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SECOND pat on the back of the week! Thank you Stephanie and Adam, I really am honored you chose me!

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As the great Mark Twain once wrote, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Thank you to my amazing clients, Caroline and Mark, for this gem: 
 
“We recently bought a home here in Austin and used Martha Small Homes and Horizon Bank to complete the deal. From start to finish, the level of professionalism, attention to detail and comfort level we had as a family was phenomenal. 
Buying a house is a stressful thing, but Chris (Mortgage consultant) solved problems quickly and efficiently and gave solutions without causing any panic on our end. 
Martha and her staff where there to guide us along the way in the right moments. She was on call when we needed her, attended meetings and inspections and she continued to help us after we closed on our new home.

I would recommend Martha Small Homes and Horizon Bank to anyone who wants to buy a house in the Austin area.”

 
 

 

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710 Meriden A Front House, Martha Small Homes, Real Estate Austin Martha Small710 A Meriden- Martha Small Non MLS Listing

710 A Meriden – $549,000

  • Exceptional location in Deep Eddy only minutes to Downtown Austin and Zilker Park
  • 2BR, 2.5BA, 2LIV + 1DIN with covered porches
  • Open floor plan built by Eix & Blackwell in 2006
  • Tall ceilings, abundant windows and modern finishes
  • Many rooms pre wired for stereo and tv
  • Seasonal downtown views  from master and master deck
  • Entrance to one car garage off Hearn
  • HOA with next door unit only – very low costs
  • Casis, O Henry and S.F. Austin High Schools

Please contact me for showings and more information

Martha Small – 512-587-0308 – Martha@MarthaSmallHomes.com – MarthaSmallHomes.com

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It’s not an accident that three of the five fastest growing cities are in Texas. It’s more like destiny.

They say the Lone Star State has four seasons: drought, flood, blizzard and twister. This summer 97% of the state was in a persistent drought; in 2011 the Dallas-Fort Worth area experienced 40 straight days in July and August of temperatures of 100° or higher. The state’s social services are thin. Welfare benefits are skimpy. Roughly a quarter of residents have no health insurance. Many of its schools are less than stellar. Property-crime rates are high. Rates of murder and other violent crimes are hardly sterling either. So why are more Americans moving to Texas than to any other state? Texas is America’s fastest-growing large state, with three of the top five fastest-growing cities in the country: Austin, Dallas and Houston. In 2012 alone, total migration to Texas from the other 49 states in the Union was 106,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Since 2000, 1 million more people have moved to Texas from other states than have left.

As an economist and a libertarian, I have become convinced that whether they know it or not, these migrants are being pushed (and pulled) by the major economic forces that are reshaping the American economy as a whole: the hollowing out of the middle class, the increased costs of living in the U.S.’s established population centers and the resulting search by many Americans for a radically cheaper way to live and do business.

To a lot of Americans, Texas feels like the future. And I would argue that more than any other state, Texas looks like the future as well — offering us a glimpse of what’s to come for the country at large in the decades ahead. America is experiencing ever greater economic inequality and the thinning of its middle class; Texas is already one of our most unequal states. America’s safety net is fraying under the weight of ballooning Social Security and Medicare costs; Texas’ safety net was built frayed. Americans are seeking out a cheaper cost of living and a less regulated climate in which to do business; Texas has that in spades. And did we mention there’s no state income tax?

There’s a bumper sticker sometimes seen around the state that proclaims, I WASN’T BORN IN TEXAS, BUT I GOT HERE AS FAST AS I COULD. As the U.S. heads toward Texas, literally and metaphorically, it’s worth understanding why we’re headed there — both to see the pitfalls ahead and to catch a glimpse of the opportunities that await us if we make the journey in an intelligent fashion.

Orginal article by: Tyler Cowen with Time Magazine

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Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

 

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Austin is used to being named to nationwide lists as a great city to live. A Forbes columnist has placed Austin among the 10 up-and-coming global cities as the best incubators for entrepreneurs.

“The capital of Texas has been buzzing for a few years now … Big events like South by Southwest and the Film + Interactive Festival have fueled creativity and start-up activity,” the article by Patrick Hull said in its praise of Austin.

Austin is among three U.S. cities mentioned as new global entrepreneur hotspots, including Richmond, Va., and Raleigh/Durham, N.C.

