Posted in authors, books, family, food, friends, humor, Indie, readers, real estate, traditions, writers, writing

Recipes and Life: Life is too Short to be Stuck in the Kitchen

It is my great pleasure to introduce Alice Oldsford, author of  Recipes and Life: Life is too Short to be Stuck in the Kitchen.

Alice

Who am I and what do I write?

I wear a variety of hats – wife, mother, grandmother, Realtor, author, herbalist. On reflection I note that those pursuits relate to land use, not as a result of some grand plan, but simply from a conscious connection to the earth we call home.

It is my good fortune to pursue what I love, which is mostly found outdoors, whether walking, gardening or locating the perfect home with a client.

I raised 5 kids in the most self-sustaining environment I could conjure, of home-made and home-grown. My kids remember no one would trade lunches with them because their sandwiches consisted of home-made peanut butter and jelly on home-made whole wheat bread, an adolescent’s version of yucky.

My grandkids look forward to walks in the woods or even the neighborhood seeking traveling gnomes, puzzle rocks and edible wild plants.

And, as for my role as a wife, part of what attracted me to my husband was his love of vegetable gardening.

As a Realtor, I get to help people realize the American dream. Mark Twain said, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.”

My NJ Trails books:

You Can Get There from Here: Hiking Hunterdon County Trails and the sequel  Hiking NJ Trails – Hunterdon County and Beyond: You Can Get There from Here Too, have been my most fun land use activities yet, sharing my love for the outdoors with folks who want to give it a try.

The NJ trails books are meant to inspire people to enjoy the trails and prepare them for what to expect. It is my contention that knowing what you are likely to encounter enhances the enjoyment. More than maps provide, this book comes from my own perspective and love of the trails.  I have walked each and every trail in all seasons.

When I started to write Recipes and Life: Life is too Short to be Stuck in the Kitchen, I thought “Whoops, how does this book fit in with my love of  nature and the outdoors.” Then I realized it absolutely reflects my passion for home-made and home-grown as well as embracing what Mother Nature has to offer.  In addition, it reflects my desire to get out of the kitchen and embrace the outdoors.

This is my collection of inspirations sprinkled with favorite recipes. My intention is to spark the reader’s imagination and offer practical tips gleaned from a chef and friends/foodies who have shared their recipes and insights. These thoughts confirm for the reader that nutritious and delicious food patterns can be established without dedicating countless hours in the kitchen and outside the fast food forum.  It is a jumping off place for adventures in the kitchen.

Writing Challenges and Finding your Voice

When I was writing my first trail book, which was published in 2009, I found staying on track a bit of a challenge. There are lots of distractions in life, which we all experience.  I remember moaning about “not having time” and one of my sons reminded me we have time to do the things that are priorities for us. I had offered this advice to my children, and now it came back to me. I got back to work and finished the book. If a writer will do something each day, progress is inevitable.

Recipes and Life was about 3 years in the making.  My original vision kept evolving, and I was having trouble finding my voice. Then I moved from NJ to Florida.  Oh my, that literally created some technical difficulties as to gardening in Florida and food mores.  In the end, I decided I needed to tell my readers who I was, where I had come from and how I got into writing this book.  That allowed my voice to come through.

Alice's book

My favorite anecdote/excerpt from Recipes, which actually reveals a lot about me:

Thanksgiving

In the late 60’s when I was a young married woman, we lived in a duplex with a nice backyard and the smallest kitchen I have ever seen – no more than two steps to any appliance or work space. We had a purebred German shepherd named Mingo. I thought it was a good idea to invite the family for Thanksgiving dinner. I think it’s called “Ignorance is bliss.” I was organized and excited to host my first big dinner party.

The day arrived, and the turkey was awaiting the stuffing and roasting. The turkey proved too much of a temptation for Mingo. While I was in a different part of the house, there was quite a commotion in the kitchen. When I arrived, I found Mingo had wrestled the turkey to the floor with the intention of devouring it. I was able to rescue the turkey and banish Mingo to the yard. Now what? With no experience and only my creativity to rely upon, I washed the turkey then took needle and gold thread and sewed up the torn skin. Why gold thread? I reasoned it would blend with the roasted turkey.

