Published by Ronald Gray on November 17, 2017

Three underrated retirement destinations that deserve your attention

Preparing for retirement involves a lot of careful planning and wise decision making. Aside from securing a sturdy financial safety net during your golden years, there’s one important aspect that everyone seems to ignore: finding the best place to retire.

If you want to find the perfect destination to spend the rest of your golden years, what are the things that you should keep in mind? To answer this question, let us take a look at some of the best cities in the world to retire.

 

  1. George Town (Malaysia)
Image source: findingbeyond.com

Image source: findingbeyond.com

George Town is the capital city of Penang and has a lot to offer especially for Western expats and retirees who love food and culture. Unlike Kuala Lumpur, this Malaysian gem is one of the most underrated retirement destinations in Asia.

The city boasts an attractive medical care to its residents and the cost of living is quiet reasonable for a smaller Malaysian locale. Plus, the region offers excellent culinary experience at affordable prices. Most importantly, English is widely spoken and it considered a second language for a higher percentage of its population.

 

  1. Mazatlán (Mexico)
Image source: visitmexico.com

Image source: visitmexico.com

This retirement haven in Mexico is known as the most popular North American expat community for a reason. It’s a paradise set on a Pacific coast with a long list of historical attractions. Its food are one of the best in the region and it also has its own international airport. The best perk in living in Mazatlán especially for retirees is their warm and tropical climate.

 

  1. Valletta (Malta)
Image source: wholemalta.com

Image source: wholemalta.com

This small Mediterranean city is ranked second in the Live and Invest Overseas in 2016. It is located north of the Northern African coast and south of Sicily. It’s also easy to qualify for residency in Valletta and one way is to rent a property (apartment or any residential) as long as it meets a certain threshold.

Published by Ronald Gray on October 27, 2017

REPOST: 5 Cities That Let You Buy Real Estate with Bitcoin

Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, have been receiving widespread attention in recent years, achieving growth rates that are among the highest in history. The use of such virtual monetary system has become so common that some developers are beginning to accept it as payment for real estate. Read more from The Cointelegraph:

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Bitcoin is a next-gen, all-digital currency that’s already a global phenomenon.

Developed with high levels of security and anonymity in mind, it’s touted as a potential replacement for paper- and coin-based money in the near future.

Some industries, including real estate, are capitalizing on this emerging trend by letting clients buy property via Bitcoin. It’s a significant departure from tradition, but it’s one that is quickly gaining momentum.

1. Miami, Florida
A Miami man recently made news by selling his home in Coral Gables for over $6 mln — or approximately 1,600 BTC.

The steep selling price is enough to rattle the headlines, but Bitcoin has been a part of the Miami real estate market for several years. Although it was only launched in 2009, tech-savvy real estate agents, investors and buyers quickly embraced the new cryptocurrency.

Realtors in the area are confident that South Florida — particularly Miami — is an ideal market for Bitcoin. They cite the worldwide reach of Bitcoin as a primary factor in driving increased interest and attention to the region. Using an alternate form of currency opens up properties to buyers and investors from all over the world, including Asia, Canada, South America and more.

2. Dubai, UAE
The United States isn’t the only country to capitalize on the growing Bitcoin trend. A developer located on the Isle of Man recently announced plans for a joint residential-commercial development valued at $325 mln. Prospective residents will be able to use Bitcoin to purchase their property, with studio apartments starting at 33 BTC and one-bedroom apartments from 54 BTC — or approximately $250,000.

Some of the development’s units have already been sold for modern currency, but the remaining residential properties are reserved for Bitcoin purchases. Commercial units are not currently available for purchase via the popular cryptocurrency.

3. New York, New York
Investors and real estate agents in The Big Apple also believe Bitcoin is the way of the future. The team with Magnum Real Estate is assuming a huge risk by accepting Bitcoin for deposits and purchases for recently converted apartments in Manhattan’s East Village. Known as Liberty Toye, the property represents a huge shift in the way we conduct business this century.

Real estate investment trusts have been looking to diversify their portfolios this year, and New York City provides the ideal launching ground. Known as an entrepreneurial-minded city that isn’t afraid to take risks, we already see homes and apartments available for Bitcoin. It’s only a matter of time until commercial buildings follow suit.

