CNN Money Number One Places To Live: Bellevue, Wash. Ranks Highest

The number one place to live and work in the U.S. is Bellevue, Wash. according to a recent CNN Money article.

The article lists the coexistence of large companies like Microsoft and Boeing alongside startups, and cites a “highly skilled” local workforce as the driving factor in this city’s marketplace success. Also notable is the absence of a corporate income tax, meaning small businesses are exempt from the B&O tax, so long as they gross less than $135,000 in taxable income. This fact alone has made the area attractive to entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Bellevue also boasts one of the better school districts in the state, which—when coupled with large suburban neighborhoods—makes for a healthy family environment. Just 15 minutes across the water from downtown Seattle (without traffic), Bellevue will most likely be an even match to the growing metropolis in coming years.

Also, this view doesn’t hurt:
Image courtesy of Seattle Luxury

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Invest In Movies: What’s A Ticket To The Big Picture Really Worth?

Investors from Village Roadshow, Ltd., Lambert Entertainment, Act III and the Retirement Systems of Alabama pension fund in Texas are committing to partner in investing a whopping $200 million into 50 luxury movie theatres that will sell tickets for $35 apiece, according to a post made today on via Variety.

The first two theatres will open outside of Seattle and Chicago, and will sell high-end luxury concessions, including pricey gourmet but theatre-friendly foods created by an on-site chef. Oxymoron, anyone?

I’d think twice before putting $35 down on a movie ticket, but each theatre will boast 40 reclining chairs with footrests (score), a full bar and concierge services including valet.

NuWire published an article not too long ago about both the benefits and implications of investing in indie films discussing its viability as an investment for the right type of investor. Entertainment execs have always claimed that the film industry is insulated from recessions, and if they are right, then this investment could actually take off. But this old-fashioned girl still prefers some homemade popcorn (extra butter, please), slippers and her own couch.

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Starbucks’ Shot At Web 2.0:

This week, Starbucks rolled out their new customer service site to mixed reviews. seeks to act as a social networking site for Starbucks customers, but falls short by a long double shot.

The site allows users to interact through discussion boards, and to share ideas for ways the stores, products and company can be improved. Users vote on each other’s ideas, and then see the changes in action. It seems that in an effort to really learn their customer, Starbucks has engaged Web 2.0 with the age-old suggestion box and slapped it with the popular "social networking’". Wrong.

The 40-some odd "Idea Partners" describe their site by saying, “My Starbucks Idea is an online community dedicated to sharing and discussing ideas and allowing you to see how Starbucks is putting top ideas into action,” mentioning that issues specific to your Starbucks experience should still be mentioned in the Contact Us section of

So this site is for high-level, pie-in-the-sky ideas, right? As it turns out, not really: It’s actually a popularity contest! As the site says, “Everyone helps decide by voting. Ideas posted to the ‘Popular Ideas’ section of the website (determined by using an algorithm based on number of points, number of comments and recency of post) will be considered, but our Idea Partners may also choose ideas simply because they think they’re promising.” So, if you’ve got an idea, submit it—it’ll be up to the user community to determine the idea’s validity and relevance and vote it into popularity.

The site gets it right in its intention to be an arena of community discussion for consumers. Because I’m a big advocate of networking—and an even bigger advocate of brainstorming—the basic functions of this site may be useful for someone like me, who enjoys (nay, needs) her perfect daily double shot of espresso, with two inches of steamed soy, with soy foam on top, please. And, at $3.79 a pop (plus the occasional pastry. Okay, who am I kidding?)—my voice had better be heard.

But enough on this, I need to go finish my coffee.

Labels: , , , , , , , The FSBO'S Answer to Marketing Real Estate

Marketing was once the FSBO’s biggest obstacle, but one company, MyMarketware, has developed MarketSites to help sellers overcome this obstacle by creating individual home listing web pages for a property.

Whereas other sites list several properties in particular cities, neighborhoods or even streets, MarketSites allows the seller to send buyers directly to their property. View a sample MyMarketware page here. Sellers can upload up to 100 photos of their property, embed audio and video podcasts, change SEO settings with Meta descriptions and keywords and add RSS functionality to their page. Users can also customize links to their page, and modify their link dashboard within their user accounts, allowing them to be reused for future listings:

After paying the flat $39 fee, sellers can create a URL using the physical address of the property, which is a helpful tool for out-of-town buyers who may not know the area in which they are looking to buy.

