Author Archives: Hallmark Abstract Service

About Hallmark Abstract Service

Hallmark Abstract Service provides title insurance for residential and commercial real estate transactions in New York State and nationwide, underwriting through Chicago Title. HAS opened its doors in 2008 with two primary goals in mind! Number one was to create a title insurance company that would provide our clients with a superior finished product while affording them a seamless and stress-free process. Number two was to make the experience of working with Hallmark Abstract Service as easy and as pleasurable as obtaining title insurance for a real estate transaction could possibly be! From the sheer number of satisfied clients who keep coming back to Hallmark Abstract Service for their title insurance needs, I believe that we have accomplished our goals in the past, and we will continue striving to improve on them in the future! My Background In 1980 I earned an undergraduate degree in economics followed in 1984 by an MBA in finance with a concentration in the tax-exempt market. With this focus on the municipal market I became a municipal bond analyst at Shearson/Lehman Brothers tasked with following both general obligation issuers on the city and state level as well as housing bonds secured by mortgage pools. This experience at Shearson/Lehman Brothers followed by stints at PaineWebber and Citigroup provided a broad framework of understanding concerning the mechanics of mortgage debt in terms of prepayment experience, mortgage quality and the expected duration of a portfolio. Leaving Wall Street I started Exeter Commercial which funded commercial mortgage loans. Title insurance was a critical part of the underwriting and closing process. At the peak of the financial crisis, I recognized both an opportunity and need as many title firms, for a variety of reasons, closed their doors. Out of this, Hallmark Abstract Service was born.

Could Underfunded Public Pension Plans Pose A Risk To Real Estate Values?

retirement photo

Photo by Got Credit

Depending on the methodology that’s used to determine the underfunded position of state public pension plans, the number as of 2015 ranged from a staggering $1.7 trillion to an unfathomable $5.2 trillion!

To put that into context, the national debt of the United States is currently about $20 trillion.

But why is there such a great disparity in those two numbers mentioned above with one indicating an underfunded ratio of only about 26% ($1.7 trillion) while the other indicates an underfunded ratio of about 61% ($5.2 trillion).

It’s all about assumptions that are made concerning the returns earned on investments. ‘One accounting trick is the use of high discount rates, the assumed rate of future investment returns on fund assets, when calculating pension liabilities.’ (Source)

The pension funds assume a rate of return on invested assets of more than 7%, while the chart below courtesy of State Budget Solutions calculates underfunding using a more reasonable assumed rate of return equal to the 15-year U.S. treasury bond yield.

So Do These Underfunded Plans Actually Pose A Risk To Real Estate Values?

Assuming that at some point the proverbial fiscal can will no longer be able to get kicked down the road, the monies due to retirees will have to come from somewhere. In a worst-case scenario, Puerto Rico’s recent default most certainly had a pension component as the island has over $2 billion of Pension-Obligation Bonds outstanding.

So then, assuming that return assumptions are skewed too high, where will the monies owed by states and local governments to pensioners come from? We the taxpayers of course in the form of higher assorted fees, higher property taxes and higher other taxes.

In already high tax states like New York, the taxpayer can only bend so much before breaking, ultimately moving away to find lower state and local tax alternatives. Higher and higher personal tax burdens (and fees designed not to appear as taxes) means becoming a less desirable the location to live and work meaning that real estate prices would theoretically need to be adjusted to account for those facts (Nassau County Real Estate Closing Costs Set to Become New York State’s Highest!).

But, of course, politicians will do whatever possible to avoid this prospect and just keep on kicking!

Map Courtesy of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council)(https://www.alec.org/app/uploads/2016/10/2016-10-13-Unaccountable-and-Unaffordable.pdf)

Chart Courtesy of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council)(https://www.alec.org/app/uploads/2016/10/2016-10-13-Unaccountable-and-Unaffordable.pdf)

__________________________________

Do you know everything that you need to know about the title insurance for your purchase of refinance?
  • Who is your underwriter?
  • What is the claims experience of your title insurance provider?
  • Do you know whether the non-title insurance premium fees you are paying are fair and reasonable?
If the answer to any of these questions was NO, please read…

New York State DFS Regulations 206 And 208: Do They Help Or Hurt The Consumer?

