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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Think Outside the Bird - Trimmings for the Ideal Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving is almost the perfect holiday. Unlike many celebrations, the emphasis is less about the material aspects, and more about the day itself. Simply put, Thanksgiving is about reconnecting with loved ones, eating great food, and watching a few football games. The one blemish, however, is the pressure we feel to flawlessly execute a great Thanksgiving dinner.

Several months ago, when I began thinking about this year's Thanksgiving article, I carefully contemplated which angle I would take. I considered writing an editorial on how to roast a succulent bird or mixing it up a bit and showing you how to deep-fry a turkey. But that would have required most of you to purchase added equipment, and who wants to do that? Then, it hit me. Giving you great Thanksgiving advice didn't require me to think outside the box. I needed to think outside the bird!

Here are my opinions and advice regarding some of the more traditional accoutrements to a Thanksgiving meal.

Mashed Potatoes

Is there anyone who doesn't love mashed potatoes? I believe the answer to this question is the reason why most people have their own favorite method for making them. That being said, I've decided to bypass giving out my recipe. But that doesn't mean I don't have some mashed potato advice.

Regardless of the type of potatoes you use, or your method for mashing them, I recommend giving careful thought to your choice of additional ingredients. While cheesy mashed potatoes are great, I don't think they're a good accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner. It's a little too heavy for an already heavy meal. Opt instead for adding ingredients like roasted garlic or finely-chopped fresh herbs.

I also recommend making your mashed potatoes towards the end of your turkey's roasting time. Making them any earlier is not a great way to go, as they are at their best when served right away. Remember, your turkey has to rest for at least twenty minutes before carving. This should leave you plenty of time for tending to the taters.

If you make your mashed potatoes earlier than recommended, do not utilize a flame to keep them warm. This will either cause them to burn or get very oily. Instead, transfer your potatoes into a glass bowl placed over a large pot of lightly-simmering water and cover with aluminum foil. Do not allow the simmering water to touch the bottom of the bowl.


An important bit of gravy advice is to make plenty of it. There is almost nothing worse than running out of gravy halfway through your Thanksgiving meal. When it comes to the type of gravy you make, the variations are nearly endless, and most are pretty darn good. Gravy varies from region to region and can range from light and creamy, to dark and rich. It can include, or not include, wine or fresh herbs. My guess is that you will make your gravy similar to the version you grew up with. That's what I do.

One tip I'd like to leave you with is what to do in case your gravy turns out lumpy. First, don't freak out. Second, don't tell anyone. Third, pass it through a sieve into another saucepot or straight into your gravy boat. No one will ever know.

Green Bean Casserole

I hate to say it, but I utterly despise this dish. Not only does the combination of overly cooked green beans, canned cream of mushroom soup, and store-bought fried onions not sound good to me, it's an awfully heavy way to serve veggies next to some already heavy side dishes.

Do yourself a favor and go with a fresh green vegetable like haricot vert (French-style green beans) or asparagus, simply prepared. Steam your veggies lightly, and toss them in unsalted butter or olive oil, kosher salt, and a little citrus zest. Top them off with lightly-toasted almond slices, and you've got a delicious, healthy, and easy side dish.

Candied Yams with Marshmallows

While I like this dish far better than the green bean casserole, I do think we can do better than the traditional version.

To serve 6 people, you will need 4 large sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into quarters. Place them into a baking dish. In a separate bowl, combine 1 to 1.5 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice, 1/2 C dark maple syrup, 2 tsp powdered ginger, a few grinds of fresh nutmeg, and a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture over your sweet potatoes or yams, and dot with unsalted butter. Bake them in a 375 degree oven for 1 to 1.5 hours or until they are soft and golden. Make sure to baste your "tubers" every 15 minutes with the orange juice mixture.

I guarantee that my recipe for Candied Yams will be a home run. While they may not include marshmallows, they provide a sweet punch to the Thanksgiving dinner without utilizing candy. I'm sorry, but I truly feel that marshmallows have no place in a Thanksgiving meal. I look at their addition the same as I do the addition of pineapple to pizza. It's not that I won't eat it. I just find it to be a superfluous and heavy-handed ingredient for this dish.

Cranberry Sauce and Corn Bread Stuffing

Here are a few more great recipes to accompany your Thanksgiving turkey. First up is cranberry sauce. I highly urge you to make this as the difference between homemade and store-bought cranberry sauce is monumental. This recipe couldn't be simpler, and it can be made several days prior to Thanksgiving, giving you one less thing to do in the kitchen that day.

