These are America’s hardest-working cities
Depending on where you are in the world, Americans have different reputations. Some perceive us as lazy, while others think of Americans as hustlers, who believe in working hard to get ahead. Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Americans work an average of 1,790 hours per year. That is the 15th highest number of hours in the world. While we can thank the OECD for crunching the numbers so we could compare countries, we at SmartAsset were curious to see how cities within the country fared. We wanted to find the hardest-working cities in America.
In order to calculate which cities were the hardest working SmartAsset analyzed data on average weeks worked per year, average hours worked per week and labor force participation for the 113 largest cities in the U.S.
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7 reasons why you should pay attention to Lincoln
During the recession Lincoln topped lists for the lowest unemployment in the nation. Now Lincoln is drawing attention again—as Exhibit A for the promise of the Silicon Prairie.
In March of this year, NPR ran a story on the Silicon Prairie, featuring Lincoln, Nebraska, “a surprisingly strong tech startup community.”
This month Bloomberg Business ran another story on the Silicon Prairie, covering much the same ground (affordability, quality of life, strong talent pool), while describing Lincoln has something of a post-college paradise.
“Any software engineering salary, even starting level out of college, will be plenty to live OK just about anywhere. It’s just a matter if you want to live in a small apartment with the bare essentials, or live in a nice condo with a big TV and nice alcohol every week,” says a Hudl intern in the article.
More impressive is that most of the biggest recent venture capital raises in Nebraska this year have been for Lincoln companies. Bulu Box, Nobl, Travefy, opendorse all had raises near a million dollars this year, while Hudl’s $72.5 million Series A broke all state records.
Many entrepreneurs in the region who visit Lincoln come away remarking on the Lincoln magic.
What makes Lincoln special
1. Long runways, slow burn
What makes Lincoln a good example of a “Silicon Prairie” community is its affordability. Office space is inexpensive, particularly in comparison with the costs, which means more money goes towards growth instead of operations.
Not only does that mean early-stage companies have longer time to gain traction, it also makes it cheaper to fail. While that might not sound impressive outside of the startup world, it’s key to creating a thriving ecosystem of experienced entrepreneurs.
2. Ideal location
Lincoln is 30 minutes from Omaha, and 3 hours from Des Moines, Kansas City, Topeka, and Manhattan, Kansas. All within an easy day. You’d be surprised how many Kansas City folks find their way to Lincoln events and visa versa.
A location nestled between Omaha and Kansas City allows Lincoln to tap into nearby talent and experience pools. Both Travefy and Hudl both maintain satellite offices in Omaha for this purpose.
There’s one magical word you pick up quickly around startup happy hour small talk: Density. Startup communities are perpetually seeking that close proximity of talent, companies and investment which can lead to chance encounters and collaborations that nobody could’ve predicted.
Of all the startup communities in the region, Lincoln is perhaps the densest, with much of the activity happening in the Haymarket district, anchored by Nebraska Global and the NMotion accelerator. Hudl’s decision to build their new headquarters right in the middle of this ecosystem will only make serendipitous encounters more likely.
4. One university system
Another factor that centers the community is the University of Nebraska. Nearly every major part of Lincoln’s startup community loops through the University somehow. Although rarely mentioned, the NMotion accelerator is a University backed project, as is Turbine Flats, as well as the Nebraska Innovation Campus.
Unlike Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri, there’s only one state university system in Nebraska, which means that most of the state’s homegrown talent is funneled toward Lincoln, one way or another.
5. A lock on young talent
Universities are underrated talent engines. But the Lincoln startup community, particularly at Nebraska Global, has a lock on great talent coming out of UNL. Exceptional young talent is discovered, fostered and retained. Talent that stays moves from one startup to the next, only deepening the available expertise.
The Raikes School has also helped keep in town some of Lincoln’s brightest lights. From the NPR story:
[Hudl] CEO and co-founder David Graff says the company could have moved anywhere, and had offers to relocate, but it stayed in Lincoln because “we really like the access to the University.” Hudl has 35 interns and most are from the Raikes School (named for Nebraska alum and former Microsoft executive Jeff Raikes).