Impact of NYS DFS Regulations 206 and 208

The comment period for proposed New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) Regulations 206 and 208 is currently open until June 19, 2017!

Regulations 206 and 208, though proposed with the intended good intentions of protecting the consumer, would in the opinion of Hallmark Abstract Service actually have a negative impact if implemented…

We would therefore like to share the letter we wrote discussing our thoughts covering why many aspects of these proposals would in actuality be detrimental to the real property buying public as well as for those who may be refinancing a mortgage in New York State.

If, after reading this, you would like the contact information to comment yourself, simply let Hallmark Abstract Service President Michael Haltman know at mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com.

New York State Regulations 206 and 208: Our Thoughts

I’d like to take the opportunity to present some of my thoughts concerning the proposed Regulations 206 and 208.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts or comments.

My name is Michael Haltman and I own Hallmark Abstract Service located in Jericho, New York.

I opened my firm in 2008 during the turmoil created by the financial crisis.

First let me acknowledge that the title insurance industry, as most if not all industries do, has its share of bad actors who do not comply with existing regulations and disclosures.

And while the proposed Regulations 206 and 208 as they are written will to some extent impact those bad actors, at the same time they will likely hurt the consumer while putting many title companies out of business.

Of course while legislation and regulations typically tend to achieve their intended results, there will also unfortunately tend to be unintended consequences that occur as well. In the case of Regulations 206 and 208, these unintended consequences will in my view be significant.

Affiliated Business Relationships (ABR) and Joint Venture Partnerships

Affiliated Business Relationships and Joint Venture Partnerships created between title companies and real estate companies, lenders, etc., will likely flourish in the future as Regulations 206 and 208 are written now.

So who will any expansion of this practice help and who will it hurt?

Of course some small segment of the title industry will be helped, but will this happen at the expense of the consumer, the very people that these regulations are supposed to help? In effect, it’s my opinion that the DFS will ultimately be picking title industry winners and losers!

In my view the number one casualty of these business relationships is the consumer who relies on the independence of the title insurance provider. It’s through this independence that any issue, even one that might prevent a transaction from being completed, is recognized and dealt with.

When a contractual relationship between various parties to a transaction exists (i.e. mortgage lender and title company), objectivity and due diligence may be clouded by the desire to close the deal.

The consumer will be impacted once again as a limited number of title industry players with ‘deep pockets’ create these ABR’s and JV’s, while smaller title companies unable to compete will be hurt and may ultimately be forced close. Less competition means less choice for the consumer and more potential that issues detrimental to their best interests will arise!

Finally, while ‘steering’ of business is also a net negative for the consumer, ABR’s and JV’s tend to reward such activity.

Marketing and Business Development Activities

When it comes to business development, I am hard-pressed to think of an industry, any industry, that prohibits companies from marketing their firms.

And while there should never be a quid pro quo connecting marketing and business, referring back to ABR’s and JV’s it’s the smaller title firms that are less known who will be hurt by the inability to market themselves and that, by extension, will hurt the consumer.

Lastly no firm should be passing its marketing expenses along to the consumer we are ultimately trying to protect.

Closer Compensation

Relating all of the proposed regulations back to consumer protection, in the case of title closer compensation it’s the consumer who will most definitely be hurt were the methodology changed in the way described.

Why is that?

If and when title closers become employees of title companies, they will be at the closing table representing said company. The attorney will likely need to take on greater responsibility translating into increased time spent on a deal resulting in the legal costs to the consumer having to rise.

Similarly if the bank needs to send its own representative to closings in order to ‘pick-up’ payoffs, the cost to close for the banks will rise, with those increases no doubt being passed along to the consumer.

If and when title companies need to carry the added expense of title closers on payroll, some will once again likely be forced to close leading to decreased competition, a net negative for the consumer.

Finally, the potential for fewer available closers can mean delays scheduling closings that can cost the consumer both time and money.

Conclusion

To conclude, I firmly believe in the attempt to weed out of the title industry bad actions and actors as they are both detrimental to the consumer as well as to the standing and viability of companies that do things the right way.

But, it’s also critical for any governing body to try and envision the potential unintended consequences that any legislation or regulation might cause, because ultimately the idea is not to hurt the very people you are trying to help, the consumer.

