Profile In-Depth report and Comparison Reports now at $0.95
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Our reports are allowing more Americans to be fore-armed with precise information to brief Realtors when starting their search for their Dream Locale.
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gives them hard to get information in an easy to understand way to screen out all the areas that they would not enjoy living in and pointing them straight to where they would be happy.
Relocation - Do You Know The 5 Things That Will Make You a Savvy Mover?
Relocation is stressful. Make it easier on yourself by using the power of the Internet to your advantage. Inform yourself for one of the biggest decisions you'll make. Here are five things that can you help you decide where to live.1. Cost/square foot.
Median home price is commonly reported, but home sizes can vary greatly among neighboring communities. Unit cost is the best way to maximize the value of your housing dollar. Whether you're looking at residences in multiple areas or want to determine if a specific residence is a good deal, unit cost is the way to do it.
For example, you are looking at two homes. One is a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom home with an asking price of $279,000. The other is a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom home with an asking price of $264,000. Sounds more affordable, right? Should you really spend another $15,000 for the extra bedroom?
Well, the first house is 2,400 sq. ft. and the second is 2,000 sq. ft. That makes the second house 14% more expensive on a unit cost basis.
Your home is generally your biggest investment. Make sure you maximize that investment.2. Age range of residential real estate.
Different styles of homes were prevalent in different periods. Prior to 1940, the Victorian, Farm House, and Bungalow styles were dominant. After the war, the Ranch, Split-level, and Cape Cod came into vogue. In the 70's, the Colonial and Modern styles became popular. Which do you prefer, or prefer to avoid? Look for locales where the most of the housing was built during the time your favored style was dominant. You'll be more likely to find homes you really like.
Residential real estate age distribution can often tell you something else about a locale. Different community planning and development customs were prevalent at different times. Look at when most of the housing was built and you'll see when the community was actively being developed. Before 1940 dependence on the car was not firmly established and you're more likely to find the quaint town center and homes within walking distance of small business districts.
From 1945 through 1970, we were spreading out, so communities developed then are more likely to require a car to get most places. However, developers were still laying out streets in grid patterns, or something close to that. Thus, traffic congestion is less of a problem in these locales.
Since 1970, the cul-de-sac and large building lots have reigned supreme. The increased lot size caused communities to spread out, making a car absolutely necessary for anything. The cul-de-sacs feed traffic onto a limited number of main roads, creating traffic congestion.3. Median Property Tax Rate.
Don't just compare tax bills. Look at the tax rate. In many states, it can vary greatly in a small distance if you happen to cross a county or town line. Equalization formulas and mill rates can get complicated. Make it easy on yourself. Just divide the annual tax bill into the asking price to get an idea of the effective tax rate. Compare it across all properties you may be considering purchasing. If the rate seems really high or low for a particular property, ask your real estate agent to help you find out why.
Keep in mind, if you move into an area with lower taxes but a higher tax rate, you may find yourself struggling to make the tax payment if there is an unexpected surge in property values. In today's real estate market, anything is possible, so beware.4. Expenditure per student has nothing to do with quality of education.
School expenditures are largely driven by teacher salaries, so they are higher where it costs more to live. Student performance is most affected by parental involvement in the school system and their children's educational experience. Get local district info and contact them to get a sense of how involved parents are in the local schools, and what options you have to be involved in your child's education.5. Use the web
To get the facts on locales across the U.S. After all, the Internet is an information channel. Use it to inform yourself about what is one of the biggest decisions you'll make. There are lots of sites with helpful information and relocation advice (including the one my company operates). Get the facts and you'll have a quicker, easier relocation process. Get an idea of which locales are right for you before you start working with a real estate agent. It will save you time overall, and make it easier for them to help you find your dream locale.
Find The Best Place To Live - A Story of Relocation In The Information Age
When we move, we generally focus on the residence, the neighborhood, taxes, schools, and the like. There are occasions, though, when we want something specific in a location. One of our visitors asked for help finding a locale with very specific and unique attributes.
