20 Desirable Neighborhoods: Popular, but Not Sought-After


Homebuyers often idealize their wants on their wish list—and, for many, location is at the top.

The aspiration for a certain location, however, may be just that: an aspiration, according to a new report by Zillow that identifies what areas buyers are interested in the most:

20 Desirable Neighborhoods, Ranked

Led by L.A.’s The Oaks, Atlanta’s Tuxedo Park and San Francisco’s Presidio Heights, the majority of neighborhoods ranked by Zillow are enclaves with high price tags, suggesting that although buyers have a demonstrated interest in them, it is more out of curiosity or desire than an intent to purchase. Zillow based its list on the neighborhood’s number of pageviews during the first three months of 2018.

“Real estate shoppers are usually very aspirational, so it’s no surprise we have a lot of shoppers looking outside of where they can likely afford and instead, looking at beautiful homes in desirable areas,” says Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “We see these more posh neighborhoods drawing shoppers in, but ultimately, these probably aren’t the neighborhoods most will end up in—the typical price of entry in the majority of neighborhoods on this list is generally much higher than their city as a whole.”

Homes in Malibu’s Point Dume—No. 7 in pageviews—are the steepest: a median $5,995,000, according to the report. Bel Air (No. 4) follows at a median $5,385,000. Homes in Crestwood, in Yonkers, N.Y. (No. 17), are at a median $559,735—the most affordable, relatively, of the top 20. Six of the top 20 are in the San Francisco metro, five are in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metro, and three are in the Atlanta metro—the majority, markedly, are on the West Coast.

“It’s hard to blame these buyers, because, really, who hasn’t dreamed big when home shopping?” Terrazas says. “Oohing and ahhing over beautiful homes has become one of America’s favorite pastimes.”

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

DeVita_Suzanne_60x60Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Ask the Coach: Show Your Agents How to Turn Open House Leads Into High-Volume Pipelines and Future Sales


It is officially open house season and truly the best opportunity for your agents to fill their pipeline of listing and buyer leads that, when effectively converted can turn into big profits within the next 90 days. Sunday is notoriously known as “real estate day” in every city in the country. Look at the open house as the best, free lead-generating system to be in front of potential buyers and sellers to create new business.

Use these 5 strategies to help coach and train your agents on how to maximize open houses right now to create listings and sales in the next three months:

  1. Pick the right house to hold open that will have a move-up buyer who also has a house to list. This way, you are getting two sales out of each client. Don’t sit first-time buyer open houses if you want to pick up listings. Also pick the price point that is in the highest demand—that’s where all the buyers will show up every week and create more leads.
  1. Prepare the open house in advance. If you prepare well for an open house you can drive more traffic to it. Post it up to three weeks in advance online to create urgency and showings before the open house. Invite the neighbors with a phone call and a post card. Run a boosted Facebook ad to target buyers to attend your open house.
  1. Offer value during the open house. The agent who provides the most value, gets hired, plain and simple. Offer a homebuyer guide or packet of information branded to you. Include information about mortgages, home inspections and steps in the buying process. Also add value in what you say to help convert the lead.
  1. Focus on getting appointments during the open house. You have a 90 percent greater chance of getting a yes to an appointment if you ask right then. Add value by offering to assist them before they put the house on the market. Letting prospects know you can save them time and money is one of my favorite value adds. Remember you’re just starting the relationship; you’re not going to go over their house to list it. You are cementing the relationship.
  1. Watch my webinar, “How to Make $50K at Your Next Open House.” This webinar makes for your next in-office lunch and learn or special training session to share proven strategies with new or experienced agents. My entire strategy shows agents how to properly prepare, plan and execute the most 2-3 profitable hours of their week. Email yourock@sherrijohnson.com to receive a FREE link of this priceless webinar. Your agents will have immediate results and approach open houses with a new mindset to convert more leads into listings and sales in the next 6-12 months.

