December 5, 2016

The aftermath of a natural disaster

By Marcie Geffner - Dun & Bradstreet

In an ideal world, small business owners would be fully prepared for natural disasters. They’d have comprehensive recovery plans including important information. Hard copies would be stored off site in waterproof bags and fireproof safes. When a disaster struck, every step would be executed, and the business would be restored as it had been, or better.

But that’s not the real world. While most small business owners understand the need for disaster planning, many don’t have a comprehensive plan.

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November 1, 2016

Active duty credit reporting alert aims to protect against ID theft

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

Veterans and military members who are called to active duty may be at greater risk of identity theft and other types of financial fraud.
That's because they can be incommunicado or otherwise unable to monitor their credit accounts for weeks or months at a time.
It also can be more difficult for military members to resolve an ID-theft problem if it occurs, especially if they're outside of the U.S., says Lori Dietrich, director of consumer information services at credit bureau Experian in San Francisco.
An active-duty alert could help to protect against those risks, though it's not clear how effective this alert is compared with other options, such as a credit freeze or permanent opt-out from prescreened credit offers.
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Misclassifying workers can be costly business mistake

By Marcie Geffner - Dun & Bradstreet

Classifying workers as independent contractors has plenty of appeal. You’ll have a lot more flexibility in hiring, firing, scheduling and compensating them. You won’t have to withhold income taxes, pay Social Security or Medicare taxes or pay unemployment tax on their wages.

That’s all good if your workers are indeed independent contractors. If they’re actually employees, misclassifying them as contractors without a reasonable basis for that decision could land you in a heap of trouble.

Class-action lawsuits, unwelcome attention from regulators, negative publicity, liability for employment taxes and benefits, and various fines and penalties are just some of the potential consequences of worker misclassification. Examples of industries that have been hard hit include construction, ride-sharing, long-haul trucking, package delivery, newspaper delivery, and professional football.

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How to build your business from small to middle market

By Marcie Geffner - Dun & Bradstreet

A June 2016 report by American Express and Dun & Bradstreet defines small and large businesses as those that generate annual revenues of less than $10 million and more than $1 billion, respectively. Middle-market enterprises bring in between $10 million and $1 billion.

These middle-market companies employ more than 53 million people and contribute $9.3 trillion annually to the U.S. economy. Since 2011, they’ve outpaced both smaller and larger businesses in both employment and revenue growth, according to the report.

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Prepping your supply chain for holidays, other busy seasons

By Marcie Geffner - Dun & Bradstreet

Whether it’s red roses, pink bathrobes, American flags, surfboards, pumpkins, turkeys or Christmas tree lights, seasonal products can be big winners for small and medium-sized businesses. But stocking seasonal products and dealing with the leftover supply when each season ends can mean big headaches, too.

It’s no secret that timing is everything when it comes to seasonal products. Successfully identifying trends, placing orders, receiving shipments, stocking shelves, advertising end-of-the season markdowns and returning or liquidating unsold stock all depend on smart day-to-day decisions.

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Should you be the first buyer in a new home community?

By Marcie Geffner -

Being first is often awesome.

But should you be the first buyer in a new community where none of the homes have been built yet?

Yes, if you’re willing to take a little bit of risk on your home’s future market value so you can move into what might be a hot new neighborhood and get a nicely upgraded brand-new home at an attractive price.

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How to buy CDs when rates are rising

By Marcie Geffner -

Interest rates on bank certificates of deposit, or CDs, have been super-low since the 2008 financial crisis.

Savers have waited -- and perhaps prayed. Investors have looked for ways to bump up their returns without taking on more risk than they can sleep with at night.

CDs, which return all of your principal, plus a certain rate of interest at the end of a specified term, can make sense in some situations even if rates are on the rise.

Should you buy them before the Fed raises rates this year for a second time since the Great Recession?

The answer isn't obvious because it depends on more than the uncertain rates climate.

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Chinese buyers prefer newer U.S. homes

By Marcie Geffner -

There’s no doubt about it: Chinese nationals shopping for homes to buy in the United States prefer new construction to resale — and by a wide margin.

In a recent online survey, prospective Chinese homebuyers assigned average scores of 7.3 to a brand-new home for sale by a builder and 5.8 to an existing home for sale by a homeowner.

The survey was conducted by Headquartered in Shanghai, Juwai is a top Chinese portal for international property listings with 2.5 million homes from 89 countries.

