REMAX 440/Central Blog

Mid-Year Job Forecast Points to a Better Hiring Picture in Back Half of 2012

July 6, 2012 4:22 am

While the jobs recovery continues to lag that of previous recessions, the outlook for the back half of 2012 shows continued improvement over 2011, according to a survey from CareerBuilder. Forty-four percent of private sector employers reported they are planning to hire full-time, permanent staff from July 1 through December 31, 2012, an increase of nine percentage points over the same period last year. In last year's forecast, the number of companies planning to hire full-time, permanent employees (35 percent) increased seven percentage points over 2010. The nationwide survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive© from May 14, 2012 to June 4, 2012, included more than 2,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes.

"The rate of job creation has been slower than what we would have expected at this point in the recovery, but the market is stable," explains Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. "Two years ago, the hiring activity in the U.S. was driven primarily by large employers recruiting in metropolitan areas for a handful of industries or job functions. Today, we see job listings in all industries, market sizes and company sizes. The outlook for the remainder of the year is better than 2011, but it will follow the same pattern of steady progress rather than a surge in job growth. Employers will remain careful as they assess barriers and opportunities for growth in the economy and their own businesses."

Employers plan to add a mix of new employees over the next six months, with each category trending up from last year:
  • Hiring full-time, permanent employees – 44 percent, up from 35 percent in 2011
  • Hiring part-time employees – 21 percent, up from 15 percent in 2011
  • Hiring contract or temporary employees – 21 percent, up from 12 percent in 2011
The top functional areas for which businesses plan to hire first are those directly impacting revenue and innovation. Customer Service remains in the No. 1 spot for recruitment with Information Technology and Sales rounding out the top three.
  • Customer Service – 24 percent
  • Information Technology – 22 percent
  • Sales – 21 percent
  • Administrative – 16 percent
  • Business Development – 13 percent
  • Accounting/Finance – 12 percent
  • Marketing – 11 percent
More employers are also reporting that their organizations have created entirely new job functions within their organizations to respond to evolving business demands. When asked if their organizations currently have positions that didn't exist in their firms five years ago, employers pointed to the following:
  • Positions tied to social media – 16 percent
  • Positions tied to storing and managing data – 15 percent
  • Positions tied to cyber security – 12 percent
  • Positions tied to financial regulation – 10 percent
  • Positions tied to promoting diversity inside and outside the organization – 9 percent
  • Positions tied to green energy and the environment – 8 percent
  • Positions tied to global relations – 8 percent
One-third (34 percent) of employers added full-time, permanent headcount in the second quarter, up from 29 percent last year and 33 percent last quarter. Nine percent decreased headcount while 56 percent made no change to staff levels and 1 percent were unsure. Looking ahead, 30 percent of employers plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in the third quarter, up from 26 percent last year. Given that employers historically have been more conservative in estimates than actual hiring activity, the number may come in higher at quarter end.

Source: CareerBuilder

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May Home Price Index Shows Third Consecutive Monthly Increase

July 6, 2012 4:22 am

Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased on a year-over-year basis by 2.0 percent in May 2012 compared to May 2011, according to CoreLogic’s May Home Price Index (HPI®) report. CoreLogic is a provider of information, analytics and business services.

On a month-over-month basis, home prices, including distressed sales, also increased by 1.8 percent in May 2012 compared to April 2012*. The May 2012 figures mark the third consecutive increase in home prices nationwide on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis.

Excluding distressed sales, home prices nationwide increased on a year-over-year basis by 2.7 percent in May 2012 compared to May 2011. On a month-over-month basis, excluding distressed sales, the CoreLogic HPI indicates home prices increased 2.3 percent in May 2012 compared to April 2012, the fourth month-over-month increase in a row. Distressed sales include short sales and real estate owned (REO) transactions.

The CoreLogic Pending HPI indicates that house prices, including distressed sales, will rise by at least another 1.4 percent from May 2012 to June 2012. Excluding distressed sales, house prices are also poised to rise by 2.0 percent during that same time period. The CoreLogic Pending HPI is a new metric that was introduced within the April 2012 HPI report. It provides the most current indication of trends in home prices, and is based on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data that measure price changes in the most recent month.