She and her husband live in southern California and wanted to move somewhere less expensive, near woodlands, not too hot, not too cold, and not too much snow. Seems like looking for a needle in the haystack, right? Not necessarily--thanks to all of the data available on the web.
We broke the request into three components: cost of living, climate, and forest cover.
Determining the cost of living for all locales across the state could be very complicated, so we made some simplifying assumptions. First, housing, food, and energy costs account for most of the average household budget. Second, food and energy costs tend to be consistent across regions. That left us with housing costs.
We then broke down housing costs into its major components: mortgage/rent and property taxes. The US Census collects housing value and property tax data as part of their decennial survey, so we decided to use that data to calculate a housing cost index by county. The results were interesting. While California as whole is one of the most expensive states, we found a lot of variance in housing cost by county within the state.
Based on our calculations, Modoc, Kern, and Kings Counties were the least expensive. Marin, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz Counties had the highest housing costs. In general, northern counties not on the coast were looking most affordable.
So far, so good...at least we could recommend less expensive areas. Now, how to find areas with moderate temperatures?
NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration--the branch of government that includes the National Weather Service) provides maps of "Heating Degree Days" and "Cooling Degree Days". Exactly, what are "Heating Degree Days" and "Cooling Degree Days"?
One heating degree day occurs for each degree the daily mean temperature is below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. So if the average temperature is 63 on a particular day, that's two Heating Degree Days (2 degrees multiplied by 1 day). It indicates fuel consumption to heat your residence.
One cooling degree day occurs for each degree the daily mean temperature is above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. So if the average temperature is 67 on a particular day, that's two Cooling Degree Days (2 degrees multiplied by 1 day). It indicates electricity consumption to cool your residence.
So all we had to do was compare those two maps with our housing cost map to find areas that weren't too hot, weren't too cold, and weren't too expensive. Heating degree days are at moderate levels in the central valley and along the central coast. Cooling degree days are at moderate levels in the northern half of the state. Putting it all together, we were now focused on a few counties: Shasta, Tehama, Glenn, and Colusa.
Step two complete.
Next, we turned to the US Geological Survey for a forest cover map of California. Each of those counties had areas of forest cover, specifically pine, fir, spruce, and hardwood. Comparing the forestry map with the other three maps allowed us to identify areas within each county that would meet their needs. The western sections of Colusa and Glenn counties; the east and west ends of Tehama county; and everywhere except the south-central area of Shasta county.
Problem solved. Knowing what areas would meet their general needs, they could now focus on finding the best place to live in any one of those areas.
Find the Best Place - Relocation - A New and Better Way to Move
Would you buy a car because your friend liked it? Would you ask a car salesman which vehicle is best for you? The answer to both questions is probably not.
How many people would move to a locale because their friends liked it? Lots. How many people would ask a real estate agent which locale is best for them? Plenty.
Why is that? It's because people are only now becoming aware of the resources available to help them find the best place to live. In the past, we didn't have any alternative to seeking the advice of people we know or had met and then guessing about whether a locale was really right for us.
Imagine: you're moving to a new area. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of locales around the area. During your relocation, you ask friends and colleagues who live in that area where you should look for a new home. You might get suggestions like: "look here, it has good schools", or "I live in X and I really like it", or "try Y, there are a lot of transplants there".
Not being satisfied, you get in touch with a real estate agent or relocation service and ask them to help you find the best place to live. They start asking you a lot of questions about what you like or don't like in a locale. Then you go out and drive around. You're still not sure. It's not that you're indecisive; it's that you don't have the right information to make the decision.
What's more, the real estate agent may steer you to locales they know well and where they have a lot of experience. It's not because they are unethical; we all tend to gravitate to that with which we are most familiar. But is that the best thing for you? No.
Choosing a locale and buying a home is one of the biggest decisions in your life. That's a lot of pressure. Add to it the stress and uncertainty of moving and you are really in a difficult spot.
But there is an easy way out. Do your homework first before contacting a real estate agent or relocation service. Get unbiased advice--use the Internet for research, the same way you would if you were buying a car.