Sherri Johnson is a national leader offering world-class real estate keynotes, consulting and coaching while delivering accelerated results. No other coach matches her distinguished 20 years of experience as a top agent and executive of a Top 3 National brokerage. She has recruited, trained and coached thousands of agents, and was responsible for leading over 700 real estate agents and over $1.6 billion in annual sales volume. Johnson’s relevant, real-life and proven strategies, coupled with her high energy, produce immediate results and can triple your income regardless of your current production. Johnson is the national speaker for Homes.com for its Secrets of Top Selling Agents national tour. Contact coaching@sherrijohnson.com or 844-989-2600 (toll-free) or visit www.sherrijohnson.com.

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Taxes Filed—Time to Chill? Not So Fast, Says IRS

(TNS)—The April 18 federal tax-filing deadline has come and gone. Your taxes are paid, and maybe you already have your refund in hand. Nothing to do now but sit back and chill for eight months or so, right?

The Internal Revenue Service respectfully disagrees.

Given recent changes in tax tables created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, IRS officials are urging taxpayers to do a “paycheck checkup” and other double-checks, the better to avoid a possibly unpleasant surprise in early spring next year.

“The IRS is taking special steps to help taxpayers understand these tax law changes,” said Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter. “We encourage people to do a paycheck checkup to help make sure they’re having the right amount of tax withheld for their unique personal situation. To help with this, the IRS has added and updated a variety of tools and information to help taxpayers.”

The IRS says taxpayers should start by determining how much money they want employers to withhold from their paychecks.

That can be done on the “Withholding Calculator” link on www.IRS.gov. Having too little tax withheld can mean a surprisingly high tax bill next year, and with the average refund topping $2,800, the IRS said some taxpayers might prefer to have less tax withheld up front and receive more in their paychecks.

Taxpayers can use the calculator to estimate their 2018 income tax. It compares that estimate to the taxpayer’s current tax withholding options. Some may wish to change their withholding with their employer. The IRS notes that it’s helpful to have a completed 2017 tax return with you when you visit the website.

Taxpayers who need to adjust their withholding will need to submit a new Form W-4, also known as an Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, to their employer. If an employee needs to adjust withholding, doing so as quickly as possible means there’s more time for tax withholding to take place evenly over the rest of the year. Waiting until later in the year means there are fewer pay periods to make the tax changes, which could have a bigger impact on each paycheck.

The IRS said the paycheck checkup is highly recommended for two-income families, people working two or more jobs, parents who claim credits such as the Child Tax Credit, people who itemized deductions in 2017 and those who received either large tax refunds or large tax bills in 2017.

The IRS also has launched a series of “tax reform tax tips” at www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-reform. The periodic notices offer tax changes and other information in plain language.

For some, tax season goes on even now. That includes citizens who filed for an extension, others who did not file or pay what is owed, or those awaiting refunds. The IRS said it has help available for them, too.

There’s no penalty for filing a late return after the tax deadline if a refund is due. Penalties and interest only accrue on unfiled returns if taxes were not paid by April 18. IRS “Free File” is available through October 15 for incomes less than $66,000. To get more information to file electronically, visit www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free.

If a federal return is filed more than 60 days after the April due date, the minimum penalty is either $210 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax, whichever is less. This means that if the tax due is $210 or less, the penalty is equal to the tax amount due. If the tax due is more than $210, the penalty is at least $210.

In some cases, taxpayers filing after the deadline may qualify for penalty relief. If there is a good reason for filing late, the IRS said taxpayers should attach an explanation to their returns. The IRS also noted that taxpayers who have a history of filing and paying on time often qualify for penalty relief. The agency said a taxpayer will usually qualify for such relief if they haven’t been assessed penalties for the past three years and meet other requirements. For more information, do a “first-time penalty abatement” search on www.IRS.gov.

Still looking for your refund? Go to www.irs.gov/refunds, where multiple options are explained to check on your refund status.

