Dec. 6, 2018

Where to see holiday lights in Austin

All is bright, even at the darkest time of year



Whether it’s a balmy 79 degrees or a frigid 18 outside (two entirely plausible Austin scenarios), there’s always something lovely about the twinkling, colorful lights that appear in the dark December nights during the winter holidays. Viewed from a car or on foot, here are some of the best places around town to see them.

1. Mozart's Coffee Roasters


Mozart’s seems to deck the halls with more enthusiasm and sheer tonnage of lights every year. The free nightly show on its lakeside deck, 6 p.m.–11 p.m. includes thousands of lights have been sculpted into giant iconic objects, custom-made in Greece, that evoke Austin’s culture and the holiday season: a dozen guitars, the State Capitol, and a tree filled with presents. There’s also an audio-activated wall of lights and even more lights strung in the trees, facades, and rooflines. If that’s not enough stimulus, more than 20 choirs from local schools and community groups have been tapped this year to sing Christmas songs that range from traditional to “rock-the-deck” tunes, spaced throughout the evening.


2. Zilker Park Christmas Tree


Although located in close proximity to the Trail of Lights, the Zilker Park Holiday Tree—the only one in the entire United States made from decorating a moon tower—is not officially part of that event. Neither, however, is to be missed. The 2018 Zilker Tree lighting took place November 25, and the tree will be on display every night from 6 p.m. to midnight until the end of the year.


3. Austin Trail of Lights


Austin’s annual Trail of Lights in Zilker Park needs no introduction; it’s downright amazing road down a memory-and-future-hallucination lane, a 52-year-old tradition that’s both commercial (in a local way) and enigmatically charming.


4. Clarksville Historic District/Willis Littlefield’s House


The Clarksville Historic District, just west of downtown, is a fount of winter wonderlandia this time of year due to its mix of decorations and year-round old-timey shops and homes. The home of longtime resident decorator Willis Littlefield is a must-see.

5. West 37th Street

Residents of West 37th Street between Guadalupe Street and Home Lane began creating wild, DIY light displays in the mid-1980s. As the legend (and reality) of their oddball fantasia grew, hundreds and then thousands made the pilgrimage to walk (or drive, if you had hours to kill) down the tiny street during the holidays. While the grandiosity has waxed and waned, the tradition lives on, just as strange and wonderful as ever.


6. The Driskill Hotel


The historic, already ornate downtown hotel will be adorned with an equally ornate tree and will have Christmas events and holiday music throughout the evenings. The festivity carries out on to Sixth Street, which is even more lit than usual this time of year.


7. Texas Capitol


The grounds of the Texas state Capitol, especially at night, can be surprisingly magical despite the nefarious activity that often occurs inside. The holiday in front of the dome adds to the magic, and there’s a second tree in the Senate Chamber that’s both beautifully decorated and, we hope, an antidote to some of that nefariousness. The capper, thought is the annual Holiday Stroll, Sing-Along and Tree Lighting, which takes place this year on Saturday, Dec. 1 in front of the Capitol and along Congress Avenue from Ninth to 11th streets. In addition to musical performances from Austin favorites and headliners The Polyphonic Spree, there’s a countdown to light the tree (which has its own light show), followed by family-friendly activities accompanied by food trucks and artisan vendors.


8. Circuit of the Americas

This is the second year for this event/extravaganza, which includes a skating rink, a human snow globe, a petting zoo, carnival (and camel!) rides, food, movies, Santa's Workshop, and much more. It also has the mass-scaled lights and décor befitting of an international entertainment center.


*From Curbed Austin



Posted in Austin Events
Dec. 4, 2018

Texas metros bouncing back


December 4, 2018

​​​​NEW YORK (HSH) – Five Texas cities have landed on HSH's list of the top ten metros that have recovered most since the Great Recession. 

Austin-Round Rock home prices are 72.55 percent above the last housing boom's peak, the second-highest of all metros studied. 