Old-Fashioned Cranberry Sauce (Serves 4 to 6)

  • 1 C freshly-squeezed orange juice (3 oranges if doing it from scratch)

  • 1/4 C cold water

  • 1 C sugar

  • 1 12-oz. bag of fresh cranberries

  • Zest of 1 orange

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1/2 Tsp ground ginger

  • Freshly ground nutmeg

In a saucepot, bring orange juice, water, and sugar to a boil. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add cranberries, orange zest, cinnamon stick, ground ginger, and nutmeg. Stir to incorporate, and reduce heat. Allow mixture to simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes or until most of the cranberries have popped. Allow mixture to cool, transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate overnight.

Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing (Serves 4 to 6)

  • 1 box cornbread mix, prepared two days in advance and cut into small cubes

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped

  • 2 celery ribs, chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 3 Spanish chorizo or hot Italian sausages, removed from casings

  • 2 eggs, beaten

  • 1 - 1.5 C chicken stock

  • 2 - 3 Tbsp fresh thyme, sage, or parsley, or a combination of all three

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat a Tbsp or so of olive oil until hot. Fry sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until fully browned. Transfer cooked sausage meat to a large bowl. In the same skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil until hot. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Season the veggies with salt and pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes. Transfer veggies to the same bowl with the sausage. To the bowl, add crumbled cornbread, beaten eggs, chicken stock, and herbs, and then season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix until fully incorporated. Grease a casserole dish with butter or non-stick spray, and transfer the stuffing mixture to the dish. Pack the stuffing loosely, and roast it in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. For an extra-crispy top, place casserole under the broiler for a few minutes. Serve.

We've done it! We successfully focused on the periphery of our Thanksgiving meal without forgetting the importance of the turkey. I honestly feel it's just as important to focus on the spirit of this holiday without losing sight of the many reasons we have to be thankful. Doing so will not only set the tone of the day, it will also alleviate some of the pressure we feel to flawlessly execute our Thanksgiving meal.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

North Dallas Homes

Recent homes sold over a million have sold at 80% or less of list price!

The two new homes on Wesgrove were sold at auction on 9/16!

Though showings are slow, sales are stronger under $700,000 and values have gone up! We are dealing with a pickier buyer these days who want a perfect house, low rates, and a low price if renovating is needed! INTEREST RATES ARE VERY VERY LOW NOW. Strong credit rating is required. Be sure to deal with a reputable, experienced Realtor and lender! Appraisals are tough with either LOW comparables!. Hopefully this burst of activity will last through the fall/winter this year........

If you need information on activity in your area I can help! Your referrals are sincerely appreciated.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Moving and the 5 to do list

Moving is one of the most stressful activities of lifetime. It is very tiresome and chaotic process. It creates complete hustle and bustle in home. It is combination of many tasks - packing, moving, loading, unloading, unpacking and rearranging. Relocation is really a big undertaking. You must make plan and get prepared to organize your move. Apart from these pains, moving is an expensive task. You have to spend lots of money in various processes. You have to buy packing supplies and hire professional moving agency to accomplish the tasks. But the amount spent on moving can never be backed. It is unproductive investment. So, try to make your move cheaper. You can do it. Make organized plan and preparation. You will certainly find that you can move easily by investing small amount. You just need to open your five senses and work with conscience.

Here are some tips to make your move cheaper and organized:

Collect boxes at cheaper price or free of cost: You can get boxes and cartons at very cheap price from the local grocery shops. Shopkeepers can also give you some boxes free of cost as they are useless to them. You can even collect wooden boxes at cheap prices from the fruit vendors and the liquor shops. So, you need not to spend much money in buying packing boxes. However, you can buy some modular boxes if you need few of them.

Do not buy too much bubble wraps, peanuts and foams: You can use towels and blankets for cushioning. Buy small amount of bubble wraps and peanuts to pack fragile items only. You can use pillow, cushion, old pieces of clothes and wadded papers to fill the extra space. Do not waste money in buying foam for filling space.

Get organized: Decide you want to hire a professional mover or ready to accomplish the tasks yourself. Make a plan accordingly. Schedule the dates for packing and moving. Always work on your schedule and do not leave today's work on tomorrow. Always work on time. Follow room-wise packing plan for your move. Make a packing platform. Keep all packing supplies in that platform only. Make a utility box and keep all those items that you need constantly.

Consider packing yourself: Though packing is tough task but you can do it easily after learning some easy packing tips. You can ask for such tips from one of the Ahmedabad packers movers. They readily get agreed to provide useful tips free of cost. You can easily pack most of the items of your home.

Consider packing yourself: Rent a truck and seek help of your friends and relatives for loading goods in the truck. If possible drive yourself or ask one of your friends to drive the truck. If not, hire a driver to drive the truck.