The family came and enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner. No one noticed the stitched up skin, and I did not tell the story until sometime later.

Why Self Publishing and Promotion

When I was writing my first trail book, I realized the market was very regional, so publishing options would be limited.  I contacted a couple of small publishers, which were not as prolific in 2009 as they are today.  They were not taking on new titles. I did not feel discouraged, and self-publishing seemed a natural solution. The trail books were never stigmatized as a result of being self-published, and they have done very well in their target market. It helped that I lived in an area where Indie bookstores are embraced.

With “Recipes and Life”, it was just natural to do it my way, so to say. The publishing industry has evolved  since my first book in 2009. Established authors are self-publishing and using small publishers, and that gives credibility to those of us who are newbies, who follow their lead.  Although there are fewer Indie bookstores in this area, Florida does seem to encourage local authors.

When I published my first trail book, a long-time journalist/family newspaper owner in NJ advised me that I would need to rely on myself to get the word out and market my book. His newspaper had done some local publishing, and he disclosed that sales and distribution had less to do with the quality of the book and more to do with the author’s efforts to promote it.  He told me they had boxes of excellent books in the office basement that the author just did not push.

I start with my network, arrange signings and presentations, and ask anyone who might be remotely interested in putting my book on their shelf.  Press releases are often helpful in garnering attention and invitations to present.  I have a website and blog for the trail books.  I am about to create a blog for “Recipes” which will allow followers to share recipes.  I always have books in my car. I ask other authors what they do.  Check out local authors shelves in your favorite book store.

My advice to new writers:  Keep on keeping on!

 “Energy and persistence conquer all things” Benjamin Franklin

My website with links to blogs: http://www.aliceoldford.com/

Thank you Alice. Your humor and zest for life is contagious. This has been fun. Come back to Writing Under Fire sometime soon.

 

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Posted in authors, books, characters, conflict, fiction, Indie, mysttery, novels, readers, real estate, womens fiction, writers, writing

“I took a timeout from being a real estate agent, got bored, and started killing people.”

I am so honored to have Nancy Jarvis with us today on Author Interview Friday. I can not wait to get my hands on The Widow’s Walk League. Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor for twenty-five years but decided she was having so much fun writing that it was time to retire as a Realtor.

After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager of Shakespeare/Santa Cruz.

Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. Writing is her newest adventure.

She’s working on the next book in the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mystery Series after putting Regan, Tom, and Dave on hiatus to write Mags and the AARP Gang, a comedy/adventure about a group of octogenarian would-be bank robbers.

Joanne:  Nancy, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

Nancy:  I didn’t realize I wanted to write until I took a timeout from being a real estate agent, got bored, and started killing people. Maybe I better back up a bit. I’d been a Realtor in Santa Cruz, California since 1989 and had seen down markets with all their cruelty before, so when the real estate market tanked in 2008, I hung up my for sale signs and experimented with being retired. I got bored within a couple of weeks and decided, strictly as a game, to try and write a mystery.

I had the beginning and ending in mind and lots of stories I could use as background if I made the protagonist a real estate agent. I set the book in Santa Cruz since I knew the community so well. The protagonist, Regan McHenry, began her life as me, only younger, thinner, and more successful than I was. She didn’t stay me, though. Like a method actor who feels his role, I’m a method writer. Regan had to become her own person about the time she found a body because I couldn’t take being her any longer. I couldn’t keep up with her any longer, either. She’s much more daring than I am and eagerly gets herself into messes I would avoid.

Nancy Jarvis
Nancy Jarvis

Joanne:  As an active Realtor myself, I can relate to exactly what you are saying. But I am still plugging along – and I haven’t started killing people (yet), in my stories or otherwise. But someone (or two) always end up dead in my stories anyway. So tell us, do you always write in the same genre?

Nancy:  I don’t. I wrote three mysteries featuring Realtor and amateur sleuth Regan McHenry, but as I was finishing up The Widow’s Walk League, the fourth book in the series, this eighty three year old woman character started interrupting my concentration. She told me to put aside what I was writing and tell her story. The result was Mags and the AARP Gang written in first person, which is not how the mysteries are done. Mags as a one-off book, though, and I’m presently finishing the fifth mystery, “The Murder House.”