Other highlights as of May 2012 include:
  • Including distressed sales, the five states with the highest appreciation were: Arizona (+12.0 percent), Idaho (+9.2 percent), South Dakota (+8.7 percent), Montana (+8.2 percent) and Michigan (+7.9 percent).
  • Excluding distressed sales, the five states with the highest appreciation were: Montana (+9.1 percent), South Dakota (+8.5 percent), Arizona (+7.3 percent), Idaho (+6.6 percent) and Wyoming (+6.6 percent).
  • Including distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change in the national HPI (from April 2006 to May 2012) was -30.1 percent. Excluding distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change in the HPI for the same period was -22.2 percent.
  • Of the top 100 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) measured by population, 29 are showing year-over-year declines in May, 12 fewer than in April.
*April data was revised. Revisions with public records data are standard, and to ensure accuracy, CoreLogic incorporates the newly released public data to provide updated results.

Source: CoreLogic

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Five Ways to Maximize a Small Kitchen

July 5, 2012 4:20 am

A small kitchen can quickly become cluttered and feel cramped. According to Consumer Reports, a few small upgrades can make a big improvement. To maximize the space you have, rethink where you store things, especially if counter space is at a premium. Here are five additional ways to make every available inch count:
  1. Place your dishwasher strategically. Choose a location near the sink but where the dishwasher won't stop traffic when the door is open. Remember to think about access to other appliances, too. You don't want the dishwasher door to block the refrigerator door, for example.
  2. Incorporate a landing spot for food by the refrigerator and for pots and pans on at least one side of the stove. These small details can easily improve your kitchen's efficiency.
  3. Install roll-out cabinets where possible. A roll-out spice rack near the range is a great use of space and eliminates clutter on the countertop or in a cabinet.
  4. Drawers and pull-out shelves can make a big difference. They're a perfect way to store pots, pans, kitchen tools and even dishware. Most commercial cabinets can be outfitted with pull-out shelves and other organizers.
  5. Before making any updates, take an inventory of everything you need and use in your kitchen and where it's kept. Remember to plan storage for small, easily overlooked items such as pot holders and plastic bags.
Source: Consumer Reports Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide

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Job Openings Increase in Top 50 Metro Areas, Says New Report

July 5, 2012 4:20 am

The July 2012 Employment Outlook from job search engine Simply Hired®, reports a 9.2 percent increase in nationwide job openings month-over-month and a 13.3 percent increase year-over-year. Job competition held steady at a nationwide ratio of three unemployed persons for every one job opening.

"For the second month in a row we're seeing positive growth in job openings nationwide," says Gautam Godhwani, Co-founder and CEO of Simply Hired. "This steady increase is reflected across all the major metro areas, showing that employers have a confidence in today's economy, which is very encouraging as we head towards the fall hiring season."

Job openings increased in all 50 of the major metros, with Boston and Pittsburgh (both 16 percent, respectively) and Salt Lake City (15 percent) showing the largest increases. While nationwide job competition held steady, regional competition eased up slightly. Job seekers in a number of metro areas are facing improved conditions, including those in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle & Tacoma, Tampa & St. Petersburg, Denver, Sacramento, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Raleigh & Durham, Greenville (S.C.), and Las Vegas.

Job openings in all 18 industries increased in June, with agriculture (31.6 percent) and non-profit (18.2 percent) showing the largest amount of growth. Financial services (11.5 percent) and real estate (11.5 percent) also saw noticeable increases.

With nearly two-thirds of all occupation categories experiencing growth in job openings, office and administrative workers (15.3 percent) and food workers (8.7 percent) saw the largest increases. Occupations experiencing the largest declines month-over-month included financial specialists and accountants (-23.2 percent) and military personnel (-9.1 percent).

Source: Simply Hired

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How to Reduce Wildfire Risk

July 5, 2012 4:20 am

Few homeowners prepare for a wildfire or take steps to reduce wildfire risk unless one is threatening their home. However, according to Allstate, the fires raging in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, along with the dry, drought-like conditions across the country should have every homeowner taking steps to reduce wildfire risk.

Allstate recommends homeowners reduce wildfire hazards by taking a few simple steps that can make a big difference if a wildfire threatens your community.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), homeowners should remove potential fuel sources and create a defensible zone around a home which will dramatically reduce wildfire hazards. This may help slow flames or help direct the flames away from your home during a wildfire. Allstate and IBHS also recommend homeowners do the following within 30 feet of most houses to reduce wildfire risk:
  • Eliminate fuel sources like dry landscaping, woodpiles and decks.
  • Prune trees and shrubs.
  • Trim taller trees so lowest branch is no less than six feet from the ground.
  • Remove dead leaves and branches from the yard.
  • Clear branches from around the roof and chimney.
  • Mow lawn regularly and dispose cuttings and debris promptly.
  • Clear roof, gutters and eaves of debris.
  • Maintain your irrigation system.
  • Move firewood and storage tanks at least 50 feet away from the home.
  • Store flammable liquids properly.
Source: The Allstate Corporation

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Fourth of July Grilling Tradition Continues

July 3, 2012 4:18 am

According to the 23rd annual Weber GrillWatch™ Survey, a whopping 90 percent of American grill owners fire up their backyard grill on the Fourth of July, a nine percent jump from last year.