Listings are syndicated by some of the bigger seller sites like
Trulia, Craigslist, Yahoo and Google Base.
For more information and updates on the site, visit the
MyMarketware blog.

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Real Estate Agent Review Website Launches:

Choosing a real estate agent can be a daunting task, but this week two new sites have launched that may help buyers and sellers discern the good agents from the bad.

The first, Incredible Agents (sister company of Incredible Agent), is a real estate agent review site that allows buyers and sellers to rate their agent to help other buyers and sellers find the right agent for them. One of the cooler features on this site is the ability to directly interact with agents that you’ve reviewed: When you write a review, the agent can comment back on it.

The site also features agent interviews, whereby users can anonymously ask a variety of questions to a series of agents. This is a feature that I haven’t seen on any other site, and it should gain some traction among consumers.

I especially like Incredible Agents’ logo because it reminds me of The Incredibles, which is one of my favorite Pixar movies.

The second site, AgentRank is still in beta form, but will allow users to search for agents and reviews by city and endorsements by other users. What makes the functionality of this site unique is the access users have to an entire database from a single location–pretty sweet.

Let me know what you think about these sites once you use them. I’m curious to see what kind of traction they get.

(Via Dustin at

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Brad Pitt And Bill Clinton Join Forces In New Orleans With The Make It Right Foundation

Brad Pitt and Bill Clinton joined hundreds of volunteers in New Orleans in preparing the Lower 9th Ward for a housing project led by Pitt’s foundation, Make It Right.

Starting in 2006, Make It Right committed to building 150 environmentally-friendly homes to replace the homes that were destroyed in 2005’s Hurricane Katrina in one of the hardest hit areas, the Lower 9th Ward. The group has put an emphasis on ensuring that the homes they build are replicable, and hope to redevelop other hard-hit areas of the city.

Working alongside other experts in the field of development such as the Cherokee Gives Back Foundation, William McDonough + Partners and Graft architecture firms and two advisors to the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, Pitt hopes to “be a catalyst for the redevelopment of the Lower 9th Ward, by building a neighborhood comprised of safe and healthy homes…”.

To learn more about the Make It Right foundation and the Lower 9th Ward project, visit the vision page of the Make It Right website.

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Federal Reserve Releases New $5 Bill: Abe Lincoln Reportedly Pleased With New Pink Hue

The Fed plans to release its new and more colorful interpretation of the $5 bill this week to banks all over the U.S.

In an effort to put an end to counterfeit money by making notes more sophisticated and complex, the Fed is planning to revamp each bill, live and in color. Next up is the $100 bill.

Abe Lincoln should be proud that his face will now be displayed next to a beautiful backdrop of reds, purples, greens and blues.

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Real Estate Investors And First-Time Buyers Climb Aboard The Foreclosure Bus

As final legislation on foreclosure rescues near, real estate agents are pulling out the (bus) stops to sell pre-foreclosure and bank-owned homes. Brokers are offering bus and limousine rides to groups as a unique way for investor clients and first-time buyers to view several properties in one meeting.

Agents with The Gold Rush Group in Auburn, California, a suburb outside of Sacramento, have rented a stretch-SUV limousine to cruise clients around properties in style (and efficiency). Other companies are organizing bus tours, complete with slide shows and presentations to educate buyers about the purchase process. One brokerage, RE/MAX Central in Las Vegas has even offered agents on the tour for the purpose of drafting purchase and sale agreements on the spot. Often, guide packages with area details and comps are included in the tours—a great deal for first-time or out-of town-buyers.

These tours, while fun and convenient, feature advertisements and free-with-purchase deals. In the case of RE/MAX CENTRAL, the bus itself is an advertisement on wheels. The benefit to buyers is the ease with which they can view and tour properties, and many first-time buyers and investors are getting into properties they otherwise would have been priced out of or avoided because of these tours.

Cesar Dias, an agent operating out of Stockton, Calif., was covered on a segment of “60 Minutes” to talk about his tour. He said that foreclosure tours accomplish the two goals of finding buyers in down markets and selling properties—all in one fell swoop.

