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About a year ago, RealtyShares launched as a new way for investors to put small amounts of money into real estate projects, kind of like a “LendingClub for Real Estate.” Now the company is launching a way for them to focus on investing in specific markets around the U.S.

RealtyShares works to crowdfund available real estate investments, allowing investors to put in as little as $5,000 into single-family homes, multi-family homes, and even commercial real estate projects. The cost of those projects ranges from $100,000 to the tens of millions.

For developers looking for funding, RealtyShares provides an easy way to quickly raise money for their projects. It funds about 10 to 20 projects per month and it takes an average of just four days for each RealtyShares investment to be funded. That compares to weeks or months for more traditional funding sources.

In the past year, the company had amassed about $300 million in real estate property value through more than 200 different properties across 59 different cities and 17 states. According to founder and CEO Nav Athwal, average return on investment has ranged from between 8 percent and 29 percent, depending on the type of project funded.

Athwal says most investors that have joined the platform so far have been IT professionals who are looking for new investment opportunities. As a result, the company has rolled out a new product that will allow them to focus on the areas that they know best — that is, the cities they live in.

RealtyShares has identified five specific markets with burgeoning tech and real estate sectors where it sees opportunities for investment. Those markets are Seattle, Dallas, Austin, Miami and Chicago, where the company hopes to more efficiently connect borrowers and investors.

Those market-specific products will enable developers to find funding from local investors who have an interest in development in their cities. And investors get the benefit of profiting from better yields in markets that have not yet been overdeveloped.

RealyShares has raised $1.9 million in funding led by General Catalyst, with other investors that include E*Trade COO Greg Framke and president of Gold Bullion International Savneet Singh

Is it better to rent or buy in retirement?

by Money Magazine - Kathryn Vasel

Nationwide, it usually makes more financial sense to buy a home than rent. But it's a little more complicated for those in their golden years.

Retirees also need to decide whether they want to leave an inheritance behind -- a key factor in the rent vs. buy decision.

If a retiree does not plan to pass the home on to heirs, it's nearly always cheaper to rent than to buy, according to a report from Trulia.

That's because building equity is one of the biggest factors that favors purchasing a home. But if there are no plans to leave the home behind, or buy another home, it usually makes more financial sense to rent.

"The value of that equity matters a lot when making the decision. If you don't care whether that value will be around when the house is sold, it might be a better deal to rent." said Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia's chief economist.

Related: These cities have the highest rents in the country

Out of the 100 cities with the highest population of people 65 and older, renting made more financial sense in 98 of the cities, for those not considering leaving the home equity as inheritance.

To calculate the savings of buying versus renting in retirement, Trulia assumed buyers were in a 15% tax bracket and would stay in the home for 15 years.

The Villages, Florida, and Danville, Virginia, were the only two places where it made more sense to buy, even when home equity wasn't a factor. It would be 14% cheaper to buy a place in The Villages, where the median home price is $250,019, and 7% cheaper to rent in Danville.

Homes are very affordable in Danville, with the median home price coming in around $65,000, according to McLaughin.

"That makes a mortgage peanuts compared to the rent, which is about $850 a month."

For retirees who are looking to leave their home's equity as an inheritance, Florida is home to the top 10 retirement cities where it's cheapest to buy.

For instance, it's almost 70% cheaper to buy a home in Naples, and buying costs nearly 62% less than renting in Marco Island.

"The financial advantages of home ownership in the South is very large because prices tend to be much lower relative to rent," said McLaughlin.

Calculate: How much house can you afford?