Joanne:  Love it. I’ve got to get it. The Widow’s Walk League. Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication?  How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript?

Nancy:  As I said, writing began as a game for me. I wanted to see if I could begin with a premise and carry it logically to a conclusion. I assumed, once I did ― if I could ― that would be the beginning, middle, and end of my writing career. I finished the first book, “The Death Contingency,” and consigned it to a shelf in my office, but I’d had so much fun with it that I began the book I really wanted to write, “Backyard Bones,” which is a traditional mystery with lots of twists in the plot.

I had been “caught” writing “The Death Contingency” by a visiting friend, a woman who always wanted to be a writer. She was angry at me for attempting to write a book the way I was. She said I needed to take classes, find a mentor and a critique circle, and suffer for my art the way she had. I don’t suffer when I write; I love it, and told her so.

She called while I was in the midst of writing the second book. She had a terminal brain tumor and was dying. She said her big regret in life was that she had never seen her name in print. My husband and I threw together a little publishing company ― which was surprisingly easy to do ― and printed one-hundred books dedicated to Charlotte Bridges so she could have her wish.

I expected ninety-nine of them would live in the garage in perpetuity, but when we took a few to a local bookstore to see what would happen, they sold. We sold them all and ordered more. Then Amazon came along and then e-books. We’ve never looked back.

Joanne:  Ahh, that was so nice of you. What a great tribute to her. I love writing too but like Charlotte, I have had to “suffer” a little along the way. Are you a pantser or a planner?

Nancy:  It depends on the book. With Mags, I was definitely a panster. I just listened to the character I’d created speak and wrote down what she said. I didn’t know where the book was going at any point in it.

With the mysteries I have to have a timeline and an outline to keep on track, but I’m open to being flexible within that framework. In Backyard Bones, I deliberately decided to wait until I was about half way through it to decide which of two characters had committed the murder. It was easy to do because their alibis supported one another so either alibi could be broken by the other character. But when I got to the decision point, I realized neither was the killer, that the murder had been committed by another character.

When I went back to insert clues pointing at my new murderer, I discovered that they were already there. So, does that make me a panster or a planner, or merely someone as mislead by the killer as my protagonist was?

Joanne:  Maybe your are a “plantser”. LOL  What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?

Nancy:   Santa Cruz husbands are being murdered.  The local news media is buzzing because a dark-clad figure witnesses describe as Death has been seen lurking nearby each time a murder is committed.

When new widows start hiring real estate agent Regan McHenry to sell their houses, she discovers all the murdered men have something in common: their wives belong to a walking group called The Widow’s Walk League.  No wonder Regan is worried when the group’s leader starts paying special attention to her husband, Tom.

Regan invites you to attend Woodies on the Wharf and go to a séance with her as adventures unfold and she tries to keep her husband safe in the fourth book in the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mystery Series. Her best friend, Dave Everett, Santa Cruz Police Community Relations Ombudsman, is back to lead a new cast of quirky characters and struggle with Regan’s amateur detecting.

Joanne:  Where can people go to buy your books?

Nancy:  Links follow for Amazon author page, Facebook page, and my website. If your readers would like a recipe for mysterious chocolate chip cookies that goes with the books, they can pick up a copy at the website. (You occasionally bake cookies at open houses to homey-up the house, don’t you?) They can also read opening chapters of all books at the website if they don’t have a Kindle that lets them.

http://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Lynn-Jarvis/e/B002CWX7IQ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1379289376&sr=1-2-ent

https://www.facebook.com/ReganMcHenryRealEstateMysteries?ref=ts

http://www.goodreadmysteries.com/

Joanne:  Thank you so much for sharing. I am heading right to Amazon to get “Widows”   Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to wet out appetite?

Front-Cover-Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Regan has been invited to the séance by Tika, one of the widows, who hopes to contact her dead husband. She agrees to go, expecting to see a show put on by a con-man :

Regan might know the tricks; nevertheless, the show promised to be entertaining.