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How much seniors can borrow with a reverse mortgage

By Marcie Geffner -

A home equity conversion mortgage, or HECM, commonly called a reverse mortgage loan, can prove to be a windfall for seniors who have equity in their home.
With this type of mortgage, borrowers can extract equity, spend the money almost any way they want, never make a mortgage payment and continue to live in their home.The loan need not be paid back until the borrower sells the home, moves out for 12 months or longer, or dies, at which time the principal, fees, interest and mortgage insurance become due. Heirs receive the right to buy the home for 95 percent of its appraised value.

How much money can seniors borrow with this type of mortgage?
The answer depends on multiple factors and is subject to various rules, limitations and guidelines, some of which have changed in recent years to limit how much equity homeowners can extract and spend.
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How seniors can use a reverse mortgage

By Marcie Geffner -

Reverse mortgage loans allow seniors to borrow against the equity in their home and get a lump sum, line of credit or monthly payments as long as they own and occupy their home. The opportunity is attractive to many.

But is it smart?

The answer depends largely on the homeowner's personal financial situation. What's smart for some might not be so for others. Still, experts say there are many uses that make sense in at least some situations and only a few uses that almost never make sense in any situation.

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September 20, 2016

Mid-century modern spec homes built in L.A.

By Marcie Geffner -

Many of the luxury homes in the most coveted sections of Los Angeles — such as the area north of Sunset Boulevard, Holmby Hills, and of course, Beverly Hills — were designed to look like Italian villas or Spanish ranch houses. But the concept of Southern California chic is evolving.

Some of the biggest multimillion-dollar deals in the past year involve modern contemporary homes that were built on spec by ambitious developers. These homes are brand new, with the sleek lines and angles of the modernist architecture that emerged in the early 20th century.

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August 24, 2016

Mortgage rates stay stable, again

By Marcie Geffner -

Mortgage interest rates were essentially unchanged this week, giving borrowers more time to buy a home or refinance their existing mortgage at very attractive rates.

The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage went up to 3.57% from 3.56%, according to Bankrate's weekly survey of large lenders. A year ago, this rate was 4.03%. Four weeks ago, it was 3.63%.

The mortgages in this week's survey had an average total of 0.25 discount and origination points.

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VA loan helps vets buy pricier homes

By Marcie Geffner -

Most home mortgages have a so-called loan limit, which caps how much a home buyer can borrow to purchase a home.

The VA loan is an exception.

Instead of a loan amount limit, the VA loan has a loan guaranty limit.

The difference has major implications for veteran borrowers who want to purchase a home with a VA loan and no down payment.

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August 12, 2016

Pulte builds zero-net home in California

By Marcie Geffner -

PulteGroup, a major national homebuilder head- quartered in Atlanta, is building a prototype zero-net energy (ZNE) home in the company’s Botanica community in Brentwood, Calif.

ZNE homes, which produce as much energy from renewable sources as they consume, aren’t new. In fact, builders have constructed one-off ZNEs in cities all around the United States.

The unanswered question has been whether they can scale up the ZNE concept to build these homes in the hundreds instead of one at a time.

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Should you make a downpayment on a VA loan?

Marcie Geffner -

Many VA borrowers know the VA home loan doesn't require a down payment.

Indeed, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which guarantees this type of mortgage, is practically famous for its zero-down option, which opens the doors of homeownership to veterans, active-duty service members, surviving spouses and other VA-eligible buyers.

Though a down payment isn't required, borrowers can still make one. Should they? Or is the no-money-down strategy so attractive that a down payment never makes sense?

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Farther out homes better value for buyers

By Marcie Geffner -

Some brand-new homes are built in city centers. Others are constructed farther out in new-home communities of hundreds or even thousands of homes.

These days, those farther out houses can be an especially good buy for home shoppers.

That’s because city-center houses generally have rebounded in value significantly faster than suburban houses in many cities since the low of the Great Recession, says Lance Ramella, a senior vice president at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, a real estate industry consultancy headquartered in Irvine, Calif.

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Developer prices ultra-luxury L.A. condos up to $50 million

By Marcie Geffner -

Luxury condominiums aren’t rare in Los Angeles. But the city is about to get one especially expensive condo, a 12,000-square-foot penthouse with an asking price of $50 million.

The condo is part of the Four Seasons Private Residences, a 12-story, 59-unit project being built adjacent to Beverly Hills. Condos are priced from $2.5 million to $3.8 million, townhomes from $4 million to $7 million and tower units from $5.9 million to $17 million.