Dallas-Plano-Irving (68.51 percent above peak) and Fort Worth-Arlington (59.85 percent) ranked fourth and fifth, respectively.

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land followed closely behind at sixth with its home prices 57.05 percent above the prerecession peak. ​​No. 8 San Antonio-New Braunfels had home prices 44.47 percent above peak. 

The rest of the top ten are:

·  No. 1 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, 87.88 percent above peak;

·  No. 3 San Francisco-Redw​ood City-South​​​ San Francisco, 68.90 percent;

·  No. 7 Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn., 56.70 percent;

·  No. 9 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, N.Y., 43.61 percent; and 

·  No. 10 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., 43.37 percent. 

So far, 73 U.S. home markets have seen their home values recover fully from the huge downturns some areas saw during the recession.



Posted in Market News
Dec. 3, 2018

Everything is bigger in Texas!

*Info from Visually

Posted in Market News
Nov. 29, 2018

December Events - What Do You Have Planned?

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Posted in Austin Events
Nov. 28, 2018

The 10 Best Big Cities to Live in Right Now


November 19, 2018

You don’t have to empty your savings account to afford city living in America—at least not in these locations.

Urban areas offer a gateway to culture or a medley of activities, but they typically come with a high price tag. That’s why MONEY crunched the numbers to find big cities—those with a population of 300,000 or more—with the best of all worlds: attractions, iconic neighborhoods, a relatively low cost of living, and promising job growth.

Here are our top 10 picks for best big cities to live in. (See MONEY’s full 2018 ranking of the Best Places to Live in America.)

1. Austin, Texas


Food fans dive into ramen at the award-winning Kemuri Tatsu-ya. - Jody Horton


  • Average Family Income: $87,389
  • Median Home Price: $326,562
  • Projected Job Growth (2017-2022): 10.9%

Texas’s delightfully bohemian capital nabs the list’s top spot because of the thriving job scene, coupled with memorable food, music, and a startup culture.

Not only is Austin projected to see a whopping 10.9% increase in jobs over the next four years, but the current unemployment rate of 3% also sits below the national average. The city’s median family income is $87,389, and the median home sale price is $326,562, according to Much of its job growth comes from small businesses and the tech sector—Dell, IBM, and Amazon are some of the biggest employers. Entrepreneurs, take note: CNBC ranked Austin as the No. 1 place to start a business, while Forbes named it one of the top 10 rising cities for startups.

Once you do land a job, you won’t have to worry about how to entertain yourself. Dubbed the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin is bursting with talent and more live music venues per capita than anywhere else in the nation. Visitors flock to the annual South by Southwest festivals, featuring concerts, speeches, and comedy showcases.

And then there’s the food. Restaurant-rating powerhouse Zagat named Austin the second-most-exciting food city in the U.S. last year, thanks to mainstays like Franklin Barbecue and new favorites such as ramen restaurant Kemuri Tatsu-ya, which combines Texan flavors and Japanese techniques for a meal as distinctive as the city itself.

2. Raleigh, North Carolina

  • Average Family Income: $82,021
  • Median Home Price: $263,000
  • Projected Job Growth (2017-2022): 9.6%

Part of North Carolina’s tri-city university hub, called the Triangle, along with Durham and Chapel Hill, Raleigh is home to a relatively young, diverse, and educated population.

Like Austin, Raleigh is a hotspot for employment seekers: Moody’s Analytics projects the area’s jobs will grow 9.6% by 2022. Forbes this year ranked Raleigh among the top 10 cities for jobs, owing in part to its 17.25% job growth over the past five years. And people are listening: There’s been a 13% increase in population since 2010, according to MONEY’s Best Places to Live database.

Your wallet will feel the benefits too: With an average sales tax of about 7.25% and average property taxes at $2,632, the city’s cost of living is relatively low compared with our other big cities.

As the historically significant birthplace of Andrew Johnson, Raleigh is host to dozens of museums, earning it the nickname Smithsonian of the South. The North Carolina Museum of History reaches back 14,000 years into the state’s past, and at the massive North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, general admission is free.