“Now let us all join hands and as a loving united body call upon our Charlie to come to us.” Sebastian closed his eyes and slowly swiveled his upper body in small circles.

Tika’s eyes were closed, as were Karen’s and Helen’s, but Linda, a fellow closeted skeptic, Regan guessed, was, like her, watching the performance.

Joyce’s eyes remained open, too, though probably because she was afraid Sebastian might actually raise the spirit of Charlie Smith.

“Come, Charlie, we are waiting for a sign from you.” Sebastian issued the invitation in a stage-worthy slightly wavering voice.

Joyce, who was holding Regan’s left hand, suddenly tightened her grip until Regan’s wedding ring became an instrument of torture. Sebastian’s polished invocation was interrupted by her chilling shriek. “Death!” Joyce screeched. “Death is here. He’s looking in at us!”

Regan followed Joyce’s terrified gaze, spinning her head toward the window. Death was indeed there, his bony face peering at them from its shroud through a haze of gauzy curtains, and though he dissolved a second later, she was certain she had seen him.

For an instant everyone at the table remained frozen in place, unable to speak or even release hands. Regan was the first to break their stupefaction. She bolted toward the living room and cleared the doorway before Sebastian, Linda, and Karen, all quick to their feet, collided there and jostled one another through the narrow opening. Tika, hoisting her skirt to move more quickly, came next. Even timid Joyce, still pale after her fright, and Helen, the last of the women to reach her feet, joined the rush.

Posted in writers

Preparing Your Home for Sale

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One of the hardest things for a seller to do is to transform the home that they have taken years building full of treasures, keepsakes and memories and change it into a product.

When Tommy fell and chipped his tooth on that cracked floor tile, that tile became a memory, not a faulty piece of flooring. When Suzie colored on the guest bathroom wall, that wall became a shrine to the little girl that is now in Kuwait with the Peace Corps. The love of our families can put blinders on our home. We only see the memories, not the flaws. Remember, those chipped tiles and crayon colored walls are not endearing to buyers, they represent work. Buyers need to build their own memories and your things only clutter their mind and get in the way of visualizing living in the home.

A buyer must be able to envision themselves living there before they will ever make an offer. As a Realtor® for 24 years, I recognize the body language of buyers. If they sit down, they are trying to picture themselves sitting there, looking out the window, entertaining their friends or relaxing from a stressful day at work. Women especially, but not exclusively, will wander about the kitchen opening cabinets, gazing into the pantry or the sink. They are not looking at your dishes. They are picturing their own things behind those doors.

Keep in mind that if you spent $500 ten years ago to upgrade an appliance, time might have flown by for you and you think of that refrigerator as new – your buyer thinks it is OLD. I can’t tell you how many times I have had a seller say to me, “but I just replaced that”, but when I pressed for a date, it was 5, 10 maybe even 20 years ago. Every single upgrade in your home loses value beginning the very first day. Just like a brand new car, the minute you drive it off the lot, it begins to depreciate. Kitchen and bathroom upgrades hold their value the best, but only if they are current to the style of today. Yes, homes follow trends and fashions just like your clothes and cars.

If you are serious about selling your home, here are some “Must do’s”. Not only will it get you’re an offer faster, but statically, it will bring you a higher dollar.