These are the steps to make home move cheaper and organized. You can easily move with your entire household items economically. If you feel it hard to pack and move your entire belongings, hire one of the moving companies to accomplish the task. They charge very genuinely for the services they provide. They also provide customized services. You can get the required services within your budget.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Moving to Dallas ?


Moving to Dallas ?

Click on the picture to search for homes in the Entire Dallas City Limits!!

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Who is Robert J Russell

Do you need a Speaker for your next event ?

Call Robert J Russell - check out his Speaking website: http://robertjrussellspeaker.weebly.com/speaker.html

Watch the video - Who is Robert J Russell > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcUlvMoPwyA

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

The insanity of moving

* Are you moving or planning a move ? Here are my ideas of moving and how to prepare yourself.

Moving is never easy, and factoring in some useful moving tips might mean that you never have to say you are sorry. There can be a lot of trauma and heartbreak involved in leaving a familiar domestic environment and settling into a strange one. We tend to develop an attachment to familiar surroundings and people. However, when there is no other option but to move to a new home, there are two reasons for following some moving tips for the process:

  • Planning the move and streamlining the process in advance will save time, money and effort.

  • Following a plan will keep anxieties about moving and nagging feelings of regret at bay.

If you have a sizeable household to move across the state, you will of course need the services of a moving company. You can contract such services or choose to do it yourself via the U-Haul option. Either option will entail involving other family members, as well as friends and neighbors. Once you have your volunteer list together, delegate specific tasks to them for moving day.

When you organize your household for moving, you will doubtlessly find yourself left with an amazing amount of stuff that has no real place in a new household. We tend to accumulate many things when we stay at any place for a long period. These things often fall into disuse as we buy new stuff. Such possessions include old books, carpets, furniture and kitchenware. Transporting such disused articles to the new home, where they will not be uses either, is not only expensive. The fact is that nobody really wants to start afresh with old accessories. However, sentimental attachment is a powerful force and no one would just leave such treasures of the past behind. Here are some moving tips related to such articles:

You can get rid of many of such articles by holding a garage sale. There are many ingenious ways of having one nowadays. Posting notices around the neighborhood can be tedious and embarrassing. A traditional garage sale involves sorting the junk, categorizing it and displaying it to advantage in restricted space. Nobody really enjoys the process of physically haggling with bargain hunters. However, the traditional garage sale is a feasible option if you engage someone else to conduct it for you.

For those who do not like the idea of a traditional garage sale, the Internet offers us the facility of virtual garage sales. You would be surprised at how fast some of your unwanted items can sell online. Your fascination for these articles may have worn off, but that does not mean that others will not find them useful or novel. You benefit in various ways from selling such articles online, but the most significant ones are:

  • You don't get your hands dirty and sell things individually.

  • You don't have a lot of strangers invading your territory at a time when you are probably at emotional ebb.

  • You will generate a better price.

You can launch a virtual garage sale by contacting online auction houses. Many are available on the Internet and they come in different formats, with different options. You should shop around until you find the most suitable one. Plan the online selling of your redundant stuff well ahead of the actual moving date. The process is worth it but can take a little time.

After all redundant articles have been eliminated, allot a specific timeframe for the actual act of moving. One can shift smaller households in a single day, while larger ones may take two or even three days. Factor in unavoidable delays (road mishaps, vehicle breakdowns etc.) and finalize a period. Then organize the actual shift in such a way that you achieve everything on your within it.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Reduce Stress - Live in Florida

Living in a big city doesn't always mean instant advantages. Traffic noise and pollution, deadlines set for yesterday, rising crime and insurance rates, and the cost of living index, to name a few: Stresses in today's cities can overwhelm the senses and well-being of even the strongest. The negative effects of city life can impact all facets of life.


Extended exposure to constant stress reduces one's ability to withstand disease and permanently damage one's physical health:

1. High Blood Pressure

2. Heart Attacks

3. Strokes

4. Ulcers

5. Natural Immunity

6. Sleep

7. Teeth and Gums

8. And many more.

But the negative effects don't stop with just the body. One's mental health often suffers, as well:

1. Depression

2. Desperation

3. Night Sweats

4. Nightmares

5. Road Rage

6. And so much more.

Friends, family, co-workers, bosses, customers, and even strangers can both affect and be affected by common stresses found in the city. Unless one completely sequesters him- or herself from exposure, there's really no way to avoid city life stress. But that presents its own stress factor list.

What might be done to reduce those stresses? Move to a quiet, beautiful beach town in Florida!

Calmer Living

Reduction or elimination of major stress factors plays a huge part in improving both physical well-being and mental and emotional outlook. Changing living locations to a slower, calmer, more pleasant environment, such as smaller beach towns on the Florida coastline can vastly improve physical and mental health.

