Monthly Archives: September 2017

Are Millennials and Baby Boomers Destined To Compete in Real Estate Market?

active elderly senior couple getting groceries on golf cartThe rate of homeownership for first-time home buyers is at a historically low rate nationwide. But with the help of remodeling and forward-thinking Millennials, this statistic is slowly rising.

Last year, first-time home buyers made up 35% of all home buyers. This was up from an all-time low rate of 32% in 2015, but it is still a decrease from the historical average of 40% over the past several decades. Some housing experts blame this trend switch on heavy personal debt loans, high home prices, and lower incomes for Millennials that are just starting out in corporate America.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all the Millennials’ fault, however, According to CNBC, competition for housing is soaring because Baby Boomers are spending more time in their suburban homes than the generations before them. This action is shrinking the housing market, so even when Millennials finally are able to afford a home, there are slim pickings to choose from.

And the problem just balloons from there. Millennials are competing for homes in a market marked by extremely low supply, which puts them at a disadvantage compared to financially stable Baby Boomers. As a result, many Millennials have nowhere to go but back to their parent’s house in efforts to save even more money.

That’s right. This circle of real estate confusion circles back to Millennials having to move into their parent’s home because of the increasingly competitive housing market, which is a result of Baby Boomer parents who won’t move out of the very home their kids are moving back into!

Sounds confusing, doesn’t it?

It is, and it’s not getting any simpler.

The good news is that there are a lot of cities with emerging real estate markets that are slowly but surely making room for Millennials. The online real estate database company Zillow surveyed nationwide metro areas on their friendliness to first-time homebuyers and they found that the southeastern U.S. is the best place for Millennials looking to buy cheap, build equity, and remodel homes.

Zillow ranked cities nationwide on a bunch of different criteria: affordability, forecasted growth on home values, reductions in list prices, and inventory. They found that the best markets were overwhelmingly in the south, with cities like Memphis, Orlando, Jacksonville and San Antonio being among the top cities that are the most accessible markets for first-time homebuyers.

There are also some cities in the north, like Rochester, New York which boasts a cheap median value home of just $132,000. Indianapolis is another one, with 13% of their home listings seeing price drops, and experts anticipate a 3% increase in values over the next 12 months.

What’s more is that all of these cities pose a hopeful change for Millennials once they buy their homes. More first-time home buyers are remodeling, as per data from home improvement giant Home Depot.

Home Depot’s Chief Financial Officer Carol Tome explained to Business Insider that America’s largest home improvement store served 424,000 first-time home buyers looking to remodel in the second quarter of the year. This is the highest on record since 2005. She believes that all this extra money that’s being spent on remodeling is boosting the housing recovery that the Baby Boomers are slowing down.

“So that is good news. Why? Because first-time homebuyers tend to buy homes that need repair and remodel … we anticipated this happening with millennials coming into an age where they start to form families, children, or pets or whatever their family unit might look like” Tome explains. “They’re moving into homes, which bodes very well for us and to your point, it extends the recovery.”

While Tome didn’t explain how much each Millennial spent on home repairs, on average a homeowner will spend between 1% and 4% of the home’s value annually on maintenance and repairs. For now, Millennials have more money to spend, and Baby Boomers are looking to save money by staying put.

Today in America, four out of five homes use asphalt shingles, but in many parts of the country homes of all kinds are seemingly impossible to find. Until housing supply increases, the increasingly competitive market is making it hard for young Millennials to buy starter homes. And as Millennial home buyers go, so goes the national housing market.

Just another day in the world of real estate.

Fall Fitness Ideas To Keep Your Family On Track This Season

Senior lady with walker enjoying family visitNow that the weather is cooling down and the kids are heading back to school, it may be harder to find time to get your daily dose of exercise — especially once the days start getting shorter again. But by encouraging physical activity early on, your kids will embrace fitness as a lifelong habit. Just because your family is a little busier these days doesn’t mean you have to give up a healthy lifestyle. Here are some of our favorite fitness tips that’ll make the seasonal transition more active and more fun.