There’s a strong sense of community as well. Every fall, the North Carolina State Fair draws 1 million visitors to Raleigh for a 10-day festival featuring rides, music, games, and crafts from local artists. Tickets cost about $10 for adults and $5 for children.

3. Virginia Beach, Virginia


The iconic King Neptune greets visitors on a boardwalk three miles long.

Sherry V. Smith—Shutterstock


  • Average Family Income: $82,927
  • Median Home Price: $255,000
  • Projected Job Growth (2017-2022): 2.6%

The living is easy in Virginia Beach, also named one of MONEY’s best beach destinations last year. The area’s unemployment rate is about 3.1%, below the national average, and crime, relatively low among the big cities here, is also well below the national average. Despite an only 4% increase in population since 2010, the area is booming for retirees: The number of people age 50 and over grew 22% over the past eight years. But perhaps best of all, there are 213 clear days a year, giving residents plenty of time to enjoy six major beaches over 35 miles of coastline.

There’s a sandy stretch for nearly everyone, starting with the family-friendly First Landing State Park at Chesapeake Bay Beach. For surfing, head to Virginia Beach Oceanfront, or for a quieter, picturesque view, go to Sandbridge Beach.

The Sandbridge area is also home to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where you can learn about the region’s snakes, frogs, and turtles during a guided nature hike on Bay Trail. Nearby is First Landing State Park, the most visited state park in Virginia, named after the arrival of English colonists in 1607. First Landing offers outdoor activities as well as cabins, a boat launch, and swimmable waters.

Culture vultures won’t feel left out: Renowned symphony orchestras play the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, and comedians headline at the Funny Bone Comedy Club.

4. Mesa, Arizona

  • Average Family Income: $64,455
  • Median Home Price: $246,000
  • Projected Job Growth (2017-2022): 8.1%

Seeking a sunny city with easy opportunities to escape to the outdoors? It pays to head west.

Mesa, just 20 miles outside Phoenix, has experienced a 12% growth in population over the past eight years and is projected to see jobs increase 8% in the next four years. The majority of new job offerings here, unlike in Austin, are in the investment and manufacturing sectors rather than tech.

Local government leaders say businesses are moving to Mesa, as well as the surrounding East Valley area, for its low tax rate and relative affordability. Average property taxes are around $1,444, the second lowest among MONEY’s big cities, and the median home sale price is $246,000 as of March.

Once you’ve settled in, you won’t have to look far for an outdoor retreat. Mesa gets an impressive 296 clear days a year, and a whopping 115 campsites surround the area. Camping reservations for county parks can be made online as early as six months in advance. You’ll pay $32, including a reservation fee of $8, for a developed camping site with electricity and restrooms or, if you’re a bit more daring, $15 for a site with no amenities.

To learn about the area’s history, visit the Mesa Grande Cultural Park, which preserves ruins believed to be the religious center of the ancient Hohokam civilization, dating back to 1100 A.D. Admission to the ruins costs $5 for adults and $2 for children. For more insight into the Hohokam ancient people, you can check out the Park of the Canals, which features 4,500 feet of an extensive canal system used to farm corn, beans, squash, and cotton.

5. Seattle, Washington

  • Average Family Income: $112,211
  • Median Home Price: $676,889
  • Projected Job Growth (2017-2022): 7.5%

The Emerald City enjoys a growing job market and vibrant cultural attractions but at a cost—the median home sale price, $676,889 as of March, is the most expensive among the cities on this list. But the high price tag might be offset if you could score a lofty job at Amazon, which employs more than 40,000 Seattle residents across its 8.1 million square feet of office space. The company’s dominance has spurred other major tech giants to build their own offices—and poach local employees.

Despite the relatively high cost of living, the area provides plenty of affordable attractions. Nearly 200 wineries cover the region and are ideal for visits. Check out the Charles Smith Wines Jet City tasting room for offerings from one of the state’s largest wine producers. Be sure to also try the famous cream cheese–covered Seattle-style hot dog at Monster Dogs.

