Butterfly farm is a surprising job creator

One industry that’s adding jobs? Butterfly farming.

Yup, raising butterflies and selling them to zoos and museums, or to release at weddings and funerals, is a real business — with growing demand.Butterfly PicJane Breckinridge has been doing it for more than 20 years. Her team at Euchee Butterfly Farm in Oklahoma puts on exhibits, or “butterfly houses,” at places like the Minnesota State Fair. There, people can walk through large garden spaces to watch and even feed (with cotton swabs dipped in red Gatorade) thousands of butterflies.

“It’s an exploding industry and there are just not enough butterflies out there,” she said. Everywhere from big institutions like New York City’s Natural History Museum and the Bronx Zoo to elementary schools want to buy caterpillars, chrysalises and butterflies.

The Euchee Butterfly Farm raises about 20,000 butterflies a year, but that’s still not enough to keep up with demand. So it imports another 20,000, mostly from Costa Rica, to make up the difference.

A single butterfly can cost anywhere from 75 cents to $7 on the wholesale market, depending on the time of year and species.

Breckinridge hopes to expand Euchee’s operations with help from a $500,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture, which aims to create jobs. The funds will be used to train Native American members of the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town to raise butterflies of their own to sell to the Euchee farm.

The money in butterfly farming certainly isn’t equivalent to a full time job at first. Tribe members can expect make between $400 and $500 a month from about March through October, Breckinridge said. She hopes to get 100 members of the tribe up and running within a year.

Any chance to earn some income will be welcome in the area, a county where unemployment is higher than the rest of the state, said Brian Wiles, a director at the USDA’s rural development office in Oklahoma.

For now, the Euchee farm will handle operations on the sales end because, logistically, it’s a tricky business.

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Tourists flock to Colorado to smoke legal weed

Tourists from around the world are going to Colorado to get stoned legally.

“We have a flow of tour buses coming in every day now,” said Toni Fox, owner of 3D Cannabis Center, a Denver dispensary with an influx of Japanese and Saudi tourists. “We even get charter buses from Texas!”

 

Tourist

 

Fox is billing her dispensary as a “tourist friendly” destination. It has a living-room-style reception room and an 80-foot long viewing corridor with rows of windows so customers can see inside the marijuana greenhouse.

“You can literally watch the cannabis you are purchasing grow right in front of your eyes!” boasts the dispensary’s web site.

Fox estimates that 70% of her 200 daily customers are from out of state.

In Boulder, the Terrapin Care Station recreational dispensary gets at least of third of its income from out of state, according to manager Jarrod Guaderrama.

“I can definitely tell that all the people from Texas, Georgia, California made this their vacation spot because of legal marijuana,” he said. “They’ll say they’re here because it’s beautiful and they’re going skiing. They’ll say right after that, ‘Plus, there’s legal pot here.'”

The Colorado Office of State Planning and Budgeting says the state took in $19 million in tax revenue from recreational marijuana during the first half of the year.

marijuana tourism

Colorado dispensaries like the 3D Cannabis Center in Denver are sparking a boom in marijuana tourism.

But the state doesn’t calculate how much of that is from tourism versus local buyers, and hard numbers are difficult to come by.

Colorado retailers began selling recreation marijuana on New Year’s Day, and in what may or may not be a coincidence, the state also posted a record ski season for 2013-2014. Colorado hosted 12.6 million ski visits according to a local industry group, up 10% from the prior season, but industry executives can’t say whether legal pot was a factor.

Most ski resorts and hotels don’t allow smoking, but there’s a niche industry popping up offering so-called “420-friendly” lodgings catering to this segment of tourists. Some bars and music venues also allow smoking in outdoor areas.

Related: Want a job? Try the pot industry

Entrepreneurs from outside Colorado are also cashing in. Rick Moore owns a bus tour company in Dallas, and started running buses to Denver dispensaries after marijuana was legalized. He charges $400 for the 12-hour trip, which leaves on Thursday and returns on Monday at 3 a.m., and includes two nights in a hotel. Colorado tours now account for about a quarter of his business.

“Some people might try to bring something back, but I discourage it,” he said. “It’s legal in Colorado but outside Colorado it’s not, so I don’t want anybody bringing it on the bus.”

He added that not all of his Texan tourists smoke weed, but they still want to visit the dispensaries.

“They just want to go because they’re curious,” he said.

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How to woo a Chinese homebuyer…in four easy steps

 

Chinese buyers are flocking to the U.S. Some want their kids to go to American schools. Others are looking for new ways to invest.

Either way, American real estate brokers want a piece of it.Chinese buyers spent $22 billion on homes in the 12 months ended March 31. They buy more expensive houses, spending an average of close to $600,000 — more than twice the national average. And many of those deals are done in all cash.

Here’s how to woo them in four easy steps:

First, you need to be part of a big American brand.

Not only will your brokerage’s name be more recognizable, but it will also give you the resources you need to reach them a continent away.