The developer, Genton Property Group in West Hollywood, Calif., broke ground in October 2015 and expects to open in 2017.

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August 4, 2016

Post-Brexit mortgage rates dip again

By Marcie Geffner

Mortgage interest rates dropped in late June after the so-called Brexit referendum in which United Kingdom voters signaled their wish to leave the European Union.

Since then rates have been "steadily creeping up from the low-3% to mid-3% range," says Justin Lopatin, vice president of mortgage lending at PERL Mortgage in Chicago.

This week, rates gave up some of that increase.

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July 27, 2016

Hiring interns? Don't make these mistakes

By Marcie Geffner - Dun & Bradstreet

Business owners tend to think of interns as free labor. But interns can be much more than that. 
Michael Mehlberg should know. He’s a co-founder at Modern da Vinci, a Leesburg, Virginia-based website that offers articles, videos and other tools that promote small business development. He also ran a summer internship program for six years at a small company that built software security products.
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July 12, 2016

Brexit vote drops mortgage rates to three-year low

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

Mortgage rates fell this week to a level not seen since May 2013, as the United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union shocked financial markets already unsettled by mixed reports about the U.S. economy.
The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.61% from 3.73%, according to Bankrate's survey of large lenders. A year ago, it was 4.19%. Four weeks ago, the rate was 3.81%.
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July 3, 2016

Why your first page is crucial

By Marcie Geffner

It might seem unfair, but it’s nonetheless true that the first few pages of your novel are the most important.

Whether you’ve written a two-hundred-page novella or seven-hundred-page saga, the opening matters because it’s your first and probably only opportunity to interest readers in your story. The first page in particular is also your one chance to interest a literary agent and publisher, if that’s your aim.

First impressions of people are often wrong. First impressions of novels are almost always right and indicative of the pages that follow. Strengths in the first few pages are continued throughout as are weaknesses, whatever they may be.

Good openings
A good opening cues readers to the type of story they’re about to read, whether it’s a mystery, fantasy, literary fiction, memoir or in some other category on the bookstore’s bookshelf (or e-book equivalent).

A good opening introduces your story’s setting, includes at least two characters and sets your plot in motion. It also demonstrates that you understand voice and point of view and are in control of the words you've written. A good opening is clear, credible and specific and internal or external conflict or a problem the characters must resolve. One way to start a story is to establish normal for your characters and then disrupt it.

A good opening also offers readers something original, showing them that your story is different from any other story they’ve ever read. Yes, stories have similarities and genres have conventions you might want to follow, but a fresh concept takes your opening to the next level. Writing another Twilight, The Da Vinci Code or Stephanie Plum knockoff is fine, but only if yours is significantly and interestingly different from the model. Because if it's not, why wouldn’t readers pick up the original blockbuster instead of your unoriginal rehash?

The first three pages of your novel are also important to show that you can sustain your story and the tension you put on the first page. A clever “hook” in your first sentence or paragraph or on your first page can help to start your story; however, a hook that’s not followed up effectively will soon lose your readers' interest.

Weak openings
Weak openings lack balance between the necessary elements. A weak opening might merely setup something that’s going to happen later. Or it might introduce characters with little or no plot or plot with little or no character development. Some weak opening are all setting and lovely writing without much plot or character.

The weakest openings lift a dramatic scene from the middle of the story, recap a previous book in the series, include one or more backstory dumps or show that the author has no knowledge of novel-writing craft. Authorial intrusion into a character’s voice or head-jumping in point of view are two easy giveaways of an unschooled author.

June 15, 2016

Should your company be a public benefit corp?

By Marcie Geffner - Dun & Bradstreet

Some business owners want to merge profit and mission by, for instance, making money while also helping low-income people, repairing the environment, advancing human health, promoting the arts or contributing to human knowledge.

A relatively new type of corporate structure, the public benefit corporation (PBC), can help owners win at both.

Read more:

June 2, 2016

Adding emotional intensity to your writing

By Marcie Geffner

Beginning writers' novels and memoirs often suffer from superficiality.

The writer knows what happened in the story or his or her real life and tries to write about it, but somehow, the effort falls flat. Editors, critique partners, or beta readers say the story “didn't work” for them, “didn't have a payoff,” or “didn't make them feel anything.” If they’re being polite maybe they say they just didn't like the story that much. It was, in a word, meh.

