globally, including both frontier market and emerging nations.

A list of over 100 real estate funds can be found here.

As with any opportunity, investors should consult a qualified financial adviser and conduct due diligence before buying into any mutual fund or stock investment.

Nick Stuart is a financial blogger and analyst.  He has been following the stock market for nearly thirty years.  He enjoys explaining investment products, money mutual funds, and stock market trends to audiences all over the web.

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Learning About Investments Online

Posted by Doug on October 17, 2013
Education / No Comments

The digital age is revolutionizing education — and not just because there are online universities for those seeking a degree. All sorts of knowledge is now being shared through streaming and downloaded video.

Many people are finding the lessons available at to be useful not just for helping their children with homework, but for refreshing or expanding their own knowledge base. Adults who want to know the difference between stocks and bonds can view this video – or watch dozens of other stock-related videos on the site:

Bonds vs. Stocks: The difference between a bond and a stock.

Potential investors who want a more professional level understanding about financial markets, the economy, and other investment topics can watch long form lectures online from a variety of universities and professional organizations.  An example appears below for those who have an hour to learn about investment analysis from an established professor:

Those are just two quick examples of what is now out there. With a little bit of research, any novice investor or someone hoping for a career as a financial analyst/investment counselor can begin to acquire the knowledge they need.


Ross Morales blogs about finance and the economy for investment sites like tndwest as well as for educational sites similar to

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Tribal Lenders under Attack in New York

Posted by Doug on August 26, 2013
Financial / No Comments

Short-term personal loans, sometimes referred to as payday loans, are being called into question all around the country.  Recent actions in New York, however, have taken the fight against these loans a step to far. By attempting to halt all online loans to residents in the state, authorities have attacked the sovereignty of tribal lenders who offer loans in New York.

The doctrine of tribal sovereignty in the US goes back several hundred years.  Congressionally-recognized tribes are protected from interference by state and local authorities.  This sovereignty has been challenged many times in the past and has been upheld repeatedly by the Supreme Court as well as lower courts and federal laws.

On August 6th an official order from the New York Superintendent of Financial Services demanded that online lenders stop making loans in their state and pressured banks to stop helping those lenders process loans and payments.  Some of the largest banks in the country were included in the order, such as US Bancorp, Bank of America, Capital One, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and Citigroup.

Native American lenders and advocates labeled Lawsky’s actions an attack on tribal sovereignty and an attempt to bully banks into cutting off the legal lending practices of tribal nations. By pressuring banks to do the dirty work, New York is circumventing tribal rights and attempting to regulate businesses over which they have no authority.

By including at least four tribal lenders in his order, Lawsky has launched an attack on tribal sovereignty and is threatening the financial stability of those tribes.  The Native American Financial Services Association responded to Lawsky with a letter demanding he “cease and desist” his unwarranted attacks on tribal lenders, tribal sovereignty, and the legitimate attempt of said tribes to develop economic self-sufficiency.

Should Lawksy hold his ground, NAFSA will pursue legal remedies, similar to those that recently cost Colorado taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees.  That case upheld the notion that tribes are immune from enforcements and lawsuits at the state level and that their immunity extends to non-tribal companies that assist and support their business endeavors.

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Best Cities for Property Investment

Posted by Doug on July 16, 2013
Real Estate / 1 Comment

The economy is rebounding and the real estate market is beginning to recover, but home prices are still low enough to make it easy for those with good credit to be able to buy. In addition, many families who lost their homes to foreclosure are looking for houses in good neighborhoods with affordable rents. It is the perfect formula for purchasing an investment property or two and renting it out for a profit.

Before jumping into the landlord business, investors need to consider the first rule of real estate: Location, Location, Location.  While there are opportunities in most markets to snap up foreclosed or devalued single-family homes that can be rented out for a tidy profit, some areas are riper for the picking than others. The goal is to find a market, or neighborhood, that has a low enough purchase price and a high enough rental interest so that the rent charged more than covers the mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, and maintenance of the property.

According to RealtyTrac, corporate investors such as banks and real estate firms are buying up thousands of these homes across the country. However, there are still some markets that are open to individual investors and provide “the best chance to buy rental homes that generate good cash flow.”

Florida appears to be one of the best places to invest in rental properties for single families.  No less than eight cities or metropolitan areas make the list of top 20 markets for investment properties.  In addition to large cities like Tampa and Orlando, investors should investigate opportunities in towns like Ocala, Deltona, Palm Bay, Jacksonville, Lakeland, and Port St. Lucie.

Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio are good bets in the Midwest.  Each of these states had two cities make the top 20.  Both Saginaw and Detroit offer prime Michigan opportunities while Missouri investors should look at Springfield and Kansas City. In Ohio the top cities are Toledo and Dayton.

Other cities in the top 20 represent the Southern and the Western United States.  Memphis (TN), Austin (TX) and Atlanta (GA) are rife with profitable rental opportunities as are Las Vegas (NV), Phoenix (AZ), and Ogden (UT).

Where are the Best Lawyers?

Posted by Doug on July 12, 2013
Legal / 1 Comment

This country likes to rate things — to know who is the best, the biggest, the first in all things. People want the assurance that the professionals they are hiring are the best in the business. They want the best doctors to take care of their health and they want the best lawyers from to look after their legal affairs. They just need to know where to find those top lawyers.

It is possible to search through hundreds of law offices and interview dozens of attorneys in order to find the best ones, but that can be more time consuming than is warranted by a specific case or legal need. It’s better to start by seeking the recommendations of people who have had similar problems. Referrals have two benefits. The first is that the lawyer in question will have proven their ability to get results. The second is that the lawyer will have demonstrated expertise in the specific field of law.

There really isn’t one top law firm Tucson for example. There are top lawyers in each of the various types of law that are practiced. One firm may have the best criminal defense attorneys in the city while the best trademark lawyers are located on the other side of town. There will be experts in civil litigation, contracts, family law, and even special subjects like civil rights and constitutional law. Rather than looking for the best lawyer of them all, it’s much better to find the best lawyer for the specifics of the case.