Ryan Sherman and Douglas Magid founded Metropolitan Residential Services in New York City as an independent boutique, but in February they decided to become a local Century 21 franchise.

“The reason we affiliated with Century 21 is because it’s the largest franchise operator in the world with 2,400 offices in Asia alone,” said Sherman.

Second, hire agents who know the language and the culture.

Metropolitan courts Chinese clients by hiring agents who speak the language and know the culture. It sends agents overseas to build relationships. One, Sophine Hung, travels to Taiwan and Hong Kong regularly.

“When she goes, she stays a month, networking there,” said Sherman.

Hung said she makes friends, builds trust and lets her sales grow naturally. Nearly all her business comes from word of mouth. Her investor clients trust her so much, they let her pick out properties by herself.

“They don’t even know what the buildings look like,” she said.

Third, be prepared to play personal concierge.

That includes lining up banking services and getting your client’s kids into the best American schools.

For one couple with young kids, Hung arranged a meeting with the principal of a highly regarded school in Scarsdale, N.Y., and a guided tour of its facilities.

She has also set up banking services for clients, finding convenient branches and opening accounts. She puts clients up in her home when they come to New York and when she goes overseas, she sometimes stays with them. Old customers introduce her to new ones.

Finally, build on and maintain the relationship.

Chinese people are all about guanxi, the establishment of connections, said Janice Lee, the luxury properties director for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Pasadena, Calif.

“Chinese prefer to go to someone who a friend tells them to go to; they have the guanxi,” she said.

Wei Min Tan, is a New York-based agent for Rutenberg Realty with many Malaysian Chinese clients. He keeps in touch with his past customers and informs them of any bargains he finds. He also provides free property management services for absentee landlords.

One other thing to note: Not all real estate pros who cater to Chinese clientele are Asian.

Rachel Saltmarshall is an African-American broker with Brice Winthrop & Associates in Detroit. She purchased as many as 20 homes a month for Chinese investors, mostly low-priced housing that will be converted to rentals.

A past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, Saltmarshall offers her foreign buyers a trusted local expert who can put together portfolios of homes.

As an added bonus, she also runs a contracting business, so she can offer her Chinese clients a one-stop shop.

They never even need to step foot in the U.S.

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Investors Accounted for 17 Percent of Recent Land Purchases

 

A recent REALTORS® Land Institute Survey provides information on the type of buyer in land sale transactions. Investors accounted for 17 percent of land purchases nationwide in the 12 months ending June 2014.Investors bought various land types, with the top types of land purchases being timber (20 percent), development (17 percent), commercial (14 percent), and non-irrigated agriculture land (13 percent).

Close to two-thirds of the purchases were for land in RLI Region 3 (KY, TN, NC, SC, GA, AL, MS, FL) and RLI Region 4 (KS, MO, AR, LA, OK, TX).

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How Long Does It Take to Build a House?

 

The 2012 Survey of Construction (SOC) from the Census Bureau shows that on average it takes about 7 months from obtaining a building permit to completing a new single-family home. Looking at the houses completed in 2012, houses built for sale, on average, register the shortest time from permits to completion – between 5 and 6 months. Houses built on owner’s land take longer – about 8 months if built by a contractor and more than 11 months if they are owner-built (i.e., where the owner of the land serves as a general contractor). Single-family homes built for rent take, on average, between 8 and 9 months from permits to completion.In most cases, no time is wasted from the moment a permit is obtained and construction is started. Most homes built for sale and on owners’ land are started prior or within the same month as authorization. Houses built for rent, on average, register a slight delay of one month before construction is started.The time from permits to completion varies across the nine Census divisions. New England and Middle Atlantic register longer times of between 9 and 10 months. Pacific and East North Central division also show above average time of 8 months to completion. Builders in the East South Central Division manage to complete a home in 7 months, on average. The rest of the country registers times between 5 and 6 months.

time_to_build

For houses built for sale, the SOC also gathers information on sales, registered at the time when a buyer signs a sale agreement or makes a deposit on the home, not the final closing. For new single-family homes sold in 2012, the average time from completion to sale is under one month. However, this average is highly skewed by a relatively small number of homes that are not sold prior or while under construction. Looking at new single-family homes completed in 2012, more than three quarters of these properties were sold before or during the completion month, including 30 percent that were pre-sold (i.e., sold before being started). Only 6 percent of homes completed in 2012 remain unsold as of the first quarter of 2013. So, for most new single family homes there is no additional lag from completion to sale.

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Is Fraction Ownership Right for You NOT a Timeshare

 

Fractional ownership offers entrée to million-dollar vacation homes for far less money than buying outright—but financing options may be limited.After doing the math, some homeowners are set on fractions.

On a trip to affluent ski town Steamboat Springs, Colo., in March, Dennis and Pamela Stearns discovered One Steamboat Place, a Timbers Resorts development that offers fractional ownership of luxury vacation properties. The couple, whose primary home is in Greensboro, N.C., were intrigued by the thought of a second home without the maintenance hassles. Fractional ownership with Timbers Resorts also enables the Stearns and their two young daughters to stay in luxury properties elsewhere. “We didn’t want to feel like we had to go to the same place all the time to justify having it,” says Ms. Stearns.