Commutes of minutes instead of hours, breathtaking scenery, and affordable living costs all present themselves in Florida beach towns. Sandy beaches, friendly neighbors and shop keepers embrace peaceful living and incorporate serenity into the way of life along Florida's coastlines.

From Jupiter to Marlboro to Fort Meyers to Seaside and many more, Florida coastal beach towns offer the potential of reductions in virtually every category--except, of course, increases in peace of mind, relaxation, and overall satisfaction.


Close to major metropolitan areas or more isolated locations, Florida beach towns offer visitors and residents, old and new, new revised outlooks and reduced stress combined with a peaceful way of life!

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Are you on Facebook - Check out our page

A big thank you to everyone who's become a fan on Facebook. If you haven't yet, we invite you to join the group .

The tips we give out aren't paid for or sponsored in any way. We're extremely grateful to have our loyal readers, because as we've mentioned in the past, our mission is to help people all over the world.

However, when you think of Robert J Russell, we hope that you will visit our website first!

Visit us online at http://www.robertjrussell.com or by phone at 972-679-9029. Thanks!

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Make Sense Out of Projects

It's not easy to admit that it's our own behavior that sets the tone in our home. We are just as responsible for the mess as we are for the good taste in decor.


We all hate it when mats, lamp shades or throw pillows don't come in the colors we like. Upholstery Fabric Paint by Simply Spray is a non-toxic, non-flammable aerosol spray can that allows you to paint over couches, chairs, pillows, linens, lampshades and more. Eco-friendly and water-based, the paint is an alternative to other harsh-smelling indoor sprays. Another plus is that it remains soft to the touch and is fade resistant. (It won't rub off either.) Cost is $12.99 per can. Details: simplyspray.com.


I know it seems that way, but clutter doesn't just happen. Most of the time, it's the direct result of a few bad habits that you may not realize lead to clutter, according to an article in the June edition of Good Housekeeping. The four habits mentioned are "Being afraid to let go of items," (in case you might need them later); "Not stepping up to tasks," (walking right by something that needs your attention); the worst of all, "Procrastination," (delaying a decision about what to do with your things); and "Buying too much stuff," (shocked?). Check out the mag on newstands now for solutions for each of these habits.


It is not fun when you realize that a home repair project you just finished - and spent your savings and time on - either isn't going to save you money or wasn't even necessary to begin with. "Green Sense for the Home: Rating the Real Payoff From 50 Green Home Projects" (The Taunton Press; $21.95) by Eric Corey Freed and Kevin Daum examines the issue and helps homeowners determine what projects make financial sense. Covering 16 projects you can do today (changing light bulbs or using less toilet water), 21 you can do tomorrow (adding solar power or installing a whole-house fan) and 13 you can do when building a new home (reclaiming your water and building with reclaimed or recycled materials), the book offers two different and sometimes opposing perspectives on each. An in-depth analysis breaks projects down according to their impact on the environment and, of course, your wallet.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

CASH for Clunkers

Cash rebates for clunker vehicles were such a smash hit,the government is at it again - this time offering you cash for your worn-out household appliances.

The $300-million federal program - administered through the states - will provide consumers with a cash rebate of up to 15% of the cost of each new Energy Star-rated refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher, clothes washer, water heater and room air conditioner. Expect rebates to run from $100 to $250, depending on the cost of the appliance.

But wait - there's more. The program also covers central AC/heating systems, providing rebates of up to $1,500 for Energy Star-rated replacement systems plus a federal income tax credit of up to $1,500 on purchases made by the end of this year.

Though a few states - Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Rhode Island - have jumped the gun and already have the incentives in play, most other states will launch the program later this month. States' shares of the federal program are based on population. California will receive the top amount: $35.3 million; Wyoming, the smallest: $511,000.

Based on early results in the four front-runner states, the appliance program will be as wildly popular with consumers as the cash-for-clunker car program was.

Appliance manufacturers and retailers are excited, eager for the sales boost the program will provide. The rebates should push sales of appliances to $22 billion this year - up 10% over last year, when sales bottomed at around $20 billion - though that's still down 15% from the record hit during the housing boom in 2005.

General Electric, Westinghouse, Whirlpool, Maytag, Trane, Carrier, Viking and other manufacturers, as well as national chain and independent retailers, hope that many consumers in need of one appliance will decide to spring for another as well, since the government is paying part of the tab. Many retailers are also planning discount tie-in promotions, offering big savings on related merchandise - such as outdoor gas grills and riding lawn mowers - that's not eligible for the federal rebates.