Hiking

Hiking is the number one activity to partake in while camping, but you don’t have to set up a tent to do it. If you live an area that boasts beautiful fall foliage, there’s no better way to appreciate it than a family hike. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted that this year will be particularly perfect for leaf-peeping. Research nature trails in nearby towns and plan a weekend day to take a hike and look at the leaves. You can even take a day trip or a long weekend to the East Coast or somewhere in the Midwest to disconnect from technology and take in the vibrant colors the season brings.

Biking

Spring and summer may be more associated with bicycle weather, but those golden fall days can be ideal for hopping on your bike. People who participate in outdoor activities spend over $10 billion a year on bicycling gear and accessories, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to embrace cycling. Before the ground freezes, take your bicycles out for a spin around the neighborhood or through town. Just make sure to talk to your kids about safe bicycling practices at length first.

Family Walks

Even if your family isn’t particularly athletic, you can still enjoy everything fall has to offer and get some great exercise. Take a walk around the block after dinner or make walking to the park part of your Saturday morning routine. If you have dogs, this can be a great way to keep them active and encourage everyone to participate. To keep things interesting, you can play “I Spy” games or create mini-scavenger hunts along the way. This can also teach your kids about nature at the same time they’re getting their physical activity!

Turn Workouts Into Games

As mentioned above, you can incorporate small games into your physical activities — or you can make physical activities into games themselves. You can use ordinary playing cards to encourage the kids to work out (drawing the eight of spades, for example, might mean everyone needs to do eight crunches). You can turn this into a friendly competition or even use it to pass the time during TV commercials. There are even apps that can help you to throw a dance party right in your own living room. Whether you’re stuck indoors on a rainy day or just want to break up the monotony in the backyard, you can let your kids know that working out doesn’t have to be boring.

Ditch the Gym

This advice may not seem sound on the surface, but this doesn’t mean you should always work out at home. Instead, look for specialized fitness centers that will appeal to the entire family. Roller rinks, skating rinks, recreational centers, climbing wall facilities, and indoor trampoline centers can allow your family to get a ton of exercise without realizing it. They’ll be too busy having fun! These kinds of facilities are popping up all over, so if you have some in your area, take advantage. You can even let the kids bring a friend to double the fun.

It’s not always easy to start a new fitness routine from scratch, especially if your kids are reluctant to get off the couch in the colder months. But by making exercise more accessible and exciting, you can help lay the foundation for lifelong healthy habits. When both you and your children are making better choices, you’ll be able to enjoy your time together and truly appreciate the changing seasons.

The Ongoing Battle Between Children and Dentists: What Can Be Done?

Teeth checkup at dentist's office. Dentist examining girls teethDental care is one of the most important aspects of life.

As a parent, one of your major responsibilities is to keep your children’s teeth healthy and strong for as long as you can until it’s time for them to grow up and care for themselves. Hopefully, after years of proper dental care, your kids will develop an appreciation of their own for having healthy teeth.

There aren’t too many kids in the U.S. or on planet earth, for that matter, that actually enjoy going to the dentist. Because children are afraid of those bi-annual trips to the dentist, it’s up to you as parents to help them get over their fears of dental care.

Teach Your Kids About Proper Dental Hygiene

The best way to get relinquish their fears of the dentist is to teach them how to properly take care of their teeth in the first place. If your child has poor teeth, they will likely need major dental procedures performed every time they go to the dentist. That would make anyone fear the dentist. Ensuring that your kids are taking care of their teeth from an early age, however, will result in seamless trips to the dentist that end with a bright smile and possibly a lollypop!

Beware of What Foods and Drinks You’re Letting Your Kids Consume

When it comes to keeping your kids’ teeth strong and avoiding these major procedures, consider rewarding your kids for excellent dental hygiene; but only buy food and drink products that won’t cause too much damage (avoid soda, energy drinks, potato chips, and candy). Also, teach them proper brushing, flossing, and rinsing habits, and be careful about how you talk to your kids about dental care — especially in relation to tooth decay.