To live like a tourist, get a two-in-one ticket to Seattle’s iconic sites: the towering Space Needle and the glass-sculpture garden at Chihuly Garden and Glass. They happen to double as ideal date spots. If you’re young and looking for love, Seattle is the perfect match. MONEY named it one of the best places for millennials and singles.

6. San Diego, California


Residents enjoy the sun and shore year-round. - Shutterstock


  • Average Family Income: $91,199
  • Median Home Price: $555,000
  • Projected Job Growth (2017-2022): 4.4%

With 1.4 million residents, San Diego is the most populous city to make the list. It’s also one of the more racially diverse cities in the country, with 40% nonwhite residents.

Head  to the east side, and you’ll find mountains and canyons perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and fishing. The area also boasts Las Vegas–style casinos and resorts, including Viejas Casino, home to 2,200 slot machines and an outdoor concert venue. California beaches outline the city’s west side, from mile-long La Jolla Shores, perfect for children and seal lovers, to bonfire-friendly Pacific Beach, often referred to as “the Strand.” And don’t forget to visit the rare giant pandas at the world-renowned San Diego Zoo.

7. Colorado Springs, Colorado


Skiers ride the lift at Eldora Mountain Resort near Colorado Springs. - 

Matthew Staver—Bloomberg/Getty Images


  • Average Family Income: $75,795
  • Median Home Price: $285,000
  • Projected Job Growth (2017-2022): 7.1%

About 70 miles south of Denver, Colorado Springs was recently ranked one of the country’s best tech hubs by the Computing Technology Industry Association. The city will see projected job growth of 7% by 2022, and the cost of living is relatively low among big U.S. cities, according to PayScale.

Skiers enjoy the region’s proximity to major ski getaways like Aspen and Vail, as well as the area’s surrounding resorts, including Eldora Mountain Resort, which offers 680 acres of terrain and 300 inches of snowfall a year.

Here’s a summit for the courageous: the 2,000-foot-high, one-mile hike up the Manitou Incline. Climb all 2,744 steps, and you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of the city below. Nonathletic types are welcomed too. The annual Labor Day Lift Off features hot-air balloons and a festival with live music, skydiving demonstrations, and a doughnut-eating contest.

8. Lexington, Kentucky

  • Average Family Income: $74,531
  • Median Home Price: $131,000
  • Projected Job Growth (2017–2022): 4.3%

Good news for potential residents: Lexington has some of the lowest taxes among the cities on this list, with a sales tax of 6% and average property taxes nearing $1,921.

Moving to Lexington means embracing equestrian culture. Nicknamed the Horse Capital of the World, Lexington was the first U.S. city to host an FEI World Equestrian Games, in 2010, drawing half-a-million attendees. Residents and visitors alike can ride horses and ponies at the Kentucky Horse Park.

For a crash course in bourbon distilling, the Town Branch Distillery offers tours and tastings, and one of the South’s best bourbon bars, The Bluegrass Tavern, is home to Kentucky’s largest bourbon collection.

If you’re looking to root for the Wildcats, the University of Kentucky’s basketball team where NBA All-Stars Anthony Davis and John Wall got their start, head to Winchell’s Restaurant for 25 TVs and passionate fans.

9. Jacksonville, Florida

  • Average Family Income: $63,735
  • Median Home Price: $196,000
  • Projected Job Growth (2017-2022): 7.7%

As the largest metro area by landmass in the continental U.S., Jacksonville, like many other cities on our list, claims a growing job market and population. In the past eight years, the city’s population increased by nearly 9%, with a projected job growth of 7.7% by 2022. Those seeking employment, specifically in the tech industry, should head to the area’s growing job market, say Zip Recruiter and Indeed.

Visitors can support the home team by attending a Jacksonville Jaguars game at TIAA Bank Field. The coastal city also features 22 miles of mostly public and dog-friendly beaches. Learn to surf at Atlantic Beach, or brave souls might try a taste of alligator at nearby Mayport’s historic fish camps.