6. A supportive but not too aggressive chamber
Unlike other communities, the Lincoln chamber seems to be enjoying the grassroots growth of the startup scene, rather than forcing it along. For a city dominated by institutions (the University and the Legislature), the energy and growth of Lincoln feels more authentic and less top-down than other places.
It also means that the startup community has a much more cosmopolitan flavor. Lincolnites regularly attend Omaha events, Iowa events, Kansas City events. It seems like there’s hardly a month of the year when the Lincoln community isn’t heading outside of their smaller community to share their experiences or cheer others on.
7. More on the way
Even more remarkable is that Lincoln isn’t even running at full strength yet.
The Nebraska Innovation Campus is just beginning to open up. Some have questioned the long timeline to launch, but with a new $750,000 grant for biotech startups just this month, we haven’t seen Lincoln max out its potential for tech innovation.
What’s the limiting factor for Lincoln?
All that said, unanswered questions remain, particularly when it comes to talent. It’s true that companies can launch in Lincoln, but can they scale there? A low unemployment rate is a sign of a strong economy, but it can also mean a lack of available talent. The key factor is a deep enough talent pool. Hudl’s new 7-story HQ in the Haymarket is moving headlong into that question.
Lincoln has plenty of young, gifted students, but at some point growing companies like Hudl need to attract national-level executive tier talent. That takes more than a big salary. It means selling outsiders on the Lincoln community as a whole.
Source: Silicon Prairie News
Three Important Responsibilities Home Buyers Have
The American dream of owning a home is something everyone should have if they want it. You should be able to live where you want and enjoy the features of your environment that help you relax, entertain, play, and do more of the things you enjoy without the restrictions imposed by a landlord.
You can own a pet, build a treehouse, paint the walls your favorite color, and play music and videos as loud as you like without disturbing your neighbors. That’s the essence of the dream — independence.
For most first-time buyers, it’s better to accept that for dreams to come true, you have to do the groundwork. Yes, you will be far more independent than you would as a renter, but you will still have some very real responsibilities to make homeownership work. Here are the top three responsibilities you’ll have as a homeowner.
You owe your lender timely payments. Paying on time helps you build your credit. With great credit, you can take on more projects such as remodeling, or you’ll be able to buy furniture, cars or other things you want with lower interest on your payments.
Your debts should never be more than 40 percent of your income. If you get overextended, you’ll have problems meeting the minimum payments. Instead, limit the amount of credit you actively use and pay off balances every month. Don’t add new charges until you’ve paid off your balances.
You should also be in a position to save money, which you can do several ways. You can put money in your 401K, you can pay extra on your principal every month, or you can buy bonds or invest in the stock market, according to your tolerance for risk. You can put money in a safety deposit box or under the mattress as long as you are saving rather than overspending.
Common wisdom is to build six months of cash so you can continue to make your house payments if you lose your job or become ill. You need savings for emergencies, large expenses such as student debt, and retirement.
When you buy a home, your household becomes part of the neighborhood. You can influence whether or not the neighborhood prospers or declines simply by the way you treat your neighbors and your home. It’s up to you to uphold or to set a higher standard for the neighborhood by keeping your lawn and trees trimmed, your home freshly painted, and toys and trash picked up from the entry.
This is the way you can protect your investment and those of your neighbors. It’s one of the reasons many neighborhoods have homeowners associations — to protect values by standardizing safety and maintenance for the community.
To get the benefits the HOA provides such as higher and consistent home values, you have to pay your dues and obey the covenants. You can volunteer to help or you’ll have to abide by the decisions others make. Before you buy a home in a HOA-managed community, read the covenants so you’ll know what you’re getting into. If not being able to use certain exterior paint colors bothers you, then don’t buy the home. Find something else.