As for the other entrepreneur engineds, Forbes mentions two cities are in South America, two in the Far East and two others, surprisingly, in former East Bloc countries: Moscow and Kiev, Ukraine. Sydney, Australia rounds out the list.

The University of Texas at Austin recently made a list of the best schools for entrepreneurs.

In an exclusive article for subscribers, Austin Business Journal recently published a report on how a number of business incubators are becoming the engine for entrepreneurial growth in the region. Not a subscriber? Follow this link to sign up for four free issues of ABJ.

Orginal Article By: Greg Barr with Austin Bussiness Journal

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

 

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A friend sent this to me and I am LOVING this list….even if I am not a man or a New Yorker, it is a great list to work off of…

 

 

We’ve all seen and perhaps grown tired of guides and lists that are rife with tedious clichés and full of humdrum regurgitated meme wisdom.

For that very reason, @GSElevator — in collaboration with John Carney (@Carney) of CNBC.com — presents a fresh, and hopefully thoughtful, look at what it means to be a man today.

Stop talking about where you went to college.

Always carry cash. Keep some in your front pocket.

Rebel from business casual. Burn your khakis and wear a suit or jeans.

It’s okay to trade the possibility of your 80s and 90s for more guaranteed fun in your 20s and 30s.

The best public restrooms are in hotels: The St. Regis in New York, Claridge’s in London, The Fullerton in Singapore, to name a few.

Never stay out after midnight three nights in a row … unless something really good comes up on the third night.

You will regret your tattoos.

Never date an ex of your friend.

Join Twitter; become your own curator of information.

If riding the bus doesn’t incentivize you to improve your station in life, nothing will.

Time is too short to do your own laundry.

When the bartender asks, you should already know what you want to drink.

If you perspire, wear a damn undershirt.

You don’t have to like baseball, but you should understand the concept of what a pitcher’s ERA means. Approach life similarly.

When people don’t invite you to a party, you really shouldn’t go.
 And sometimes even when you are invited, you shouldn’t go.

People are tired of you being the funny, drunk guy.

When in doubt, always kiss the girl.

Tip more than you should.

You probably use your cell phone too often and at the wrong moments.

Buy expensive sunglasses. Superficial? Yes, but so are the women judging you. And it tells these women you appreciate nice things and are responsible enough not to lose them.

If you want a nice umbrella, bring a sh*tty one to church.

Do 50 push-ups, sit-ups, and dips before you shower each morning.

Eat brunch with friends at least every other weekend. Leave Rusty and Junior at home.

Be a regular at more than one bar.

Act like you’ve been there before. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the end zone at the Super Bowl or on a private plane.

A glass of wine or two with lunch will not ruin your day.

It’s better if old men cut your hair. Ask for Sammy at the Mandarin Oriental Barbershop in Hong Kong. He can share his experiences of the Japanese occupation, or just give you a copy of Playboy.

Learn how to fly-fish.

No selfies. Aspire to experience photo-worthy moments in the company of a beautiful woman.

Own a handcrafted shotgun. It’s a beautiful thing.

There’s always another level. Just be content knowing that you are still better off than most who have ever lived.

You can get away with a lot more if you’re the one buying the drinks.

Ask for a salad instead of fries.

Don’t split a check.

Pretty women who are unaccompanied want you to talk to them.

Cobblers will save your shoes. So will shoe trees.

When a bartender buys you a round, tip double.

The cliché is that having money is about not wasting time. But in reality, money is about facilitating spontaneity.

Be spontaneous.

Find a Times New Roman in the streets and a Wingdings in the sheets. She exists.

Piercings are liabilities in fights.

Do not use an electric razor.

Desserts are for women. Order one and pretend you don’t mind that she’s eating yours.

Buy a tuxedo before you are thirty. Stay that size.

One girlfriend at a time is probably enough.

#StopItWithTheHastags

Your ties should be rolled and placed in a sectioned tie drawer.

Throw parties. 
But have someone else clean up the next day.

You may only request one song from the DJ.

Measure yourself only against your previous self.

Take more pictures. With a camera.

Place-dropping is worse than name-dropping.

When you admire the work of artists or writers, tell them. 
And spend money to acquire their work.

Your clothes do not match. They go together.

Yes, of course you have to buy her dinner.