Michael Haltman, President
Hallmark Abstract Service

131 Jericho Turnpike, Suite 205
Jericho, New York 11753
(516) 741-4723

276 Fifth Avenue, Suite 704
New York, New York 10001
(646) 741-6101

www.TitleInsuranceNewYork.com
__________________________________

Do you know everything that you need to know about the title insurance for your purchase of refinance?
  • Who is your underwriter?
  • What is the claims experience of your title insurance provider?
  • Do you know whether the non-title insurance premium fees you are paying are fair and reasonable?
If the answer to any of these questions was NO, please read…

Government Commentary: Throw All The Bums Out*!

Note: Rereading this nonpartisan commentary after it was done I questioned whether it had any place being published in a business venue. However, as all businesses are subject to the impact of both the consequences and unintended consequences that the decisions out of Washington (and our states) create, I determined that it was.

Throw All The Bums Out*!

Of course, at least on the federal level, the mid-term booting of a corrupt and self-serving representative of a state or district is typically not possible regardless the magnitude of unethical and seemingly illegal activities that describe their misstep!

This is often due to the fact that the ‘guilty’ party will be judged by a jury of his or her peers, most of whom are hiding ghosts in the closet themselves and therefore don’t dare to judge lest they be judged.

I know this description may sound cynical and harsh and that is not my intention. I fully recognize that in the political mix there are those who are selfless and in Washington to actually do the People’s Business.

That said, back to the rank and file politician. Observing from afar, many of these public servants appear as a group and regardless of political party, to possess as their only real interest the following after we cut through the empty rhetoric…To do whatever is necessary in order to hold on to committee positions, pander to party leaders in order to keep campaign money flowing and, after all is said and done, to get reelected in order to hold onto power.

But I digress badly. The purpose of this article is to focus on one current example that to my mind describes the lack of respect shown by our representatives in Washington for the people who pay their salaries, fund their projects and put them there in the first place…You and I, the voter!

Because sadly, once in power these ‘public servants’ tend to forget who is footing the bill. Numbers in the billions and even trillions of dollars get tossed around the way you and I might discuss the purchase of a $5 item, and reality concerning true life on the Main Street they love to invoke during speeches seems to become clouded.

They often sadly seem to forget what it is they ran on and why they are there in the first place.

Pure partisanship wasn’t always the way but regardless of issue the vote will now be typically be close to 100% yay from one party and 100% nay from the other. Statistically this should not be a possible outcome. But in action it sure seems to be.

Issue One: The August Recess

Sometimes an issue will be raised in Washington that to the average American will seem foreign. Such is the concept of the August Recess that your congressman and your Senators will be enjoying.

Originally and unofficially the reasoning behind this month-long hiatus from doing the job they were sent to Washington to do was based on the heat of the summer (and the fact that it wasn’t a full-time job). Of course today we have air conditioning AND it’s a full-time job so the need to escape no longer exists.

In 1970 the Legislative Reorganization Act said that from ‘that Friday in August which occurs at least thirty days before the first Monday in September’ Congress shall recess.

While the recess can be overridden when matters are considered imperative to be resolved, it typically is not. The recess serves as ‘an opportunity for lawmakers to spend time with their family, work with their constituents, campaign or travel in congressional delegations’.

The calendar below indicates the days in 2017 that the House and Senate are not in session allowing for many of the same activities that take place during their August recess.

While I am sure there is much to the job of member of the House of Representatives and the Senate beyond racing to any microphone (i.e. James Comey testimony) that’s available that are going on behind the scenes, it seems to be nice work if you can get it…

the number of days Congress is in recess

Imagine for a second this scenario:

The Private Sector Employee

You’re working at a company and have a project to complete that is critical to the viability of the organization and the wellbeing of its employees.

In other words, it needs to be done, done right and in timely fashion!

But that said you have a vacation planned and don’t really want to cancel.

So to the detriment of your firm and the people who work there, you tell your boss that you’ll be gone for two weeks and pick it back up when you return.

It’s a simple example with a predictable solution. The boss tells you to cancel or delay your plans until the project is done. That, or look for another job.

In reality members of Congress work for you and I and yet, they seem to face no apparent ramifications for abandoning their jobs to do their own business.

Solution? Hold Your Representatives Accountable In The Only Way They Understand…The Ballot Box*!