You owe yourself and the other members of your household the best life you can possibly provide. Buying a new homeis a great time to step up your lifestyle and enjoy what your new home and the community has to offer.
Your home should help you be who you want to be. That’s the purpose of shaping your environment. You have control over whether you entertain like Martha Stewart, paint in your studio like the next Picasso, or grow a lawn as sleek as the Augusta fairways.
Choose a home that meets as many needs as you can within your means. Separate bedrooms for the kids may be doable, but you may have to compromise on a Jack and Jill shared bath. This is an excellent opportunity to teach your older children about prioritizing, delayed gratification, give and take and winning and losing gracefully.
Make sure the area you select offers amenities that your building doesn’t have. If you don’t have a yard for the kids and the dog, make sure there’s a park and playground nearby.
Think about how far and how long it will take you to get to shopping, work, and other friends and family. Think about how a long commute will affect your family. Would you rather be sitting in traffic or attending your son’s ball game?
You and your spouse may want the prestige of living in a certain area, but if your house-payment is too high, you’ll introduce problems into the relationship you don’t need. It’s about making choices that make sense. Better to buy a smaller home in a great neighborhood and keep the arguing down.
Buy the best home you can that’s within your means and it will see you through years of comfort.
Source: Realty Times
Report: Lincoln a top city to start a business
Lincoln has been named the fourth-best city in which to start a business in 2016, according to personal finance website WalletHub.
That’s a huge jump from last year, when Lincoln was 34th in the same ranking.
According to WalletHub, Lincoln ranked No. 1 in financing accessibility, which looks at the availability of small-business loans. It also ranked highly in office space affordability and its variety of different industries.
Sioux Falls was the No. 1 city, followed by Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Oklahoma City. To see the full ranking, go to:https://wallethub.com/edu/best-cities-to-start-a-business/2281/
Source: Lincoln Journal Star
The Top 5 Reasons You Should Not For Sale By Owner
In today’s market, with homes selling quickly and prices rising, some homeowners might consider trying to sell their home on their own, known in the industry as a For Sale by Owner (FSBO). There are several reasons this might not be a good idea for the vast majority of sellers.
Here are five of those reasons:
1. There Are Too Many People to Negotiate With
Here is a list of some of the people with whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to For Sale By Owner:
- The buyer who wants the best deal possible
- The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interest of the buyer
- The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)
- The home inspection companies, which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house
- The appraiser if there is a question of value
2. Exposure to Prospective Purchasers
Recent studies have shown that 89% of buyers search online for a home. That is in comparison to only 20% looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an internet strategy to promote the sale of your home. Do you?
3. Results Come from the Internet
Where do buyers find the home they actually purchased?
- 44% on the internet
- 33% from a Real Estate Agent
- 9% from a yard sign
- 1% from newspaper
The days of selling your house by just putting up a sign and putting it in the paper are long gone. Having a strong internet strategy is crucial.
4. FSBOing has Become More and More Difficult
The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 8% over the last 20+ years.
The 8% share represents the lowest recorded figure since NAR began collecting data in 1981.
5. You Net More Money when Using an Agent
Many homeowners believe that they will save the real estate commission by selling on their own. Realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe they can save the real estate agent’s commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.
Studies have shown that the typical house sold by the homeowner sells for $210,000 while the typical house sold by an agent sells for $249,000. This doesn’t mean that an agent can get $39,000 more for your home as studies have shown that people are more likely to FSBO in markets with lower price points. However, it does show that selling on your own might not make sense.
Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your house on your own, sit with a real estate professional in your marketplace and see what they have to offer.
Source: Keeping Current Matters
Get Your Outdoor Living Area Ready for Summer
As with the inside of your home, outdoor living areas need attention and care to keep them looking their best. While you may not need to dust or vacuum your deck and furniture, there are a few maintenance chores that will get the warm-weather living off to a good start.
Preparing Your Deck
Before you bring out your furniture, give the deck a good sweeping. Make sure you remove leaves and other debris from between the deck boards. Then, take a few minutes to inspect the deck.