Staying angry is a waste of energy.

Revenge can be a good way of getting over anger.

If she expects the person you are 20% of the time, 100% of the time, then she doesn’t want you.

Always bring a bottle of something to the party.

Avoid that “last” whiskey. You’ve probably had enough.

Don’t use the word “closure” or ever expect it in real life. There may still be a mortally wounded Russian mobster roaming the woods of south Jersey, but we’ll never know.

If you are wittier than you are handsome, avoid loud clubs.

Drink outdoors.
 And during the day.
 And sometimes by yourself.

Date women outside your social set. You’ll be surprised.

If it’s got velvet ropes and lines, walk away unless you know someone.

You cannot have a love affair with whiskey because whiskey will never love you back.

Feigning unpretentiousness is worse than being pretentious. Cut it out with the vintage Polo and that ’83 Wagoneer in Nantucket.

The New Yorker is not high-brow. Neither is The Economist.

If you believe in evolution, you should know something about how it works.

No-one cares if you are offended, so stop it.

Never take an ex back. She tried to do better and is settling with you.

Eating out alone can be magnificent. Find a place where you can sit at the bar.

Read more. It allows you to borrow someone else’s brain, and will make you more interesting at a dinner party – provided that you don’t initiate conversation with, “So, who are you reading …”

Ignore the boos. They usually come from the cheap seats.

Hookers aren’t cool, and remember, the free ones are a lot more expensive.

Don’t ever say, “it is what it is.”

Start a wine collection for your kids when they are born. Add a few cases every year without telling them. It’ll make a phenomenal gift in twenty years.

Don’t gamble if losing $100 is going to piss you off.

Remember, “rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.”

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Original article by: Eselelevator

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

 

 

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Interest rates on mortgages for pricey homes have dropped below those on smaller mortgages, an event that lending executives say has never happened before.

Borrowing rates for so-called jumbo mortgages, which are too big for government backing, historically have been set higher than rates on what are known as conforming loans, which are backed by Fannie Mae, FNMA -3.70%Freddie MacFMCC -2.70% or government agencies.

But in the past two weeks, the relationship has flipped, a combination of interest-rate volatility, government policy and banks flush with cash that are enjoying lower funding costs, making jumbo mortgages an attractive investment for them.

The average 30-year fixed-rate conforming mortgage was at 4.73% last week, according the Mortgage Bankers Association, compared with 4.71% for the average jumbo 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

Executives say the inversion in the so-called spread, or difference, between jumbo and conforming loans is unprecedented. “In my 30-year career, I’ve never seen nonconforming loans priced below conforming loans,” said Brad Blackwell, executive vice president of Wells FargoWFC -0.18% Home Mortgage, the nation’s largest mortgage company.

Jumbo mortgages are those that exceed the $417,000 limit for loans eligible for backing by mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, though the limits rise to as high as $625,500 in more-expensive markets such as Los Angeles, New York and Washington.

Before the housing bubble burst six years ago, jumbo mortgages over the past two decades typically had rates at least 0.25 percentage point above conforming loans, but that widened sharply after 2007, reaching a peak of 1.8 percentage points in 2008, according to HSH.com, a financial publisher. The rate difference between the two stood at 0.5 percentage point as recently as last November.

For adjustable-rate mortgages, the disparity between jumbo and conforming loans is even starker. Rates on certain “hybrid” adjustable-rate jumbo mortgages that have a fixed rate for five or seven years are as low as 0.75 percentage point below conforming loans.

“I’ve had situations where I’ve told clients, ‘You don’t need to borrow within the [conforming] limit. I can get you a lower rate if you borrow a little more,’ ” said Rolan Shnayder, director of new-development lending at H.O.M.E. Mortgage Bankers in New York.

Conforming loans have become more expensive because federal officials, in a bid to reduce the outsize footprint of Fannie and Freddie, have raised the fees those companies charge to lenders, which translates into higher mortgage rates.

Meanwhile, interest-rate volatility has driven up yields on mortgage bonds issued by Fannie and Freddie as investors brace for a slowdown in the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying program, which has included those mortgage bonds. That has boosted rates on conforming loans.