Fractional real-estate ownership differs somewhat from timeshares. It typically applies to high-end properties, and ownership is split among fewer people. Periods of annual usage are typically three to four weeks rather than one to two, and privileges may extend to more than one luxury property. Another draw is concierge-level services that a guest would receive at a luxury hotel.

Like deeded property owners, fractional owners can sell their stake, leave it in a will or put it in a trust. Fractional owners pay a share of property taxes as part of their annual dues, ranging from $8,100 to $21,000, depending on the property, which also covers their concierge services and utilities. Some borrowers are able to write off mortgage interest on their taxes. On the down side, owners who want to make changes to the property are limited.

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A Look at the Existing Home Sales Market Over the Past Decade

 

A Look at the Existing Home Sales Market Over the Past DecadeEvery month NAR produces existing home sales, median sales price and inventory figures. The reporting of this data is based on homes sold the previous month and the data is explained in comparison to the same month a year ago. We also provide a perspective of the market relative to last month, adjusting for seasonal factors, and comment on the potential direction of the housing market.The data HERE shows what our current month data looks like in comparison to the last ten Julys and how that might compare to the “ten year July average”, which is an average of the data from the past ten Julys.

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VA Loans for Veterans Rise Exponentially

Veterans keep our American Dreams safe—they deserve to own a part of it, too. And a Department of Veterans Affairs loan program seeks to do just that. VA Loans for Veterans Rise Exponentially photo

Through the program, servicemen and women can obtain home loans with no down payment and no private mortgage insurance.

The VA doesn’t offer the loans itself. Rather, the department sets guidelines for the loans, and insures the loans—which gives the lenders more confidence to lend, and less likelihood that they will be holding the keys if a veteran has difficulty making payments.

Such mortgages have become a smoking hot commodity. In 2007, 133,000 such loans were issued. In 2013, the number hit 630,000. That’s more than a 300% increase for a program that began in the wake of World War II and celebrates its 70th anniversary this spring.

Chris Birk, author of “The Book on VA Loans,” attributes the rise to a confluence of trends: the rising number of qualified veterans, the tightening of loan qualification requirements, and the shaky economy.

The United States has been considered at war, for the sake of defining military service, since the Gulf War—more than 20 years, Birk said. Veterans only have to serve 90 days of active duty during wartime to qualify, as opposed to 180 days during peacetime.

Meanwhile, by early 2014 the average credit score needed to obtain a conventional mortgage was 725, according to Ellie Mae.

The average VA loan score is 620, and military members often have more credit dings, Birk said, due in part to the nature of their jobs.

“They’re in service but they have to tackle credit card payments … that can get sidetracked and lost,” Birk said. “We’ve seen veterans who’ve been shut out of the conventional housing market flock to this market because they can get into a home without a down payment, and they don’t need sterling credit.”

The loans may not work for everyone. A family who can afford to put 20% down might do better trying their fortune with a conventional mortgage, Birk said. But if their credit scores fall below pristine, the VA loan could still serve as a better option. And while FHA loans might be an option, the VA loans don’t require private mortgage insurance—as FHA loans do—that can drive up monthly payments.

The Department of Veterans Affairs also backs other programs, for refinancing at a lower rate, loans to adapt a home to the needs of a disabled vet, even some property tax deductions.

 

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Can the kind of ‘stuff’ Leigh Brown says really help you sell houses?

Leigh Brown, broker-owner of Re/Max Executive Realty in Concord, North Carolina, has already stated for the record her belief that “the best way to get more business is to be your most outrageously authentic self.” Now Brown has put out a video promoting her real estate training and coaching services that portrays just how outrageously authentic she can be .

5 Ways Sellers Can Prepare for a Home Inspection

Don’t hide what isn’t working: If an appliance isn’t working, leave a note that indicates what isn’t working and how you’re getting it fixed. Don’t try to conceal defects because it can make the inspector start to view you as dishonest and wonder what else you’re hiding.

Make things accessible: Ensure the location of the attic and crawlspace are identified and easy to access. Don’t make a home inspector move your belongings in order to gain access.

Check the lightbulbs: If a lightbulb isn’t working, the inspector will need to determine if the fixture is inoperable. Save them time by making sure all the lightbulbs in the home operate, including those in the crawlspace, attic, and furnace rooms.

Note septic systems: If you have a septic system in the yard, be sure to leave a sketch that includes the location of it. It’ll avoid home inspectors, buyers, and real estate professionals having to conduct prolonged searches for it, Leopold says.

Keep appliances clear: Don’t leave dirty laundry in the washing machine or dryer because the inspector will need to test the appliances, and he doesn’t want to have to pull out dirty clothes in front of everybody. Also, make sure your oven and stovetop are clear and clean, so we can easily test them without setting off the smoke alarm.