4. Lake Tahoe, California
The popular vacation destination of Lake Tahoe accepts Bitcoin, too. An unnamed buyer recently purchased a 1.4-acre property with Bitcoin on a 42-site resort. The undeveloped property sold for $1.6 mln, or 2,739 BTC, making it the largest Bitcoin-driven real estate transaction at the time it happened in 2013.

According to reports, the Bitcoin purchase was originally the buyer’s idea. While we haven’t seen any further developments involving Bitcoin in the Lake Tahoe real estate market, the sale shows off the potential of digital currency in the industry and opens the way for future deals in both the residential and commercial sectors.

5. Bali, Indonesia
The island of Indonesia isn’t the first place you’d expect to see a Bitcoin-backed real estate transaction, but it was actually among the first locations to support the cryptocurrency.

An unnamed buyer spent more than 800 Bitcoins, totaling approximately $500,000 at the time, for a villa in Bali.

Although residential real estate agents and buyers are comfortable with using Bitcoin to purchase real estate in Bali, we have yet to see any listings in the commercial or industrial markets.

Bitcoin and the future of real estate
Despite the uncertainty of the Bitcoin market, tech-savvy investors and agents are — at least for the time being — willing to take a risk on the cryptocurrency.

There are many advantages in doing so, but the risks are too steep for some to take the plunge.

Published by Ronald Gray on October 16, 2017

Urban renewal: The importance of revitalizing decaying cities

Image source: dailymail.co.uk

Image source: dailymail.co.uk

Big cities are like living and functioning organisms that follow a life cycle solely dependent on its environment and the resources available around it: people, jobs, facilities, and reliable services, to name a few. While some cities in the world manage to continue a healthy and undisrupted life cycle, many are unlucky enough to undergo major decays that have led to bigger and more serious issues that have not only affected its population but have hindered their chances for growth.

As a response to this growing problem, many urban renewal projects have focused on revitalizing and reviving decaying neighborhoods through sustainable and green initiatives. However, according to a report from the World Cities Summit in Singapore last year, successful regeneration projects are only possible if both the government and public work together to achieve a common goal.

For instance, Santiago, a city in Chile, lost almost half of its population and a third of its housing stock during the 1950s to the 1990s. However, through government funds and local support, the city was able to turn this around. They started to repopulate its neighborhoods through a national housing subsidy. In addition, a private investment was able to come up with $3 billion that helped them fund the entire life project.

Another example of a successful urban renewal project is in Ahmedabad, India. Along the riverfront of Sabarmati once stand productive mills where many workers rely on their day to day earnings. However, the closure of these mills led to unemployment and eventually created informal settlers – eventually resulting to unsafe and unclean living areas. However, thanks to an initiative of a development project, the city was able to reclaim over 200 hectares of the riverfront land, transforming 15 percent of the land into public parks and through a national program, proper housing projects.

Published by Ronald Gray on September 4, 2017

Understanding the ‘housing bubble’ and why it’s bad news for home buyers

Image source: res.keymedia.com

Image source: res.keymedia.com

When house prices grow higher than its average value, the real estate market experiences a temporary yet critical period known as a “housing bubble.” Usually, compared with other asset markets, this particular sector shouldn’t be subject to pricing bubbles because of two fixed factors: the huge carrying cost of owning and maintaining a home, and the large transaction cost of purchasing a property.

While some aren’t really convinced that this market phenomenon exists, many experts agree that most periods of housing price bubbles are driven by an increase in demand. However, the most important question here is, what are actually the specific causes of such increase in demand?

The combination of a number of variables can easily cause a housing market bubble. Under the right circumstances and timely specific buyer behaviors, the resulting effects can create the perfect formula, encouraging risky decisions and speculative behaviors by several participants: investors, builders, buyers, lenders, and borrowers.

Image source: livemint.com

Image source: livemint.com

Observe when the economy is at its best and people can usually turn to more disposable income to invest on an asset, particularly housing. A healthy economy means an optimistic credit growth, encouraging buyers to carelessly take on debt. Taking advantage of the currently positive market and economic standing, consumers can usually enjoy low interest rates and loose borrowing standards. These factors can overall promote offhand speculations and risky behaviors.

The increase in investors, that are most of the time, “unfit” homeowners is the byproduct of all these factors working together to produce one final result that could suddenly disrupt the market: a dramatic rise in home prices, effectively paralyzing homebuyers to afford what they previously could.

