Investments, Real Estate

Net-zero Homes: Is this Part of the New American Dream?

A surge in energy prices and more awareness of the environmental impact have made consumers more energy-conscious, and this is directing more interest toward a government program with a goal of making energy-efficient homes more available.

The U.S. Department of Energy is sponsoring the Builders Challenge. The voluntary effort urges homebuilders to develop new technologies, designs and techniques for less energy consumption. Currently, the program is on course to make “cost-neutral” net- zero homes available throughout the country by 2030. The idea of the challenge is based on the lessons from the Building America Research program.

Net-zero homes save money and energy by reducing price and temperature fluctuations. The homes are still connected to the utility grid, but they can produce as much energy as they consume and can even function during blackouts, according to the DOE.

The program has had many successes with the creation of show homes and housing subdivisions and developments.

A bill passed in a U.S. Senate committee this summer sets the net-zero energy use as a goal for new homes and commercial buildings according to Bloomberg Markets, but opponents of the measure indicate that although it creates incentives, writers of building codes would have to increase efficiency prices and that could raise new home prices in a recovering real estate market.

What do you think?

 Photo Credit: phanlop88

Finance, Investments

Positive news for the European “debt crisis” and the US recovery?

I must admit I’ve been quite intrigued by all of the recent financial drama the United States and Europe endured during the summer; however, it now appears both can breathe a momentary sigh of relief. They received some good news after enduring tumultuous economic events.

Markets rose the last Monday in August upon word of Greece’s two merging banks, Alpha Bank and Eurobank. The move is a step forward in the reorganization of the country’s financial system and supports a resolution to the European debt crisis.

The crisis began in Greece and has spread during the past 22 months. The country’s projections for tax and revenue had fallen short. In addition, some rich nations had overspent and didn’t really consider a plan for vigorous growth. Consequently, many European banks have been plagued with devalued financial instruments.

The banks are in need of more money to cover “write downs,” but resolving the issue includes figuring out how to spread the losses.

Americans, on the other hand, are struggling through a turbulent recovery, yet they’ve loosened their tight grip on their wallets and even shelled out money for pricey retail goods. This helped to boost consumer spending to 0.8 percent, the largest gain in 18 months.

Indexes also charged ahead taking on some bullish chart formations, which were enough to crack those technical resistance levels. In fact, the NASDAQ Composite bolted ahead shooting up 3.3 percent.

Investors are more interested in buying. The evidence: advancing stocks drowned declining shares and upside volume submerged downside volume. Indicator charts strong advances provided confirmation. New stock buy signals catapulted. The Broad NYSE bullish percent chart and some 23 of the 47 industry sector indicators did an about-face to bull alert status thanks to the more than 320 stocks showing P&F breakouts to the upside during the September 29th trading.

Apparently, the positive market news at the end of August not only raised expectations for higher market levels by the end of the year, but  also Americans’ hopes that the country dodged a double-dip recession.

Photo credit: worradmu

Business, Investments, Small business

Considerations When Valuing Naming Rights

Selling naming rights are very common these days, but many businesses aren’t too sure about their worth. 

Getting a better gauge requires a good understanding of accounting. Its important to know, these rights aren’t a physical asset so they’re considered an intangible assets.  This means placing a dollar amount on a naming right can be more challenging compared to physical items. As a result, estimations and investigations are often the best ways to determine the value.

So, sellers and purchasers should consider the following:

  • future cash flows
  • comparisons of similar transactions in the marketplace
  • adjustments for inflation

Also, they should stay aware of external factors that could impact the deal, such as the following that I came across in a report entitled “Valuation of Naming Rights,” by Greg C. Ashley and Michael O’Hara.

  • Does the community support the sale?
  • Does the name dominate a sector and has it already worn out its welcome?
  • Is the financial health of the buyer weak since this could result in a merger, takeover or bankruptcy, and could ultimately compromise the naming agreement?
  • Are there any miscalculations of the present and future state of the economy?
Photo Credit: Renjith Krishnan
Business, Investments, Small business

The Economy’s Impact on Naming Rights Deals

Notice a rise in the use of corporate names associated with a building or an event?

Naming rights have enjoyed a rapid increase in number and expense over the past few decades. A boom in construction and the expansion of major sports leagues are among the factors. However, a drag in the growth spurt has occurred due to turbulence within the economy.

