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The top 100 places to live of 2017

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) The folks over at Livability.com did the grunt work and made you a list of the top 100 places to live in 2017.

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Livability’s quest

What makes a city truly livable? This is a question that Livability.com has set out to answer.

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Besides creating helpful rankings, like the Top 50 Best cities for Entrepreneurs or the Top 10 Best Cities for Families, the site has recently published their master list, the 2017 Top 100 Best Places to Live.

Data, data, and more data

Combining data from a number of public and private sources, the Livability.com research team analyzed over 2,100 small to mid-sized cities with populations between 20,000 and 350,000.
Cities were scored in the categories of economics, housing, amenities, infrastructure, demographics social and civic capital, education, and health care to come up with the most “livable” cities in the country.

College towns take the cake

College towns, with their diverse cultural offerings for both intellectuals and football fans alike, stack the upper rankings, and include Iowa City (home to the University of Iowa and Kirkwood Community College), Ann Arbor (home to the University of Michigan), Charlottesville (home to the University of Virginia), and Madison (home to the University of Wisconsin).

Besides great academic institutions, the #4 ranked city of Olympia, the capital of Washington, also offers proximity to many beautiful natural places and outdoor recreational activities.

Also in Washington, Bellevue, having derived its name from the French for “beautiful view,” ranks at number 6.

Job opportunity helps

Cities with thriving industries naturally offer economic opportunities to their residents.

This includes the #7 ranking city, Palo Alto, in the heart of the Silicon Valley and home to many successful tech companies.

Similarly, the #13 ranking city of Rockville, Maryland, is on the I-270 Technology Corridor, host to several software firms, as well as biotech companies and government agencies.

Top 20

While we’ve outlined the two main groups of top rankings here’s a list of the top 20 cities:

  1. Rochester, MN
  2. Iowa City, IA
  3. Ann Arbor, MI
  4. Olympia, WA
  5. Charlottesville, VA
  6. Bellevue, WA
  7. Palo Alto, CA
  8. Madison, WI
  9. Overland Park, KS
  10. Bismarck, ND
  11. Burlington, VT
  12. Newton, MA
  13. Rockville, MD
  14. Ithaca, NY
  15. Franklin, TN
  16. Fort Collins, CO
  17. Pleasanton, CA
  18. Columbia, MD
  19. Arlington, VA
  20. Pittsburgh, PA

You can’t lose

“This year’s Top 100 Best Places to Live list includes many first-time cities,” says Livability.com’s Becky Henson.

“The fact is that each one of these cities on the list are a best place to live. Our data experts scoured thousands of cities and data points to build a list that truly encompasses the things that make a place idea.”Click To Tweet
To see the entire list of Top 100 Best Place to Live, visit Livability.com.

#Top100Cities

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

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Homeownership

Side hustle your home for use in film and TV (for BIG bucks!)

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) Are you interested in a side hustle and willing to offer up your humble abode to be part of the magic of filmmaking? We give you the details!

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As a reader of AG for Real Estate, we know you may be a real estate practitioner, but you’re also a likely homeowner (or have endless clientele that could benefit from the following information, so enjoy)!

In this housing market, no matter what you’re looking for – be it a studio-style tiny home or a 13-bed mansion with a guest house – you’re going to pay top dollar. That was the case for Mary Kay Seery (not to be confused with the MLM) and her husband, Billy Seery, when they moved from the prominent East Village in New York City to a Victorian-style home in Brooklyn.

Their friends heavily questioned the decision, but with Mary being a life-long real-estate broker, she knew the underestimated value – especially when it came to staging it for use in movies or television shows as a side hustle. Their home has starred in Girls on HBO, Mysteries of Laura on NBC, The Affair Season 3 on Showtime, and many more.

“I’m sure we’ve made over $500,000 so far.” The home was purchased for $490,000.

“While state film commissions have increasingly brokered relationships between property owners and filmmakers and location agencies will shop your property for a fee, many – if not most – production companies do it the old-fashioned way. You don’t find them. They find you.”

For example, an anonymous flyer was dropped into the mail slot of a Chicago home in June 2019. The owners, Rian Akey and Shaun Kane, responded immediately to the scout but did not hear back for filming until September that same year. Turns out, the crew wanted to transform the living room of their 1885 Queen Anne home into the Smutny Funeral Home for the FX crime drama Fargo Season 4.

Once agreed, the crew quickly transformed the heart of their home, adding tobacco-stained wallpaper, a swinging entrance door, folding chairs, and flower stands, and last but not least…the casket.