Make sure the deck components are structurally sound. Railings should be firm and not wobbly. There should not be any give in the decking when you walk across it.
Drive in any nails or screws that have popped above the surface. If the fastener won’t hold in its original position, drive in a new fastener nearby.
Inspect the deck’s framing if possible. Pay attention to intersections, such as where joists meet beams. Use a screwdriver or an awl to poke any suspect area. If the tool sinks into the wood easily, the wood could be rotting.
Examine where the deck attaches to the house. The point of attachment is called the ledger board, which should be installed with through bolts or lag screws designed for ledger attachment—not simply nailed—to the framing of the house. There should also be flashing that diverts water from the ledger.
If you do find problems, especially on supports or where the deck connects to the house, call in a professional to get them fixed right away.
If the deck has been well maintained, simply hosing it off may be all the cleaning it needs. But if a more thorough cleaning is needed, use a product that is recommended for the material of the deck. For composite materials, use a cleaner recommended by the manufacturer.
You should always follow the directions on the label of the cleaner, but here are some general guidelines:
- Sprinkle some water on the deck before beginning. If the water is absorbed into the deck quickly, you may need to apply a waterproof sealer after cleaning.
- Cover surrounding plants with a plastic tarp.
- Give the deck a thorough sweeping.
- Mix the cleaner as directed and apply using a sprayer, or brush the solution onto the deck using a push broom.
- Most cleaners should remain on the deck for a few minutes to loosen dirt and stains. Keep the surface of the deck wet during that period.
- Go over the deck with a stiff broom. Use a scrub brush on the railings and stairs.
- Rinse as directed.
- If necessary, apply the sealer following the directions on the label after the deck has dried completely. This process that could take three or four days.
If the deck boards are beyond repair or you just want to upgrade the look of the deck, consider removing the decking and railings and installing new material over the old framing. Chances are the framing is made of pressure-treated lumber, no matter what the decking material. Most of the framing is covered and installed vertically so water can’t puddle on it. If it is in sound shape, it can serve as the foundation for any new decking material.
Freshen Up Your Furniture
As with decks, outdoor furniture can use a little maintenance after a long winter – even if you stored the furniture indoors.
Check all fasteners and tighten any that are loose.
Revive finishes if necessary and remove any rust from metal furniture. Use a primer that prevents rust before touching up the piece with paint. Give wood furniture a fresh stain or coat of paint.
Clean the furniture as recommended by the manufacturer. In general, it’s safe to wash everything using a mild soap and water. Don’t use any cleaner containing chlorine or an abrasive material unless the manufacturer says it won’t harm the furniture. Use a wood-safe product like Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean up wood furniture.
Protect the furniture depending on its material. Apply a thin coat of automobile wax to aluminum furniture to keep out moisture. An exterior varnish will protect wood from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun, and it will expand and contract with the wood to prevent cracking of the finish. Help prevent fabric cushions from fading by applying an outdoor fabric protector.
Outdoor parties usually mean sunscreen – which in turn means sunscreen spills. And if you have a pool or spa, there will be wet bathing suits laden with chlorine and other chemicals left out to dry. To keep furniture looking good all summer, clean up any spills or damp spots as soon as they happen. Give the furniture a rinse with clean water and allow cushions to dry thoroughly. Outdoor slipcovers will also help prolong the life of your furniture. Use them throughout the season during periods when the furniture is not in use so you’ll be ready when summer rolls around again.
How to make a buyer fall in love with your home
Buying a home can be an emotional experience and, as Valentine’s Day approaches, it is a great time to consider how to make a buyer fall in love with your home. Feelings can motivate any decision, especially in a new home purchase, and you want a buyer to feel at home instantly.
A key to preparing your home for listing begins with an understanding of what is most important for your potential buyers to envision their life in your home over your own. What you overlook day to day might be viewed as a flaw by a potential buyer and could leave a negative memory of your home as they move on to another listing.
