Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Director of the CFPB Requests Zero Funding

In his first quarterly funding request as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Mick Mulvaney asked for nothing. "This letter is to inform you that for the Second Quarter of Fiscal Year 2018, the Bureau is requesting $0," he wrote to the Federal Reserve, which provides the agency's funding. Mr. Mulvaney stated his reason for this request: The CFPB already has sufficient funds to carry out its mandates, and he saw no practical reason for the CFPB to maintain a large “reserve fund.”

This is yet another indication of the hands off regulatory approach that Mr. Mulvaney intends for the CFPB. Since the CFPB is the primary enforcer of RESPA, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, a consumer protection statute passed by the U.S. Congress in 1974. The statute has two main purposes: To help consumers become better shoppers for settlement services; and To eliminate kickbacks and referral fees that may increase the costs of certain settlement services.

It would appear there will no longer be anyone looking out for the fox. Consumers beware!

Friday, January 19, 2018

It’s True: People Do Need People, and Here’s Proof

Despite bookshelves full of self-care books teaching us how to feel contented on our own, the one proven truth about how to be truly happy is this: our happiness depends on other people.

As writer Ruth Whippman points out in a recent article in the New York Times, a long line of studies into what makes a happy life have consistently arrived at a common conclusion: it’s healthy social relationships that are the “strongest, most consistent predictor.” Whippman adds: “Humans can’t actually be happy without them. This is a finding that cuts across race, age, gender, income and social class so overwhelmingly that it dwarfs any other factor.”

For example, scientists first began tracking the health of a group of students at Harvard University in 1938 and followed them into the present. The Grant Study was revolutionary, as explains: “(At that time) having not yet uncovered the structure of DNA, we knew close to nothing about genetics (and) mental health was a fringe concern.”

As it turns out, the results of Grant Study were, and are, groundbreaking. A key finding: those participants who were most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 turned out to be the healthiest at age 80.

Professor and psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, who now directs the study and recently gave a Ted talk on its findings, explains: “Our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health.”

The takeaway: more than wealth or professional success, close relationships are what keep humans happy and healthy.

Monday, January 15, 2018

How to Cope with the Negative Impact of Noise Pollution

Whether it’s sirens and car alarms outside your apartment window, the whine of jets, or just your neighbors’ loud party, chances are urban noise pollution is driving you to distraction. And as much as we seek it, finding real quiet seems almost impossible.
Unfortunately, that’s not a good thing. According to a recent article in The Independent, constant noise can be hazardous to your health. Writes Stephen Stansfeld: “These effects can be physical, mental, and possibly even disrupt children’s learning.”
In a variety of studies, noise pollution has been linked with high blood pressure, deafness, a significantly increased risk of stroke and heart disease, fatigue, and a broad assortment of mood disturbances. This includes negative emotional responses such as “noise annoyance”which even extends to feelings that one’s privacy is being violated. Our children are also impacted. Stansfeld notes, “About 20 studies have found effects of either aircraft or road traffic noise on children’s reading ability and long-term memory.” The noise, he says, resulted in “poorer reading comprehension and memory.” Studies found that the age at which children in the U.K. start to read was delayed up to two months for each approximately five-decibel increase in airplane noise.
Some people rely on noise-dampening techniques, including furnishings such as rugs and draperies, and others listen to white noise. Still others have turned to music, meditation, or self-hypnosis. But Jonathon Ewald in a post to Life & Health Network has one extreme solution that may workfor traffic, aircraft, and noisy neighbors: “Move,” he suggests.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Make Your Home Buyer Friendly with Focused Staging

With the move to buyers’ markets in many areas, you’ll want your for-sale home to look its best. And that requires focus. Focused staging, that is.
Staging your home can increase the offer amount by up to 10%, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2017 Profile of Home Staging. But what if you haven’t the time or cash to stage the whole house?
You focus on the rooms that push buyers’ buttons. A messy mudroom may not kill your sale, but an unusable kitchen or master bedroom may be a deal-breaker.
Few buyers can see beyond your personal style, particularly in hot-button areas like the living room, kitchen and master bedroom. So concentrate on staging these.
This article—from RISMedia—may help:
According to the NAR Profile, the living room is one of the most popular to stage. Make it feel larger by replacing bulky furniture with smaller pieces. Help buyers to imagine their things here; leave lots of space on shelves and around furniture. In the kitchen, declutter countertops, the fridge and inside cabinets (yes, buyers will look). Add color with a bowl of fruit.
“Most bedrooms don’t need much more than the bed, dresser, end tables, and a mirror,” the article suggests. Make the bed the focus with beautiful, but not necessarily expensive, linens.

A clean bathroom is a saleable bathroom. The master bath, especially, should gleam. Add attractive towels and battery candles for atmosphere. And don’t forget to tidy the outside. You know what they say about first impressions.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Properties for Every Budget

One of the great things about the foothill communities that I work, is that we have a broad range of prices, we literally have something for every budget!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Twitter Re-Tweets from 140 Characters

If you want to share more this year, the Twitter universe is making it easier. Last fall, the social media network announced it was retreating from its 140-character limit and rolling out a change to 280 characters to the majority of its 330 million-plus users worldwide.
Twitter was developed in 2006 as an alternative to text messaging; individuals subscribed to get and send updates in real time. Interestingly, Globe & Mail reporter André Picard found a dictionary definition of “twitter” as meaning “a short burst of inconsequential information.” In fact, users loved it for this very reason. As its popularity grew, it became an opportunity for people to share their views, and to “follow” friends and celebrity Twitter users. Celebs boasted followers in the millionspop music icon Katy Perry had 105 million followers in November 2017but many users found the 140-character limit restrictive.
The company stated: “We are making this change after listening and observing a problem our global community was having—it wasn’t easy enough to tweet …” Based on testing, it expects an enthusiastic response from Twitter users and, almost inevitably, more subscribers.

Caramelized Veggie Bowl

Serves 4
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cups diced butternut squash
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated
  • 8 ounces baby portabello mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 ½ cups cooked quinoa
  • 2-3 cups kale, stalks removed and finely chopped

  1. Heat oil in a skillet over high heat.
  2. Add squash and cook until it starts to caramelize, about 5 min. Flip pieces and cook for 3 min. Push squash to one side.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-high. Sauté onions for about 2 min., then add garlic and ginger. Cook for 2 min., combine with the squash, and push all to the side.
  4. Add mushrooms and cook without turning for 4 min. Add vinegar, soy sauce, and quinoa to the pan, and mix everything together.
  5. Add kale and 1 tablespoon of water, and cover. Steam for 2 min. or until kale is wilted but remains a vibrant green.
  6. Uncover, stir together, and serve in bowls.