Here are the retirement cities in the U.S. where it's the cheapest to buy, according to Trulia:

1. The Villages, Florida: 71.6% cheaper to buy

2. Naples, Florida: 69.4% cheaper to buy

3. Venice, Florida: 66.5% cheaper to buy

4. Delray Beach, Florida: 64.1% cheaper to buy

5. Deerfield, Beach, Florida: 62.9% cheaper to buy

6. Marco Island, Florida: 61.8% cheaper to buy

7. Pompano Beach, Florida: 61.0% cheaper to buy

8. Englewood, Florida: 61.0% cheaper to buy

9. Titusville, Florida: 60.8% cheaper to buy

10. Hallandale Beach, Florida: 60.4% cheaper to buy

 

CNNMoney (New York)First published April 21, 2016: 12:55 PM ET

Dupage County Taxes up 2.52%

by Capital Asset Group, Inc.

Tax bills will be mailed later this week to DuPage County property owners, who can expect average increases of 2.52 percent.

County Treasurer Gwen Henry said this year’s property tax bills are higher despite the average tax rate dropping by 1.78 percent. The reason is because the total assessed value of property in DuPage increased by 4.3 percent in 2015.

"This has been a challenging year for property owners in DuPage County," Henry said. "For the first year since 2009, property owners have experienced an increase in assessed values."

Still, Henry is expecting her office to get plenty of phone calls once DuPage's roughly 334,000 tax bills hit the mail on Friday. She is predicting that many property owners will question how their tax bills can increase when the tax rate decreased.

She said her office, the county clerk's office and nine township assessors are "acutely aware of the challenges taxpayers are facing."

Henry said every property tax bill includes a guide containing information that property owners should know as they prepare to pay their taxes for 2015.

The guide provides answers to frequently asked questions about property tax bills. It also contains information about how to pay the bills. In addition, the guide has important contact information and a tax year calendar of events.

Property taxes are due in two equal installments. The first is due June 1 and the second by Sept. 1.

"I want to encourage everyone, especially seniors, to carefully check your bill to ensure you are receiving every appropriate property tax exemption," Henry said.

DuPage property owners with questions or concerns are encouraged to contact the treasurer's office at (630) 407-5900. Help also is available online at treasurer.dupageco.org.

 

Help My Dogs are Wrecking my Yard

by Realtor.com - Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Before my three dogs arrived, my yard was lush and lovely. Kentucky bluegrass stretched into an emerald carpet, flower beds popped with color, vegetables grew in peace. However, after each new canine joined the family, my yard slowly morphed into a muddy minefield of poop and ankle-turning hollows. My flower bed became a wrestling mat, my vegetable garden their salad bar.

Of course, the fault is mine. (It’s always Mom’s fault.) I should have trained my dogs—Rosie the bichon frise, Chichi the husky, and Betty the Shih Tzu—to respect the yard when they were puppies. But I got busy, OK? And my landscaping suffered.

No more. This spring I’m backtracking and giving my yard the pet protection it needs. Here’s how.

Out, damned spots!

Depending on the concentration of dog urine, nitrogen-rich urea can either feed or kill your lawn; that’s why yards with dogs are a mix of thick green and dead brown patches. Forget the euphemisms: Here’s how to prevent unsightly pee splotches.

  • Plant clover, Creeping Jenny, or other rugged ground covers in an out-of-the-way spot, and train your dog to do its business there.
  • When you see your dog urinate, quickly dilute the urine with water.
  • Walk your dogs until they urinate, then let them loose in your yard.
  • Keep a bowl of water outside to encourage dogs to drink more, which will dilute their discharge.

Don’t let dogs get into a rut

Dogs like to patrol yards—it’s their joy and job. Unfortunately, guarding the perimeter of your property can flatten turf and create ruts.

So if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em: Create paths around your property’s perimeter that your dog can’t destroy. Flagstone, brick, and hardwood chips create attractive and durable paths. If you’ve got a shaggy dog, avoid laying down shredded hardwood that sticks to fur and makes a mess in the house.

My pups love to watch the world by the fence in my herb garden. So, I pulled out the oregano and created a doggy viewing area by laying an old square of carpet that’s comfy and cool in the summer. Now, my dogs sun themselves and protect their people without trampling my herbs.

Create ‘Keep Out’ signs

To keep dogs out of your prized perennials or salad garden, erect these barriers.

