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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tech: How to Surf the Internet Safely with Firefox and WOT

In a previous post, we talked about how security was one of the many reasons to switch to Firefox. Not only are there fewer threats against Firefox, but add-ons such as WOT (Web of Trust) make surfing much safer.

It only takes one click to infect your computer. You search for something using Google. You look through the search results and click on a link that appears to be legitimate. If you're lucky, your antivirus program will catch it. If you're not lucky, you'll start to experience some of the most common symptoms of malware infection:
  • automatic updates will turn off

  • the antivirus program you use will automatically close and will not reopen

  • your home page will change

  • a new toolbar will appear that you know you did not install yourself

  • you'll be bombarded by pop-ups

  • the internet will slow down

  • unusual messages will pop up

  • the desktop background will suddenly change

Even if you use a safer browser like Firefox, there is still a chance that you can infect your computer with malware. This is why we recommend using WOT.

WOT warns you about potentially risky websites before they can harm your computer. WOT is an online community. The ratings are mostly provided by users, however, they use hundred of trusted sources to provide you with the most up-to-date and reliable information on the websites that you visit. WOT uses a color-coded safety rating system. When you begin surfing, you'll notice a new icon on the left-hand side of the address bar.

If this icon is green, then the website is safe; if the icon is red, then the website is dangerous. You can also see the WOT ratings next to the search results in search engines such as Yahoo and Google.

Surf the Internet Safely with Firefox and WOT

If you want to know why a website has received a certain rating, you can always visit the website's scorecard. Click on the icon next to the address bar and click on “View Scorecard for rating details.” The WOT Scorecard give you more detailed information on the site, including user comments.

Surf the web safely by downloading the new Firefox 3.5 and WOT.

Dates for the California Association of REALTORS® Expo 2009

The dates for the largest California real estate expo, hosted by C.A.R., have been set. This year the expo will be held October 6-8, 2009 at the San Jose Convention center.

Members of C.A.R. can attend the expo at no cost.

Friday, June 26, 2009

California GRI Classes for the week of June 29

GRI Schedule

Pasadena - Jul 1 (Wed) - GRI #109 Residential Real...

More information: All GRI schedules | How to Register | (888) 785-4800

Thursday, June 25, 2009

State of the Nation's Housing Report - Interesting Facts

On Monday June 22, the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University released its annual State of the Nation's Housing Report. Many findings are obvious, such as foreclosures soared because of lenient subprime lending practices and that the downturn in homebuilding is the worst since the 2nd World War.

However, there are many findings in the report that are interesting and may not have been covered elsewhere. We will highlight some of them.

In Many Areas Real Housing Prices Has Fallen to 1990s Levels
Best In Many Areas Real Housing Prices Has Fallen to 1990s Levels Solution

Homeowner Vacancy Rates
Homeowner Vacancy Rates

"The homeowner vacancy rate hit a record breaking 2.8 percent last year....Owner vacancy rates in two- to four-unit buildings were more than three times - and in five to nine-unit buildings more than five times - the single-family vacancy rate."

Existing Home Sales Improving in Hardest Hit States
Existing Home Sales Improving in Hardest Hit States

The hardest hit states, including Nevada, California, Arizona, and Florida, have seen double digit percent of sales increases from 2008 to 2009.

Non-Prime Lending Sharply Reduced
Non-Prime Lending Sharply Reduced

The elimination of most non-prime lending practices has drastically reduced the pool of potential buyers. "After years of record-setting originations, proliferation of new products, and tolerance of lax underwriting, mortgage lending did an about-face in 2007 and 2008....Originations fell by 33 percent in real terms in 2008 alone and by 62 percent from the 2003 level."

Positive Short-Term Outlook
"With prices down by double digits, interest rates moderating, and reasons to believe that pent-up demand is building, the prospects for a recovery have improved."

Positive Long-Term Outlook
"The record size of the echo-boom generation now reaching young adulthood should help keep household growth at least on par with 1995–2005 levels….Over time, the combination of pent-up demand from deferred household formation and low levels of home building will reduce the excess vacant inventory.... "

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tech: Best Free Anti-Virus Solution

Computer security...we all need it, but don’t necessarily want to pay for it. If you have DSL or cable – a connection that is always on – chances are you need an anti-virus program and a firewall. A free firewall is included with Windows XP SP2 and Vista, so as long as you keep up with your Windows Updates, then you need only to concentrate on finding a good anti-virus. If you look on deal-finder websites (Fat Wallet, Deal Catcher, and Cheap Stingy Bargins) then you can sometimes find anti-virus suites, such as Norton, MacAfee, and Kaspersky, for free or at a discounted rate with mail-in-rebates. If you don’t want to wait for one of these deals to come along, then you can look into programs that are always free.
Best Free Anti-Virus Solution
One of the best free anti-virus programs is offered by AVG. AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition provides protection against viruses, spyware, adware, trojans and worms, and it provides you free updates for the lifetime of the product. While most free anti-virus programs can scan your computer for viruses, AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition offers you real-time protection. Instead of just scanning your computer when you think it may already be infected, it keeps an eye on your computer in real-time and alerts you of problems as they occur. Included with the anti-virus software is LinkScanner Active Surf-Shield, which provides real time protection against web pages that may pose a threat to your computer, and LinkScanner Search-Shield, which provides a safety rating for all search results.