“Tooth decay is the most prevalent disease of childhood,” said Courtney Chinn, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist in New York City and associate professor at New York University College of Dentistry. “[Tooth decay is] five to eight times more common than asthma. It can interfere with a child’s ability to eat, sleep, speak properly, learn, or pay attention in school.”

Consult With Dental Professionals

If your kids are in need of serious dental help, your only option is to visit a trusted family dentist. If your kids are terrified of visiting the dentist, consider dental sedation treatment methods at first until they are more comfortable with each visit. As dental professionals have gained advanced training in the proper ways to employ and monitor the use of pediatric dental sedation, its practice has become much more widespread. Currently, there are approximately 250,000 pediatric dental sedations performed each year.

According to My Republica, sedation dentistry is a great way to help kids deal with their fears of experiencing pain while at the dentist.

“NO2 is a harmless gas that patients are sometimes required to inhale during treatments. It is also known as laughing gas and it reduces mild pains that patients experience during dental treatments,” said Dr. Sneedha Mainali, a pediatric dentist and graduate from BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences.

As long as you’re regularly monitoring your child’s dental care habits, visiting professional dentists, and not buying unhealthy products, your kids will likely have strong teeth and a happy smile for years.

Medicare Cards Undergoing Major Makeover To Protect Senior Citizens’ Identities

medical-563427_960_720 (1)Chicago seniors who are enrolled in Medicare benefits should be aware: according to NBC Chicago, medicare cards are “getting a makeover to fight identity theft.”

Six in 10 Americans say that Medicare is working well. Seniors are the most likely to say the program is successful, with eight in 10 saying it serves seniors well. That being said, identity theft is a growing problem in many parts of the country, and the elderly are among the most targeted.

“Criminals are increasingly targeting people age 65 and older for medical identity theft,” Medicare chief Seema Verma told The Associated Press. “We are committed to preventing fraud.”

Seniors can expect their new cards to no longer list their Social Security numbers. Instead, each beneficiary will be sent a new card in the mail containing an identification number that is unique to them.

The initiative is just one part of the government’s ongoing effort to transition more than 58 million beneficiaries in addition to their family members. Hospitals, insurance companies, pharmacies, doctors, and state governments will also be affected.

The government has a goal of early April to start sending out new and improved Medicare cards. Furthermore, Congress has set a concrete deadline of 2019 for all beneficiaries to have received their new identification cards.

One major objective is to equip seniors with the knowledge to defend themselves against potential identity theft threats. They should be reminded that their current cards can compromise their information if they become lost or stolen. Furthermore, the government cited approximately 2.6 million identity theft cases involving senior citizens in 2014 alone, which is up by half a million from 2012.

Verma recalled one woman who reported her Medicare card as stolen. She then received a replacement and thought no more of it until two full years later. The woman learned she may be arrested because the person who stole it used her identity in order to obtain opioids.

Incidents like that, and many more, are the main impetus behind the government’s initiative. In addition to providing a plethora of medical benefits, many beneficiaries also receive medically necessary equipment, such as assistive mobility devices, which are used by approximately 6.8 million Americans.

Beneficiaries should also be aware that Medicare has designated a website that allows them to check the status of their new card. Additionally, instructions will be mailed with each new card telling beneficiaries to destroy their old cards to protect themselves. New cards, however, can be used immediately.

Meanwhile, beneficiaries have also been instructed to stay vigilant about their identity. AARP fraud prevention expert Amy Nofziger says criminals can attack more frequently during transition periods such as these.

“If anyone calls you to say you need to pay for your new Medicare card, it is a scam,” she said. “If anybody is calling you and asking you to verify your Social Security number in order to issue your new Medicare card, it is a scam.”

Oakbrook Terrace Crash Results In DUI Charges For Both Drivers

dui-40566_960_720According to the Chicago Sun Times, a crash in west suburban Oakbrook Terrace has resulted in the charging of both drivers with DUI and one with a felony.

DuPage County Prosecutors say that the first driver, Sean Maroney, 20, was driving toward the wrong way toward oncoming traffic. The Ohio resident was driving on Roosevelt Road when he collided head-on into the vehicle of the other driver, whose identity has been revealed as 25-year-old Molly Paige.