For a combined farmers’ market and artists’ hub, head to the Riverside Arts Market, which attracts thousands of people every Saturday. You’ll listen to live musicians, eat local bites alongside the St. Johns River, and support local artists, all in one day.

10. Columbus, Ohio

  • Average Family Income: $61,513
  • Median Home Price: $185,000
  • Projected Job Growth (2017-2022): 5.7%

Columbus is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S.—and in the Midwest—with a population increase of nearly 11% in the past eight years and job growth of 14% in roughly the same period.

Big 10 Ohio State University is the city’s biggest employer, and you can take advantage of the college town’s vibrant culture by attending a football game at Ohio Stadium, which seats over 100,000 people. Following the game, head to the Thurman Cafe and indulge in its massive, double-patty Thurmanator burger for $21.99.

If college athletics aren’t your thing, check out one of the area’s 96 museums, such as the hands-on Center of Science and Industry, or the Columbus Museum of Art, featuring modern and contemporary works.


To create MONEY’s Best Big Cities ranking, we looked only at places with populations of 300,000 or greater. We eliminated any city that had more than double the national crime risk, less than 85% of its state’s median household income, or a lack of ethnic diversity. We further narrowed the list using more than 8,000 different data points, considering data on each place’s economic health, cost of living, public education, income, crime, ease of living, and amenities, all provided by research partner Witlytic. MONEY teamed up with to leverage its knowledge of housing markets throughout the country. We put the greatest weight on economic health, public school performance, and local amenities; housing, cost of living, and diversity were also critical components.

Finally, reporters researched each spot, searching for the kinds of intangible factors that aren’t revealed by statistics. To ensure a geographically diverse set, we limited the Best Big Cities list to no more than one place per state.

Info from

Posted in New Life Styles
Nov. 27, 2018

Women and Real Estate

Females Are Making It A Priority To Invest In Real Estate! 

Everyone wants a place to call home; a place that gives them a sense of security. We are currently seeing major interest from females who want to achieve this dream, and the numbers are proving it!

In 2018, for the second year in a row, single female buyers accounted for 18% of all buyers. In 2017, 60% of millennial women listed as the primary borrowers on mortgages were single.

According to the 2018 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report by the National Association of Realtors, one in five homebuyers in the U.S. were single females (most of them part of the baby boomer generation) as you can see in the graph below:


This does not come as a surprise since 50.8% of the U.S. population is female and 15.6% of them are 65 years and over, according to the Census Bureau.


What are the reasons for this demographic’s booming interest in homeownership?

Bankrate published an article with what they believe to be some of the reasons:

·          Divorce rate: Known as the “Gray Divorce,” the divorce rate has doubled for those ages 50 and over and tripled for those ages 65 and over.

·          Average life expectancy: For women it’s 81, four years longer than men.

·          To build home equity: Women want to build equity through their home. As mentioned by Bankrate, “some are hoping to escape rising rents, some might be downsizing or looking for a new start,” especially those going through a gray divorce.

Are they only downsizing and buying small homes?

Not really; The Institute of Luxury Home Marketing recently stated that:

The number of female billionaires grew faster globally in 2017 than the number of male billionaires. This redistribution of wealth has seen an impact on luxury real estate both in its purchase and design attributes – and obviously, this is important for realtors to recognize when relating to their clients.”

Bottom Line

Whether you are a millennial who wants to buy a starter home, a billionaire looking for that luxury home you’ve always wanted, or maybe even someone who just went through a gray divorce, contact a local real estate professional who can help you create your real estate portfolio and start investing your money in real estate today!


*Article from Keeping Current Matters

Posted in Market News
Nov. 26, 2018

Austin Still Strong Despite Bypass By Amazon


CoStar Market Insights: HQ2 Would Have Been A Boon, But Ultimately Might Not Be Needed 

Texas State Capitol in downtown Austin.