So remember before you list that it is essential to view your home with an objective eye and consider the top three immediate improvements that can be done in time for a February listing to have your buyer falling head over heels for your home.
While we may more often think about how to prepare our home on the inside, experts note that there are certain external improvements that have been statistically shown to have a greater return value in an offer price and can make that immediate impact on a buyer’s first impression.
The Master Entrance
Recent research has shown that a new master door can be one of the best home improvements to add value to your home. If a new door is not in the budget, experts advise that painting a door in a vibrant accent color to the home’s exterior can have an equal impact for less cost.
Just as the mood set by a candlelight dinner on Valentine’s Day, lighting can have one of the most significant impacts on a home viewing and first impression. Be sure to consider lighting outside and inside as you prepare your home to be viewed by potential buyers. Ensure all external lights are in working order. Light up your home even during a daytime showing— especially lights that add a decorative value to your home’s exterior—for a lasting image as potential buyers consider your home curbside.
Regardless of whether your view is a neighboring park or your own garden setting, it is important to ensure that the view remains attractive in winter and throughout the transition from winter to spring. While you cannot control the weather, you do have control over window treatments, lighting, and the elimination of any outdoor debris to ensure that a glimpse from a patio door or bay window presents the best scene possible. A pleasing view may remain in a potential buyer’s mind’s eye and remain there as they write an offer for a new home they love: yours.
BUYER’S ADVICE: DON’T WAIT FOR A BETTER DEAL
Despite a hot economy, mortgage interest rates are near historic lows. Prices are still below where they were nearly 10 years ago. Home values have risen for over five years allowing homeowners to build equity. Unemployment is down to where it was before the recession.
Prices are higher, inventory is tight, and buyers are being shut out of homes in many areas. Rents are higher than mortgage payments across the country. So buying a home is tougher than it’s been in years. Some homebuyers may be wondering if they should wait for a better deal.
There are valid arguments to waiting and to jumping in the market. Either choice has its risks. If you don’t buy, prices can go up even more. You’ll pay more in rent and when you decide to buy, homes that you could have afforded now will be more expensive, possibly out of your range.
If you do buy a home, prices could go down, which will put you underwater longer, and possibly leaving you with an expensive asset that’s harder to sell.
But consider this – what if you buy and prices go up? You’ll accumulate instant equity, a savings account of a kind, all while receiving considerable tax breaks and other incentives. Would you feel just as weighed down by owning a home if it were appreciating in value instead of losing value?
There are no guarantees that home prices will turn in your favor. Local markets rise or fall based on their own micro-economies, but there is one truth that never changes — you’ll never know if you could have had a better deal unless you commit to making one.
In January 2015, Kiplinger’s predicted a 3.5 percent increase in national home prices. By June, prices were already up 3.2 percent, according to the National Association of REALTORS.
At the least, you should run the numbers. Document what you spend in rent VS what you can afford as a house payment. On the conservative side, you should spend no more than 28 percent of your income on your mortgage payment, taxes and hazard insurance. Your other debts should be no more than seven to 14 percent of your income.
Factor in other costs, such as moving, commutes, schools, and, of course, your down payment.
Buying a home isn’t just about the money. It’s about lifestyle, safety, comfort, and easy access to the people and amenities you want to be close to.
You have to do what’s comfortable for you and your family, whether that’s remaining on the sidelines or buying a home. But here’s a tip — if you buy the home that best meets the needs of your household and budget, chances are that you’ll be pleased with your decision for years to come.
3 HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS THAT LAST A LIFETIME
Thinking of remodeling your home? Before you splurge on a finished basement or a new kitchen, make sure you choose a home improvement project that will add to your home’s lifetime value. Check out Remodeling Magazine’s2015 Cost vs. Value report for projects with the highest ROI. Three home improvement projects we like:
Get a New Roof
Although adding a new roof isn’t as exciting as a major kitchen remodel or a new deck, this improvement can significantly improve the appearance of your home — and, it boasts a national average ROI of 71 percent, according to the Remodeling Magazine report. Champion Home Exteriors offers lifetime shingles with advanced protection technology. The special shingles are specially constructed with materials that cause less harm to the environment than traditional types, and the lifetime shingles offer superior protection to your home as well. Plus, Champion Home Exteriors offers shingles in a variety of colors, from modern gray shades to light tan tones, to perfectly complement your home’s style and its color.