The author is naturally puzzled. This sort of feedback or faint praise isn’t actionable, so it's not clear to the writer how to fix the problem. The writer might simply dismiss the feedback.

The problem might be a lack of emotional impact, and the solution might be to deepen the story.

Here are four ways to do it:

Add sensory details. Writers tend to describe settings and characters visually. To heighten emotional impact, add sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and intuitive senses like the feeling of being watched by an unseen person. Cutting back visuals allows other senses to have more presence.

Add specific details. “A flower” is vague. “A pink rose” or “a withered gardenia” is specific. Even more specific would be “a firecracker plant, a narrow bright-red bell of white-tipped petals around a protruding stigma that attracts hummingbirds.” The more specific a description is, up to the point at which the specificity becomes a distraction, the more emotional impact it has.

Add backstory. Writers are often warned against the backstory dump in which too much information about a character is imparted in a big chunk. Some writers try to avoid this problem by deleting every word of backstory. The result can feel superficial. Appropriate amounts of relevant backstory, properly placed, deepen the story’s emotional impact.

Add conflict. Conflict can be shown between one or more characters, within one character’s psyche or both. To increase the tension, make what’s at stake more meaningful to your characters, put what’s at stake in greater jeopardy, make the possible outcomes of failure worse and the rewards of success as wonderful as can be.

Marcie Geffner is a professional editor who helps fiction, memoir, and nonfiction writers improve their story-telling and writing. She lives, works, and writes in Ventura.

May 26, 2016

Mortgage interest rates rise on Fed speculation

By Marcie Geffner -
Mortgage rates rose this week after the Federal Reserve again signaled that it might raise the federal funds rate in mid-June.
Lenders reacted to the growing speculation that there will be another Fed rate hike, says Mathew Carson, senior loan officer for First Capital Group, a mortgage financing company in San Francisco.
"The markets are building it in, like they usually do, a little earlier on the anticipation of what the Fed is going to do," Carson says.
The Fed doesn't directly set the mortgage rates homeowners pay, but the federal funds rate is closely watched as an indicator of overall market rates, including those for mortgages.
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May 4, 2016

3 waves of home-buying costs

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate
Many millennials want to buy a home because they know it can be cheaper than renting. Truth be told, however, buying is complicated, and it's not easy to figure out how much money you'll need.
The costs come in 3 waves:
  • Before purchase.
  • The down payment.
  • Origination and closing costs.
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April 28, 2016

Mortgage rates creep higher

Mortgage rates creep higher

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

Homebuyers might want to keep a close eye on mortgage interest rates.

Recently, rates have "inched up just a bit," says Justin Lopatin, vice president of residential banking for PERL Mortgage in Chicago.

The rise could be due to higher demand at the start of the spring-homebuying season or anticipation of Wednesday's statement from the Federal Reserve, among other factors.

The Fed's Federal Open Market Committee left its benchmark federal funds rate unchanged at 0.25% to 0.50%. This rate is used primary by banks.

In its statement, the FOMC said job markets, housing and household income had improved, yet consumer spending had moderated and economic activity apparently slowed. Inflation remains low.

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April 25, 2016

Why You Don’t Have an Agent

By Marcie Geffner

Many writers want to be represented by a literary agent, preferably a New York-based one, who will sell their novel or memoir to a big traditional publisher.

Chasing this dream often leads to frustration and disappointment, leaving writers mystified as to why the brass ring or holy grail—call it what you will—remains beyond their grasp.

The reasons are vary, but these three broad categories cover most of the territory:

1. Your query letter isn't effective.

Writing query letters is an art form that takes practice and skill to master. Your letter, along with your first chapter and brief synopsis, must stand out from the agent’s slush pile and entice him or her to read your work. If you’ve sent out, say, 10 or 20 query letters and not one agent has asked you to submit your manuscript, your query letter needs work.

2. Your work isn’t good enough.

If a few agents asked you to submit, but didn't offer representation, you’ve done well with your query letter, synopsis and first chapter, but the rest of your work isn't ready.

Many workshops, critique groups and contests focus on first chapters because they're the natural place to start and crucial to querying. One outcome of this focus is that many writers produce a strong first chapter beyond which their work is just not that wonderful. A professional editor might be able to help you.