When Amazon announced its decision to split the HQ2 among Northern Virginia and Long Island City, it bypassed Austin, Texas, among many other finalists. A move by Amazon to Austin would have had a major effect on the local economy and commercial real estate market.

Given the incentives that were on the table from other markets, it’s not surprising that Austin didn’t measure up. And locals aren’t too upset by that fact. There were certainly worthy claims that Amazon’s 50,000 jobs and 5 million square feet would exacerbate a housing affordability crisis and put new stress on the city’s already strained infrastructure.

While grabbing major national headlines would have been a boon to Austin, the city can still feel confident about a number of competitive advantages over other cities for headquarters, particularly in the technology field. University of Texas in Austin still ranks second globally in its computer science program, ahead of schools like Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon and Stanford according to US News and World Report, which gives firms a major pipeline for less-expensive, entry-level talent.

While those graduates might not make the same top-line income as they would in the Bay Area. The job-search site Indeed reported that after adjusting for cost of living, tech salaries in Austin are the third-highest in the nation, and less than $5,000 separates Austin from first-place Charlotte.

On the commercial real estate front, gross office rents in Austin approached $36 per square foot, their highest mark ever, and about $11 per foot more than during the 2007 peak. Occupancies are tight as well at 91.4 percent, which is more than three full percentage points above the historical average.

While Amazon’s HQ2 would have gotten Austin significant notoriety, it’s clear that the city felt that it didn’t need it to continue doing well. And based on the recent economic and real estate data, it’s hard to argue.


*Article from

Posted in General
Nov. 23, 2018




Published: November 23, 2018


Friday, Nov. 23:

Holiday Window Walk

The storefronts of 2ND Street District come alive with holiday scenes for the eighth annual Holiday Window Walk. Students from St. Edwards University are designing the storefronts to win $6,500 worth of scholarships from the 2ND Street District. First place will receive a $3,000 scholarship, second place $2,000, first place $1,000, and $500 for the public's favorite display. Visitors can vote on Facebook page here and the winner will be announced on December 8.

2ND Street District
214 Guadalupe St.

Friday and Saturday, Nov. 23 & 24

Dumpstaphunk's Phunksgiving 

It’s time to get funky! The New Orleans’ jazz band Dumpstaphunk is coming to Austin for two nights in a row at Antone’s. Their newest album, Dirty Word, show off the spirit of the Big Easy and get people movin’ and groovin’. The band is being joined by Austin’s own Peterson Bros. and A-Town Get Down. Tickets are available for both days here.  

305 E. Fifth St.
Doors open at 8 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 24:

Chuy's Christmas Parade 

The annual Chuy’s Children Giving to Children Parade is back! As always, you are encouraged to donate new, unwrapped toys to benefit Operation Blue Santa. The parade starts at the Texas State Capitol at 11th Street and moves south down Congress Avenue to Cesar Chavez Street. The map is available here. There will be giant inflatable balloons, holiday floats, your favorite characters, classic cars, and Santa.

Parade starts at 11 a.m.

Sunday, Nov. 25: 

Zilker Tree Lighting 

The 52nd annual Zilker Holiday Tree Lighting kicks off the holiday season at Zilker Park. The tree, built on one of Austin’s historic moontowers, stands 155 feet tall and uses more than 3,000 lights. It will be on display each night from 6 p.m. to midnight until the end of the year. The ceremony will include performances by the Austin Civic Wind EnsembleBarton Hills Choir, and The Vintage 15.

Zilker Park
2100 Barton Springs Road
Ceremony starts at 6 p.m.

*Article from Austin Monthly


Posted in Austin Events
Nov. 21, 2018

Why Does Volunteering Makes Us Feel Good

This Is Why It Feels So Good to Give Back

November 19, 2018by BRITTANY NATALE

Image Source: Unsplash / @rawpixel

I still remember the moment I made the conscious decision to spend the holidays helping others instead of spending it with my family. I was just out of college, and I decided that I wanted my holidays to instead be a time of giving back — a time where I tried my best to help those in need. One Thanksgiving, when the soup kitchen was not accepting any more volunteers, I decided to buy holiday meals at the grocery store and hand them out to people experiencing homelessness. I was blown away by how many amazing people I met while giving out food. Many of those people I helped told me I had made their day, but little did they know, they had made mine as well.