There are many web sites that offer "relocation advice". Be careful which ones you use. Some are affiliated with relocation services and serve to generate sales leads on potential clients. Many are affiliated with real estate companies. Did you know that real estate salespeople are limited by the US Fair Housing Act in what they can tell you about a locale? It's not that you aren't allowed to know (the information is available through the Census bureau), it's just that they cannot be the ones to tell you.
So look for independent, unbiased, unaffiliated, unrestricted advice to inform your decision. How can you tell? To be sure, review the legal disclosures on the web site to determine if it's affiliated with a real estate or relocation company.
Reorder your search process. Start by determining which locations are best for you. There are several web sites that provide independent recommendations. They range from asking a few simple questions to having you completely lengthy questionnaires. Pick one that makes it easy for you to get what you need without overwhelming you.
Once you've done that, or if you already have a few places in mind, get reports on those areas so you can compare and contrast each locale. Look at housing, school, and demographic data to validate which locales are most appealing.
Now you are ready to contact a real estate agent or relocation specialist. Use the information you have to interview them. Make sure they know the locales you're interested in and have experience there. If they don't, find someone who does. This is a very important decision. Make sure any professionals with whom you're working are properly qualified to help you.
Once you've settled on a locale, get in depth information on the place. In addition to being a home, your residence is a huge investment. Would you invest $250,000 in the stock market without knowing a lot about the companies in which you were investing? No. Then, do the same with the investment in your home. Review real estate, school, demographic, and cultural facts for the locale to make a fully informed decision.
Does that make it a sure thing that you will make the best decision? No, but it does maximize the possibility of being happy with your decision. Knowledge is power. Use the web to put yourself in the power position when you move.
Find the Best Places - Do You Know the 7 Most Important Things to Compare in Locales?
If you haven't settled on one location and are still narrowing down your search, use the Internet or your real estate agent to get overview information on key elements of each locale you are considering:
- Residential real estate
- Schools & Test Scores
- The people who live in the area
The most important components in assessing real estate are:
- Properties available in your price range
- Is the type of residence you want available in a prospective area
- The factors that could impact future real estate values in the area1. Know Your Unit Cost
Using Realtor.com or any site featuring real estate listings, you can easily identify whether a locale has appealing properties in your price range. But, you should go beyond that to look at Cost per Square Foot (i.e., unit cost). This is determined by dividing the square footage of living space into the price of the property. For example, 1,900 sq. ft. of space offered for $225,000 costs $118 per square foot.
You can use the unit cost two ways:
A. To get an idea of how much living are you can afford in a locale for your target purchase price
B. To compare different properties to see which is the best deal
Here are examples:
If your target purchase price is $175,000 and the average cost/sq. ft. is $125, then it's likely that you will be seeing residences of about 1,400 sq. ft. in your price range. Is that enough space for you?
You are considering two different properties. One is 1,800 sq. ft., offered at $209,000. The second place is 2,000 sq. ft., offered at $249,000. Assuming both are in your price range, it's always best to stretch your budget and buy the most you can afford, right? Not necessarily. The unit cost of the second place is 7% higher. So the property will have to appreciate in value that much more for you to get the same return when you sell.2. Determine the Residential Price Distribution
The Residential Price Distribution allows you to assess the potential for price appreciation--or price depreciation. For example, if your target purchase price near the top of the range of values for a locale, you have more downside risk. Maybe that's OK, maybe not. But make an informed decision about the issue.3. Find the Age Ranges for Residential Properties
This is the distribution of residential real estate by year built. It will allow you to assess whether the residences in the area will offer the characteristics you want. In many cases, residences and neighborhoods reflect the architectural and community planning styles prevalent at the time the area was developed.
For example, if most of the residences were built before 1940, the locale is likely to have a central business district with shops and restaurants. If most of the residences were built after 1960, the locale is likely to have businesses in strip malls. One may appeal more to you than the other.
In addition, homes sizes have consistently grown over the years, so if space is your primary concern, look for locales with newer homes.4. Property Tax Rate
Actual property tax calculations are usually complicated. Ignore that. Just divide the last annual tax paid into the asking price of the residence. Do this for properties in each locale and compare the differences.