Change Out Your Front Door
The door is the focal point of your home. It’s the first thing that guests and visitors see when they come to your house. Adding a new door to your home can significantly boost its curb appeal, too; in fact, if you’re planning to eventually sell your home, the Remodeling Magazine report found that a steel front door can recoup 101 percent of the project’s total cost when it comes time to sell.
However, if you plan to spend a little more time in your home and you’re not looking to sell, you can enjoy the perks of having a steel door. One example: Steel doors make your home more energy-efficient, Energy.gov reports. Most steel doors have a magnetic weatherstripping that seals up nicely when the door is closed, which can help to keep your energy use down. A steel door is also easily customizable, so if you decide to repaint your home a new color in the future, you can simply paint the door to complement the new exterior color.
Install New Flooring
Wood flooring can last up to a century. It’s classic and can fit a wide range of different styles and designs, from modern to historic homes. Keeping wood floors like new doesn’t take much work, either. A little elbow grease and the right cleaning solutions is all that it takes. By taking extra precaution you can preserve the floor’s integrity, too. Decorate with runners and rugs to and consider using soft felt covers on the legs of your furniture to keep them from scratching the wood floor. This addition can also increase the overall value of your property. If you’re looking to sell your home, buyers are attracted to this improvement. If not, 50 years from now, you can still be enjoying your wood floors. And who needs a contractor to do this project for you? Learn how to do it yourself here.
WHAT SELLERS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT PETS AND SHOWINGS
Buyers and their agents need to feel welcome to look at the property at their leisure without danger or distractions. So while you adore your sweet-tempered pit bull rescue, he could turn territorial, barking and growling at potential homebuyers. And it could cost you the opportunity to sell your home.
Think of buyers as guests and work to make them feel comfortable as they consider your home for purchase. If you have a protective dog or one that isn’t well-trained, drop her off at doggie day care when you know your home is going to be shown. Or call a pet sitter on call who can take your pet for a long walk while your home is being shown.
If you must leave the dog at home, don’t expect real estate professionals to handle your dog. They are not dog trainers and should not be expected to risk a dog bite to show your home to buyers. This is where crate-training can be a huge advantage. At least your dog is secured and more inclined to relax while your home is being shown.
What you should not do is leave your dog loose in the backyard. Not only does the buyer not have access to part of the property, but your dog could bark so much that the din drives the buyer out of the house. Also, don’t leave your dog at the neighbor’s. It’s just as bad if the buyer believes a noisy dog lives next door.
Housecats can also repel buyers. Most homes aren’t designed with a convenient place for the litter box, so cat owners do the best they can. Owners get used to the smells of catboxes and fishy foods, which could be offensive to buyers who don’t have cats.
While buyers aren’t afraid of being cat-attacked, cats can still be startling — they appear silently without warning and they jump on furniture and counters. And if you’ve taught your cat to jump on your shoulders, you can imagine what could happen to an unsuspecting buyer.
Exotic pets can be showing-stoppers, too. Birds are gorgeous, but a puffed-up screeching cockatoo can be intimidating and dangerous. Imagine a buyer bringing small children who can’t resist sticking their fingers in the cage and quickly get rewarded with a nasty bite from a very strong beak.
When you’re selling a home, keep in mind that the first two weeks on the market are crucial. That’s the time you want your home to be pristine and move-in ready. You don’t want any noise, smells or stains that could put buyers off.
Sell your home faster and for more money by making your home as inviting and accessible as possible, so that buyers have no barriers to overcome. Accessibility to your home is just as important as price, condition and location.