*Warning: The replacement will likely soon be no better than their predecessor!

Coming Soon: A discussion of the proposed changes to the title insurance industry in New York that may be no less caustic than this one!

This commentary was written by Hallmark Abstract President Michael Haltman and represent his opinions.

 

The U.S. Economy: Are Bonds Or Stocks Telling The True Story?

On the heels of this mornings employment report indicating jobs creation below even the most pessimistic economist forecast along with revisions lower to the prior months, why are the bond and stock markets telling two such very different stories?

This morning at 8:30AM the Employment Report was released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing new jobs creation of +138,000 along with a downward revisions to the jobs created in prior months. Therefore, one needs to ask the following:

Is the euphoria over the future of the U.S. economy post-Trump election, the one that has the three major stock indexes at all-time highs correct and warranted?

Or is the 10-year bond yield that’s trending lower that’s potentially indicating fears of economic weakness telling a far different story?

Or, are stocks correct and the bond market is merely showing the impact of Federal Reserve intervention that has distorted yields artificially? Hmmmm….

As a former bond analyst and trader it’s been said in the past that bond money is the smart money, but post-financial crisis we are living through different times.

While these two charts show just how these two markets are diverging, where we go in the future is anyones guess including the economists who all got todays number completely wrong…

One-Year Charts: The 10-Year Treasury Yield vs. The S&P 500 Index

10-year treasury bond yield chart

S&P 500 1 year chart
__________________________________

Do you know everything that you need to know about the title insurance for your purchase of refinance?
  • Who is your underwriter?
  • What is the claims experience of your title insurance provider?
  • Do you know whether the non-title insurance premium fees you are paying are fair and reasonable?
If the answer to any of these questions was NO, please read…

The Slow And Steady Demise Of Brick-And-Mortar Retail…What’s A Mall Owner To Do?

online shopping crushing retail malls

The drumbeat of online shopping that’s replacing the consumer heading out to the mall started slowly, but has picked-up year after year until now it’s reaching a crescendo!

The talking heads on business news and in the newspapers dwell on the fact that the shopping mall, once anchored by some of the biggest and strongest names in retail, are becoming an endangered species as chains once considered necessities have become something of an afterthought.

After all, who among us has not marveled at the ease and convenience of a few key strokes that magically result in a package arriving at our front door or office in a day or two?

So if this trend of internet shopping is going to grow over time, what’s to become of commercial real estate reliant on dinosaurs that may soon be extinct? Not to mention the lenders that have theses brick-and-mortar behemoths as collateral for the loans they made!

Commercial Landlords Trying To Fight Back!

An excellent article written by real estate analyst Bob Brown, summarizes the issues and then examines some of the ways commercial landlords are going about trying to stem the tide of brick-and-mortars decline!

The Decline of Classic American Retail, the Mall, and How Commercial Landlords are Fighting Back

Summary: “…landlords are fighting back vigorously. To combat the internet invader with its generally lower price points, mall owners are embracing creativity, diversity, and perks to lure back their precious clientele, and rekindle enthusiasm in the mall as a place that has become an iconic American tradition in a very short time span…

The first secure retail transaction over the web was conducted by the Internet Shopping Network in 1994. Within a year, Amazon and eBay launched their history making online shopping sites. In the following decade, as the new e-commerce industry worked out its growing pains and potential customers began acclimating to the new retail revolution, shoppers did not, in fact, surge into the new market in significant numbers.

As hard as it is to believe from our perch in 2017, online sales only accounted for a mere 2.4% of all retail sales in 2004 – a full ten years after internet shopping began. But just six years later, in 2010, online sales almost doubled to 4.6%. By the end of 2014, that number had jumped to 6.6%. And by the end of December of 2016, e-commerce had vaulted to 8.3% of retail sales according to the U.S. Commerce Department. And if we eliminate auto sales and fuel from the equation, online sales represented 11.7% of all retail. So, while the vast majority of all retail sales still take place at brick and mortar locations, the trendlines are clear: retail sales on Main Street and at mall locations are dropping.