Best Free Anti-Virus Solution

AVG is a great free tool, however, it does not protect you against web downloads or threats coming in through chat. It also does not protect against heavily disguised threats known as rootkits. You can always upgrade your protection level by subscribing to AVG Internet Security. A one year subscription to this service starts at $54.99.

Friday, June 19, 2009

California GRI classes for the week of June 22

GRI Schedule

Pleasanton - Jun 24 (Wed) - GRI #105 Legal Issues...
Visalia - Jun 24 (Wed) - GRI #109 Residential Real...
Fresno - Jun 25 (Thu) - GRI #105 Legal Issues...
San Diego - Jun 26 (Fri) - GRI #114 Essential Concep...
San Gabriel - Jun 26 (Fri) - GRI #113 Real Property, T...

More information: All GRI schedules | How to Register | (888) 785-4800

Thursday, June 18, 2009

GRI Instructor Butch Grimes on Fox News LA

On May 1, 2009, GRI instructor, Butch Grimes appeared on Fox News LA.
He discussed the current housing market conditions. Butch Grimes teaches GRI course 106 Money Making Strategies for Success.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

GRI - Growing - In a City Near You

West San Gabriel Valley Association of REALTORS® and CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® are happy to bring the Graduate REALTOR® Institute designation to San Gabriel, CA. The GRI series is scheduled to begin on Friday, June 26, 2009. The first class of the GRI series in the city of San Gabriel will be GRI course #113, Real Property, Tax and Exchanging, taught by Instructor C. Anthony Phillips.

GRI is the #1 real estate designation and is offered throughout California. A GRI classroom is a great place to network with the best in the industry while obtaining priceless knowledge. Find a GRI location near you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tech: Why You Should Switch to Firefox

By now you have already heard of Firefox. A friend, a family member, or a coworker has probably already tried to get you make the big switch. If you are still undecided, here are a few reasons why we think you should be using Firefox:

It's safer
Not only is Firefox less vulnerable to internet attacks, it has security features built in that let you know when a site you have stumbled upon is unsafe. When you navigate to a page that has been deemed unsafe, you may see the following page:

 Why You Should Switch to Firefox

There's also the Instant Web Site ID which lets you know if a website is legitimate before you have made a purchase.

 Why You Should Switch to Firefox

You can customize it

Install it where you like, import your settings from your current browser, change its appearance, customize your icons on your toolbar, add or delete a toolbar, and choose your add-ons. There are add-ons of all shapes and sizes. There are add-ons that make browsing safer (Web of Trust); some that display the weather report on your status bar (Forecastfox); there's even an add-on that allows you to open sites, such as Windows Update, that only load in Internet Explorer, in a Firefox tab (IE Tab.) It's easy to install new add-ons and even easier to delete or disable them.
Click here for a list of Add-ons.

Great list of features

Awesome bar: The Awesome bar makes it easier to enter addresses and offers you a way to search your bookmarks easily. If you only remember part of an address or just need to find a bookmark, just type a keyword in the address bar and Firefox automatically searches your history and your bookmarks and displays the results in a drop down menu.

 Why You Should Switch to Firefox

Session Restore: Firefox will restore your previous session if it experiences an unexpected close. You also have the option of saving your session upon closing the browser so that you can return to it later.

Spell checker: Right-click on words that are underlined in red, and correct the misspelled words.

Tabbed browsing, a Pop-up blocker, a password manager, a download manager, dozens of search engines integrated into the search bar, a fantastic find feature, and so much more.

Click here for a complete list of features
or here to download Firefox .

Friday, June 12, 2009

California GRI Classes for the week of June 15

GRI Schedule

Anaheim - Jun 16 (Tue) - GRI #112 Environmental Co...
Lancaster - Jun 18 (Thu) - GRI #106 Money Making Str...
Thousand Oaks - Jun 18 (Thu) - GRI #110 Marketing, Finan...

More information: All GRI schedules | How to Register | (888) 785-4800

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit - Do you know all the Facts?