Those who owe taxes can get information on payments or applying online for a payment plan at www.irs.gov/payments/view-your-tax-account.

The IRS said it routinely corrects math errors on returns and subsequently notifies taxpayers by mail. If a taxpayer discovers a major error or omission, however, the federal tax agency suggests consulting this site to determine if an amended return is necessary: www.irs.gov/help/ita/should-i-file-an-amended-return.

Finally, the IRS stressed that it never makes initial, unsolicited contact via email, text or social media on filing, payment or refund issues. The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail. Any email that appears to be from the IRS about a refund or tax problem is likely a scam attempt. Don’t give out any key personal information in an email. The IRS wants those suspicious emails forwarded to phishing@irs.gov.

©2018 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Becoming a 401(k) Millionaire

(TNS)—Steve Horaney has two kids in college, a home in South Lyon, Mich., and every other excuse people can roll out for not saving for retirement.

Except he’s still one of the country’s 401(k) millionaires.

Horaney, 50, says he’s learned to sock away money with every paycheck going back to his early 20s when he started a good job at Guardian Industries in 1990. It’s worked.

“I max out my 401(k),” he says. “I always took the philosophy of paying me first and spending the rest.”

Horaney has no plans to splurge or retire immediately from his job as a vice president of Membership at the Original Equipment Suppliers Association. He’s still writing rent checks for two children who are living in apartments near the schools they attend and wants to help his children to pay down student loans.

“I don’t think I’m anywhere I need to be to retire” yet, he says.

Hitting that $1 million retirement savings mark often takes the better part of any career. There are limits to how much you can save each year in a 401(k), and there is the potential downside of brutal bear markets, like the meltdown in 2008-09.

More time can mean more money.

A 30-year-old saver who makes $40,000 a year and sets aside 11 percent of pay a year could hit $1 million in 35 years, assuming the 401(k) plan includes an employer match, the investor gets a 7 percent annual return on investments and a 2 percent annual salary increase, according to a retirement calculator at Bankrate.com.

Investors received quite a boost, of course, as the Dow Jones industrial average posted one record after another in 2017. Wall Street has been on a bull market run for nine years.

Still, a million dollars? Really? Face it: The closest many will get to a million dollars is buying a lottery ticket, watching a TV game show or listening to a clever, quirky song by the Canadian group The Barenaked Ladies:

And if I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars)
I’d buy you furniture for your house (maybe a nice chesterfield or an ottoman)
And if I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars)
I’d buy you a K-car (a nice reliant automobile)

We’re not exactly hearing folks singing “If I had a 401(k), one day I’d have a million dollars.”

Reaching seven figures in savings is not a slam dunk for most households.

About 150,000 people had $1 million or more in their 401(k) balances at Fidelity Investments as of the fourth quarter of 2017. It’s a record number and up from 93,000 for the fourth quarter of 2016.

It’s less than 1 percent of 16 million 401(k) accounts.

The average 401(k) balance at Fidelity reached $104,300, with the average IRA balance reaching $106,000—both record highs.

Many people have far less than that in retirement savings. The median value for retirement accounts—including a mix of IRAs and 401(k)s from current and past jobs—was $60,000 in 2016, according to the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumers.

Savers who reach the millionaire milestone tend to set aside money consistently, not run scared in a down market and avoid taking out loans from their 401(k) plans. It helps to have steady, fairly good-paying work, work at a large company with a generous matching contribution into that 401(k) and time to build up to millionaire status.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the typical 401(k) millionaire is around 58 years old on average, according to Fidelity’s data as of the third quarter 2017.

On average, savers are setting aside 14.8 percent of pay, while their employers are matching 9 percent, according to Fidelity.

“They tend to save a lot in their 401(k)s,” says Jeanne Thompson, senior vice president of Fidelity Investments, the country’s largest administrator of 401(k) plans.

“The key is to start saving as early as you can,” Thompson says.