  1. Most important – De-clutter. Your things are not going to get into your new place by osmosis. At some point you need to box them up anyway. Do it now. Box up as much as you possibly can, not just the obvious winter clothes in the summer, etc. Remove all knick-knacks. Take down family photos (Buyers need to visualize their family, not yours) Less is more. Keep boxing until the house looks empty and cold to you. You are almost there. Just a few more dozen boxes.  Now, store those boxes somewhere else. Rent a storage unit or rent a P.O.D, but get them out of the house.
  2. Fix those items you have been meaning to get to for years, the chipped tile, the crayon painted wall. Fresh paint can go a long way. Keep it neutral, but not white. Taupe or beiges, or soft greys are best with either fresh white baseboards or natural woods.
  3. Clean until every corner shines and don’t forget those windows. You may think that is obvious but I have been in literally hundreds of homes that were so filthy it was an embarrassment for my buyers and myself.
  4. Paint the front door. First impressions speak a million words. If they don’t think the house is well maintained at the entrance, they won’t believe it inside either.
  5. Add a pop of color to the front yard. Buy some live flowers that are in bloom for that time of the year. Even in the dead of winter, you can add some potted red poinsettias or bright green holly with red berries.
  6. If you have a yard, make sure it is at its very best, grass mowed and weeds pulled. Fresh mulch goes a long way to make a front and back yard shine. If you are in a condo, add a new front door mat and hang a colorful wreath on the door.
  7. Visit a model home. Even if you can’t put top of the line new furniture in your home, the one thing you will notice in the model is the minimalism. They don’t do that because they don’t want to spend money on furniture. They do it to make rooms look larger.
  8. Replace all light bulbs in your home with a higher wattage light. And remember to turn on every single light in the house during a showing. Even in the middle of the afternoon.
  9. Once you have the home on the market, never be there for showings. Let the Realtor® do his job. A buyer will feel uncomfortable sitting down or opening cabinets if you are there. But that is what you want them to do.
  10. Make sure your house smells clean and fresh. Use plug-in air fresheners but don’t overdo it where someone will think you are trying to cover a bad smell.
  11. If you have kept a notebook of warranties on appliances or service on the air conditioner or furnace etc., leave it out on the counter for the buyers to look through. They probably won’t spend much time actually going through it, but it leaves the impression with them that you have always maintained the home, not just put a Band-Aid on it to sell.
  12. Understand that the best real estate transaction is one where both sides win. The sellers deserve to get a fair price, but so do the buyers. If you are realistic on your price and negotiate with the buyer on price and terms, when that glitch pops up (which very often does), your buyers will be much more willing to work with you to resolve the issue.

For all your real estate needs, anywhere, let me help. If you don’t live in SW Florida, let me refer you to an expert in your town or community. I will do the research to make you get a professional experienced in the type of property you are buying or selling.

Joanne Tailele, Realtor

ERA Flagship Real Estate, Marco Island FL

www.joannesellsmarco.com

Posted in writers

Schedules and Deadlines

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Do you work better under pressure? Over these fifty plus (no I am not telling here) years of my life, I have learned a few lessons about myself.

One is that I work so much better with some pressure to perform. Regardless of whether it is as a Realtor® or as an author, deadlines help me to succeed.  The A-Z Challenge was the type of thing that kept my blog running for the month of April. I have done NANOWRIMO twice and finished both times. Nothing motivates me to clean out the guest closet or re-organize the linen closet like company coming.

That being said, I realized that Writing Under Fire was floundering out there like a beached manatee (we don’t see whales here in SW FL). It needed structure.  So starting today this is the order of business.  Monday will be “my rambling thoughts” post. God only knows where that will lead.  Wednesdays will be my real estate post. Although you will hear from me, more often I will be passing along information from other professionals in the industry that has done the graphs, crunched the numbers or completed the surveys to keep us abreast of the market. Friday will be Author Interview day. I have some wonderful authors lined up. So far, I have interviewed Lisa Wroble and Dan Goldstein. If you missed their post, please scan back through and read them. They are both great authors with totally different experiences in the craft. If you are a published author, traditional or Indie, and would like to be included in my Friday “Author Interview”, please send a response to this post and we will connect. I hope that many of you will be inspired to finish that manuscript, or follow the links of these authors and buy their books.

Do deadlines and schedules help or hinder your creativity and your success? 

Posted in real estate, writers

Job shortage? Builders can’t find enough workers

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From the Florida Realtor newsletter – News and Events  May 13, 2013

WASHINGTON – May 13, 2013 – U.S. builders and the subcontractors they depend on are struggling to hire fast enough to meet rising demand for new homes.

Builders would be starting work on more homes – and contributing more to the economy – if they could fill more job openings.

In the meantime, workers in the right locations with the right skills are commanding higher pay.

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Consider Richard Vap, who owns a drywall installation company. The resurgent housing market has sent builders calling again. Vap would love to help – if he could hire enough qualified people.