The exponential growth of the online sector has devastated many of America’s hallmark retail establishments. Following on the heels of thousands of store closings in recent years, 2017 appears to be the worst year yet for traditional retail. Just as a sampling: Sears plans to close 42 stores this year, Macy’s about a hundred, Staples 70, Kmart 108, JC Penny 138, RadioShack 552, and Payless 552. And America’s second largest drug store chain, CVS, plans to close 70 stores this year. Additionally, The Limited recently closed its remaining 250 stores. And Bloomberg reports that Bebe is closing all its remaining 170 stores.

All told, according to a March 2017 article in Business Insider, 3,500 chain and department store locations are expected to shut their doors in the next few months alone.

Two statistic stands out from all the rest: According to Cushman and Wakefield, visits to malls declined by well over 50% since 2010, forcing landlords to lower rents dramatically, particularly for the anchor stores. And secondly, according to Bloomberg, while December 2016 total retail sales grew by a healthy 4.4% compared to a year earlier, “Department store sales fell by 7.2%, marking the 23rd consecutive month of year-over-year declines…” Even the upscale Neiman Marcus Group recently withdrew its plans to go public amid declining sales.

Developers who built hundreds of malls per decade from the 1960s to the 2000, have only built nineteen new ones since 2010, according to a recent report in Fortune Magazine.

Do these grim statistics portend massive mall closings throughout the country? Perhaps. But landlords are fighting back vigorously. To combat the internet invader with its generally lower price points, mall owners are embracing creativity, diversity, and perks to lure back their precious clientele, and rekindle enthusiasm in the mall as a place that has become an iconic American tradition in a very short time span.

Leading the charge is The Simon Property Group, the nation’s oldest and largest mall operator. Back in 1960, the Bronx born, Melvin Simon, teamed with his two brothers, forming what Fortune Magazine humorously refers to as, “A trio of machers.” They soon became known as “The Marx Brothers of malls.” The brothers essentially invented the department store anchor model for the indoor mall.

Their underlying concept was to charge the anchor/department stores a very low rent per square foot, relying on them to be marquis attractions. The idea was a win-win for all concerned. While the anchor stores paid very little rent, the smaller stores received foot traffic that they could hardly have dreamed of. This increase in customers, and hence sales, was more than enough to justify the higher rents they paid. It may surprise many that even today, the typical mall department/anchor store pays only $4 per square foot in annual rent, while the average of the non-anchor tenants paid $42.22 per square foot as of the third quarter of 2016, according to the real estate analytics firm, Reis.

Simon’s son, David, the current CEO, is now carrying on the family tradition of innovation, and is a key player in the reinvention of the American mall. Let’s look at the Simon Property Group as a microcosm of what mall landlords are doing to re-balance the playing field, stanch further losses, and begin a reinvigorated upward trajectory.

When entering their Roosevelt Field shopping complex in Garden City, New York, the shopper is not greeted by the ubiquitous, but tired, “You Are Here” directories. Instead visitors are drawn to attractive, sleek screens where the malls’ trendier emporiums are given the most prominent spots. Those screens also inform the shopper of app-based loyalty programs which can land a customer a reserved parking spot, among other perks. The mall is tastefully furnished with plush leather couches, flanked by charging stations for cell phones.

As part of a $300 million renovation, the mall has enhanced its full-service, sit-down restaurant experience. The “food court” has been upgraded and renamed, “The Dining District.” Plastic plates and utensils have been replaced with silverware. The design and furnishing of the eateries reek trendiness, rather than the plebian, drab cafeteria style of the past. During the past five years, The Simon Group has allocated $200 million for new, stylish restaurants in its malls across the country.

Throughout the Roosevelt Field mall, elegant signage nudges shoppers to the new luxury wing, opened just last year, anchored by and named for the ultra-modern, state-of-the-art Neiman Marcus store which offers its own valet parking. The new NM Café is tastefully designed in a casual, understated, contemporary style with muted lighting and modern décor.

The Simon Group is hosting dazzling events, such as “Influencer powwows” hosted by eminent fashion columnists and stylists. Neiman CEO Karen Katz told Fortune Magazine recently that, “They’ve stepped-up the quality of their events. They’ve done such a great job of promoting Neiman Marcus in the Simon branding within the mall.”
Another major Simon Group property is the King of Prussia mall outside Philadelphia (the second largest mall in the U.S.), which added fifty stores in 2016. But this investment is just part of the $2 billion the group plans to invest in their malls across the country.

