Have a (Cuban) Cigar, You’re Gonna Go Far

November 29, 2011

In the 1970s, Pink Floyd famously wrote “Have a Cigar” about making it in the world. Now the country known best for its cigars — Cuba — has given its citizens that same chance by allowing them to buy and sell homes at their discretion and to move at will. 

The National Association of Realtors leads the way in the United States to ensure Americans have the right to own, use, and transfer real property. The right to own your own home may seem innate to most Americans, so it is hard to imagine there are places in the world where the buying and selling of real estate is forbidden.

But thanks to reforms being undertaken by President Raul Castro, Cuba is no longer one of those places. A multiple listing-type website is reportedly already flooded with listings as Cubans find themselves with the freedom to buy and sell real estate for the first time since Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

The new law went into effect November 10, and there are limitations, such as two homes per owner and financing must go through Cuba’s Central Bank. Some worry the change could worsen class warfare and lead to a major homelessness problem as properties are bought out from under others, especially from money supplied by investors outside of Cuba.

For a more detailed look at the new Cuban law, read Cuba to Allow Buying and Selling of Property, With Few Restrictions by Victoria Burnett of the New York Times.

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Luxury Home Market is Silver Lining Today

October 11, 2011

In every economic downturn there is a silver lining. And in housing, it continues to be the luxury home market.

But you need to move fast if you want a deal. Foreign buyers have been busy doling out cash on discounted properties brought on by the housing crash and the deals on a piece of luxury won’t last.

In Manhattan, a shrinking inventory means if you want a place to live for under $1 million, it will need some renovation. In Miami, prices are starting to rise as the economy slowly recovers and luxury properties are selling quickly. Realtors in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Malibu, California, report inventory on luxury homes is dropping, although prices continue to be stable.

From March 2010 to March 2011, the National Association of Realtors found that international buyers bought more than $82 billion in real estate, up 24% from the previous year.


Writers Cringe, Kids Hate Reading?

August 18, 2011

Stealing a page from Sports Illustrated, here is a Sign of the Apocalypse: 443,963 Facebook users “like” a page called “I Hate Reading.” Moreover, 276,312 Facebook users “like” a “I Hate Books” page. In fact, there are dozens of Facebook pages devoted to the hatred of reading and books in general. Cross Over

A recent study by The Kaiser Family Foundation found children 8 to 18 read 38 minutes a day, down from 43 in a previous survey. That study related to magazines and newspapers.

Another study by the University of Maryland found that pleasure reading dropped 23 percent from 2003 to 2008 — 65 minutes a week to 50 minutes a week — with the greatest drop in ages 12 to 14.

Nonetheless, most experts agree that children are reading; they are just reading differently than we did: from their phones, computers, and iPads, for example. 

And with the popularity of Twilight, Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, it appears today’s kids are reading, even if they are telling the Facebook community otherwise.


Milestones

July 15, 2011

Last weekend, Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees achieved a milestone only 27 other major league baseball players have ever done in more than 100 years of America’s Pastime — 3,000 career base hits. And he did it with a home run.  We saw the excitement in his face as he rounded the bases and, we were just as excited for him.

We are a society of milestone lovers, whether personal or otherwise. When we decide to lose 20 pounds, and we reach that plateau, we relish in that feeling of accomplishment. We also love seeing someone else succeed — Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition is a pretty riveting show.

And it does not have to be just about numerals. It can be firsts, or lasts, the latter of which we are collectively celebrating right now as the last Space Shuttle — Atlantis — completes its mission. Quite a milestone.

Other milestones have nothing to do with numerals or rankings: getting married, having a baby, buying your first home, graduating from anything. These events and others sprinkled throughout our lives make us feel good, special.  

No doubt, milestones are one of the keys to happiness. We are happy when we reach them; we are happy when others do.  

So relish those milestones. Derek Jeter did. And so did we.


Help a Vet: Let’s Build Him House

June 10, 2011

Orlando-area builder Nathan Cross, owner of NWC Construction, has teamed up with Homes for our Troops to build a home for returning veteran Luis Puertas. And he needs our help.

Nathan is looking for labor and donations for surveys, engineering, site clearing, concrete, windows, roofing, and everything else in between.

Homes for our Troops is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 so anything you donate is tax deductible.  Nathan says he understands times are tough, but believes this is a chance to show the world why the building industry is the greatest industry in America.

“There is a reason people like you and I are all still in business, when many of our competitors are not,” Nathan wrote in a recent e-mail to his peers. “It’s because our community likes us, takes care of us, and is behind us. It is the community that keeps us going.”   

For more information, visit Homes for our Troops on Facebook.  You will find a special page for this house and Luis Puertas.  Or e-mail Nathan at nathan@nwcconstructionfl.com.

Thank you for your support.


Inspiration

May 25, 2011
Carol Roth has posted her top 140 inspiration stories about starting a business. Yeah, I was one of them!

128. Football and Freedom

Oddly enough, former Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Bill Cowher was my inspiration, and I am not even a Steelers fan. When I heard him announce in 2007 that he was moving on after 15 years, I had an epiphany: I realized I was about the same age as Cowher and I had been serving as a VP of Communications and Marketing for the same 15 years. I had always promised myself I would get back to writing one day, open my own small firm, and get off the corporate hamster wheel, which I did.
 

Happy Mother’s Day

May 13, 2011

On Mother’s Day morning, 2011, a man on our quiet neighborhood street took his own life on his back patio. A chilling morning for many to say the least, but a more devastating one for his mom, to be sure. 

Reasons are not important, nor how it all went down. The reality is the lives of his survivors were changed forever in a single instant.  

Since Sunday, two things have weighed on my mind that should be food for thought for all of us. 

First, more of us need to watch closely for depression in our fellow man before it is too late. According to WebMD,

more than 90% of people who die by suicide have clinical depression or another diagnosable mental disorder.

And second, guns do kill people. In 2007, 34,598 people killed themselves, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Half of them used a firearm.