Published by Ronald Gray on August 15, 2017

REPOST: US tax change proposals anger builders, real estate agents, charities

Rewriting the tax code involves some serious research and hard work, and as for the recent proposed changes, many are not happy about it. Those in the real estate business, for example, argue that the proposed tax reform will hurt home sales and cut charitable contributions. The full story on CNBC:

With U.S. Congress members focused during their August recess on finding ways to lower the corporate tax rate, industry groups and other sectors of society are gearing up to fight proposed changes to the personal income tax.

While tax cuts for business have garnered the most headlines, lobbyists and lawmakers have conceded that rewriting the corporate tax code will be a long slog.

Tackling personal tax rates will be easier, many argue. Looking for an easier legislative win ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, most lawmakers in the Republican majority want to cut individual incomes taxes. President Donald Trump has been pushing hard for tax changes this year.

Still, proposed changes to the personal tax code have already stirred opposition from real estate agents, home builders, mortgage lenders and charities. These groups say proposed changes will hurt home sales and cut charitable contributions.

The National Association of Realtors issued an “August Recess Talking Points” circular imploring members to remind lawmakers that “Homeowners must be treated fairly in tax reform” to avoid “another housing crash.”

The group cited a report it commissioned from PwC that estimated home values could quickly dive more than 10 percent if the tax plan becomes law.

To simplify the tax code, Republicans have proposed eliminating nearly all tax write-offs including those for state and local taxes, then doubling the standard deduction. This would eliminate the incentive to itemize and should drastically reduce the number of taxpayers who do so.

Currently, many taxpayers use itemized deductions, claiming write-offs for things like charitable contributions, interest paid on a mortgage and state and local taxes. If the standard deduction becomes larger, fewer taxpayers will need to itemize, reducing the incentive to hold a mortgage or contribute to charity.

Currently, about 30 million taxpayers claim the mortgage interest deduction, with about $70 billion in total claims, according to Robert Dietz, an economist with the National Association of Homebuilders.

Estimates suggest more than half of taxpayers would stop itemizing under the proposed plan, Dietz said, warning that this would create a large ripple effect through the economy. He said people in early years of a mortgage would suffer most, along with prospective home buyers.

Home builders are also fighting the proposed tax code changes.

“I don’t think I would call that a cakewalk,” said Jerry Howard, the head of the National Home Builders Association, saying the proposal will face fierce resistance from his group, which represents 130,000 builders. He noted that members operate in every congressional district and employ more than 7 million people.

Charitable organizations are not arguing against increasing the standard deduction. But they are asking members of Congress to consider creating a “universal deduction,” so taxpayers taking the standard deduction can get additional credit for donations without itemizing.

Taxpayers claim an estimated $13 billion each year in charitable deductions. Charities fear giving would plummet if the standard deduction were doubled without creating a universal deduction.

Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, said reducing charitable deductions would be “devastating.”

If lobbyists defeat the reform effort, Congress could try to cut rates without structural tax code changes, said Charles Boustany, a former Republican member of the tax-code writing House Ways and Means Committee who left Congress in January.

“The path of least resistance becomes an old-fashioned tax cut on the individual side,” said Boustany. “The pressure is just going to be relentless as we get later in the fall.”

Published by Ronald Gray on July 31, 2017

Ask these crucial questions before signing a commercial lease

Image source: pftec.com

Image source: pftec.com

Many new business owners have encountered questions, decisions and responsibilities that come with building their own enterprise for the first time. One example of a critical task that one needs to undertake is choosing the right location—and one of the most common options available is signing a commercial lease.

However, signing a lease for your enterprise should not be a careless decision. In other words, as a new business owner, make sure that you’ve asked these fundamental questions before taking the first step:

Image source: quikr.com

Image source: quikr.com

Have you actually read and understood the provisions that the agreement covers?

Many new owners get overwhelmed when it comes to signing a lease not only because it’s a multi-page document but also one needs enough time, especially if you’re a neophyte business owner, to fully understand the contract’s terminologies. This is why most commit the mistake of agreeing to terms and provisions that may not be even practical for a new establishment.

Image source: designboom.com

Image source: designboom.com

Have you consulted the right people to help you get the best deal possible?