Who is a first-time buyer?
The name of the tax credit is misleading. In reality, first-time home buyers are not the only ones who qualify. Anyone who has not owned a residence three years prior to the purchase can qualify for the tax credit.

The home must be purchased between January 1, 2009 and December 1, 2009.

What properties qualify?
The tax credit may be applied to a primary residence.

How much is the tax credit?
The credit is 10% of the purchase price of the home, maxing out at $8,000.

Is the Buyer’s income a factor?
To receive the maximum credit, a single buyer’s income cannot be more than $75,000 and married couple’s joint income cannot be more than $150,000.

A single buyer can still receive a reduced tax credit if his/her income is between 75,000 and $95,000. Joint buyers can also receive a reduced tax credit if their income is between $150,000 and $170,000. However, the tax credit decreases as the income increases.

Buyers that earn over $95,000 (single) and $170,000 (joint) are not eligible for the credit.

Can the Tax credit be used to cover closing costs?
Yes. On May 29, 2009 the FHA announced it will permit its lenders to provide a short-term bridge loan that will allow the tax credit to be used to make a larger down payment above the FHA required 3.5 percent, cover closing costs, or buy down their interest rate. Read the FHA letter that was sent to mortgage lenders. (PDF).

Does the credit need to be repaid?
The 2008 credit needs to be repaid over a 15 year period. However, the 2009 credit does not have to be repaid.

NAR has made a useful 26 point Q&A available (PDF)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

California GRI - Online Social Networking

GRI - Social Networking

California GRI is excited to venture out into the world of online social networking. We will now be able to connect, inform and share information with everyone using a variety of sites, such as:
Join us in this online GRI community and keep in touch with California GRI at all times. Become our fan on Facebook, our friend on MySpace, follow us on Twitter and keep up with us on our GRI Blog to make sure you stay well connected as California GRI, the #1 real estate designation educates REALTORS® throughout California, building the industry's best!

Friday, June 5, 2009

California GRI classes for the week of June 8

GRI Schedule

Laguna Hills - Jun 9 (Tue) - GRI #106 Money Making Str...
Beverly Hills - Jun 10 (Wed) - GRI #100 Agency Relations...
Beverly Hills - Jun 10 (Wed) - GRI #101 Ethics, Professi...
San Luis Obispo - Jun 10 (Wed) - GRI #111 Investment Prope...
San Mateo - Jun 11 (Thu) - GRI #114 Essential Concep...
San Dimas - Jun 11 (Thu) - GRI #107 Technology Appli...
Sacramento - Jun 11 (Thu) - GRI #107 Technology Appli...
Vista - Jun 11 (Thu) - GRI #110 Marketing, Finan...
Corona - Jun 12 (Fri) - GRI #102 Trust Fund Manag...
Corona - Jun 12 (Fri) - GRI #104 Fair Housing...
Santa Cruz - Jun 12 (Fri) - GRI #108 GRI Risk Managem...

More information: All GRI schedules | How to Register | (888) 785-4800

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tech: Cut Down on the Amount of Spam in your Inbox! Use Disposable E-mail Addresses!

One of the easiest ways to cut down on the amount of spam in your inbox is to create disposable e-mail addresses. When you sign up for a service, fill out a registration form, sign up for a mailing list, or purchase something online, you are required to provide an e-mail address. By using disposable e-mail addresses, you reduce of risk of flooding your inbox with more spam. When a disposable e-mail address starts to collect too much spam, you simply dispose of it and create a new one.

There are many services that provide disposable e-mail addresses. Here are a few that we like to use:

Mailinator: Simple, easy to use and free!

 Speed Up Your PC With a Click of a Button

Give out a random e-mail address that ends in @mailinator.com. Go to the Mailinator website and enter the e-mail address to check your inbox. Keep in mind that there is no password to enter and nothing to keep others from accessing the inbox you created. Use it when you are forced to provide an e-mail address for verification purposes, but do not want to continue receiving e-mails from a company or website.

GishPuppy: Forward mail from your disposable address to your real address for free!

 Speed Up Your PC With a Click of a Button

After you install the GishPuppy browser add-on, you only need to right click and choose “Gish it!” from the menu in order to create a new disposable address. GishPuppy records where and when the address was created, and gives you a choice as to when they expire. You can also add extra information in the description and keywords fields for each address.

Yahoo Address Guard:
One of the many features of Yahoo! Mail Plus. $19.99 per year.

 Speed Up Your PC With a Click of a Button

It’s easy to create and delete disposable e-mail addresses. You start by creating a base name. From there you can create as many as 500 disposable addresses. The address looks like this: basename-DAname@yahoo.com. Address Guard allows you to send and receive e-mail from your disposable address. With Address Guard, your messages are delivered directly to your inbox or a specified folder.