Every two minutes, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash. Not only were both drivers allegedly under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, but Paige had three other passengers in the car. Everyone involved in the crash was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of non life-threatening injuries.

An average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before his or her first arrest, and as a result of this unfortunate incident, Maroney was charged with a felony aggravated DUI. Paige was charged with a misdemeanor count of DUI, according to officials.

Last Wednesday, Maroney was ordered to be held in lieu of $150,000 by Judge Michael Reidy.

The same day, State’s Attorney Robert Berlin issued a statement once again communicating that this DUI incident — and ones just like it — are “100% avoidable.”

“People have got to learn that if you have been drinking, don’t think you are all right to drive. Call a taxi or call a friend — you’ll thank yourself the next morning,”

Despite this incident and Chicago’s current DUI rates, a study last year by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists showed that Chicago DUI rates are about half the size they were at their highest: about 6,896 back in 2005 down to about 3,315 in 2015.

“Maybe public awareness over the last 20 years with ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’ is finally hitting home,” said Bob Cebrzynski, president of the alliance’s board of directors. “Maybe Uber has something to do with it,” he added. “Maybe Lyft has something to do with it.”

In addition to increasing the number of roadside stops and raising awareness of the dangers of getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol, the biggest cause for the drastically lower rates seem to reflect the change in social attitudes. Rita Kreslin, the group’s executive director, explains, “over the last three decades, progress has been made to help eliminate the devastation caused by impaired driving in Illinois. While frustratingly slow, many lives have been saved. Focused efforts and cooperation of law-enforcement agencies, traffic-safety advocates and communities have helped to prevent crashes and save thousands of lives.”

The Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists was founded in 1982 by actual victims of drunken driving incidents. The Illinois activist group has been charged by the state to conduct these annual studies for the past 26 years due to funding from a grant from the Department of Transportation.

Over 80% Of Hypoallergenic Moisturizers May Contain Allergens, Study Finds

Pharmacy InteriorFor those with skin allergies, finding the right products can be a tricky process. But with a quick scan of the ingredients on a hypoallergenic label, you can generally make a well-informed purchase.

Or can you?

A study by Northwestern University published in JAMA Dermatology found that many popular skin moisturizers that were labeled as “hypoallergenic” or “fragrance free” often were not. Northwestern Now reports that the study involved the top 100 best-selling moisturizers from Wal-Mart, Amazon, and Target.

The researchers found that 45% of the products labeled “fragrance free” had a botanical ingredient or a fragrance cross reactor, according to Northwestern Now. They also found that 83% of products labeled “hypoallergenic” actually have a potentially allergenic ingredient. For those with skin allergies, this could come as an unwelcome surprise.

Household allergy sufferers generally know what makes them sneeze and itch their eyes. Some need to be wary of mold. And with 2,000 dust mites lurking on one ounce of carpet, others needs to up their house cleaning. In situations of mislabeled ingredients, however, there is little people can do to safeguard their sensitive skin.

So, who is responsible for providing this detailed ingredient information? First author Steve Xu, resident physician in dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told Northwestern Now that companies may need to form closer ties with dermatologists.

“If manufacturers did list all the ingredients, their labels would be 75 pages,” he said. “As it stands now, patients have a challenging time making an informed decision by glancing at the back of the bottle. Our study highlights that and aims to make that search easier on consumers by informing dermatologists.”

Researchers also found that “dermatologist-recommended” products were generally not that different from their competitors. They were, however, $0.20 more per ounce than the other products, according to the study.

“We looked into what it means to be ‘dermatologist-recommended,’ and it doesn’t mean much because it could be three dermatologists recommending it or 1,000,” Xu said.

As for the products that did make the cut, researchers found that 12% of the studied products were free of North American Contact Dermatitis Group allergens. The top three products that were both affordable and safe for skin were Ivory raw unrefined shea butter, Vaseline original petroleum jelly, and Smellgood African shea butter, according to Northwestern Now. To find their ideal products, Xu says that consumers need a change in mindset.