An experienced agent in commercial real estate can help you in finding not only the perfect location for your business but also the best deal possible. You have to know how to negotiate a lease and your best chance is to consult an expert.

Image source: sunbelttechnology.com

Image source: sunbelttechnology.com

Have you considered talking to a lawyer before signing anything?

One of the most expensive mistakes that any new business owner makes is either renting the wrong property or striking a deal from the wrong landlord. Remember that you’re starting a new venture and you can’t afford to make one wrong step, especially when talking about legalities.

In other words, contracts are legally binding and before signing a property lease, talking to a trusted professional or attorney should make sure that you and your company are protected.

Published by Ronald Gray on July 11, 2017

REPOST: With autonomy, commercial real estate could go mobile

Online shopping has taken off impressively in the past few years, stimulating debates whether or not brick-and-mortar stores will eventually become obsolete. But with the rise of self-driving automobiles, are we seeing another industry disruption in the form of mobile malls? TechCruch has the full story:

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The coming years could see the next great land rush across the U.S. and many other countries worldwide, but it might not even involve land. Instead, the next trend for savvy investors could be fleets of autonomous vehicles.

A previous article posited the idea that the retail industry may be about to experience its greatest disruption since the rise of online shopping. In a market that’s struggling to balance the pros and cons of selling sight-unseen products versus the high costs of maintaining a brick and mortar store, the answer could lie in mobile malls that bring stores direct to the consumer at the push of a button.

The continued progress in autonomous vehicles made by a host of companies, including Tesla, Google and Ford, makes the possibility of mobile retail stores even more feasible, allowing for tailored designs to better accommodate the shopping experience than previous attempts. And while the ramifications of such a prospect are vast for the retail industry, the effects could be felt elsewhere, too.

 

midtown-square-mall-rochester-ny

Problems for the real estate industry

The problems currently facing the commercial real estate industry are piling up. Startups are increasingly engaging with the sharing and collaborative economy, meaning that they’re opting for coworking spaces and shorter-term leases to accommodate their ever-changing business models. Likewise, the increasing reliance on remote freelance workers has seen companies requiring smaller office spaces. And as for the retail real estate space, they’ve taken a battering from the rise of online shopping — an industry that has been climbing steadily, with profits predicted to rise to $370 billion in 2017 from $231 billion in 2012. The last thing this industry needs is another headache.

However, if it does make a shift toward mobile stores, the demand on not just commercial real estate businesses but a wider reach of companies that sell and lease out physical space could drop significantly. Instead of choosing to purchase or lease shop fronts, startup businesses and already established companies could be attracted to the less expensive, more risk averse option of choosing a store on wheels.

Continue reading HERE.

Published by Ronald Gray on July 3, 2017

Luxury per square meter: World’s wealthiest neighborhoods

There’s no place like home, and even for the super-rich families of the world who can afford to live and be anywhere, there will always be a place that they can go back to every now and then. However, unlike those of ordinary people, these homes are located in the equally wealthy neighborhoods that not only offer the highest quality of life but also host the best posh living that money can buy. So where do the uber-rich families live and where can we find some of the world’s wealthiest neighborhoods? Here they are:

 

North of Montana, Santa Monica

 

Image source: zillow.com

Image source: zillow.com

With a median sale price of $3.1 million for homes in this neighborhood, this place in greater Los Angeles, California, offers the finest living and an easy access to L.A.’s pristine beaches. The rich loves a warm climate and the suburbs of Los Angeles are home to many sun and beach-loving wealthy families in America.

 

Gangnam Area, Seoul

 

Image source: koogle.tv

Image source: koogle.tv

Seoul is one of the richest cities in South Korea and according to a study, 31.9 percent of the wealthiest individuals live in Gangnam-gu and other rich districts in the city. Gangnam is Seoul’s most affluent district, with the most expensive real estate in the country. In fact, its rich owns a total cash assets of 19.1 percent—the biggest among six metropolitan cities (excluding Seoul) in the country.

 

Upper East Side, Manhattan in New York City

 

Image source: mmgnyc.com

Image source: mmgnyc.com

NYC’s Manhattan area has been included in many of the lists where the uber-wealthy lives. The Upper East Side has the highest concentration of wealth in any NY neighborhood, thanks to its rich history and pricey real estate developments. The Big Apple’s Upper East Side is lined with glamourous mansions, posh apartments, and pent houses owned by big names in business and other industries.