The use of a company name on major buildings, such as stadiums and museums, or local venues is done for financial gains. For instance, a university grants a brand name to be placed on a department in exchange for a large monetary contribution.

A brand also benefits from a boost in awareness and recognition. The placement can alter its public image, show its community involvement, support trade relations or goodwill, deter competition and increase market share. The business may use a venue, such as a museum or an event, such as a golf tournament, to launch or showcase a product.

Naming rights deals are usually longer than a year. Therefore, it’s important to understand the value of the name to avoid any negative issues.

Recently, naming rights deals were portrayed in a bad light. In 2009, banks, that secured multi-million deals with sports stadiums and events, received funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. This led lawmakers to question the appropriateness of the deals.

Many naming rights deals have terminated during the recession and economic recovery. Companies either went out of business, sold or bought.

On the other hand, cities and municipalities, attempting to lessen their budget gaps, are giving sponsors the opportunity to purchase naming rights on schools, parks, government buildings and other facilities.

Some colleges have even gone as far as asking for corporate sponsorship for their classes.

Naming rights are known to be expensive, and it appears as though local areas are benefiting the most in this economy. Do you agree?

Photo Credit: Cecelia

Business, Career, Personal finance, Small business

Tracking Down a Payment

I remember being on a New York subway train in the fall of 2001. The doors of the train burst open at the World Trade Center stop. People rushed into the subway car bringing a gush of wind. They filled every space. As the doors closed, a sense of urgency filled the compartment, and conversations buzzed. I turned to a lady who had found a seat. Her face seemed frozen and emotionless. “What’s going on,” I asked. She told me a plane had hit one of the twin towers.

She ran out the building and saw a ball of fire coming from the tower she escaped. A friend was with her at first. She told her friend, “Stop looking at the building.” She tried to pull her friend along as she ran to safety, but her friend was too mesmerized by the fiery spectacle and paralyzed with fear. The woman had to leave her friend behind.

I watched her as she told the story and realized her face was masked with horror and not the lack of emotion I originally thought. It was as if I could see the blaze of fire in her eyes. It wasn’t the flaming bodies she saw plummeting from the building that terrified her. No, instead it was: “I don’t have a job. How am I going to get paid?”

Contacting the Appropriate Authorities

Fortunately, events, such as the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, haven’t occurred often in the U.S, but other events such as natural disasters and an unstable economic climate are just as tragic. These events have plagued  business communities with bankruptcies, the closings and even corruption.

Are you still waiting for payment for the work you’ve performed?

After confronting your employer about the payment to no avail, try contacting your local government. Visit your state’s labor department; you can do this in person or online. Either way, request paperwork that will let you file a claim. You could also file a claim with the court.

Filing a claim will help when you file your taxes because it shows the IRS you tried to track down the debt. It will justify your reasons for deducting the amount on your 1040 form on line 21, which is used for other income. You can take this deduction as long as the amount you’re trying to recoup is included in the total income earned for that year. For example, as long as that amount shows up as part of the income on your W-2, which is like  an employer’s acknowledgement the money was earned.

Avoid Delinquent Payments

Take steps to avoid this whole dilemma to begin with by doing the following:
*Check out who you’re dealing with by calling the Better Business Bureau to find out whether any complaints were made and find out about any issues with payment histories.

*Negotiate and establish the terms of payment in a formal contract and make sure it addresses how it plans to pay your wages if an unfortunate event arises.

*Request a down payment or a retainer.

*Schedule payments.

*Keep a log of the payments you received.

*Follow up on a bill that’s owed.

Get a feel for the workplace by asking yourself:

*Is this a positive environment?

*Are the people productive?

*Is it an ethical business?

*Does the employer or owner often communicate with the employees about the activities of the business?

Events that are out of your control occur so stay aware of the changes taking place at work, within its culture and the nation’s economic climate to make sure you don’t experience the unpleasant circumstance of not receiving your wages.

Photo Credit: AmbroMaggie Smith 

Business, Investments

JREITs: Japanese Real Estate Investment Trusts at Risk?

The catastrophic tsunami, earthquake and nuclear reactor events in Japan have increased fears and led to the cancellation of some deals in the stock market. The Bank of Japan has bought assets to help stabilize the markets. The purchases include real estate investment trusts, which are threatened by the potential of plummeting property values.