Is there a catch? Only a small one, but it shouldn't cause anyone any grief. Uncle Sam wants proof that an old appliance is being recycled before paying the rebate on the replacement. But reputable installers will be happy to haul your old appliance away for recycling at little or no charge after they set up your new one.

Reprinted with permission. All Contents © 2010 The Kiplinger Washington Editors.www.kiplinger.com

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Friday, April 30, 2010

Tomorrow Real Estate Trends

Where are the trouble spots in the U.S. ?

by Francesca Levy

Wednesday, April 28, 2010
provided by

In these cities, the housing crisis is expected to worsen.

Since the late 1970s casino-rich Atlantic City, N.J., has been a beachfront escape for poker aficionados and Keno-loving retirees from Philadelphia, Northern New Jersey and New York.

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Today, buying a home in Atlantic City is a gamble. Of 315 cities measured by Local Market Monitor, a Cary, N.C.-based real estate research firm, the Atlantic City metro is expected to experience the largest drop in home value over the next 12 months. A pocket of Northwestern cities where restrictions on building have artificially inflated prices, and smaller metros whose housing markets have benefited from internal migration, join Atlantic City on our list of real estate trouble spots.

Like cities in California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona, Atlantic City saw a dramatic run-up in prices during the housing boom due, in part, to speculative purchases of second homes; Atlantic County includes popular beachfront spots such as Margate. But while those bubble markets have already burst, Atlantic City still has significant price depreciation ahead; Local Market Monitor predicts the metro's median home price will fall 9% in the next year.

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"We have not seen the bottom in that market," says Jeffrey Otteau, president of East Brunswick, New Jersey-based Otteau Valuation Group, who says the city is still saddled with 12 months of unsold housing inventory.

As the effects of the recession sink in, the market for second homes in the metro has all but dried up, delaying a local recovery. What's more, tumbling revenues for the gambling industry have cost casino workers jobs, damaging the area's employment base.

Behind the Numbers

To put together our list of housing markets expected to drop, Local Market Monitor measured 315 Metropolitan Statistical Areas and selected the ones where it anticipated average home prices would fall most in the next 12 months. It then narrowed the list to cities where actual average home prices were at least 10% above their equilibrium price--that's where home prices should be based on economic fundamentals, and the price to which they will likely return. LMM calculates its equilibrium price and home value forecast based on trends in local jobs and income as well as the historic movement of home prices. Forbes relied on Local Market Monitor to rank each metro.

Cities in the Pacific Northwest appear on our list, in part, because some of the strictest land planning policies in the country have curbed sprawl and propped prices.

"It's very hard to overbuild in this region, because of urban growth boundaries and a fairly limited supply of developable property," says Randall Pozdena, managing director of ECONorthwest, a Eugene, Ore.-based consultancy. "Wages are 20 to 30% below what wages in the Bay Area are, but home prices are relatively high. We've created an artificial scarcity situation."

In Portland, Ore., homes are overvalued by 31%; in Bellingham, Wash., housing is 22% overpriced and in Eugene, Ore. homes are 21% more than they should be. Local Market Monitor expects prices in Portland to fall 9% in the next year; Eugene prices to drop by 8%; and Bellingham to see a 9% fall.

Smaller metros like Glens Falls, N.Y., Flagstaff, Ariz., and Salisbury, Md., all of which have a population under 200,000, are expected to see home prices drop 11%, 13% and 8%, respectively in the next year. In these places, small shifts in the local economy can cause big ripples.

"If you have one or two large employers in a smaller metro, they will have a greater impact on the jobs and income situation," says Carolyn Beggs, Local Market Monitor COO. "In larger metros there are more employers, so each employer won't have as great an effect."

All but two of the cities on our list saw above-average rates of population growth in the first half of the last decade. Some, like Provo, Utah, and Portland, Ore., saw their head counts rise by double-digit numbers (22% and 18%, respectively). Because in-migration typically boosts demand for housing, the national recession is due to take a particular toll on them.

"During a recession internal migration within the U.S. drops sharply," says Ingo Wizner, president of Local Market Monitor, noting that relocating becomes less financially feasible in hard times."Home prices in these markets are likely to fall for several years, but will then recover as above-average population growth resumes." Both Provo, a college town, and trendy Portland have sustaining appeal to young movers, which will likely pick up along with economic recovery.

Pozdena's outlook about Portland and other Pacific Northwest cities is more measured. While he predicts a short-term softening in prices in Portland, Bellingham and Eugene, he believes that limits to growth and continued in-migration will keep demand high.

"I do think we've been buoyed by some unusual forces," he says. "But I see most of those continuing, rather than reversing."