To succeed in their goals, the firm has been diligent to stay ahead of trends, quickly replacing struggling brands with trendsetters. Non-retail attractions such as high-end fitness centers and movie theaters have been added, as have gourmet grocery stores. At the College Mall in Bloomington, Indiana, Simon  recently replaced the Sears store with a Whole Foods, an Ulta (a fast growing, trendy chain of beauty stores which carries cosmetics, fragrances, and skin care brands), and other smaller niche outlets. Simon and the other top line, proactive mall operators (General Growth Properties, Taubman Centers, and Macerich) are planning frequent concerts to draw the younger age demographic. Supervised play areas for children are another area set to enhance the mall experience.

Additionally, these landlords are placing much greater emphasis on one key advantage they have over the online competition: personal shoppers. The guy who questions his own taste and is not up to date on the latest fashion statements, yet wants to buy his wife a special birthday or holiday gift, will not find much help on the Amazon website. A personal shopper can go a long way toward building enduring customer loyalty.

As department stores contract, The Simon Group has new ideas about exactly how an anchor store should be reimagined. In recent years, Apple stores have been lured to serve as anchors – presently 55 Simon malls have an Apple store, while 15 have a Tesla store. Studies have shown that the presence of these retailers can drive overall mall sales up by 10%. Of course, these stores are offered a highly preferential rent.

Clearly, The Simon Group is not rolling over to the e-commerce shopping revolution. Rather, they are vigorously fighting back through renovations, innovations, and a general reconfiguring of the mall experience to bring it in line with modern tastes and trends.

Last June, at an investor conference, David Simon, said: “You are going to see, at the end of the day, the better malls will get bigger, better, and more diverse, and some of the other fringe retail will suffer.”

For those still convinced that Amazon is the wave of the future, and that brick and mortar retail stores will soon become a relic of the past, consider this: According to The Wall Street Journal of 2/2/17, and numerous other news outlets, Amazon plans to open 400 physical bookstores across the country, the first of which has already opened in Seattle. The internet behemoth recently added stores in Boston, Chicago, San Diego, and Portland. In New York, two stores are slated to begin operations this year in prestigious locations – the first will be located inside The Shops at Columbus Circle and will open this summer; the other will be planted directly across from the Empire State Building.

For those who accept the conventional wisdom and are ready to write the epitaph for America’s malls, it may be worth considering that the future of American retail may not be as clearly defined as is presently assumed.

__________________________________

Do you know everything that you need to know about the title insurance for your purchase of refinance?
  • Who is your underwriter?
  • What is the claims experience of your title insurance provider?
  • Do you know whether the non-title insurance premium fees you are paying are fair and reasonable?
If the answer to any of these questions was NO, please read…

Heroes To Heroes Foundation Wins The Long Island Business News Corporate Citizenship Awards!

We are very pleased to announce that the Heroes To Heroes Foundation, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to helping combat veterans suffering with PTSD, moral injury and TBI, has won the LIBN Corporate Citizenship Awards in the category ‘Leadership Excellence – Nonprofit’.

Tragically, many Heroes To Heroes program participants have attempted suicide, consistent with the incredibly alarming statistic of 20 military veterans a day taking their own lives.

The awards ceremony is going to take place June 6, 2017 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, New York.

Finally the Heroes To Heroes Mission Statement, link to its website and list of all LIBN Award winners is provided below.

Michael Haltman, President of Hallmark Abstract Service, serves as Board Chair of the organization.Hallmark Abstract Service and Heroes To Heroes Foundation

Heroes To Heroes Foundation

LIBN Corporate Citizenship Awards Honorees

Corporate Citizen of the Year, Large Business
Bank of America
PSEG Long Island
Zebra Technologies
Bethpage Federal Credit Union
Trinity Solar

Corporate Citizen of the Year, Mid-sized Business
EW Howell Construction Group
Marcum LLP
Alcott HR

Corporate Citizen of the Year, Small Business
Empire National Bank
Travers & Associates
Bookkeeper 360

Corporate Social Responsibility
Rivkin Radler LLP

Leadership Excellence – For Profit
Realtime Reporting, Inc.
Sahn Ward Coshignano, PLLC
SUNation Solar Systems
Rocco A. Carriero Wealth Partners

Leadership Excellence – Nonprofit
Heroes To Heroes Foundation

Nonprofit of the Year
Global Foundation for First Responders

Volunteer of the Year
Sarah Holzberg, Prager Metis CPAs, LLC

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Home Improvement!

home improvement questions and answers

For homeowners, embarking on a home improvement project of some kind has become increasingly common, with a 60% increase in money spent during 2016 over the 12 months prior!