Michelle Meiklejohn /

If you have an investment portfolio or have wanted to diversify your portfolio, you may have heard of real estate investment trusts, also known as REITs. This is either a company or business trust. In this case, investors combine capital to acquire and provide financing for real estate such as apartments, hotels, offices, warehouses and shopping centers.

Right before Japanese Real Estate Investment Trusts, or J-REITs, were introduced, Japan changed its Investment Trust & Investment Corporation law. This helped to create the investment tool because it “expanded the allowable use of capital by investment trusts to include real estate,” according to the Journal of Real Estate Literature’s 2006 report “The Growth of the REIT Market in Asia.”  This was part of Japan’s effort to make its financial markets more competitive after its severe recession in the early 1990s.

“The Tokyo Stock Exchange followed up in March 2001 with a listing system for REITs to be traded on its market,” the report stated. “Six months later, Japan became the first country in Asia to launch REITs…” By June 2005 17 J-REITs were trading and worth more than $1 billon. Nippon Building Fund led with nearly $3 billion.

 Credible sponsors and strict regulations were just a couple of reasons why they became so attractive, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers report, “The Growth of J-REITs in the Japanese Real Estate Market and Real Estate Investment Structures: An Overview.” Most of the J-REITs investors included local banks, individuals and foreign investors.

 J-REITs struggled during the recent global recession, but lately the Asia-Pacific Real Estate Association, which promotes and represents the real estate sector, indicated in its news release, the Asia-Pacific REIT market’s capitalization increased by 22.8 percent year-on-year in 2010 to $156.8 billion. This marked a strong recovery since the global financial crisis when it stood at $66 billion in March 2009.

 FRI, a J-REIT, which specializes in retail properties, held a leading position in the market. According to Reuters, its real estate portfolio included 24 properties across the country.

 Jon-Paul Toppino, president of SCJ Investment Management remained optimistic telling the Wall Street Journal in the article “Japan Spooks Its Property Recovery,” that “absent the nuclear uncertainty, I don’t believe there would be any long-term negative impact to the Tokyo real-estate market.” The firm has an office building in the hardest hit area, Sendai, but it was barely damaged.

However, the paper indicated that “Japan’s publicly traded landlords have lost as much as 20 percent of their value since the earthquake struck.”

How at risk are J-REITs? How do you think they will recover?

Photo Credit: Michelle Meiklejohn /,

Business, Education, Investments, Small business

Forging Relationships Between Community Colleges and Business with Virtual Incubators

The White House wants to help speed up high-growth entrepreneurship, and it’s looking at a familiar method for support.

scottchan /

 An entrepreneurial company’s survival during the critical start-up period is often helped with business incubators. These are programs that offer businesses support services and resources, such as office space, lab facilities and access to financing. Among the programs’ goals are getting firms to the point where they can successfully create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, commercialize new technologies and strengthen local and national economies. They vary in types and organizational structure.

 Business incubators have been around since the 1950s and have evolved with technology. They were popular for building Internet businesses between 1999 and 2001. Internet incubators appeared in droves and promised “entrepreneurs everything from marketing and accounting assistance to office space and computer equipment,” the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported in the fall of 2000. In fact, “these hothouses of the Internet economy looked to create entirely new companies in half the time it took other businesses to get off the ground.”

More virtual incubators are on the rise, and today they’re considered “social networks that try to provide the mentoring and collaborative benefits of an incubator without the physical space,” the New York Times recently described.

The White House is taking note. A new government campaign called Start-Up America is encouraging these incubators to help link community colleges with businesses so the economy continues to recover. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), which represents nearly 1200 community, junior and technical colleges, was recognized in a White House announcement last January for selecting colleges in 10 states to pilot a Virtual Incubation Network. These colleges include Burlington County Community College in Burlington, New Jersey and Rio Salado College in Phoenix, Arizona. The initiative is getting a $995,500 grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to launch the pilot project this year, according to the AACC news release.

“Close to 35 business incubators are operated by two-year colleges nationwide,” according to the AACC statement. “The development of the virtual incubator network recognizes that these services need not depend on a traditional brick-and-mortar facility. Instead, the new network will ‘test-drive’ new delivery mechanisms that include support provided at the business site and hybrid in-person and technology processes.”

 AACC will put the initiative into action with the help of the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship. The AACC will ultimately work with the national network of Small Business Development Centers.

What are some ways virtual incubators have helped? What new trend are you seeing with business incubators?

Photo Credit: Scottchan / (