Jumbo mortgages, meanwhile, are increasingly kept on banks’ balance sheets, which means prices aren’t usually set by bond markets. “Banks have more deposits than loans today, so the desire to put that money to work, as well as the fact that it’s at a very low cost, allows us to make [jumbo] loans at a very good interest rate,” said Mr. Blackwell.

Mark Cunningham, 39 years old, who works as a program manager for an aerospace company, received a fixed rate of around 4.6% for a 30-year jumbo mortgage in late July through Navy Federal Credit Union for a newly built four-bedroom home in Ashburn, Va. The loan required just a 10% down payment.

“We were very happy. We still haven’t seen anything that competes with what we’ve got,” said Mr. Cunningham.

Navy Federal, which said it is currently offering jumbo loans at the same rate as conforming loans, said jumbos account for around 3% of its mortgages.

Banks have long courted jumbo borrowers because they tend to have deeper pockets. Banks use their relationship with better-off clients to sell them other products, such as brokerage accounts and credit cards.

“These are superpremium borrowers. They represent great cross-sell opportunities,” said Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH.com.

But recent interest-rate turmoil is making it easier for large banks such as Wells Fargo & Co. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. to woo those borrowers. “We’re in a world where their cost of funds is still very, very low,” said Bob Walters, chief economist at Quicken Loans.

Lou Barnes, a mortgage banker in Boulder, Colo., was competing Tuesday to keep a client from going to Wells Fargo, which was offering a fixed rate of 4.625% on a 30-year mortgage with a $750,000 balance.

“Commercial banks are just desperate to book an asset that will pay something,” said Mr. Barnes. He had offered a rate of 4.75%, which was roughly the same as the conforming rate Tuesday.

When rates stood below 4.5%, banks weren’t as likely to bid aggressively for jumbo mortgages because they weren’t eager to hold those loans on their books, said Paul Miller, banking analyst with FBR Capital Markets.

But he says the current trend could hold as long as rates stay at current levels or rise even higher.

Mr. Blackwell, the Wells Fargo executive, said the current inversion between jumbo and conforming rates could last “for the foreseeable future” so long as banks’ cost of funds stays at its current level and loan demand doesn’t rise sharply.

Jumbo loans with the lowest rates are available only to a relatively exclusive slice of borrowers who have pristine credit, large down payments, lots of assets and low debt loads relative to their incomes.

Banks also are getting more comfortable because housing prices have been rising. “On a risk-adjusted basis, this is a decent return. The quality of loans being originated today is very high,” said Stew Larsen, who runs the mortgage banking division of Bank of the West.

Some $8.3 billion in jumbo mortgages were packaged into securities during the first half of 2013, more than in the previous three years combined but just a sliver of the $281 billion in jumbo securitizations in 2005, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.

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NICK TIMIRAOS

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

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Austin has been named the most aspirational city in the nation by the Daily Beast for attracting ambitious citizens.  The website ranked the country’s top aspirational cities –  also referring to them as “magnets of opportunity.” After Austin as number 1, Houston came in number 3, San Antonio number 9 and Dallas number 11. The Rankings focused on economic indicators such as employment growth and per capita income, demographic factors like growth among immigrant residents and quality-of-life factors, including traffic congestion. Austin was ranked as a “place where people can enjoy the cultural amenities and attitudes of ‘progressive’ blue states but in a distinctly red-state environment of low costs, less regulation and lower taxes.” Austin also showed the largest “Brain Gain” with a 20.6% increase in new residents with a BA degree.

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A city at its best, wrote the philosopher René Descartes, provides “an inventory of the possible.” The city Descartes had in mind was 17th-century Amsterdam, which for him epitomized those cities where people go to change their circumstances and improve their lives. But such aspirational cities have existed throughout American history as well, starting with Boston in the 17th century, Philadelphia in the 18th, New York in the 19th, Chicago in the early 20th, Detroit in the 1920s and 1930s, followed by midcentury Los Angeles, and San Jose in the 1980s.

Yes, the great rule of aspirational cities is that they change over time, becoming sometimes less entrepreneurial, more expensive, and demographically stagnant. In the meantime, other cities, often once obscure, suddenly become the new magnets of opportunity.

To determine America’s current aspirational hotspots, we focused in large part on economic indicators, such as employment growth, per capita income, and unemployment. But we also took into account demographic factors, such as the growth of domestic migration and the movement of college-educated people and the foreign born.

