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Home for sale via Househappy

Homeowners have been enjoying the price growth that happened in 2013. New construction home sales are also up and previously underwater properties are returning to positive equity. Economists expect home prices to rise another 4 percent to 5 percent in 2014.

With all that in mind, here are 10 tips for homebuyers and sellers from MSN Real Estate:

1. Sellers: Jump-start the process. If you want to sell your house this year, it is best to start planning as soon as possible. Since the process always takes longer than expected, start cleaning and de-cluttering now, and get your home inspected in case there are any repairs you need to fix.

2. Buyers: Be credit-ready. Since there is a lot of competition out there, it is best to get ready ahead of time. Get your credit report and make sure there are no errors. Then start with the pre-approval process on a loan so you can be ready to go when you start looking at houses.

3. Sellers: Search for an agent, and then follow the agent’s advice.  Make sure to hire the right real estate broker to help you sell your house. You’ll most likely want one that is web savvy and uses mobile technology, since most homes are viewed online. Once you find the right agent, accept their advice on pricing, marketing, and negotiation.

4. Buyers: Adjust your negotiating expectations. This year is not the time for lowball offers as they will likely eliminate you from consideration. Try to respond to counteroffers quickly to keep other buyers away and prevent a bidding war. Also, have a few other homes in mind just in case it becomes competitive.

5. Sellers: It’s your market, so make the most of it. Don’t jump at the first seemingly generous offer––especially if you have received more than one. Lastly, never let the buyer’s agent know what you’re willing to do if you planning on giving something extra. Make them ask.

6. Buyers: Find life after foreclosure. If you have had a foreclosure in recently, don’t fret. The Federal Housing Administration requires just a three-year waiting period and there are many nonconforming lenders out there (often called “shadow bankers”) to help you out.

7. Sellers: Hesitate to renovate. There is no need to completely remodel your kitchen if you plan on selling soon. According to remodeling surveys, the average renovation project only returns about two-thirds on investment. In most cases it would be cheaper to drop your price or issue credits to buyers. Smaller jobs such as installing new doors, painting or fixing up the exterior are more practical and will likely have a greater return.

8. Buyers: Ask and you won’t receive. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to the selling party in writing before signing a contract. Ask anything, from questions about the neighborhood, to sex offenders nearby, to commercial zoning, to on-premise felonies, noise pollution and more. If the selling party refuses to answer any of them, that might be a red flag.

9. Sellers: Tailor your local game. Remember that real estate is local and that all markets are different, therefore prices tend to vary. Find out local area trends and statistics as well as recent comparable sales.

10. Sellers and buyers: Heed changing trends. Make sure to pay attention to trends and react to them accordingly.

This article can be found in its original form on MSN Real Estate.

Home for sale in Seattle, Washington, via Househappy

As the housing market slowly heads toward the path of recovery, both real estate professionals and homeowners are becoming more optimistic. However, there are still a few bumps along the way that will need to be solved as the sector struggles to get its footing yet again.

Real estate consultant Scott Muldavin has outlined what he believes the top issues affecting real estate currently are.

Interest rates are cited as the top issue affecting real estate. Since rates were historically low for so long, now that they have been on the rise, capitalization rates are likely to follow, which could make people weary about investing in real estate.

Population ages Muldavin noted because there will be a greater demand for senior housing as the population gets older. This will require a change in size and availability and greater medical care services and facilities.

The capital market resurgence has positively impacted real estate. Credit is less restrictive for the commercial sector and while underwriting remains a challenge for residential markets, affordability still remains high.

Echo boomers represent 80 million Americans, which will provide a high demand in the future for housing. This segment of the population prefers an active urban lifestyle, rely on public transit, and often choose location over size – suburbs are catching up, Muldavin notes, with better mass transit and new bike paths.

Climate change and more extreme weather patterns such as Hurricane Katrina and Sandy will continue to have a strong impact on coastal homes and properties.  In these areas they will have to deal with changes in code and zoning standards as well as paying higher insurance premiums.

Major global events can also impact real estate markets. Such events include acts of terrorism, war, the global debt crisis and economic downturns. Muldavin notes that these need to be considered because their impact is often great.

Natural gas and oil production is on the rise in the U.S. and while it is creating job opportunities it is also contributing to climate change and environmental degradation.

Globalization is another issue cited by Muldavin and how the economies of other countries will continue to have a great impact on the U.S. economy and real estate market.

Technology in the future will continue to impact office spaces. Muldavin said “Many people are replacing physical items with electronics and free or virtual products, such as e-books and smartphones enabled with cameras, GPS and flashlights. This means businesses will continue to require less retail space, so I believe the trend in the future will be for fewer and smaller stores,”

Lastly the impact of the internet on brick-and-mortar retail stores also continues to be a growing issue as the increase in internet sales is expected to double by 2020.

This article appears in its original form on AG Beat

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Who rules your “Internet Empire”?

Mark Graham and Stefano De Stabbata, researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute, have created a map to help you answer this very question. By resizing each nation to reflect the number of Internet users and displaying their most popular website, the map provides a geographical look at the global internet sovereigns.

While Facebook comes in second, it is clear that Google reigns supreme as the most popular site in North America, Europe, and parts of south Asia.

“The power of Google on the Internet becomes starkly evident if we also look at the second most visited website in every country,” Graham and De Stabbata write. “Among the 50 countries that have Facebook listed as the most visited visited website, 36 of them have Google as the second most visited, and the remaining 14 countries list YouTube (currently owned by Google).”

In order of popularity, the most visited websites per country are as listed:

  1. Google
  2. Facebook
  3. Baidu
  4. Yahoo!
  5. AlWatan Voice
  6. Mail.ru
  7. VK
  8. Yandex

But why does this matter?

According to Graham and Stabbata, this data may be more significant than we realize:

We are likely still in the very beginning of the Age of Internet Empires. But, it may well be that the territories carved out now will have important implications for which companies end up controlling how we communicate and access information for many years to come.

This article can be found in its original form at The Atlantic