“We had a coffin in our living room for almost a year.”

Due to NDAs, which are standard between homeowners and the location manager, Kane and Akey could not disclose the payment they received for the whole 11-month ordeal. What we do know is that the upfront cost for using the location is relative to labor union fees, production size, the renovation before and after, and how long the shoot will last.

Other stories follow suit all over the US. Carroll Belser, who resides in Sunnyside Plantation in Edisto Island, SC has seen her inherited 1875 family home transform for The Notebook, L.L. Bean photoshoots, Short Term Rental TV Pilot, and more. In Prospect Park South, New York City, Ms. McFeely has allowed her home to be the filming location for A Price Above Rubies, Half Nelson, The Groomsman, and The Great Gilly Hopkins.

Homeowners do warn that there can be mishaps during the filming process. Floors tend to become heavily worn from foot traffic, the crew may want to shoot in a room not originally specified, or filming could get extended for a longer period of time than originally agreed.

However, Ms. Seery says that the follow-up repairs usually whip things right back into shape, but to “make sure you have a good relationship with the location manager,” and to ask for extra payment if necessary.

Still interested in the side hustle and willing to offer up your humble abode to be part of the magic of filmmaking? Contact your local government’s film and TV office to register your home as production-friendly. You can also use online databases to list your home similar to Airbnb, like LocationsHub, Reel to Reel locations, or Set Scouter. You may also just get lucky and have a location scout reach out to with interest in using your home.

All of that to say, using your home for movies or television can be “lucrative, but also disruptive.” Be prepared to renovate your floors, be put up in a hotel, and for film fans to take photos on your front porch for years to follow. Lastly, you should be able to watch the film or show back to see someone “die” in the corner of your living room or take a pregnancy test in your bathroom.

If you can handle all of that, let the cast, crew, and CASH roll in!

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Homeownership

VA loans give veterans the hope of homeownership, the American Dream

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) After a veteran of the US Navy was honorably discharged due to injuries, VA loans offered a chance to pursue homeownership.

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Three servicemembers standing in uniform representing their ability to pursue homeownership with VA loans.

On this Memorial Day in America, the following editorial is penned by Bob Goldberg, CEO of the National Association of Realtors®, America’s largest trade association, to offer insight and deep gratitude for the many sacrifices made by our veterans, observing the role we have in helping to make their American Dreams come true:

Leslie Smith and his wife, Beth, don’t have a story too dissimilar from most Americans.

In the early days of the pandemic, the young couple felt smothered by their 700-square-foot apartment in Washington, D.C.

They were fortunate to both have safe, stable jobs, but assumed they’d need a few more years to save up for a down payment on a home that fit them better. Still, feeling restless and unsettled, Leslie and Beth started looking at some larger rowhomes in the city.

Leslie, a veteran of the United States Navy, spent many of his enlisted years stationed aboard the USS Nimitz in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. But his time in the service left him with two bad knees and an injured back, and he was honorably discharged in 2006.

Not long after beginning their home search, Leslie and Beth met a Realtor® who connected them to a loan officer with experience helping military and veteran homebuyers. Through their conversations, they learned that Leslie’s time in the service, coupled with his qualified disability, opened up a world of possibilities they never knew existed through the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program.

The time they thought they’d need to save for a down payment? All but erased, given the terms of the VA loan for which they could qualify.

Concerns that a VA loan wouldn’t cover the full price of a home in the high-cost D.C. market? No problem, as the cap for VA home loans was eliminated in 2019.

And the extra room in their monthly budget they assumed they’d need to cover private mortgage insurance? A non-factor, with Leslie’s service-related disability ensuring their mortgage would contain no PMI no matter how much they put down.

“Right after seeing all of this,” Leslie recounts today, “I turned to Beth and told her, ‘Well, I guess we’re ready now.’”

To hear Leslie and Beth tell their story, one can’t help but feel proud that the VA home loan program is delivering on the benefits promised to those who served this nation in uniform. The couple lights up when discussing the value their home has gained since it was purchased, and they speak with such appreciation for all the people who helped them recognize the opportunities this program afforded.

But through these conversations also comes the realization that so much more can be done to ensure our veterans and their families understand the full scope of benefits available to them.

As they were finalizing the transaction, Leslie and Beth sat down to meet with their tax advisor, himself a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. When Beth disclosed the terms of their new mortgage—specifically the absence of any monthly PMI payment—the accountant assumed there must be a catch.

“You’ll have to pay that money somehow,” he told them. “They’ll get you on it somewhere else.”

