Finding the Safest Investments in an Uncertain Market

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

Understatement: People nearing retirement have had good reason to be concerned in the last few weeks.

Our friend who likes to check on his stocks everyday has suddenly developed other interests. And who wouldn’t blame him. It’s no fund getting whipsawed – down in the depths one day, brought back to euphoria the next – only to have all hope snuffed out the following morning. Better to take up macrame.

Which leads so many folks to wondering what is a safe investment these days. Precious metals were red hot last week – for a while. Ditto for commodities. Stocks – only the bravest went there. Even staid money market funds, last refuge for the faint of heart, took big hits with net outflows of $173 billion for the week. The Primary Fund “broke the buck” – going below a net asset value of $1. Fortunately the Treasury Department announced a new insurance program like the FDIC for money market funds, helping bring stability back to that market. (more…)

Posted by Admin on September 24th, 2008

Energy Conservation Measures – the New Mudrooms

Category: Green Retirement Communities

A study from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) shows that the energy crisis is producing big shifts in what consumers are looking for in new homes. In as short a period of 2007 to 2008, buyer interest in common features like mudrooms, home offices, game rooms, and home workshops have plummeted. Instead, consumers are looking for a plethora of energy-saving related features that were only glimmers on the horizon in 2007. Builders and architects are paying attention, because the market is so soft for their services.

Leading the pack in new desirable home features are tank-less water heaters, overall energy efficiency, “green” flooring, water saving technology, and recycled building materials. Our conclusion: the green movement is coming – and high energy prices will do more than anything to speed up its arrival. If you are looking to buy in a new active adult or 55+ community – put these features on your list.

And by the way, you might be curious about tankless water heaters. Understandably enough, they don’t have a tank, but instead heat the water in the pipe on its way to your faucet. By eliminating the tank you save a lot of energy that is wasted while you are away for the weekend and overnight. Oil and gas fired hot water heaters are typically more powerful than electric.

The AIA Home Design Trend Survey is conducted quarterly with a panel of 500 architecture firms.

Posted by Admin on September 17th, 2008

The Mystery of Marital Marketing in Retirement

Category: General Retirement Issues

Thought our Topretirements visitors might be interested in a blog post published today on Murderati – an very popular murder mystery blog. The angle is that my wife, Roberta Isleib, just published her 8th mystery last week. So she is not only on the tour promoting it, but she dragged me and Topretirements in on the fun. Here is an excerpt (full story at Murderati)

John: Tip #1 — Find a way to be interactive with your audience. My team at BLR came up with the idea of an interactive quiz for Human Resource professionals, the HR Challenge, which tested their knowledge about different HR questions. We all knew it would be a good idea, but were blown away when the website got so much traffic it overwhelmed the server. We ended up having to shut it down for 6 months and rebuild the site so it could handle the traffic. Think about questions or contests that get people involved in your story. (more…)

Posted by Admin on September 15th, 2008

Same House – Way Different Prices

Category: Retirement Real Estate

It is one of our favorite recommendations – if you want to get a good deal in retirement real estate, stay away from the coasts. The 2008 Coldwell Banker Home Price Comparison Index provides a pretty good illustration of the theory. The real estate brokerage firm makes an annual comparison of similar homes in 315 U.S. markets. It wasn’t a big surprise that La Jolla, CA – where the sample home cost over $1.8 million – was at the top of the list. Want to buy the same house cheaper – move to Sioux City, Iowa, where you can buy it for $133k.

Elsewhere in California it is easy to spend money too – the test house in Santa Monica and Santa Barbara would cost you $1.65MM and $1.6MM respectively. The second most expensive city in the country is Greenwich CT ($1,787,000). The test house in the HPCI Index has 2,200-sf, four-bedrooms, and 2 1/2 baths.

Elsewhere in real estate, this week’s news was unrelentingly bad. In almost every market, prices are off and sales are down. Prices in Las Vegas are off 30% from August 2007. The only ray of good news we have seen is lucky Aspen Colorado, where prices just keep going up.

Posted by Admin on September 10th, 2008

Your Next Real Estate Tour – On a Bike!

Category: Baby Boomer Retirement Issues

Looking over the handlebars at 6 lanes of busy traffic that bars the way to your daily destination, you might wish you had done your bike-friendly research a little better. Fortunately that’s a lot easier in some parts of the country, because believe it or not, according to the Wall Street Journal the real estate tour by bicycle is here!

In Northampton Massachusetts these tours are so popular that one agent,Craig Della Penna of Murphys Realtors Inc., closes about half his sales that way. Strapping on his spandex in Ventor NJ is Cris Noreen of Farley and Ferry GMAC. He takes clients on 5-10 mile rides and shows them 5 or so houses. The technique is working well for him too.

The idea is perfect for bicyclists – either those who cycle for exercise or the thousand of folks who are moving to bikes to save gas. After all there is nothing worse than buying a home only to discover you are hemmed in by busy traffic, or face a 2 mile hill every time you want to head downtown. While on a bike tour you’ll be able to see firsthand if claims about bike paths are really true, and get a good gauge on traffic too.

One thing the new real estate tour transportation method is doing is changing the realtor dress code a bit. Picture your agent in spandex and helmet, perspiring gently in the heat. And even if you can’t find a real estate agent in your area who offers the service, you can still give yourself the tour. Happy biking!

Posted by Admin on September 3rd, 2008

Sellers Remorse Hits Miami Real Estate Market

Category: Retirement Real Estate

If this headline about seller’s remorse strikes you as a little bit of a non-sequitur, you wouldn’t be alone. With the turmoil in South Florida’s active adult and real estate market, you would think we should be talking about “buyer’s remorse”. That’s the affliction that comes when people who bought a few years ago are under water with their mortgage – they owe more than what their home is worth.

Rafael Diaz could tell you all about it. Two years ago this Miami builder listed a brand new home near the University of Miami for $979,000. Today’s listing price – $599,000. What’s worse is that he turned down an offer of $770,000 just a year ago. What he told the New York Times says a lot of sellers remorse, “I should have taken it. … I guess I was a little cocky….” (more…)

Posted by Admin on September 3rd, 2008