Like many of us, I have always been drawn to helping others. Whether it's by volunteering at soup kitchens, rescuing and rehabilitating countless stray animals, or making monetary donations to causes closest to me, looking for ways to give back gives me a deep sense of purpose.

Giving creates a special feeling; the words "elation" and "fulfillment" come to mind. While giving back is often described as "selfless," we all know that we also experience positive benefits from helping others and working in our communities. And science backs it up. In research done by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley it has been proven that pro-social generosity generates good feelings. Here are a few different reasons why we feel better when we are more giving:

1) Giving Can Improve Your Physical Health

Image Source: Pexels / Hassan Ouajbir

In a study from 2013, researchers found that those who gave back by volunteering had increased psychological well-being compared with those who did not partake in altruistic behavior. The study also discovered that those who put in at least 200 hours of volunteer work per year also had a lower risk of developing hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Personally, I find that the more I give back and help those around me the better my mind and body feels.

2) Giving Helps You Feel More Connected to Those Around You


Image Source: Pexels / Josh Willink

Don't know where to start giving? Start small in your own circle. In a 2013 study, it was proven that spending money on those who are a part of your community creates a boost in happiness and fosters a deeper connection. Whether it is by donating to a certain cause via a friend, family member, or social connection, the positive feelings you get from giving to those around you is even larger than the positive feelings you may get from donating anonymously to a special cause.


3) Giving Can Help Reduce Stress Levels


Image Source: Pexels / Pixabay

Research from 2014 has shown that being more generous can actually lower your stress levels. In this study, researchers utilized the ultimatum bargaining game (UBG), an experiment that examines the behavior and physiological reactions of people while bargaining. They found that those who offered to give less exhibited mental stress, which negatively affected their well-being. On the other hand, those who gave more felt more at ease, and I can definitely relate. Kind gestures, such as sending flowers to my grandmother or taking my sister out to lunch, always put me in a happy mood.


*Article from PopSugar


Posted in New Life Styles
Nov. 20, 2018

Publicly Traded Office Firms Explore Stock Buybacks As Prices Sag


Real Estate Investment Trust Executives Seek to Snap Up Shares at a Discount

The $3.3 billion One Vanderbilt office project in New York City is scheduled to open in 2020.

Publicly traded real estate investment trusts that focus on offices, plagued for months by sagging stock prices that executives say fail to reflect the true value of their assets, are trying to turn the discount into an advantage by selling properties and using proceeds to buy back their shares at a reduced cost.

SL Green Realty Corp., Vornado Realty Trust, Hudson Pacific Properties, Lexington Realty Trust, Columbia Property Trust Inc. and other office REITs are repurchasing shares or receiving permission to do so from their governing boards.

The buybacks are part of a strategy by companies to boost stock prices that have declined this year amid deepening investor concern that rising interest rates will raise borrowing costs for property owners and hurt the U.S. and global economies.

REITs have historically grown mainly through property acquisitions and development fueled by the rising value of their assets, but they have been scaling back back their buying because of the relatively high price of institutional-grade property as the real estate market enters its ninth consecutive year of growth. They are focusing on selling non-strategic assets and recycling the proceeds into new development, reducing debt and shoring up the reduced price of shares that are trading at a relative discount compared to their underlying asset values.

Profit from stock prices and dividends for the 23 publicly traded office REITs tracked by the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, known as NAREIT, have declined almost 8 percent this year, the steepest decrease among the major commercial building types. That's a dramatic change from last year, when it increased 5.25 percent.

Industrial property REIT returns, by comparison, have risen 3.75 percent this year. Apartment trusts have increased 3.3 percent while retail REITs have ticked up 1.25 percent, according to NAREIT data.