  • Green barriers: Surround off-limits areas with boxwoods, shrub roses, or massive ornamental grasses like Calamagrostis “Karl Foerster” (feather reed grass), which will discourage dogs from charging through.
  • Hardscape barriers: Stone or brick walls or stacked pressure-treated wood will create a decorative focal point and make it harder for dogs, especially little ones, to trample your garden.
  • Fences: You don’t have to get fancy and spend a fortune fencing verboten areas. I’ve stretched plastic fencing between garden stakes and discouraged my dogs from charging through. If you must throw more money at the problem, install a chain-link fence ($3 to $6 per foot), and cover the ugly with ivy, climbing roses, or vine crops such as cucumber or squash.

 A run of their own

The best way to keep your beloved animals from wrecking your yard is to give them their own playground—a place where they can dig and wrestle and pee whenever they want.

Cover the ground on dog runs with anything that can stand up to dog play and can disguise and absorb their waste, says Bob Mann, an agronomist with Lawn Dog, a lawn care company.

Mann recommends pine bark mulch, which is loaded with hungry bacteria that eat dog droppings. “Bacteria will end up consuming it before it smells,” he says. Other good candidates include pea gravel, crushed dolomite marble, or pulverized concrete (rake it well to detect any stray pieces of metal).

Enrich your dog’s day

A bored dog is a destructive dog. When they’ve got nothing better to do, dogs will dig under fences to escape or hunt for treasure, pull out bushes as though they were prey, and roll around in the petunia patch.

“Dog’s get into trouble when we don’t give them a job,” says Helen Cariotis, a dog obedience trainer and past president of the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors.

Here are some ways to keep your pups constructively busy.

  • Give your dog an excavation site. Fill a corner of your yard with sand, bury treats and toys in the pile every morning, and let your dog dig till it drops. (Hopefully not literally.)
  • Before you leave for work, throw a handful of kibble into your yard, which your dog will spend hours hunting.
  • Many breeds love digging in water. Fill a baby wading pool with 2 inches of water, and your dog will happily splash there and keep cool in summer.
  • Invest in some “busy” toys that deliver treats when dogs push them around and tire themselves out.

 

Whether someone happens to be Delirious over the Donald, Cruisin’ for Cruz, Hands Up for Hillary, or Feeling the Bern, it speaks volumes about their political leanings, their aspirations, even their very personalities. But here’s a surprise: It may also indicate how much they’re willing to shell out on the upkeep of their homes.

So let’s check out the ballot box!

The early results: Democrats are generally willing to shell out more on home maintenance, repair, and improvement projects, according to HomeAdvisor’s 2016 True Cost Report. Left-leaning property owners are also more likely to hire professionals to come in and do the work for them.

Meanwhile, GOP die-hards tend to embrace a more do-it-yourself ethos and complete the work themselves.

HomeAdvisor, which connects consumers and contractors online, surveyed more than 1,650 homeowners in February. Respondents were 25 or older and had completed maintenance or improvement projects over the past year.

The survey found Democrats typically spent about six months researching their home improvement projects before laying out up to an average $3,417. Republicans spent about three months looking into the changes they hoped to make on their homes and tapped out at an average of $2,194.

One theory on why Democrats are throwing down more moolah on their own white (and gray, and beige and blue) houses is that they’re more likely to live in urban centers, where homes tend to be older, says Clayton Nall, a political science professor at Stanford University.

 “Democrats are living in houses that [may] require more maintenance,” he says.

But home improvements weren’t just split along party lines. The survey also looked into trends among generational groups.

Members of Generation X are making the fewest home improvements and spending the least amount of money on the ones they make, at just $3,723, according to the report.

Baby boomers spent the most at $7,842, followed by millennials at $6,063.

Overall, homeowners reported completing more improvement projects, 12% more to be exact, in the past year, according to the report. And they’re prepared to spend more on them as well in 2016, preferably in cash.

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