 

Knightsbridge, London

 

Image source: rendel-ltd.com

Image source: rendel-ltd.com

This English neighborhood is one of London’s most prestigious residential area. Imagine a 1,500-square meter penthouse costing for over $184 million, the highest recorded sale in the city in 2014. In the area, one can find a number of embassies, the Bulgari Hotel, and other extravagant establishments to cater to their equally wealthy customers.

Published by Ronald Gray on June 6, 2017

REPOST: African cities urged to take holistic approach to urban planning

With the human population growing exponentially, smarter ways to plan cities and urban agglomerations are extremely necessary to combat severe congestion, pollution, space shortages, and crime. In Africa for example, urban population is expected to double in just less than two decades. However, the continent seems to lack thoughtful urban planning. More insights from Citiscope:

 

Tangiers, Morocco, leveraged its close proximity to European markets to build a flourishing automotive industry centered in four free-trade zones. (Mikadun/Shutterstock.com)

Tangiers, Morocco, leveraged its close proximity to European markets to build a flourishing automotive industry centered in four free-trade zones. (Mikadun/Shutterstock.com)

Africa is the world’s second most rapidly urbanizing continent — topped only by Asia. In less than 20 years, Africa’s urban population will double. More than half of its population will reside in metropolitan areas.

This mass migration into cities already plagued by squalor and congestion requires thoughtful, comprehensive urban planning. Yet the region is falling dangerously short of that goal, a recent report warns.

Urbanization and Industrialization for Africa’s Transformation, published in March by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, characterizes planning efforts across Africa as largely disjointed.

In this post, Citiscope will look at what the report has to say about urban planning and policy prescriptions. Previously, we looked at the report’s overall conclusions and some of the case studies it highlights.

“Policies are often formulated and implemented in silos,” the report says. There’s “little analysis of the impact of urban trends and economic geography on industrialization in national development plan.”

The consequences for vulnerable populations are staggering. “Africa’s unguided urban expansion risks perpetuating non-inclusive and unsustainable growth,” the report warns.

The cycle of despair and inertia can be broken, however, through “strategic interventions” that can simultaneously lift both urban ecosystems and business opportunities.

 

Continue reading on this PAGE.

Published by Ronald Gray on May 16, 2017

Three social housing projects that defied design conventions

Several social housing programs have been established to provide affordable rental homes to low-income families around the world. In the US for instance, approximately 1.2 million families benefit from the thousands of government housing units peppered throughout the country.

Housing units may come in different shapes and sizes but most of the time, these buildings aren’t exactly that architecturally and aesthetically impressive. However, many developers around the globe agree that affordable housing design doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, high-quality design juxtaposed with affordability is very much possible.

Here are some of the world’s most impressive social housing projects that will leave you speechless:

 

Image source: archdaily.com

Image source: archdaily.com

Honeycomb Apartments

This honeycomb-shaped social housing project is located in Slovenia. It’s composed of 60 apartment units and was completed in 2006. According to the design firm OFIS, the buildings were created to be flexible, with no structural elements inside them, providing more layout choices and instant reorganization.

Image source: thespaces.com

Image source: thespaces.com

Mirador Housing Project

Located in Madrid, Spain, this social housing structure is composed of a mini-neighborhood arranged vertically around a semi-public sky-plaza. The designer, MVRDV, successfully used light, color and an innovative circulation to create dynamically beautiful yet affordable 165-unit building.

Thanks to the Empresa Municipal de la Viviedna y Suelo de Madrid, the project was funded and completed in 2005.

Image source: inhabitat.com

Image source: inhabitat.com

Savonnerie Heymans

This housing project is located in Belgium and was a site of a former soap factory. Designed by MDW Architecture, the building is composed of sustainable accommodations ranging from studios to even several 6-bedroom apartments.

In addition, the design and structure of this project provide effective acoustical and thermal barrier in all its 42 units. You can also find public and outdoor spaces like the “mini forest” and a 3D landscaped park.

 

Low-cost housing developments are a rapidly growing segment of the real estate industry, both in developed countries and emerging markets. Especially with these types of design revolutions, which apparently do not compromise quality and budget, they are increasingly attractive to home buyers, investors, and even expatriates. The business is set boom in the next couple of years.

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