List: Tomorrow's Real Estate Trouble Spots

While metros like Miami, Las Vegas and Los Angeles have gained notoriety for plummeting home prices, it's not those markets that have the most to worry about now. These new housing trouble spots, most of which saw home prices peak after the national average, are set to see major price corrections in the next year. To identify them, Local Market Monitor, a Cary, N.C.-based real estate research firm found the Metropolitan Statistical Areas where it forecast the biggest average-home-price drops in the next 12 months, and where the actual average home price was 10% or more above what it would be without market volatility. Forbes relied on Local Market Monitor to rank each metro.

1. Metropolitan Statistical Area: Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J.


Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Equilibrium Home Price: $159,117.00

Overpriced: 54%

12-month Price Forecast: -9%

*Forbes relied on Local Market Monitor to rank each metro.

2. Metropolitan Statistical Area: Provo-Orem, Utah


AP/George Frey

Equilibrium Home Price: $136,247.00

Overpriced: 44%

12-month Price Forecast:-12%

*Forbes relied on Local Market Monitor to rank each metro.

3. Metropolitan Statistical Area: Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Ore.-Wash.



Equilibrium Home Price: $189,818.00

Overpriced: 31%

12-month Price Forecast: -9%

*Forbes relied on Local Market Monitor to rank each metro.

4. Metropolitan Statistical Area: Glens Falls, N.Y.


AP/Mike Groll

Equilibrium Home Price: $177,003.00

Overpriced: 22%

12-month Price Forecast: -11%

*Forbes relied on Local Market Monitor to rank each metro.

5. Metropolitan Statistical Area: Bellingham, Wash.


Cynthia Smith/iStock

Equilibrium Home Price: $230,024.00

Overpriced: 22%

12-month Price Forecast: -9%

*Forbes relied on Local Market Monitor to rank each metro.

Click here to see the full list of Tomorrow's Real Estate Trouble Spots

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Is now a time to sell or to buy or maybe both ?

RISMEDIA, April 1, 2010-The real estate brokerage industry is in the process of coming out of a significant storm that has wreaked havoc on a large percentage of firms. Some have failed, some are hanging on, and yet others are reinventing themselves for the future. Regardless of your company's situation, it's time to assess where you want to be in the next few years and what it's going to take to get there. Doing nothing is simply not an option.

For three years, innovation has been stifled due to the fact brokerages have been in "survival mode" and investments in the future, by necessity, have been largely ignored. Unfortunately, the expectation of agents and consumers has never been higher, thus forcing the industry to now start playing catch-up as the market begins to show signs of life.

Some brokerages see the next 24-36 months as a time of unprecedented opportunity to reinvent themselves and consolidate market share. Others, due to age or financial limitations, see quite a tough road ahead as it could take years to get back to earning levels that would allow for a reasonable exit.

If a brokerage does not have the time or capital to reinvent, what are its options today?

As 2010 continues to unfold, two camps exist:

Sellers:There are many reasons, personal and otherwise, why an owner decides to sell. Due to the circumstances that have led us to this point in time, several things are undeniable:

- Brokerages must innovate and reinvent in order to be viable in the future.

- Most brokerages have lost most, if not all of the value they had three years ago.

- It will take several years for those valuations to return (if they ever do) and that is only if the innovation and re-invention mentioned above are successfully accomplished.

If these brokers are not willing or able to invest the time, effort, and dollars necessary to adapt to the new real estate brokerage paradigm, their best option might be to consider an exit today and leave that task to others.

Buyers: Over the past 12-24 months, with few exceptions, brokerages have been reluctant to do any sort of expansion. Brokerages with resources and vision are seeing 2010 and 2011 as opportunities to consolidate market share and, in the process, recruit solid talent. These opportunities exist for the following reasons:

- Due to the reasons given above for those who might be sellers today, buyers have the opportunity to increase company dollars and consolidate market share while making investments necessary to reinvent.

- Many local and regional markets are lacking in leadership and innovation. Those who are giving sellers a dignified exit strategy while creating the tools and systems to succeed in the future will be seen as leaders and great destinations for selling brokerages and agent recruits alike.

As the industry continues to maneuver and gain solid ground in the midst of seismic changes, 2010 represents the year of reckoning regardless of which camp a brokerage falls into. Whether to sell or buy depends largely on one's desire or ability to invest in a wholesale reinvention.

Jose Perez is the president of PCMS Consulting, a full service consulting, sales and management organization that specializes in real estate industry issues.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Insurance Reform

A weekly compilation from Aetna of health care-related developments in Washington, D.C. and state legislatures across the country

Week of March 22, 2010

Late in the night Sunday, the House of Representatives helped President Obama deliver what no other President has been able to do -- a significant reform of the nation's health care system. The process is complicated by the fact that the House first had to pass the Senate's version of health care reform, and then pass a package of fixes that the Senate will have to take up separately through a "reconciliation" procedure requiring only a simple majority vote. To help figure out what health care reform will look like if the reconciliation bill is adopted, a number of news organizations are offering their own summaries or guides to the changes, including: The New York Times, USA Today, and the Chicago Tribune. Also, you can read online what theCongressional Budget Officehad to say about the bill it estimates will cost $940 billion over the next decade.