The split was roughly 79 percent men and 21 percent women at the end of last year. Saving earlier in the game means you’re not stuck trying to save thousands of dollars a month to try to reach $1 million in your last 10 years before retirement.

The longer one contributes to a 401(k), the bigger the potential retirement nest egg.
For workers who have been contributing to their 401(k) for 10 consecutive years, the average 401(k) account balance increased to $286,700, up 22.5 percent from a year earlier, according to Fidelity.

For individuals who have been in their 401(k) plan for 15 straight years, the average balance rose to $387,100, up 21.5 percent from the fourth quarter 2016.

Some of that increase can be attributed to gradually increasing one’s contributions—including using higher catch-up limits for workers age 50 and older.

In 2018, savers who work for an employer can contribute up to $18,500 into a 401(k) as an employee—or up to $24,500 if the saver is age 50 or older.

Robert Bilkie, president of Sigma Investment Counselors, says investors who create a solid retirement nest egg and hit $1 million, like Horaney, who is a client, tend to practice “detachment and discipline.”

It takes discipline to keep saving, and one can’t get too excited when investments swing up—or fall down—dramatically in value.

“Investors in 401(k)s need to be emotionally detached from these funds,” Bilkie says. “They have to view them as assets that are virtually locked away from the outset and recognize that the value of their investments will fluctuate, sometimes painfully so.”

If you don’t dwell on the ups and downs, you can avoid making moves that could be harmful in the long run, such as shifting all your money out of stocks into cash in a panic.

“Like a scary movie, sometimes you have to just ‘look away’ from your monthly 401(k) statements,” Bilkie says.

It is, of course, tough not to panic when you live through days like February 5 when the Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 1,100 points in a day. The Dow has lost about 6.9 percent or 1,830.08 points from January 26, when it closed at a record high of 26,616.71 points through April 17. The Dow closed at 24,786.63 points April 17.

The market has been increasingly jittery in 2018, as investors have feared that President Donald Trump was launching a trade war with China. We also saw wild swings from computer-driven trading, as well as continued concerns about how high interest rates could be headed.

Yet Horaney says he’s staying the course and not worrying if he’s trending above or below that $1 million mark on any given day. He’s contributing more money now that he’s hit 50, too. Horaney doesn’t invest in individual stocks any more, partly because he had picked a few losers in the past. He has some index funds and other mutual funds.
His wife Kari is a third grade teacher at St. Patrick Catholic School in Brighton. Both do not have traditional pensions at their jobs.

The family has never dipped into his 401(k) savings for loans, and they tend not to panic and make rash moves by shifting investments in their 401(k) plan based on Wall Street’s headlines.

“With a planned retirement of 10 to 12 years away, I try not to get too worried about each swing,” Horaney says. “To be honest, I have not moved any of my savings,” referring to the most recent dips for the Dow.

“It appears that the daily swings are driven by the ‘tweets’ and they recover within a day or two. I don’t have the time or expertise to try and time the swings so I am staying the course,” Horaney says.

Horney admits that he’s been fortunate to be married to his wife for 27 years and able to keep saving for nearly 30 years.

“I have always worked hard and had a fortunate career,” Horney says. “I can’t say we have made a ton of sacrifices—just tried to live within our means.”

©2018 Detroit Free Press
Visit Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com
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5 Home Inspection Mistakes Buyers and Sellers Make

(TNS)— A home inspection is an assessment of a home’s condition. Home inspectors not only identify problems with houses; they can give buyers information that will help them with the upkeep.

“We want to teach them how to maintain the property because it’s the biggest investment they’ll ever make,” says Alden E. Gibson, a past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

If you’re getting a home inspection, here are five mistakes to avoid.

Not Researching the Inspector
Too many buyers and sellers hire whoever is recommended to them without doing any research. The inspection is only as good as the inspector doing it, says Troy Bloxom, owner of Home Inspections Plus near Anchorage, Alaska, and past president of the National Association of Home Inspectors.