Finally, we considered quality-of-life factors such as traffic congestion, housing affordability, and crowding—which are keenly relevant to young families hunting for the places with the best “inventory of the possible.” In a sense, we believe aspirational cities reflect a kind of urban arbitrage, where people look for those places that provide not just economic and cultural opportunity but a cost structure that allows them to enjoy their success to the fullest extent.

Our top two cities reflect the importance of  this arbitrage opportunity. Both No. 1, Austin, Texas, and No. 2, New Orleans, are places where people can enjoy the cultural amenities and attitudes of “progressive” blue states but in a distinctly red-state environment of low costs, less regulation, and lower taxes. These places have lured companies and people from more expensive regions, notably California and the Northeast, by being not only culturally rich but also amenable to building a career, buying a home and, ultimately, raising a family in relative comfort.

Like the Texas state capital and the legendary Crescent City, most of our top cities are located in the American South and lower Midwest, and they attract businesses and people not only from other sections of the country but also increasingly from abroad as well. These include No. 3, Houston, and the smaller but burgeoning oil town of No. 4, Oklahoma City. These are followed by three fast-growing, low-cost Southern cities: No. 5, Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina; No. 6, Nashville; and No. 7, Richmond, Virginia.

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Not all our top aspirational cities are in Dixie. If there’s enough growth and opportunity, solidly blue-state regions can perform well enough to stay near the top of these rankings. Such cities include No. 8, Washington, D.C., and No. 10, Minneapolis–St. Paul, as well as No. 12, Seattle; No. 16, Denver; and even No. 22, Boston. In these cities, high-tech and professional-service growth has created enough wealth to offset higher costs while offering the next generation the chance to live in a culturally vibrant place where affording a home and raising a family are still possible.

Perhaps more surprising is the high aspirational ranking of some old Rust Belt and Great Lakes cities. The middle part of the country has been losing people and jobs for half a century, but more recently several urban areas within or bordering the Midwest have established enough of an aspirational culture to reverse the pattern of out-migration and begin luring people from the coasts. These include such diverse places as No. 15, Columbus, Ohio; No. 17 Louisville, Kentucky; No. 21 Pittsburgh; and No. 23, Indianapolis.

Of course, not everyone will find a perfect match in one of these cities. For those with extraordinary technical skills, for example, it still may make sense to move to the hotbed of the San Francisco Bay Area—notably No. 24, San Francisco, and No. 27, San Jose—where economic opportunity partially offsets extraordinarily high costs, at least for a certain portion of the population.

This applies as well even to cities toward the bottom of the list, including No. 46, New York, and, in last place, No. 51, Los Angeles. If you want to break into businesses such as finance, media, and entertainment, you have little choice but to concentrate on New York or Southern California. These areas may also prove more attractive to people who have inherited money (critical to affording houses or paying high rents), as well as those whose business is closely tied to these great cities’ ethnic economies.

People must also make tradeoffs when they decide where to locate. Some value a big house and yard, while others cannot abide a city without a decent opera or good Thai food. And those obsessed with, say, their children’s educations will clearly find a broader variety of schools and cultural institutions in San Francisco or New York than in Oklahoma City.

But for those who lack these specific demands, and for those whose priority is achieving a middle- or upper-middle-class quality of life, the less expensive, often smaller, and less congested cities seem to have  the greatest appeal. This may offend the sensibilities of retro-urbanists, who tend to cluster in the great legacy cities, along with our tribes of cultural tastemakers, but the hard reality shows that, for the most part, people move to places that offer not merely the best lattes or artisanal pizzas but the great opportunity for advancement.

The Geography of Growth

We give economic growth roughly half of the weight in these rankings. This consists of three factors: employment growth, unemployment, and per capita income. This is where some of the coastal cities still do well, notably San Jose, whose recent job growth places it first, as well as No. 4, Washington, and No. 7, Seattle. The local economies in these areas have all been driven by the rapid expansion of high-tech and professional services, which explains their particularly high per capita GDP numbers.

Yet most of the big winners in the economic-aspiration sweepstakes are concentrated elsewhere, notably in Texas. Since the recession, the Lone Star State has created 1 million new jobs, five times as many as New York state. In contrast, Florida and California have lost a half million positions. Not surprising, Texas accounts for four of the top 11 regions for economic opportunity (No. 2, Austin; No. 3, Houston; No. 9, San Antonio; and No. 11, Dallas).