“There is a shortage of manpower,” says Vap, owner of South Valley Drywall in Littleton, Colo. “We’re probably only hiring about 75 or 80 percent of what we actually need.”

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The shortage of labor ranges across occupations – from construction superintendents and purchasing agents to painters, cabinet makers and drywall installers. The National Association of Home Builders says its members have complained of too few framers, roofers, plumbers and carpenters. The shortage is most acute in areas where demand for new homes has recovered fastest, notably in Arizona, California, Texas, Colorado and Florida.

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The problem results largely from an exodus of workers from the industry after the housing bubble burst. Experienced construction workers lost jobs. And many found new work – in commercial building or in booming and sometimes higher-paying industries like mining and natural gas drilling – and aren’t eager to come back.

Hispanic immigrants, largely from Mexico who had filled jobs during the boom, were among those who left the industry and, in some cases, the United States.

Dave Erickson, president of Greyhawk Homes in Columbus, Ga., lost an employee who took a job this year in Texas. The former employee is now installing fiber-optic cable and earning 30 percent more than he did as a construction supervisor.

“I think he’s frustrated with the cycle we went through in recent years,” Erickson says.

A shortage of labor in a well-paying industry might seem incongruous in an economy stuck with a still-high 7.5 percent unemployment rate. But it reflects just how many former skilled construction workers have moved on to other fields.

In 2006, when the boom peaked, 3.4 million people worked in homebuilding. By 2011, the figure had bottomed at about 2 million. As of last month, about 2.1 million people were employed in residential construction.

Jobs in the industry did rise 4.1 percent in April from a year earlier, faster than overall U.S. job growth. But they’d have to surge 24 percent more to reach 2.6 million, their 2002 level – “the last time the market was normal,” says David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.

For now, the industry is building faster than it’s hiring. In February, builders began work on single-family homes at the fastest pace in five years. And in March, new home construction broke the 1 million mark for the first time since June 2008. Permits for future construction are also near a five-year high.

In the 12 months that ended in March, housing starts surged 47 percent. Yet over the same period, the industry’s employment grew just 3.7 percent.

Normally, a rebound in home construction helps propel an economy after a recession. But even with the steady gains in housing starts, sales and prices since last year, the industry remains below levels considered healthy.

The National Association of Home Builders says nearly half its members who responded to a survey in March said a scarcity of labor has led to delays in completing work. Fifteen percent have had to turn down some projects.

“I can’t find qualified people to fill the positions that I have open,” says Vishaal Gupta, president of Park Square Homes in Orlando, Fla. If not for the labor shortage, “I would be able to build more homes this year and meet more demand than I can handle today.”

Gupta’s company is facing a side effect of the labor shortage: Demand for higher pay from qualified workers. On some occasions, he says he’s been outbid by rivals that need contractors for their own projects. Gupta’s preferred paint contractor left for a rival that paid more. His new cabinet contractor is about 10 percent more expensive than the one Gupta used before.

The higher pay they’re handing out helps explain why builders have been gradually raising prices on new homes. The median price was $247,000 in March, up about 12 percent from the same month in 2011, the Commerce Department says.

The industry may have to look more aggressively for workers at vocational schools, federally funded programs like Job Corps and elsewhere, says Crowe of the homebuilders group.

“We’ll have to recruit more,” he says.

Vap, owner of South Valley Drywall, rode out the downturn after the housing crash in part by relying on commercial construction projects. He cut his residential construction staff from 244 in 2006 to 80 in 2009.

This year, Vap has hired 15 field employees for residential construction and says he needs to hire 35 more to do the work he foresees in 2013.

During the 2005-2006 housing boom years, Gupta had to bring in workers from Texas because there weren’t enough employees in Florida to keep up with construction. He doubts many of those veterans will return.

“A lot of people who are from other states or from Mexico are not willing to come back here as fast as they did last time because of what they experienced,” Gupta says.

Between 2005 and 2010, 1.4 million Mexicans moved from the United States to Mexico – roughly twice as many as in the previous five-year period, according to the Pew Research Center. Though an estimated 11 million people remain in the United States illegally, the influx of illegal immigration from Mexico has essentially stopped, says Douglas Massey, a professor of sociology at Princeton University.