A few questions to ask:
· How long have you been inspecting homes?
· How many inspections have you done?
· What are your qualifications, certifications and training?
· What was your job before you were a home inspector? (Ideally, your pro was in contracting or building.)

You want a certified professional who stays current.

“There’s a lot of stuff you have to know, and you want someone who’s keeping up with ongoing education,” says Kurt Mitenbuler, who is certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and owns an inspection company in Evanston, Ill.

You’re looking for an inspector who can analyze the home’s strengths and weaknesses, then explain them.

Not Attending the Inspection
Being present for the inspection may not be mandatory, but it’s a smart idea. Simply reading the inspection report isn’t enough to give most homeowners the full picture, Gibson says: “If they don’t see it, they don’t understand it.”

Gibson says he turns down dozens of inspections a year “because people can’t be there or don’t want to be there.”

The inspection might take an entire morning or afternoon, so set aside enough time. Some inspectors will sit with you afterward to explain things and answer questions.

“Any home inspector who doesn’t let you follow him around? That’s weird. Ask me any question you want,” Mitenbuler says.

A good inspector can give you an estimate of how much you’ll need to spend on repairs and upgrades, which is very valuable information as you consider your budget.

Not Reading the Inspection Report
Too many buyers and sellers just glance at the inspection report. You need someone who uses “clear, concise” language in person and in written reports, Mitenbuler says. He recommends scanning a few reports by checking the inspector’s website or asking for a sample report.

A knowledgeable pro will state simply what’s wrong with the house and what it will take to fix, Mitenbuler says.

Not Getting a Presale Inspection
Many sellers decide to leave the presale inspection to the buyers, Bloxom says. That’s a mistake.

When the buyers get an inspection (and if they’re smart, they will), the sellers may have little time to complete repairs and keep the sale on track, Bloxom says.

But if the seller has the home inspected before putting it on the market, he has more time to do repairs and to shop around and control his costs for the work, Bloxom says.

Both buyers and sellers often wait too long to engage an inspector, Gibson says. You should find an inspector long before you have (or make) an offer on a home. “Any good inspector will be booked out,” he says.

Not Prepping the Home
Inspectors get annoyed when homeowners don’t prepare their houses for inspection.

“Don’t force the home inspector to empty the closet to get into the attic,” Mitenbuler says. If you have a crawl-space hatch, move anything sitting on top of it.

Got a lock on a utility closet, basement or shed? The inspector needs access, so open it or provide keys.

For a seller, the best tack is to be at home to meet the inspector, introduce yourself, provide your mobile number, and then you can take off, Mitenbuler says.

To reduce the need for repeat inspections, hire professionals to do repairs, Bloxom says. Too many sellers will try DIY or get them done on the cheap, but poor workmanship will show up during the follow-up inspection, Bloxom says, and could result in more repairs—and another inspection.

©2018 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Is ‘Green’ at a Premium? Depends Where You Purchase


Who says you need “green” to get a green home?

According to an analysis by realtor.com®, eco-friendliness is becoming the norm—and being a green homeowner may not be as pricey as thought. While California’s costlier markets have high concentrations of green homes, there are also affordable pockets outside the Golden State—and, in many markets, eco-features are no longer at a premium.

The greenest:

  1. Fort Collins, Colo.
    Green Home Listings Share: 36 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $170.4
    Green Local Median PPSF: $171
  1. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas
    Green Home Listings Share: 35 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $139.1
    Green Local Median PPSF: $144
  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
    Green Home Listings Share: 35 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $738.9
    Green Local Median PPSF: $701
  1. San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas
    Green Home Listings Share: 34 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $128.8
    Green Local Median PPSF: $130
  1. Tulsa, Okla.
    Green Home Listings Share: 33 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $96.7
    Green Local Median PPSF: $115
  1. Boulder, Colo.
    Green Home Listings Share: 25 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $257.7
    Green Local Median PPSF: $267
  1. Salinas, Calif.
    Green Home Listings Share: 21 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $498.5
    Green Local Median PPSF: $429
  1. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga.
    Green Home Listings Share: 20 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $121.5
    Green Local Median PPSF: $132
  1. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
    Green Home Listings Share: 19 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $93.2
    Green Local Median PPSF: $107
  1. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.
    Green Home Listings Share: 17 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $565.7
    Green Local Median PPSF: $544