A simple Google search brought up several tours all over the country. This gets me thinking—and cringing—about the term ‘foreclosure tour bus.’ As the foreclosure market looks to be bottoming out, is this a last ditch (and expensive) attempt to sell a few extra homes? Inspectors are on hand at the homes, as are lenders, in an attempt to unload these properties from the banks. Depending on how you look at it, this could either be a sales trap or a great opportunity to buy a quick property. I’m not so sure I’ll be hopping on this ‘buswagon’.

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Move Inc., Investors Upset Over Failed Investment In Federally Backed Student Loan Auction-Rate Securities

The D3 Family Funds (Camas, Wash.), a shareholder group of operator Move Inc. is seeking for the dismissal of Move’s CEO Mike Long and CFO Lewis R. Belote III over a $129.9 million securities investment from student loan financing groups that has not performed as anticipated.

auction-rate securities market features investments in municipal or corporate bonds which have long-term maturity and interest rates established through an auction. Because of recent failures in the market, Move’s investment in federally supported student loan auction-rate securities has not performed as anticipated.

While D3 Family Funds are not concerned about the financial status of Move Inc. or their current business plans with, they are concerned with the company’s choice to invest about 74 percent of the company’s liquid assets in a riskier short term investment like auction-rate cash, because they claim that money could have been used to more safely build the company with long-term investments. Even after reporting over $5 million in revenue increases from 2007-2008, the company still reported a $4 million loss for all of 2007, and a $5.3 million fourth-quarter loss that same year.

In November of 2005, private equity group
Elevation Partners (including team members Fred Anderson, former EVP and CFO for Apple and U2 front man, Bono) announced a stock investment of $100 million in Move Inc. As of this announcement in early March, Elevation Partners had no comment.

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Goodbye, RSS: A Breakup Letter

Dear RSS,

I must confess: After our long and tumultuous love affair, I’ve had just about enough of you and your constant nagging. You pop up to bother me with stories and news that doesn’t matter to me when you know that I’m busy, and if I don’t stop by to check in on you at least once an hour, you somehow find a way to nag me with unread articles and blog posts around dinnertime.

I’ve had enough of your laundry list of headlines. You never let me rest long enough to enjoy you for what you really are: a snapshot of my daily news. Instead, you make perusing the Internet a chore and burden my time with irrelevant headlines that make me ask, “Do you even know me?”

So, I’m leaving you for a better program.

Persai (pronounced per-SIGH) not only filters through my unique and personal search habits to ascertain what’s really important to me based on my interests, it will turn each of my individual interests into a custom page, much like our old friend Google News. And what’s more, when it suggests an article I don’t like, all I have to do is click the little red "X" that means "reject" (you know this term well, RSS) and it will be filtered right out of my system.

Though they are outside of an official launch and still in private beta testing, Persai promises to provide me with a personalized search experience. Sure, it comes with its fair share of problems: all-too-specific searches that don’t provide me with enough material to keep me satisfied, not to mention that most searches rank material based on what’s published most recently rather than what is relevant to my personal interests. Still, I’m a busy girl, and Persai is far and away a better option for me than you ever were, RSS.

Persai won’t eliminate the stream of information being thrown at me from the Web, but it will help me sort through what’s most important: Britney’s latest court appearance or Lindsay Lohan’s most recent stint in rehab. And for that, I am grateful.

Goodbye, RSS. It's been real.


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Dubai World: Developing The Modern World In The Image Of Dubai

Just over a couple of decades ago, Dubai was a proverbial ghost-town with an economy almost solely reliant on a tiny supply of oil. But today, with a 20% GDP increase in 2006 and significant economic development thanks to its ports, Dubai is now considered one of the world’s busiest marketplaces for development and international commerce.

This article from CNN money, claims that Dubai World, a holding company with over 100 billion dollars in assets including retail, port operators and real estate developers, is seeking to develop ports and cities on par with Dubai throughout the world.

What does this mean for investors?

There is big investment potential in underdeveloped coastal and port cities. What may have once been small shipping, import and export ports may now become prime building ground for luxury hotels, resorts and commercial real estate.

Considering the rags to riches story that Dubai has to tell, investors should keep a close eye on Dubai World, and the places that they are considering for real estate development.

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