The property tax "rate" is important, not just the total tax bill. Here's why: in a locale with lower total taxes but a higher tax rate, guess what will happen if property values rise significantly? Your property taxes might become unaffordable--forcing you to sell.5. Schools & Test Scores
Here is the one place you should not rely on statistics. For example, Expenditure per Student is driven primarily by teacher salaries, which are related to the cost of living, not to the quality of education. The Student to Teacher ratio may be lower in a district that has less aides/school. Thus your child may get less attention than in a district that reports a higher student to teacher ratio but also has more aides.
What matters most is how involved parents are in the education system. Contact the district to determine the level of parental involvement and what opportunities you have to make a difference in your child's education.6. Median Income
Knowing the median annual income for residents of the locale is very important. Here's why: it is the only data that correlates to rising real estate values. That's right! Nothing else relates to rising real estate values.
I have reviewed data for 25,000 locales across the U.S., looking at what might correlate to (and potentially predict) rising home values. Nothing does--except median income.
Some examples of data that you would think relates to rising home values, but does not:
- Owner occupied v. Renter occupied residences
- Single family residences v. Multi-unit dwellings
- Vacancy rate
- Age distribution of residential properties
- Any demographic variables (other than median income)
So, visit the Census web site to get 1990 and 2000 or current year median household income. If income is rising, it's a safe bet housing values are too or will in the future.7. Age Distribution of People in the Locale
If you have kids, make sure they will have friends their own age. Make sure you'll have friends your own age, too!
So that's it. Make an informed decision about where to live and be happy with your choice.
Best City - Right for the Company, Right for You? Relocation Advice from the Company Perspective
So the company has outgrown its current location or has other plans for its office--and you are faced with a move. Knowing the company's perspective on the relocation can help you manage the change more effectively.
Having made the decision to relocate, management must communicate the news to everyone. The general rule is to tell employees as much as you can as quickly as you can to limit the rumor mill. Often, people will assume the worst in the absence of information, that they haven't heard anything because the news is bad.
If details are missing from the story, it's often because there are unplanned factors to consider or other things delaying the communication. However, once everyone has been notified, if you will be moving with the company, it will be helpful to take the following perspectives into consideration.
The company will most likely focus on these things:1. Fast relocation
All the time that there is uncertainty--be that with employees, suppliers or other stakeholders--can be unhelpful and de-motivating. The faster the relocation the better, as it puts the shortest possible fixed dates around the most stressful period before things will improve. If you have a question, ask it--it's possible the company didn't anticipate it and the answer will be helpful to others as well.2. Ensure employee satisfaction with the new area
Having employees find the best place to live in a new area can be a big challenge since they won't know the area, won't know what the price of houses similar to their own is, what the schools are like, what the area is like in comparison to their present area. Fortunately, there are many web sites where you can easily get useful information on the new area. These range from US government sites, like the Census bureau, to relocation sites that help you find the best place to live.3. Employees focusing on their new job and not problems to distract them at home
The Human Resources department knows that the business's key competitive asset is their employees. If they have problems at home, they won't be productive at work until their home life is settled. If you are experiencing challenges, ask HR for advice or assistance.4. Limit disruption to the business as much as possible
If employees still have to deal with moving their family, making sure that the children are in a good school, making sure that the family is happy in their new home and neighborhood--they are likely to be distracted. So the faster everyone is in place, motivated and happy in the new area, the faster the disruption to the business will be over.
Much of the ground work can be carried out before the move by researching the new area using specialized web sites, such as MyDreamLocale.com, that provide useful information rather than just regurgitated statistics and offer useful insight into the communities in the new area.5. Limit cost to the business
a. The cost of losing experienced staff, including productivity of new people v. those who chose not to move
b. Recruitment, hiring and training new employees
c. Employee relocation costs (Real estate commissions, Mortgage fees, Title insurance, Other closing costs, and Travel expenses during relocation)
Ask your employer what is included in the relocation package. Some companies provide a lump-sum amount which you can allocate as needed. Some companies specify which expenses they will reimburse and what limits they may impose on the reimbursement.6. Ramping up productivity in the new location as quickly as possible
In any relocation, the move will mean that some employees come with the company, some will not. New employees will take time to get up to the job performance that was achieved at the prior location. The company will want to achieve this transition quickly. Offer to assist new employees with improving their productivity--it will make you look good, and the faster everyone is up to speed, the less pressure there will be on you to take up the slack.