“Although Southern and Western states still lead the way in green technology adoption, eco-friendly features have grown in popularity across many regions of the United States,” says Javier Vivas, director of Economic Research at realtor.com. “Many buyers have come to expect standard features, and homes integrating specialty green features are becoming more mainstream.

“However, in today’s inventory-starved market, location still reigns supreme and the price of land can easily override the allure of special eco-friendly features,” Vivas says.

Analysts defined a “green” home as one with bamboo flooring, dual-pane windows, ENERGY STAR appliances and/or rating, Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) ventilation and/or solar panels.

For more information, please visit www.realtor.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Weighing Risk and Reward: Crypto-Investing in Home Equity


For homeowners that are looking to access home equity funds, but don’t want to take out a second loan, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or a reverse mortgage, there are not many options; however, blockchain technology is looking to change that by offering investment opportunities that are tied to a home’s equity and rising values.

Quantm Real Estate (quantmRE) is a membership-based real estate investment network built on blockchain technology. It allows the primary issuance and secondary trading of investment tokens backed by fractional equity interest in single-family homes. This means that quantmRE invests in a fraction of the home by paying the homeowner a pre-determined amount of money (USD) to later benefit from rising home values when the homeowner decides to sell.

Any funds gained are used by quantmRE to continue investing in single family homes—of which the portion purchased goes into a pool of other equity from other homeowners. The company also invests in non-homeowner occupied single-family homes that are held as investment properties.

“Having to borrow from a bank simply to access the wealth that you have built up in your home is deeply unsatisfactory,” said Matthew Sullivan, CEO and founder of quantmRE, in a statement. “Our ability to digitize the value of a homeowner’s equity and realize the locked-up value will solve a huge problem for homeowners worldwide. It’s time for people to be able to access more affordable homeownership options, flexibility and less financial risk.”

Although the company makes a consistent effort to stay away from the term loan—because the process lacks monthly payments and interest charges—it is, in fact, a type of loan that needs to be paid back. The company does not charge interest, but homeowners are required to pay more than the original sum provided as quantmRE becomes a partner with the owner of the property and is entitled to a fraction of home value gains—a lien is placed on the property to make sure of that.

So, what’s in it for homeowners? At the moment, fast cash without having to worry about monthly payments and a small chance to profit should the property values dramatically increase from the time of investment. Of course, quantmRE funds are on the line if the property doesn’t appreciate; but if it does, homeowners will typically receive less for the sale of their property than if they had not engaged in a shared equity contract in the first place.

The question is, do these blockchain investment properties make out better than the homeowners? That may be the case. QuantmRE will always make its initial investment amount back, and has the chance to profit from home value appreciation. Homeowners, on the other hand, are automatically in debt—a term quantmRE chooses to refuse—and are then on the line for an even larger balance should their home’s value rise.

The pros? Risk of volatility is reduced, as the tokens deal with only real estate assets instead of other less reliable crypto-investments. When it comes to home improvements, quantmRE is not entitled to a fraction of the property value gains earned from these updates. Homeowners can also pay quantmRE before the sale of their home; however, the company may add provisions to ensure they don’t take a loss in the case of unfavorable market conditions. Although quantmRE’s website states that tax consequences are not known until a future date, homeowners should speak to their tax advisors to confirm before participating.

As with most investments, profitability is determined on a case-by-case basis. While this is a chance for homeowners to participate in a blockchain-based investment, they should consult a financial advisor to determine if this is the right choice for them or if traditional equity-funded loans make more financial sense.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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