Weber commissioned Toluna to field the 23rd annual Weber GrillWatch Survey. A total of 1,000 grill owners throughout the United States completed the online survey. All respondents were 21 years of age or older and currently own a charcoal, gas or electric outdoor grill or smoker. The sample was divided between 50 percent males and 50 percent females and was balanced demographically to represent households across the U.S.

The survey revealed the following fun grilling facts:
  • Independence Day remains the most popular "grilling holiday" of the year, followed by Labor Day (77 percent); birthdays (76 percent); Memorial Day (71 percent) and Father's Day (53 percent).
  • The three foods grilled most often are hamburgers (73 percent), chicken (41 percent) and steak (40 percent).
  • Hot dogs and burgers remain the top two foods considered easiest to grill (78 percent and 72 percent, respectively; followed by steak (49 percent), brats (43 percent) and chicken (38 percent).
  • Three in 10 grill owners feel that grilling is an extremely important activity when entertaining guests in their home (30 percent); with 77 percent say grilling is an important activity when entertaining.
  • The grill brings people together. During grill parties, more than one-half of grill owners (59 percent) say their guests tend to congregate outside—of those, 26 percent enjoy "hanging out" exclusively by the grill.
  • On average, grill owners host approximately 2.8 barbecues during the summer; nearly 19 percent say they hosted at least five barbecues during the summer months.
Source: Weber-StephenProducts LLC

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Five Tips for Effective Retirement Planning

July 3, 2012 4:18 am

Planning for retirement can be a time of great anticipation as well as great anxiety. And, given the current economic climate, many individuals have changed their plans for retirement by either pushing back their retirement date or have considered working part time during their retirement to supplement their fixed incomes.

According to Jim Cantrell, a certified financial planner and owner of Financial Strategies, Inc. in Brookfield, Wis., while some people close to retirement have changed their goals or approach, others simply don't know what to do.

He provides the following five tips to help create a solid financial plan for the future:
  • Know what you are going to do. If you have grandiose thoughts of spending months in exotic destinations, you will need to put a bit more into your retirement fund than if your goal is to do volunteer work and stay close to home. One of the best ways to ensure that your future plans are appropriate for you is to get involved in activities that are of interest before you retire. For example, if you plan to spend your time volunteering, consider giving a few hours a week before retirement to see if this will work with your future plans. Additionally, if relocation is part of your retirement goal, spend time vacationing in the areas you could potentially call your future home.
  • Know your benefits. It is important to talk to your organization's human resources department well before you plan to retire. Consider items such as health insurance, pension and stock options. Each of these things could have a big impact on your finances once you are retired.
  • Diversify your stock options. As you approach retirement, it is important to ensure that you do not have an over concentration of stock positions. Sometimes senior management and upper level executives have a lot of their portfolio tied up in their company; however, once they retire, they will not have the same level of control in the direction the company takes. Having all your eggs in one basket (or a lot of them) is never a good idea, this is why it is important to consider diversifying your investment portfolio.
  • Move to stable investments. As you approach retirement (approximately five to seven years prior), consider shifting your investment portfolio from a higher percentage of equities to less risky, fixed or stable investments. This will make your portfolio a much safer place to go and get your money when you need it.
  • Have a solid plan. How much will you need to put away to live the lifestyle you currently enjoy, or what things do you plan to cut out? Know what you currently have available and what you will need and put it all down in a solid and workable plan. One of the best ways to ensure that you have a solid plan is to meet with a certified financial planning practitioner (a fee-only advisor is recommended) to create a program that meets all your future needs.
Source: Financial Strategies, Inc.

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Strong Showing for Luxury Real Estate

July 3, 2012 4:18 am

Luxury home prices climbed and closings on some of the world's most beautiful properties picked up in the second quarter of 2012, according to luxury real estate executive Robbie Briggs. "The luxury real estate market appears to be vibrant in many places domestically and internationally," says Briggs. "In my experience, buyers are coming in with strong offers of cash or heavy down payments. For the first time in a long time, I see homeowners with renewed confidence, thanks to lower interest rates."