3. Your work isn’t marketable.

If agents like your work, but don't offer representation, your work isn’t what agents know publishers want to purchase. Agents aren't wrong. They know what sells, and they know beautiful writing isn’t enough to make a work marketable. Write something else.

Getting an agent involves some degree of luck. But writers who have fate and talent on their side, must still produce stories that are thought-provoking, emotionally impactful and well-paced. Write something that meets those criteria, craft a strong pitch, and you’ll be better-positioned to get an agent.

Marcie Geffner is a professional editor who helps fiction, memoir and nonfiction writers improve their story-telling abilities, writing skills and works in progress. She lives, works and writes in Ventura, Calif.

April 8, 2016

What happens when you write a check

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

Americans wrote 12.2 billion fewer checks in 2012 than they did in 2006, according to the most recent Federal Reserve data. Consumers increasingly favored electronic payments and debit and credit cards for spending. Even so, financial institutions processed 18.3 billion checks in a single year.

That's a huge amount of paper transactions that go ... somewhere. Here's what happens after you cut that check for your granddaughter, donate money to a nonprofit organization or pay your home repair contractor.

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April 6, 2016

4 Ways to sell your home fast

By Marcie Geffner - LendingTree

Some for-sale homes sell quickly. Others languish on the market for weeks or even months. If you need to move in a hurry, you might well wonder how to sell your home fast.

Here are four tips from the “how to sell your home fast” file:
1. Price to sell
2. Clean, declutter and depersonalize
3. Paint and stage
4. Hire a Realtor

Read more:

April 5, 2016

ProCritiques at WC2's Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference

Writers looking for education, inspiration and professional feedback on any work of fiction, nonfiction or memoir can find me at The Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference, produced by West Coast Writers Conferences (WC2), June 17-19, 2016, at Los Angeles Valley College.

I will be participating in panel discussions (topics and schedule to be announced) and offering ProCritiques throughout the conference.

My critiques include:
- An advanced read of up to ten standard manuscript pages (2,500 words) of your work.
- Detailed notes on your pages. A copy, marked with copy-editing suggestions and comments, will be emailed to you after the conference.
- A consultation of at least 15 minutes (usually up to 20-30 minutes, time permitting) at the conference.

My critiques focus on elements of writing craft, including mechanics, voice, tone, character, dialog, plot, pacing, theme and much more. Writers will receive detailed feedback on what's working well, what could be improved—and how to do it.

All genres and literary/mainstream fiction, nonfiction and memoir are welcome.

All writing levels are welcome from beginners to experienced or published authors.

Sign up here:

How to improve your credit after divorce

By Marcie Geffner - LendingTree

Divorce can wreak havoc in your financial life, leaving you with bad credit and a low credit score. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself and even improve your credit after divorce.

Here are seven steps:
1. Pay your bills on time.
2. Close joint accounts.
3. Review your credit reports
4. Open new accounts in your name only.
5. Consider a secured credit card.
6. Create a monthly budget
7. Don't obsess about your credit

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3 Reasons your mortgage refinance was denied

By Marcie Geffner - LendingTree

Many homeowners refinance their mortgage to lower their payment, lock in a fixed rate, shorten or lengthen their payback term or cash out equity. But not everyone can qualify. If you're in that group, there could be several reasons your mortgage refinance was denied. The top three are an appraisal of your home's value, your creditworthiness and your debt-to-income ratio (DTI).

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April 1, 2016

Should you buy a home with termite damage?

By Marcie Geffner -

Many for-sale homes have some damage caused by termites or other wood-destroying insects. But "some" isn't the same as "a lot." That raises a question for homebuyers: How much damage is too much?
Mike Merchant says he wasn't too concerned about the presence of active termites when he bought his home in Dallas. Merchant is an entomologist, a scientist who studies insects, for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, a public education arm of Texas A&M University. He runs a blog about urban entomology called Insects in the City.
"As far as I knew," Merchant says, "our house didn't have structural damage. We've done some remodeling since then, and there was some damage to showers, but nothing that would have caused the house to fall down around us."
Still, Merchant knows a lot about wood-destroying insects, and he says he can envision a house with so much damage that he'd think twice about buying it.
Read more:

March 18, 2016

New construction homes solve Realtors’ for-sale inventory woes

By Marcie Geffner - NewHomeSource

Realtors in cities throughout the United States are troubled by a common problem: there aren’t enough for-sale homes on the market to meet the wants and needs of today’s buyers.