On Sunday, the House approved the previously passed Senate version (219 to 212) of health care reform, which sends this measure to the President for signature on Tuesday.The House also approved (220 to 211) the House-initiated "fix" to this Senate bill (called the Reconciliation bill) to revise items in the Senate bill that are repugnant to the House. This Reconciliation measure has to be approved by the Senate (scheduled for this week) to legally change the Senate bill. While Republicans in the Senate have more procedural tools at their disposal to derail the Reconciliation bill, the very nature of a reconciliation bill is that it only takes 51 votes, rather than the "normal" 60 filibuster-proof votes in the Senate on such major items as health care. Therefore, it seems likely that the Senate will indeed approve the changes, though perhaps not this week. If there are any changes on the Senate floor to the Reconciliation bill, even one word, it would have to go back to the House for yet another vote.

Since the beginning of the year, Congress has extended for one month at a time two health-related items: 1) suspension of imposition of a 21 percent cut in doctor reimbursements under Medicare; and 2) continuation of worker eligibility for a 65 percent subsidy to pay for COBRA coverage. The end of March deadline will be extended yet again through April, once the Senate agrees with the extenders bill passed by the House last week. Both chambers have passed a lengthier extension of these two items (the "doc fix" would go through September and the COBRA item would go to the end of 2010) as part of a separate larger bill, but with no compromise in sight Congress may have to extend these two items yet again at the end of April.


COLORADO: The bill requiring maternity and contraceptive coverage in individual policies and eliminating pregnancy as a pre-existing conclusion took a turn for the worse last week.Originating in the House, the measure had been amended to only require that a coverage option be provided. The Senate, which was expected to accept the bill as amended, passed a version requiring that coverage for reproductive services be included in the majority of the individual plans marketed by a carrier. At the request of the governor, the bill has now been referred to a conference committee.

CONNECTICUT: The Insurance and Real Estate Committee reported out a number of bills of interest last week, including: An Act Concerning Rate Approvals For Individual Health Insurance Policies-- the committee substituted language 1) removing the ability of AG and Health Care Advocate (HCA) to bill the plans for consultants, 2) removing the ability of the HCA and AG to appeal to the court, 3) narrowing the filing time frame for the approval to 120 days, and 4) starting to define terms and processes. The Committee's Republicans all voted no on the bill, indicating that they were concerned that the Committee hadn't gotten it right yet. An Act Concerning Appeals of Health insurance Benefits Denials -- the bill currently requires that upon the request of a member that a health plan provide all specific documents and information that were NOT provided by the enrollee or their provider that were considered in the denial. An Act Concerning Standards in Health Care Provider Contracts-- although a "standards in contracting" bill was enacted into law last session, providers continue to push for even greater limitations on contracting, including prohibitions on down-coding of claims. Other bills reported out include bleeding disorder coverage bill, a bill that would require hospitals to charge uninsured patients no more than 110 percent of Medicare, and a bill that would raise the medical malpractice threshold requirements for various providers.

GEORGIA: The legislation imposing limitations on the use of rental networks was deferred after Aetna helped educate legislators about the need for further amendments to the bill.Most importantly, the bill still does not contain an exemption for the requirements of ERISA plans and non-ERISA self-funded plans. Aetna continues to work with the legislators on this issue and anticipates the bill may be heard next week. No further action has been taken on the House bill imposing a 1.6 percent tax on the premiums of health plans. Indications from the Governor's office are that it may decide not to pursue this bill. However, we are watching the issue closely.

INDIANA: The legislature adjourned March 13 with no resolution to the major issues in Indiana.Specifically, the Republicans were unable to move a bill to delay imposition of new taxes to support the unemployment compensation fund or authorize a ballot initiative to permanently cap property taxes, and the Democrats were unable to move their agenda on education funding, creating jobs and providing greater assistance to the unemployed. With the exception of a bill dealing with emergency medical treatment of employees covered by workers' compensation, no insurance bills survived. Bills defeated included a push by the Indiana State Medical Association (ISMA) to allow providers to pick and choose the plans offered by an insurer that they would participate in and an initiative that would have required health insurers to provide extensive data to Indiana DOI regarding premiums and loss ratios. In addition mandatory recognition of assignment of benefits for out-of-network providers and the Indiana Dental Association's initiative to prohibit dental plans from imposing or negotiating fee schedules on non-covered services were defeated. Of note is that ethics legislation did pass both houses, and it is expected that the Governor will sign the bill impacting lobbying registration and reporting; it also limits who may serve as a lobbyist.