The improvements in the luxury home market kept pace with reported gains in the domestic real estate market overall in recent months. Sales of existing homes of more than $1 million improved by nearly 17 percent in some regions in April over the same period in 2011, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, while new home sales at the high end of the market remained strong through May, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Briggs reports an uptick in sales of premium properties in a variety of areas, based on information from his colleagues in the luxury real estate market:
  • In Manhattan, people are buying co-ops and condos at top prices, and a penthouse on 57th Street just sold for more than $90 million - a record sale for New York City, according to Royce Pinkwater.
  • Attracting buyers from around the U.S., Brazil and other countries, the Miami market has seen price per square foot rise 18 percent over the past year, and sales were up 66 percent in the first quarter, according to Mayi de Ia Vega.
  • Michael Rankin reports the demand for luxury homes has grown so much in Washington, D.C., that many are being offered as "private exclusives," and kept off of the multiple listing service.
  • Gloria Smith in San Francisco reports that homes in the $5 million range continue to sell quickly.
  • Briggs’ European associates report record-setting sales prices in Sweden and increased interest from Americans and Russians looking at villas in Italy. “The European debt crisis has driven the world's super-rich to seek stable investments in high-end properties in London,” he adds.
CEO Robbie Briggs independently owns and operates a luxury real estate firm in Dallas, Texas.

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Six Surprising Six-Figure Jobs

June 29, 2012 4:18 am

Although many people associate six-figure salaries with executive positions, those with a knack for technology and creative thinking can earn handsome compensation, too. According to research from Robert Half Technology and The Creative Group, salaries often top $100,000 for roles such as information architects, data security analysts and user experience (UX) designers. The generous compensation levels are due to high demand for these professionals as organizations strive to enhance their digital presence and boost investments in information technology (IT) infrastructure.

Following are six technology and design jobs that can pay six-figures:
  1. Mobile applications developer - As companies strive to reach consumers on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, they need professionals who can develop applications for the small screen. Average starting salaries for mobile applications developers range from $85,000 to $122,500. The midpoint is $103,750.
  2. Data security analyst - Security threats are constantly changing, and staff members who can analyze risk and protect against it are in demand. These workers can make between $89,000 and $121,500, on average. The midpoint is $105,250.
  3. Interactive creative director ¬ These individuals lead interactive creative teams, composed of designers, writers and art directors, who together are responsible for visual and conceptual creative direction and user experience. Average base compensation is $93,500 to $150,000. The midpoint is $121,750.
  4. Business intelligence analyst - As companies strive to gather more information about their customers, they need professionals who can design and develop enterprise-wide data analysis and reporting tools. Starting salaries range from $87,750 to $123,500 for this position, on average. The midpoint is $105,625.
  5. Information architect - These individuals help define content strategy and design website features, as well as analyze audiences and their needs, in order to improve architecture and navigation. Base compensation for this position is between $78,250 and $116,000, on average. The midpoint is $97,125.
  6. User experience (UX) designer - Because so much customer interaction happens online, companies are looking for professionals who can create positive digital experiences. The average starting pay range for these individuals is $71,750 to $104,000. The midpoint is $87,875.
All salaries listed are U.S. national averages based on data published in the 2012 Salary Guides for Robert Half Technology and The Creative Group. Actual salary ranges may vary depending on location.

Source: Robert Half Technology; The Creative Group

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Why Appliance Warranties are Key for New Homeowners

June 29, 2012 4:18 am

These days, making the decision to purchase a new home can be much more stressful than it once was. There are countless factors and steps that need to be taken into account before you settle in. A major factor is around finances and how you, as a new homeowner, will make sure your home's appliances are in check and that your home system components are maintained while avoiding needless spending.

That new kitchen or laundry room may seem like it will last forever; however, if six months down the line when your dishwasher breaks or your refrigerator is acting up, you may find yourself stressed—both mentally and financially. One way to relieve stress and protect against unexpected repairs is to ensure your home system components and appliances are backed by an appliance warranty. A homebuyers warranty or appliance warranty will cover replacement or repair costs and give you access to a network of service contractors.

Many homeowners do not realize that simple homeowners insurance does not cover the repair or replacement of all your major home appliances due to normal wear and tear. The manufacturer’s warranty that comes with the appliance also expires within a year or two, and if you purchase a home with aged appliances, this can be a major issue.

If you’re considering an appliance warranty, there are a few options. You can either get an extended warranty for each appliance, or choose a home warranty which covers all appliances in your house. Some home warranty companies let you choose the appliances you want to cover. This can be helpful; if you choose fewer items, you reduce your premium.

An appliance warranty can not only help save you money down the road for when repairs might be needed, but can help relieve stress and provide you with reassurance when investing in a new home. It's your home; you can make sure the appliances within it are taken care of.

Source: American Home Shield

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