And that trend is not expected to end in 2017 with 63% of those surveyed planning on spending even more this year!

This is according to HomeAdvisor that developed a ‘True Cost Report’ for home improvement. These are some of the key takeaways with a link to the full report provided below…

KEY SURVEY FINDINGS

1. Current Home Improvement Spending Trends:

Homeowners are spending more on home improvement. Homeowners tackled
more home improvement projects from February 2016 through February 2017 than
they did from February 2015 through February 2016. What’s more, they spent an
average of roughly $1,850 more on home improvement projects.

Baby boomers and millennials are leading the charge. Baby boomers are doing
more home projects — and spending more money — than any other group of
homeowners, followed closely by millennials.

Millennials tend to DIY. Home project spending is up among millennials, but less than
half report always hiring a professional to help complete home improvement projects
— in part because they’d have to save for or finance a home improvement project, and
in part because they’re uncertain they’re being charged a fair price.

Age of home and length of residence matter. Homeowners who’ve lived in their homes
for less than six years spent the most on home improvement projects last year, followed by
those who’ve lived in their homes longer than 11 years. Homeowners who’ve lived in their
homes for six to 10 years, on the other hand, spent the least on home improvement projects.

Home improvement is gaining the most traction in the West and Northeast
Homeowners in the West and Northeast are spending the most on home improvement.
And, because they’re accruing some of the highest equity, they’re also taking out the
most home equity loans to complete projects.

2. Future Home Improvement Spending Outlook:

People are planning for more. Nearly two-thirds of homeowners report plans to spend
as much or more on home improvement projects in 2017 compared to what they spent
in 2016.

Home improvement spending rises amid political anxiety. The presidential
administration and political affiliation are not negatively impacting homeowners’
willingness to take on home projects. While just 35 percent of homeowners are confident
that their personal economic situation will improve as a result of policies enacted by the
Trump administration, more than 80 percent of homeowners maintain they are planning
to complete as many or more home projects in the next 12 months.

For the full report at HomeAdvisor’s please click this link.

__________________________________

Do you know everything that you need to know about the title insurance for your purchase of refinance?
  • Who is your underwriter?
  • What is the claims experience of your title insurance provider?
  • Do you know whether the non-title insurance premium fees you are paying are fair and reasonable?
If the answer to any of these questions was NO, please read…

Heroes To Heroes Foundation Video Premier: Combat Veterans Pain, Suffering And Healing!

Heroes To Heroes Foundations and spiritual journey's to Israel

Combat veterans come back from the fight, some with visible injuries and still a multitude of others suffering from injuries unseen by the naked eye!

And shockingly, veteran suicide is occurring at the rate of at least 20 a day!

Heroes To Heroes Foundation, through a spiritual healing and peer support program, helps veterans suffering with PTSD, moral injury and TBI begin the process of healing!

The veterans that come through the Heroes To Heroes program have either attempted suicide or have family who fear that such an attempt may be imminent.

None of the veterans who have come through the program have taken their lives and in fact the vast majority are beginning the process of living them.

The scope of this problem afflicting our nations heroes as well as the methodology utilized by Heroes To Heroes to help them can be somewhat difficult to articulate in words, so the following video will hopefully do so in a clear and concise way.

If after watching the video you might have an interest in learning about ways you can potentially work with the Heroes To Heroes Foundation, simply leave your thoughts and contact information in the comments section below.

Mike Haltman
Board Chair, Heroes To Heroes Foundation

The Heroes To Heroes Foundation Mission Video

Related Articles

Heroes To Heroes Foundation – Because 20 Veterans A Day In The United States Commit Suicide!

Heroes To Heroes Foundation: Winner LIBN Corporate Citizenship Award

Hallmark Abstract Service On AM 970’s ‘Blue Collar Buzz’ Speaking About The Heroes To Heroes Foundation (Audio)

Hallmark Abstract Service President Michael Haltman appears on AM 970 The Answer

April 25th Hallmark Abstract President Michael Haltman appeared on an AM 970 The Answer segment of ‘Blue Collar Buzz’!