The positive aspect of new employees joining the company is that they will accept the job and the company how it is today. This may be an opportunity for the company to introduce different ideas and practices. For example, the company may be willing to allow staff flexible working hours or the ability to carry some work out from home.
Happy, well motivated employees, who have made the move to the new area easily, found the right house in the right area for them with good schools for the children will all present the company with enthusiastic and rejuvenated workers who will re-pay the company for the costs of relocation and moving to the new area.
Knowing the company's perspective can help you successfully negotiate the challenges of a job-related relocation.
Best Location - Investing in Rental Property? Maximize Your Income with These 5 Tips
If you are thinking about investing in property which you can rent out there are a number of things that you can do to make sure the property that you buy is a good investment and secondly that the property is always rented out.
The way to maximize your income is to make sure that you observe this formula:
Maximum income = (Highest rent + lowest default + lowest maintenance) x 12 months
How do you get all these things?- well its not easy otherwise everyone would be doing it, however here are 5 top tips that should put you in the best place to achieve your investment objectives.1. Look for Economic Redevelopment Zones
Watch the national and local news for areas that have been really run down but something big has happened. It could be the announcement of a new Super Casino, new high speed rail link into a big city, the creation of a large inward investment -- think of what happened to property investments in Atlanta,GA when that city hosted the 1996 Olympics.
The development of a town as a commuter hub, the re-development of inner city areas into fashionable places to live are all great places to invest. Once the development starts happening, the Starbucks, Borders, banks and bistros all follow. For today's urban professional these are places that they will want to live- delivering good demand forcing rents higher and reducing the rest of rental vacancy periods.2. College Towns
Places that are college or university towns are always high on any investors check list. Not only do they guarantee a regular influx of prospective tenants, the youth and energy of students rubs off on the rest of the town- they are happening places with loads of things to do, fun places to eat and good sports facilities.
University "towns" such as Columbus, OH (Ohio State), Tempe, AZ (Arizona State), or Austin, TX (University of Texas) represent solid places to invest as there will always be fresh potential tenants.
The one potential downside is that sometimes students may have difficulty in the transition from having good ole' Mom taking care of everything to taking care of that cleaning and cooking gig-- so check out your students to avoid high maintenance costs!3. Commuter Towns
These towns may not be the prettiest but their very location means that they are always going to sought out by those workers who need to be within commuting distance of the work but either don't want to or can't afford to live nearer to their work. Places located near to Interstate intersections, great rail stations, local commuter airports, even ferry stations (think Staten Island!) are always going to be chosen by people who need to commute. The presence of the infrastructure allows them to commute further, quicker and more efficiently.
An additional investment benefit here is that as the prices of property nearer to the workplace rise, the value of your property will rise as workers look farther away to get the right accommodation for the money that they are prepared to pay.4. The State Capital or a Regional Hub
The demand for property in a capital hub city is generally higher that the amount of property available for purchase or rent so although the costs of purchasing such a property may be high, you will be rewarded by high levels of demand, consistent levels of demand and good capital growth.
Look at neighborhoods within the city that have traditionally been seen as the poorer parts as renters will consider these areas which offer better value for money.5. Your Own Stomping Ground
It's always worth considering places closer to home. Buying a place next door or just down the street from where you live may seem a strange idea but think about it- you know the place, the neighborhood, the facilities and the sort of people who would be your target market.
Having a place that you can literally keep an eye on and act as your own management agency will reduce your operating costs. Even if you decide to employ a management company to manage the property, a local property allows you to keep a watch on how they are taking care of your investment. Having a local property can be less stressful and time-consuming.
Keep these five principles in mind while doing thorough research before buying. Reviewing historical property price, number of residents and location can help you maximize the gain that you will have from reaping the rewards of your investment.