“The Mexican economy is doing quite well, with strong growth in manufacturing and both skilled and unskilled services,” Massey notes. “If construction demand picks up, we may see an uptick in Mexican immigration, but I think the boom years are likely over.”

Crowe and other economists predict that as demand for new homes strengthens further, higher wages will woo back many laborers who took up other jobs during the downturn.

The homebuilders association is pushing Congress to let more immigrants enter the country through a worker visa program. The association cites census data showing that foreign-born workers make up about 22 percent of the U.S. home construction work force. It estimates there are 116,000 unfilled jobs.

Still, even if builders find more workers to hire, two other factors could hold back the industry for a while: A tight supply of building materials and ready-to-build land. Surveys by the National Association of Home Builders show that builders have grown concerned about those obstacles.

In part, that’s why Crowe thinks employment in single-family home building won’t return to its 2002 total until 2016. And he isn’t unhappy about that.

“In a perverse sort of way, the mild housing recovery is probably a good thing,” Crowe says. “We need to rebuild the infrastructure of the industry.”

Copyright © 2013 The Associated Press, Alex Veiga, AP real estate writer.

Note: This article in its entirety is the exclusive work of the Associated Press, Alex Veiga.

Posted in real estate

The Rise in Real Estate

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The big news in the real estate market is it is on an upward swing. The markets that took the biggest fall during the crash of the lending institutions in 2008 are the ones now showing the most growth. Sellers are optimistic that there homes will rise in value.

As in any business, it is all about supply and demand. The lower the inventory, the higher the price. Inventories throughout the United States are dwindling as more and more of the short sales are either being sold or the bank has made a new deal with the homeowners and letting them stay in their homes by restructuring their loans. This loss of inventory will drive the prices up, the best sign of a healthy market since 2008. The east and west coast are experiencing the most growth with a smaller gain for the midwest  and southern states.

Here in Florida, vacation properties are now back to bidding wars on the best deals. Foreclosures are few and far between and when they do come on the market, they go in contract with multiple offers within a week. New construction is bursting as the seams and lots are selling at a 70% increase from last year.

The NAR (National Association of Realtors) posted a statement from Freddie Mac on their website this week that indicated that another large batch of foreclosures from the banks is soon to be released. The savvy buyers should stay on high alert for them to hit the market and be prepared to offer their highest and best offer the first time around. Unlike the last few years, where buyers could come in on offers significantly below the asking price. . . and had a fair shot of  winning the bid, those days are gone. The foreclosures that are coming in this batch will be priced closer to true market value and are expected to sell fast.

My advise for buyers is to work closely with their Realtor to watch for these deals. Many will never hit the market because they will be purchased in large lots by corporate investors. The single family buyer will have to move fast to stay in the game.

What about sellers? What does this mean to them? I believe sellers can expect to see a slight gain in their home values but they must remember that the climb back up the hill will be much slower and laborious than the slippery slide down. Many home prices in parts of the country (including my location in SW Florida) were artificially inflated in the the first place, and even with a climb up, they  will probably never come back to its peak. The amount of joy your received by living in your home should be factored as equity spent.

For a short time, I believe both buyers and sellers are going to get a fair shake. ImageThis is a very rare situation. Usually it is either a strong buyers market or the scales are tipped favorably to the seller. In this short window, BOTH sides will see fair market value and either side can walk away from the transaction feeling good about their decision. It is time for both sides to get off the fence.

 

Posted in real estate, writers

What is happening in the legislation regarding real estate?

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Keeping up with real estate trends means you also need to know what is happening in the legislation. The following was posted online by the Florida Realtor News  May 3, 2013

Highlights of the 2013 legislative session

BILLS THAT PASSED this week.