MISSOURI: With eight weeks to go in the legislative session, the House overwhelmingly approved the "Freedom of Health Care Act," which would send voters a constitutional amendment to prevent them being compelled to participate in any federal health care plan. The "yes" votes included all House Republicans and more than a third of Democrats. The Senate gave final approval to a bill requiring health plans to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. On the budget front, Governor Nixon cut another $126 million in state spending, which means he has now vetoed or withheld almost $850 million from the budget the General Assembly approved last May. Because falling revenues show no immediate signs of improving, further cuts appear certain before the fiscal year ends on June 30. Analysts are projecting a $500 million shortfall in the budget blueprint the Governor proposed in January, prompting serious talk about restructuring state government and broad promises of bone-nicking budget cuts. One large target is the Medicaid program, and a preliminary draft of the appropriations bill is holding $100 million for physician services contingent upon a $300 million windfall that might come Missouri's way if the U.S. Congress extends the federal budget stimulus package.

NEW JERSEY: The governor recently gave his fiscal year 2011 budget address to a joint session of the legislature, outlining his plan for addressing a $10.7 billion state deficit.The proposed budget calls for drastic cuts across all sectors of government including: schools districts, FamilyCare (the state health program for the uninsured), the earned income tax credit, and the elimination property tax rebates. In contrast to past years, there were no new proposed tax increases. However, some cost shifting is anticipated in the form of increased assessments on individuals and businesses. Of note is a $2 million expenditure increase at the Department of Banking & Insurance, which will be borne by insurers in the state. In his effort to stimulate the state economy, the governor proposed discontinuing a 4 percent corporate business tax surcharge as well as allowing the surtax on high income earners to sunset. Further analysis will be done in the coming months, as the legislature begins its deliberation of the budget, to determine what, if any, impact the budget could have on Aetna. The budget must be signed by into law by June 30. The Senate unanimously confirmed Tom Considine as the next commissioner of the Department of Banking & Insurance. During his testimony before the senate judiciary committee, Considine advised that Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey application to convert to a for-profit entity has been put on indefinite hold at the request of Horizon. In addition to Considine, the senate confirmed Dr. Poonam Alaigh as commissioner for the Department of Health and Senior Services.

NEW YORK: According to data recently released by the Department of Insurance to bolster the Governor's demand for prior approval of insurance rates, New York HMOs had premium increases of 17 percent on average this year, with some increases as high as 51 percent. The data showed that premium changes varied widely between companies and between counties. The state continues to claim that reinstating prior approval will save $70 million. A coalition of insurers, business groups and providers strongly opposed the prior approval proposal as a measure that would impose price controls on insurance. In both press statements and full-page ads, the coalition underscored that reinstating prior approval ignores the real reason for rising health insurance premiums-increases in the underlying cost of health care services-and does nothing to address those costs. Real reform is needed that addresses the underlying costs of care, reduces the hidden taxes and ensures that health plans can continue to provide coverage to New Yorkers. The prior approval opposition group includes the Health Plan Association, the Employer Alliance, the hospital associations HANYS & GNYHA, the Business Council of New York State, the National Federation of Independent Business and several upstate business alliances.

OKLAHOMA: Two bills seeking to streamline state employee health insurance benefits, in an effort to improve choice and lower costs, passed the House last week. The bills are based on recommendations made in a report by Milliman Inc. to the Oklahoma State Employee Health Insurance Review Working Group, which met during the interim last year. The report was requested to examine the functions of the Employees Benefit Council (EBC) and the Oklahoma State Education and Employees Group Insurance Board (OSEEGIB) and to determine if a duplication of efforts existed between the two agencies. The report concluded that the functions of the two groups should be integrated to form a new organization focused not only on the payment of health and other insurance claims but also on the wellness of the covered individuals; one oversight board should be created that would include members from backgrounds that include medical and employee benefits, as well as those from legal and fiscal backgrounds; the new organization should include a stronger wellness component; the state employee benefit allowance is artificially inflated and should be recalculated; and more choice is needed in rural areas of the state. The bills now move to the Senate for consideration.

WASHINGTON: Legislation authored by Democrat Eileen Cody to allow health insurance consumers the opportunity to purchase health insurance across state lines failed to gain traction in the legislature, despite support from the small business community and an endorsement from the chair of the health committee.Although some regional insurance carriers had expressed concerns, the main opposition came from chiropractors and mental health providers who believed that provider protection laws would be uncut by the legislation.


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