“We could recommend a moisturizer that has no allergy risk and is affordable and effective, but if the patient doesn’t like it, it’s a wasted recommendation,” he said. “We need to program into our minds to think differently and strike that fine balance between safe ingredients and user preference.”

Chicago Restaurants, Startups Try To Make Impact In City That Loves Meal Delivery

Annual sales in the restaurant industry may have reached $783 billion in 2017, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is flocking to their local eateries. In fact, nearly 20% of 2016 survey respondents said that they use a food delivery service at least once a week, and millennials spend 44% of their food dollars eating out — much of which gets eaten up by services like GrubHub and Seamless or quick service restaurants. To compete in a market that’s based more on convenience with every passing year, Chicago dining establishments and food-related startups are finding they have to be a bit more creative than ever before.

When customers can’t find their favorite food spot on their delivery app of choice, they may end up spending their money elsewhere. Although delivery made up only 3% of all restaurant transactions this past year, customers ate in sit-down restaurants just 37% of the time. In contrast, 39% of customers opted for carryout, and 21% of all restaurant transactions were made at the drive-thru. In response, many area restaurant owners have had to take a crash course in the latest technology. On top of that, some have had to redesign their establishments — from food prep lines to expanded waiting areas — to account for the increasing demand for takeout. The average home kitchen in the U.S has around 25 feet of counter space, but some businesses have had to design new, separate kitchens just for mobile orders.

In Chicago, Duck Duck Goat added a quick carryout option, Duck Duck Ta Go, just four months after they opened their initial establishment. The “Ta Go” portion has its own small kitchen and offers dishes that aren’t available on the regular menu. Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a restaurant group with dozens of outlets to its name, recently opened a takeout- and delivery-only spot, Seaside’s, in Lincoln Park. Now that takeout is moving away from the bar area and into the main lobby of many locations (or even outside), restaurant layouts are being adjusted accordingly. Heat lamps and to-go shelving is in; cash register space is out.

But some restaurants are steadfast in their belief that delivery isn’t for them. And some, like Smoque BBQ in Irving Park, have been forced to give in due to the increasing customer demand to provide more takeout options. Around 40% of their transactions were already attributed to takeout orders, but they’ve begrudgingly started offering delivery now through Caviar, another food delivery service.

“We were getting a lot of pressure from customers,” co-owner Barry Sorkin told the Chicago Tribune. “This is how people get food now, whether we like it or not … We were still uncomfortable, but [Caviar takes delivery] seriously, and there’s a degree of professionalism.”
The fact that Caviar places limits on their delivery zones and uses thermal bags to keep food hot doesn’t hurt, either.

Still, some consumers may not want to deal with food delivery services yet are too tired to cook a big meal. Tovala, a Chicago-based startup, promises a solution in the form of a tech-friendly oven and meal preparation subscription service, combined. The oven steams, broils, and bakes food (either the meals obtained through the company’s weekly subscription service or the consumer’s own dishes) until it’s fully cooked and ready to enjoy. The smart oven costs $399 and the three-meal subscription service is $36 a week — but if you crunch the numbers, you might find it’s a bargain, depending on how much you normally spend on food in a given week.

Regardless of whether the smart oven catches on, it’s likely that consumers (especially younger ones) are going to continue to seek out convenient and delicious ways to eat. In other words, restaurants will need to stay on their toes and keep adapting if they want to stick around.

Gov. Rauner Signs Automatic Voter Registration into Law

150112-Z-EU280-244In August, Governor Bruce Rauner signed State Bill 1933, making Illinois the latest state to implement some form of automatic voter registration. Under this new law, which takes effect immediately, Illinois citizens will be automatically registered to vote when they register or renew their driver’s license.

The bill is similar to the one that Rauner vetoed a little more than a year ago. At the time, Rauner feared that automatic voter registration opened up the door for voter fraud, a concern that most experts say is totally unfounded despite its hold on the political Zeitgeist in the past few years.

Since then, Democrats have worked to make the bill more palatable for the Republican Governor, especially as political pressure from grassroot activist campaigns mounted.