Fortunately, there’s a solution: Builders have increased housing permits, starts and completions of new homes, giving buyers and Realtors an attractive alternative to the limited choices of resale homes on the market.

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March 16, 2016

10 home repairs you don't want to do yourself

By Marcie Geffner - Lending Tree

DIY projects to improve your home are one of the biggest joys of being a homeowner.

But before you do any project yourself, you should think carefully about whether you have the necessary skills, tools and materials and whether the cost savings, if any, justifies the risk of mistakes or injuries to you or your family.

If you’re on the fence, get bids from a few reputable contractors before you decide. The cost might be cheaper than you expected and that might influence your decision to try the project on your own.

Some projects, though, aren’t smart to DIY in any circumstances.

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March 11, 2016

Myra Nourmand on selling the Charlton Heston estate and celebrity sellers who go AWOL

By Marcie Geffner - The Real Deal

With clients like Sheryl Crow, Myra Nourmand has made a name for herself and her company Nourmand & Associates in Beverly Hills, where she is an agent and principal. Celebrity clients aren’t the exception, they are the rule. The vast majority of Nourmand’s clients are in the entertainment industry.

In January, Nourmand added another famous property to her list of solds: the $12.2 million Charlton Heston Estate on Coldwater Canyon Drive in Beverly Hills. Nourmand’s current listings include Spencer Tracey’s former home, an 11,700-square-foot Mediterranean-style home on North Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills asking $19.5 million and a 9,250-square-foot cul-de-sac home on 1.3 acre in Bel Air asking $15.9 million. She told The Real Deal she also has $100 million in pocket listings.

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March 7, 2016

Are you a 'bank account abuser'?

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

If you've been flagged as a so-called bank account abuser by agencies like ChexSystems, you may find yourself locked out of the traditional banking system for several years, if not longer.

Are you guilty?

The answer might depend on the definition of "bank account abuse," which is not at all clear.

Banks, credit unions and other financial institutions report information about consumers' bank accounts to consumer screening and reporting agencies. These agencies -- which are similar to the big credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- compile databases that financial institutions then use to help them decide who gets a bank account and who doesn't.

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March 3, 2016

Real estate profile: Jade Mills

By Marcie Geffner - The Real Deal

Jade Mills, the force behind Jade Mills Estates Worldwide at Coldwell Banker Previews International in Beverly Hills, has been in the business for several decades and counts Britney Spears and Jennifer Aniston among her clients.

In 2014, Mills closed more than $350 million in sales volume. Two years earlier, she was Coldwell Banker’s top-selling agent globally, breaking the company’s sales volume record.

Mills’ current hot listing is a French Country-styled residence on eight acres in Bel Air. Owned by actress Sela Ward, the property has an asking price just shy of $40 million. The grounds include a guesthouse, amphitheater, pagoda, bamboo grove, vegetable garden, vineyard, entertaining pavilion and swimming pond with its own sandy beach.

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February 19, 2016

Can hackers tap your bank account?

By Marcie Geffner -

If you use a credit or debit card, bank online or make any kind of electronic financial transaction, you face some risk that your personal information or money could be stolen.
That means pretty much everyone is exposed to this threat. And data breaches, where many of these financial misdeeds begin, have become common.
In November 2015, the U.S. Justice Department and other law enforcement agencies accused several men of a massive criminal computer hacking scheme that included the largest known theft of customer data from a U.S. financial institution.
That attack targeted account holders at JPMorgan Chase, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. User contact information for 76 million households and 7 million small businesses was stolen during the breach.
Read more:

Real estate profile: Jason Oppenheim

By Marcie Geffner - TheRealDeal

In a not-too-distant past life, Jason Oppenheim, president of the Oppenheim Group brokerage in West Hollywood, was an L.A. attorney representing the former CEO of Enron Corporation in the controversial Enron criminal trial.

He left that life to join the family brokerage founded by his great-great grandfather in 1889. At Oppenheim Group, he works alongside — though not always in agreement with — his identical twin brother, Brett Oppenheim.

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February 8, 2016

VA loan can trip up buyers

By Marcie Geffner -

The VA loan is an excellent way for U.S. military veterans and other eligible borrowers to finance a home.

Backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), this type of loan offers buyers no down payment, no private mortgage insurance, limited closing costs and the ability for an existing loan to be assumed by another buyer.

The VA loan isn't always preferred by home sellers, however, and that can present stumbling blocks even for well-qualified buyers.

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