Also serving as the combat veterans 501(c)(3) Heroes To Heroes Foundation Board Chair, Michael and ‘Blue Collar Buzz’ co-hosts Joe Maniscalco and Bill Hohlfeld discussed the upcoming June 15th Heroes To Heroes 2017 Charity Golf Outing, being held this year at the historic Saint Andrews Golf Club in Hastings-On-Hudson, New York, just north of New York City (https://heroestoheroes.org/2017-golf-classic/),

In addition they spoke about the non-denominational mission of Heroes To Heroes and the way in which the program utilizes spirituality to address the needs of U.S.combat veterans who are suffering with PTSD, moral injury and traumatic brain injury.

Heroes To Heroes Foundation, led by Founder Judy Schaffer, strives to do its part to reverse the incredibly tragic statistic of 20 veterans a day committing suicide!

AM970 The Answer’s Blue Collar Buzz and Heroes To Heroes Foundation Board Chair Michael Haltman

If you have any questions about the Heroes To Heroes Foundation or the organizations 2017 Charity Golf Outing on June 15th, contact Michael Haltman at info@hallmarkabstractllc.com or (516) 741-4723.

To Register as a golfer or to learn more about the sponsorship opportunities, visit the Heroes To Heroes Foundation website here, https://heroestoheroes.org/2017-golf-classic/.

Related Article

Heroes To Heroes Foundation – Because 20 Veterans A Day In The United States Commit Suicide!

Title Insurance: What Do You Know About The Underwriter Protecting Your Investment? (New York)

caveat emptor

When a buyer purchases residential or commercial real estate in New York, or is refinancing an existing mortgage, they will be acquiring title insurance along with it*!

While title insurance will be protecting the owner against financial loss for what is likely their most valuable asset by ensuring that they have good and clear title to the property, most of these consumers will know little about who it is that is ultimately backing the policy.

In other words, who is the title insurance underwriter and what is its financial strength.

When consumers buy insurance of any kind they hope (and pray) that when the time comes for a claim to be paid, the company backing the policy is stable enough and has claims paying ability substantial enough to make good on it.

If the underwriter has limited policyholders surplus and a substantial and valid claim comes in, will the insurance company pay that claim in a timely way or will it put the policyholder through a painful and extended process?

For anyone who has gone through a homeowners policy claim after damage or perhaps a claim for the loss of valuable personal property, you know that payment can sometimes take time.

Questioning the details of the claim, contesting the claim or worse, litigating the claim with the hope of delaying and potentially denying responsibility for payment can sometimes be part of the insurance industry playbook.

That said, it therefore behooves the insurance-buying consumer to concentrate on companies that possess substantial claims paying ability to, at the very least, try and mitigate a great deal of the problem.

In title insurance, when dealing with an abstractor, it’s also important to work with a company that has a low experience of claims. After all, if there is no claim, then much of the above discussion becomes moot.

Some Examples Of Financial Strength

In the New York State title insurance arena the great majority of underwriters adhere to the premium structure established under the TIRSA Rate Manual, while a small number do not.

The companies that do not follow TIRSA will typically offer rates, often through online purchases, below TIRSA.

So does this mean that these lower-priced company alternatives provide similar service and protection to the consumer as those companies that follow TIRSA?

You make the call!

Below are three companies rated for financial strength by Demotech. Chicago Title Insurance Company is a member of the Fidelity National Title Group (member TIRSA) while the other two are online title insurance providers (non-TIRSA).

Pay particular attention to the financial strength indicators.

title insurance caveat emptor title insurance you get what you pay for title insurance compare apples to apples

Title Insurance And What The Consumer Should Consider

  • Who is your underwriter?
  • What is the claims experience of your title insurance provider?
  • Do you know whether the non-title insurance premium fees you are paying are fair and reasonable?

And remember, the purchaser of real estate or the refinancer of a mortgage has the RIGHT to choose the provider of their title insurance!

*Unless it’s an all-cash purchase in which case purchasing title insurance, while highly recommended, is optional.

Related Article

Title Insurance: Always Compare Apples To Apples! (Chart)