“We retooled parts of this plan based on suggestions from both sides of the aisle. There’s no plausible reason Gov. Rauner shouldn’t sign it the moment it lands on his desk,” State Senator and co-sponsor of the Bill Andy Manar (D) said in a statement in May, according to Huffington Post.

And as it would happen, they succeeded.

“This is good bipartisan legislation and it addresses the fundamental fact that the right to vote is foundational for the rights of Americans in our democracy,” Rauner said during the bill signing ceremony in Chicago, as reported by The Washington Post. “We as a people need to do everything we can to knock down barriers, remove hurdles for all those who are eligible to vote, to be able to vote.”

Proponents of the bill are celebrating. They believe that it will help to reduce the barriers to civil engagement, thereby enabling more people to take part in the electoral process. Critics, on the other hand, still believe that automatic voter registration bills are problematic, in part because they feel it can lead to potential voter fraud, but also because they feel it is a governmental overreach.

In 2015, Oregon was the first state to sign a law for automatic voter registration. Like the Illinois bill, the DMV was central to their plan.

As of 2015, 218 million of the nearly 245 million American adults had a driver’s license. That means the DMV database has important information like social security and citizenship status for 89% of the entire population, making it an ideal agency to handle voter registration.

Since then, the law has been deemed a success, with more than half of all registered voters participating in the 2016 election, according to the New York Times.

The United States has a complicated history with voting rights. Over the past two and a half centuries, voting rights have spread beyond landholding white men, always marching towards greater inclusion. In 1920, women won for themselves the right to vote after a long campaign of suffrage.

Americans of color were granted the right fifty years earlier in 1870, but oppressive measures during the reconstruction and Jim Crow era made it near impossible for many African Americans to exercise the right to vote. That changed with the passing of the Voting Rights Act the year after the Civil Rights act passed, banning discrimination in public facilities.

And while there might still be a great deal of controversy and speculation over voting rights, bills like SB1933 keep progress moving forward.

Godfrey Business Donates Microchip Technology Funds To Animal Rescue

printed-circuit-board-1539113_960_720According to RiverBender.com, Sichra Consultation Services LLC recently made a generous donation to Godfrey’s Animal Rescue and Control Enforcement Officer for the purchase of a new animal microchip reader.

The microchip technology, called a wand-style RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), will help to identify strays, lost pets, and rescue animals and hopefully reconnect them with their owners. According to IBM, more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated each day, and smart technology is changing virtually every aspect of modern life. The ever-expanding microchip database allows more and more pet owners to keep their furry friends safe and able to be identified if they ever get lost.

Animal Control officer Susie Stephan has more than 16 years of experience in the industry and will now be able to provide better service due to the wand-style design of the chip reader. Animals can now be checked safely without as great of a risk of biting or attacking.

“Officer Stephan is one of the best in her field that he has ever had the pleasure to work with because of the skill and attention to detail she brings to her job, she is a tremendous asset to our community,” said Sichra, adding that this donation will provide a much-needed upgrade of Godfrey’s microchip technology. An estimated 38,900,000 households own cats in the United States and about 43,000,000 own dogs, yet Sichra said that the previous technology was too old and malfunctioned too often to be effective.

“There are newer kinds of microchips being implanted now that the older scanners do not read so this new reader will definitely be more efficient and current,” said Stephan, adding that the donation significantly benefits the Animal Control Department, the residents, and the pets that “lost their way.”

Stephan also noted that the microchip technology could serve as a critical safety element in the event of a disaster that required temporary displacement of animals.

Mayor Michael McCormick also extended his gratitude for the generous donation.

“I would like to personally thank Chris and his consulting firm for the hard work they continue to provide our community keeping us safe and his generous donation to help us get the technology needed to provide village residents with the absolute best service possible.”

Stephan noted that those who are interested in microchipping their animals should make sure to contact a microchip company and directly link their information inside the chip as opposed to leaving the information at the vet that implanted it. She says she frequently picks up chipped animals after-hours or on weekends and has to wait for the clinics to open.

Ultimately, this technology opens countless doors for Godfrey’s pets and their owners.