Affordable housing programs. Lawmakers allocated more than $200 million from the large national mortgage settlement last year to numerous housing programs:

  • The Senate’s settlement spending plan, SB 1852 , which provides $50 million for rental assistance (State Apartment Incentive Loans or SAIL)
  • $40 million to refurbish existing homes for low-income families and provide down payment assistance and lease-purchase assistance (the State Housing Initiative Program, or SHIP).
  • $20 million to Habitat for Humanity,
  • $16 million for additional retired judges to help relieve the foreclosure caseload
  • $10 million in legal aid services for low- and middle-income homeowners facing foreclosure. Florida Realtors appreciate the Legislature’s commitment to provide affordable housing for Florida’s low-income families and the elderly. Effective when mortgage settlement money is deposited in Florida’s general revenue fund.

Tax loophole closed. Working with several legislators, language was included in different bills to close a tax loophole used by for-profit affordable housing builders to exploit the law. They accomplish this by forming non-profit subsidiaries primarily to pay lower property taxes.

Lawmakers to squatters: Jig’s up. Homes left unoccupied due to foreclosure have brought out all kinds of opportunists, including those seeking free rent in swanky digs under the veil of adverse possession. HB 903 amends Florida’s long-standing adverse possession law to curb these abuses. Effective July 1, 2013, persons claiming adverse possession must:

•pay all outstanding taxes and liens levied by the state, county or municipality within one year of claiming adverse possession;

•provide the county property appraiser with their contact information, the date when the adverse possession claim began, a legal description of the property, and the dates when outstanding taxes and liens were paid. Filing this return with the property appraiser does not give an adverse possessor an enforceable interest in the property.

Squatters who don’t file a return may be charged with trespassing. If an adverse possessor leases the property to a third party, they can be charged with theft.

Foreclosure reform. With buyer demand increasing and inventory levels at record lows, Foreclosing on a mortgage is a long process in Florida — about 853 days, more than twice the national average. That should begin to change with the passage of HB 87. The bill allows lenders to ask the court to justify why a final order hasn’t been entered, and gives condominium and homeowners associations the right to request the court move the process along where appropriate. Consumer interests are addressed in several provisions including:

  • requiring lenders to prove they own the loan for a property before foreclosing on it;
  • reducing the time lenders can seek deficiency judgments from five years to one year and
  • providing protections for innocent parties who purchase a property without knowledge that a previous owner may have a claim to the property.

For the person whose home is erroneously foreclosed on, HB 87 provides for the recovery of damages (monetary, compensatory, punitive, statutory and consequential), injunctive relief and fees. Effective upon becoming law.

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Posted in real estate, writers

National Association of Realtors take on the market

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) released its 2013 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey, which covers exiting and new-home transactions in 2012. The survey finds an increase of 10.1% for vacation sales.

Owner-occupied purchases jumped 17.4% to 3.27 million last year from 2.79 million in 2011.

Vacation home sales accounted for 11% of all transactions (investor, vacation and owner-occupied) last year, unchanged from 2011.

Posted in writers

Z is for Zig-Zag

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To all the writers for the A-Z Challenge, we made it. This is the last of our challenge, but I hope not the end of our blogging family. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many of you here and feel certain that it never would have happened without A-Z. I will continue to follow your blogs and hope you do the same. I was thrilled to see that I received hits from as far away as Australia and from a total of thirteen countries. Wow.  Image

The reason I chose Zig-Zag for my “Z” post is because it is a great analogy of the blogs to come. I am going to use this blog to talk about both of my careers in one place. I’ll tag them as author or real estate and if you only want to follow one or the other that is fine.  My other career is real estate. I have been a Realtor® for twenty four years and practiced in three different states.  What I would like to do is post updates on the real estate market in general, along with a little about local southwest Florida. I would love to receive comments back about your cities, states or countries.     Image

I will not be posting daily, but as the whim strikes me. As you know, authors and Realtors® are very independent and choose our careers for the flexibility. Our fates are in our own hands, not of an employer.  It is my wish that some authors may also be interested in the pulse of the real estate market and vice versa.   

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Things you can look forward to in my upcoming blogs:

Author interviews with new book out.

Interviews with agents and publishers.

Writing tips I pick up along the way from other professionals.

Real estate market updates, local and global

Buying tips for home buyers

Selling tips for home sellers

ImageSo, until we meet again.  . . .