With tax reform freeing up cash, U.S. companies as a whole are expected to buy back $1 trillion in stock this year, shattering the previous record of just under $600 billion set in 2007.

Within the S&P 500, the real estate sector logged $3.89 billion in share buybacks in the 12 months ended June 30, up more than 56 percent from the $2.49 billion repurchased in the prior 12 months, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

New York City office landlord SL Green Realty announced the largest of the repurchases in June, planning to spend up to $2 billion by the end of the year.

"We've been moving along the path of being among the most aggressive REITs in the country in terms of share buybacks," SL Green Chief Executive Marc Holliday told investors this month.

The company's own stock is “by far as the most attractive opportunity in our investment horizon right now” as the company's stock market valuation has fallen to “shockingly low” levels, Holliday said. The share have dropped 7.5 percent to $93 in mid-day trading Monday from $100.52 a year ago.

SL Green's aggressive focus on stock buybacks rather than repaying debt, however, is already harming the company's credit rating.

Despite success in leasing its massive $3.3 billion One Vanderbilt office project in New York City scheduled to open in 2020, SL Green's repurchases will prevent it from reducing high leverage for the next two years, according to S&P Global Ratings, which cut its credit outlook for the company from positive to stable.

Other REIT executives are considering buying back shares, albeit with some reluctance.

Los Angeles office landlord Hudson Pacific Properties is weighing a potential stock buyback of at least $250 million, hoping to bolster shares that have traded at 30 percent below the estimated value of the company's real estate.

“We are hurting dramatically in the public markets,” Chief Executive Victor Coleman told investors during a recent earnings call. “That does not go unnoticed by this company or by private market investors. We performed poorly this year. We're not happy about it."

Hudson Pacific has sold $830 million in non-core assets, including buildings in California's Silicon Valley, acquired four years ago from Blackstone Group as part of a suburban office portfolio for $3.5 billion. The company is also pitching the sale of its 472,000-square-foot Campus Center office campus in Milpitas, California, which could fetch a reported $113 million.

Cash from the sales paired with Hudson Pacific's healthy balance sheet should provide “more than enough capital availability" over the next two years to buy back stock, Chief Financial Officer Mark Lammas said.

Atlanta-based Columbia Property Trust Inc. is also looking to sell non-core office assets and use the proceeds to buy back shares. Columbia also hopes to fund its joint-venture project with Normandy Real Estate to develop a $300 million office building at 799 Broadway near Union Square and Greenwich Village in New York City.

Columbia Property has bought back $42 million of shares, with authorization from its board to invest another $153 million.

“We are in a healthy financial position,” Columbia Property Chief Executive Nelson Mills told analysts this month. “We have maintained a strong balance sheet that allows for opportunistic share buybacks.”

While not ruling out buybacks as a potential tool, Empire State Realty Trust executives characterized share repurchases as “not the best use for our capital” during NAREIT’s REITWeek event in San Francisco last summer.

Empire State Realty's shares have fallen to annual lows in the five months since the conference, however, the company recently extended an option to buy back $500 million in stock through the end of next year. Empire has not yet bought back shares, and extended the program based on advice from financial advisers, Chief Financial Officer David Karp told analysts this month.

“We continue to be disciplined in how we evaluate acquisitions and balancing, and this authorization ensures that the company has all the available tools to allocate capital prudently,” Karp said.

It's not the first time companies have used this tactic. Office REITs launched a similar flurry of stock buybacks in 2015 , contending stock prices weren't keeping up with increasing value of their portfolios.

Today, office REITs are generally performing despite persistent complaints about depressed share prices and net asset value discounts and being weighed down by weak leasing economics in their core properties, with large numbers of leases signed at relatively high rents facing expiration, Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst John Guinee said in a recent note. But the tactics might not work for all of them.

"Some companies are able to offset weak leasing by development, opportunistic asset sales, redevelopment or share repurchases; others are handcuffed," Guinee said.


*Article from Costar

Posted in Market News