No big economic region outperforms Houston, a metropolitan area of more than 5 million people that boasts arguably the strongest big-city economy in the nation. Not only the global hub of the energy industry, it also boasts the nation’s largest medical center and has dethroned New York City as the nation’s leading export center. Other strong performers include No. 7, Salt Lake City; No. 8, Oklahoma City; and No. 11, New Orleans, all of which have enjoyed strong job growth over the past five years.

What Do You Get for the Money?

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Strong economic growth—particularly high per capita incomes—represents half of our ranking, but this is balanced by considerations such as cost of living, housing, and traffic congestion. “Everyday life,” observed the great French historian Fernand Braudel, “consists of the little things one hardly notices in time and space.” This reality is particularly critical for young and prospective families, for whom a higher salary or glamorous environment may mean less than the prospect of owning a decent home, particularly without the necessity of a long, dispiriting commute.

These factors, we believe, will become more paramount as members of the large millennial or “echo boom” generation enter their late 20s, 30s, and even 40s over the next decade. This demographic—projected by the census to expand by roughly 8 million by 2025—is likely to prove intensely interested in owning their own homes. Indeed, research by generational analysts Morley Winograd and Mike Hais demonstrates that not only do millennials aspire to homeownership, but among the oldest cohorts of this group, now just entering their 30s, interest in buying a house actually surpasses that of their boomer parents.

This difference in the affordability of housing relative to incomes plays a major role in boosting the rankings of some strong aspirational areas, notably Raleigh; Richmond; Charlotte, North Carolina; Kansas City; and Indianapolis. Along with traffic congestion, it tends to bring down the rankings of most California metropolitan areas, including San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego, as well as such hipster hotspots as New York and Miami. We also include “doubling up,” where more than one family lives in a household, as a surrogate for poverty (since metropolitan poverty rates are not adjusted for the cost of living).

Demographic Destiny

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The last component of our rankings, accounting for roughly a quarter, lies in demographic trends. Like playing defense in basketball, the most important thing here is to watch the feet. The question is movement: where are people going, and where are they not? This tells us much about future trends and how people, as opposed to the media, actually view the best places for them to settle.

Our methodology concentrates on three metrics: domestic migration, growth of foreign-born population; and growth in the number of college-educated people. These groups reflect what may be thought of as “the canaries in the coal mine”—indicators of where people seeking a better life are choosing to settle. This factor seems to jibe with our overall rankings more than any other component.

The biggest beneficiaries tend, not surprisingly, to be places that are economically vibrant but not prohibitively expensive, such as Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Raleigh, Nashville, Richmond, and Charlotte. Over the past decade these areas have enjoyed by far the fastest growth not only in migration, but in college-educated people and perhaps most surprisingly in number of foreign-born people. Today immigrants are flocking to such unlikely places as Nashville, Richmond, Louisville, and Charlotte. As for the college-educated, they, too, are also migrating to these same aspirational cities, as well as to new hipster hotspots such as New Orleans and Nashville. The increase in B.A.-degree holders in these cities averages in the double digits or higher over the past decade, in some cases more than twice the growth in such traditional “brain gain” cities as Seattle, San Jose, San Francisco, New York, and Boston.

The Urban Future

As the younger generation, as well as newly arrived immigrants, begins to look for places to settle, raise families, and start businesses, they will flock increasingly to these affordable and demographically, economically dynamic regions. Yet it is likely that other factors—global economics, shifts in immigration, and technological changes—could influence the aspirational landscape in the years to come.

In thinking about the future, then, it is important to recall that not long ago some of the cities near the top of today’s aspirational list were facing seemingly irreversible economic decline, demographic stagnation, and even loss and deterioration of basic infrastructure. You only have to recall the dismal ’70s in Seattle, where post-Vietnam budget cuts inspired some to ask that “whoever is last to leave turn out the lights,” or Houston and Dallas–Fort Worth after the oil bust in the ’80s, when those cities were widely known for their “see through” office buildings and abandoned housing complexes.

It’s always possible that unpredictable and major shifts could topple today’s aspirational cities from the top of the list. However, given current conditions and the most likely accrual of current trends, we can expect that most of the cities at the top of the aspirational rankings will remain there for some time to come.

