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Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times/TNS

She wanted to open a joyful plant shop. It's now a refuge for the pandemic-weary

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

LOS ANGELES – One way to understand Shawna Christian's joyful aesthetic is to think of her plant shop Tansy as organized chaos.

The Burbank store, with its colorful fair trade garlands, plants, metal bells, mobiles, pom-poms and suncatchers, may be eclectic, but her skill at mixing colors, patterns and prints is the reason why so many ...Read more

On Philanthropy: Potbellied pig rescue and hate groups: Charities aiding the 'public good?'

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

The charity “deal” in the U.S. goes something like this: Nonprofit organizations are established and approved because they perform a service that is thought to be good for society, often relieving government from performing those same functions. In return for their contribution to the “public good,” they are deemed tax-exempt ...Read more


Education spending on teachers – not buildings — lifts home prices

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

Spending more on teachers lifts home prices, a new report finds. New buildings don’t matter. A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) adds to the potential research that education-savvy families may want to do before choosing a home or a school.

Many have focused on overall district spending per pupil, a widely ...Read more

Why you should investigate your landlord

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

Your landlord knows a lot about you, but what do you know about your landlord?

Building owners and managers routinely use personal information from tenant applications to conduct in-depth background and credit checks themselves, or turn the job over to a private tenant-screening company.

Renters may lack the time, experience and money to ...Read more


Susan Tompor: Social Security scammers now text pictures of phony badges

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

So you just got a text from Social Security and the guy even tried to reassure you that he's the real deal by texting you a picture of his badge. Should you feel that things are on the up-and-up and respond?

The scammers who are out to steal your Social Security number and your money now have a new game going. They're not just spoofing phone ...Read more


US mortgage rates rise above 3% for first time since July

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

Mortgage rates rose above 3% for the first time in seven months, raising concerns that higher borrowing costs will derail the pandemic housing rally.

The average for a 30-year, fixed loan was 3.02%, up from 2.97% last week and the highest since July 9, Freddie Mac data showed Thursday. Rates have surged from a record low of 2.65% in early ...Read more


Real estate Q&A: Should I be worried after bank denies condo loan because of 'rec lease?'

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

Q: I am buying a condo unit. My lender just told me they found a reference in the community documents to a “rec lease.” The association told them it was paid off, but the bank wanted more proof and denied my loan. I found a local bank that will give me a loan if the association states in writing that the rec lease was paid off. Should I be ...Read more


Carla Fried: Why your smartphone is likely your enemy when it comes to investing

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

Spend too much time on your phone, doom scrolling and looking at social media? Do family members complain?

If your smartphone activities include stock trading apps, you could also be setting yourself up for money-losing trades. Recent research that looks at actual trading activity of tens of thousands of brokerage app users finds a pattern of ...Read more

Rich Pope/Orlando Sentinel/TNS

Opendoor moves beyond home-flipping in move to back cash buyers

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

Opendoor Technologies Inc., pioneer of an algorithm-driven method of flipping homes, is embracing a new way to wield its software: helping buyers make cash offers.

With inventory scarce across U.S. housing markets, the company is working with prospective buyers to make no-contingency offers that often win out over similarly priced bids. In the ...Read more

Dreamstime/Sun Sentinel/TNS

Commentary: You should have the right to know your landlord's name

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

If you're a renter, the odds are good that you don't know the name of your landlord.

Today, anonymous shell companies own 18 million out of 48 million rental units nationwide, nearly 40% of the market. The proliferation of hidden ownership, not surprisingly, makes it easier to hide illicit activities.

The growing use of shell entities, like ...Read more


Carla Fried: In personal finance, simple is almost always better

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

The financial industry loves to sell complicated — and expensive — products, but simple is quite often the smart choice.

You know all about the value of diversification. The simplest approach to diversification is to own a mix of stocks and bonds. At the other extreme is a portfolio that owns a dozen or more types of asset classes, such as ...Read more


As a Treasuries rout went global, China's bonds shone on alone

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

As investors fled almost every fixed-income asset from the safest government bonds to the highest-yielding securities last week, one market stood out as a haven.

Funds poured $671 million into exchange-traded funds tracking yuan bonds last week, taking inflows so far this year to $2.2 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show. In contrast, they ...Read more


Susan Tompor: Don't pay for a COVID-19 vaccine or chance to get a shot

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

As efforts build to vaccinate more seniors and others against COVID-19, consumer watchdogs are aggressively getting the word out about scammers who will soon pivot their messaging around whatever dominates the news.

The latest warnings: Watch out for the next text or robocall that asks you to pay money up front to get on a list to receive a ...Read more


COVID-19's tax-season surprise: You may have to pay back part of your ACA insurance subsidy

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

After years without comprehensive health insurance, a 64-year-old woman in Media, Pa., was thrilled to learn that based on her 2019 income she qualified for a tax credit that would entirely cover the premiums for a solid 2020 plan on the state insurance marketplace.

But then the pandemic hit. In an unexpected twist, her 2020 income soared to ...Read more

Social Graces: Here’s what to say to someone afraid of the coronavirus vaccine

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

Q: What should you say to someone who doesn’t plan on getting the coronavirus vaccine?

A: We don’t worry much about measles these days, or polio, rubella or diphtheria — all diseases that have had a devastating effect on the United States in years past. And the reason? Nearly everyone has been immunized for these diseases; they can no ...Read more


Undaunted bulls keep shoveling money into stocks

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

Whether it’s heroic resolve or epic naiveté, stock investors are giving no indication that they are troubled by the worst volatility to land on the bond market in a year.

In a week when a spike in Treasury yields pressured prices across the equity spectrum, U.S. exchange-traded funds consistently saw inflows — including $2.7 billion at the...Read more


Zillow to make cash offers for houses in 20 cities based on its estimates

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

How accurate are Zestimates?

Spot on, says Zillow. The company is now so confident in its ability to estimate the value of a home without ever setting foot inside, it will make a cash offer on select houses.

The company announced the initiative this week — 15 years after first posting its Zestimates, the oft-watched home-value estimates that...Read more

Juan Figueroa/Staff Photographer/The Dallas Morning News/TNS

CDC's eviction moratorium is blocked by federal judge in Texas

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium was blocked by a Texas judge who said the federal government overstepped its authority in stopping landlords from throwing out tenants.

U.S. District Judge J. Campbell Barker, who was nominated by President Donald Trump, said that while states have the authority to regulate ...Read more

Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press/Detroit Free Press/TNS

Tenants struggle amid patchwork of state rental relief efforts

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

Late last year, Congress gave Michigan more than half a billion dollars to protect renters in the state from eviction. There was just one catch: State leaders had to sign off on distributing the money.

Nearly two months later, the funding—along with the rest of the federal aid given to Michigan for schools, vaccine distribution and business ...Read more

Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Cheaper rent in San Francisco? For some Oakland tenants, the city across the Bay is more affordable now

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

SAN FRANCISCO — Even on a foggy San Francisco morning, the view from Scott Simmons’ 25th-floor apartment stretches from downtown to Golden Gate Park. The home of the 42-year-old tech worker is also spacious for a one-bedroom, featuring hardwood floors, new appliances and granite countertops.

A year ago, when he was sharing a two-bedroom ...Read more