“He was completely puzzled,” Beth notes today. “We educated him a little bit… And we’ve since gone on to educate some of our friends who are veterans to make sure that they know this benefit is out there and that they can get into a home with nothing down.”

Since its establishment at the height of World War II, the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program has helped some 25 million U.S. veterans purchase and maintain homes of all sizes in every corner of this country.

Homeownership is the American Dream. But it’s not just about four walls and a roof, a front porch, or a fenced-in backyard for kids and dogs to run.

The American Dream is about what this space represents. It’s about safety and comfort. Financial security. The opportunity to pursue our own happiness on our own property on our own terms. A home is where we are free, where we are loved, and where we are protected.

Homeownership is the American Dream because the places we call ‘home’ represent everything we hold dear as sovereign and fiercely independent Americans.

Every member of our armed services has sacrificed something in defense of these ideals—as have their spouses, children, and parents. We have a responsibility to help them achieve their American Dream.

The National Association of Realtors® has worked from our position as America’s largest trade association to help ensure the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program remains an accessible resource for veterans looking to purchase a home as a benefit for their service.

Earlier this year, we released a two-part video series hosted by our 2022 President Leslie Rouda Smith examining many of the common misconceptions and advantages of the program.

Realtors® can also pursue a Military Relocation Professional certification to better prepare them to work with U.S. servicemembers, veterans, and their families. The program educates NAR members to make sure they are helping military homebuyers find the housing solutions that best meet their needs while taking advantage of every possible benefit.

As part of our broader advocacy efforts in Washington, NAR was one of the loudest voices pushing to remove the cap on VA home loans at the close of the last decade. It’s a change that made a significant difference in the lives of Leslie and Beth, and for countless other veterans like them.

Today, Memorial Day, we remember all those who gave their lives in defense of this country. As we honor their immense sacrifices, we also look for ways to better recognize and repay the men and women who have survived the horrors of combat and returned home to live out the ideals they risked everything to protect.

Because when they do return, access to a safe, comfortable home should never be in question.

“We wouldn’t be here without the VA loan,” Beth says today of their beautiful, equity-rich property in Northwest D.C. “It’s a phenomenal house, we’re super grateful for it, and we want every veteran and military family to be aware that this benefit is out there for them, too.”

Bob Goldberg is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Realtors®

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Homeownership

These 10 US cities boast the most immigrant homeowners

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) It’s no coincidence that the most exciting areas of our country are also the most diverse.

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What do Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, and Washington D.C. all have in common? They’re all part of the top 10 cities with the highest number of immigrant homeowners. Other things they share include being hubs for culture, cuisine, and tourism, which is perhaps why they’ve become homes to the United States’ most diverse and thriving economies.

What does this show us? Immigrants are pursuing higher-level jobs in urban areas and laying roots. Consequently, these areas are flourishing in part due to increased competition in every industry.

But it’s not just those cities, here is the full top 10 list of cities with the highest number of foreign-born homeowners:

  1. San Jose, CA
  2. Miami, FL
  3. Los Angeles, CA
  4. San Francisco, CA
  5. New York, NY
  6. Riverside, CA
  7. Houston, TX
  8. Las Vegas, NV
  9. San Diego, CA
  10. Washington, DC

Highest immigrant homeowners in the US 2022

Why is this important?

Given that so many of us immigrated or are children of those who did (shout out to my great-grandparents and their courage), the result is clear. While some consider immigration to be invasive and detrimental to the American way of life, here is the truth: people of other cultures are here; through contributing to a wide variety of industries, they are finding success (enough to buy a home), and we’re better off because of it.

Cities with the lowest foreign-born homeownership (Pittsburgh, PA; Birmingham, AL; Cincinnati, OH; Louisville, KY; St. Louis, MO; Memphis, TN; Buffalo, NY; Indianapolis, IN; Kansas City, MO; Columbus, OH) reflect a different result. Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis aren’t as strong economically as the booming economies in Texas and California.

Lowest immigrant homeowners in the US 2022

Why is this immigrant homeownership cause for celebration? In an over-simplified example, consider food. Think of the least diverse city you’ve visited. Now think of the dining options regularly available there. How many of them are mediocre, boring, or flat-out unimpressive? In a diverse and dynamic area, the dining options are LIMITLESS. The competition is fierce and as a result, restaurants, and vendors produce incredible work. No one in L.A. has ever said “There are no good places to eat.” Scale that up to every industry and the proof is in the pudding – immigrants are lifting up economies, and we are better for it.

To all the immigrants about whom this article is written — a tip of the cap. Keep living your dream.

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