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You’ll encounter special joys and hurdles when you’re alone in the deal. These 8 strategies will smooth your path to buying.

If you’re single and thinking of buying a home, you’re in great company. Solo buyers made a quarter of all U.S. real-estate purchases last year, according to the National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2012. Twice as many single women bought homes as did single men. 

Buying a home as a single person is much like buying with a partner. You shop, select and finance a piece of property, as all buyers do.

But there are distinct differences when you’re alone in the deal. All the joys and burdens are yours alone. The research, the shopping, the financing and, eventually, the bills and upkeep – yep, all yours. While that probably sounds obvious, there are implications you may not have considered.

Master of his domain
Carl Toll, a single, 36-year-old network technician, bought his 1,600-square-foot Denver home in 2007, after a bad roommate experience soured him on the rental life.

“This isn’t working out,” he decided after the housemate moved out without telling him. “I want to be the master of my own domain.”

Shopping and purchasing were pretty easy, he says. He thought through each aspect of his purchase carefully. He wanted a low-maintenance home: “I didn’t want to have to replace water heaters and furnaces right off the bat.” So he looked for something built recently.

He’s not a parent, but he shopped only in highly rated school districts to help ensure the resale value of his purchase. He has enjoyed the house, the neighborhood and the sense of independence that owning his own home gives him, he says.

Getting a mortgage alone
Toll’s experience was smooth, but many solo buyers face challenges. The recession has been one of the biggest. In the early recession years, single homebuyers enjoyed a boost from federal first-time-homebuyer tax credits in 2009 and 2010.

Stacy Erickson, a 29-year-old professional organizer, bought her 700-square-foot co-op apartment on Seattle’s Capitol Hill in 2009. “That was a really good year for people like me,” she says. “I was able to borrow some money for a down payment and then pay it all back with the tax credit.”

But by 2011, the recession hit solo buyers hard. “Single-income households are more reluctant to make big-ticket purchases in times of economic uncertainty,” according to the NAR’s Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Home purchases by singles fell an “unprecedented” 7% between 2010 and 2012.

The biggest hurdle for singles is qualifying for a mortgage. “In most cases that I see, it is more difficult for a single buyer to purchase than a two-person household,” says Craig Tashjian, vice president at Fairway Independent Mortgage in Needham, Mass.

One bonus: Singles aren’t dragged down by a partner’s credit score, loans or credit card debt. Tashjian says couples often get stuck with a higher interest rate because of one member’s low credit score.

Couples, though, usually have an advantage, says Marcus McCue, executive vice president at Guardian Mortgage Co., which operates in Texas and Michigan. Not only do they have two incomes but also, when sharing overhead, “one plus one usually equals more than two, as many expenses are joint and not duplicated.”

Difficulties in qualifying sometimes lead buyers, especially younger ones, to ask parents or other relatives for financial help.

“I have seen people choose to continue renting as a result of not wanting to involve any other parties in a purchase and pay more rent than they would if they purchased,” New York real-estate agent Brad Malow says.

Shopping solo — the triumphs
Single shoppers are alone with all the decisions required to buy a home. That can be harrowing. But there’s also a special sense of accomplishment to buying a home alone.

“I was the one who had to come up with all of the financing without support from a spouse or partner,” Erickson says. “However, I was also the one who got the choices and all of the decisions. I didn’t have to worry about someone else and what they liked or didn’t like.”

Homebuying is a means of self-expression, particularly for singles, says Jennifer De Vivo, an Orlando, Fla., real-estate agent. “It’s a way for singles to express their lifestyles and values. They are able to focus on the exact communities, home styles and features that cater to their individuality with much less compromise.”

Despite the exhilaration, buying solo can be nerve-wracking without a confidant and sounding board. To compensate, singles often work more closely with their agents. In the best cases, they form a tight bond.

“I find that I become more involved, like a friend,” says Jerry Grodesky, managing broker at Farm and Lake Houses Real Estate Inc. in Loda, Ill.

Watching the satisfaction that single buyers get from tackling one of life’s major milestones on their own is rewarding for an agent, Malow says. “I have to say that the closings with these buyers just thrill me.”

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original article by: Marilyn Lewis of MSN Real Estate

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