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Lake Geneva Mortgage - Great places to raise a familyLooking for a great place to raise a family?  Forbes Magazine has a list that may help you.

Titled “The Best Cities For Raising A Family“, Forbes has compiled and analyzed data from America’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, accounting for seven lifestyle factors including cost of living, commuting ease, school quality, crime density, and home affordability.

Given these selection criteria, it’s no surprise that Grand Rapids, Michigan took top honors.  The area’s low median income is offset by an extremely low cost of living and a school system that’s among the best in the nation.  Nearly 90% of the homes in Grand Rapids are affordable families earning the median income — the seventh-highest affordability ranking in the country — and commutes are quick.

Since the housing peak, home prices are down just 12% in Grand Rapids — a figure below the national average.

The complete Top 10 list for the Forbes “The Best Cities For Raising A Family” piece were:

  1. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  2. Boise, Idaho
  3. Provo, Utah
  4. Youngstown, Ohio
  5. Raleigh, North Carolina
  6. Poughkeepsie, New York
  7. Omaha, Nebraska
  8. Ogden, Utah
  9. Cincinnati, Ohio
  10. Worcester, Massachusetts

Now, before you make a home-buying decision based on the Forbes report, remember that real estate is a local market and even city-wide statistics can be too broad to be helpful to everyday Lake Geneva real estate home buyers.  Even within Grand Rapids, there are some neighborhoods that outperform in terms of home valuations and school quality, for example; and some areas from which a daily work commute may be more cumbersome. 

For accurate, real-time housing data for any of the above markets or for a smaller neighborhood like Geneva National , be sure to ask a Lake Geneva real state professional.

Great Places To Raise A FamilyBusinessWeek recently released its 2011 America’s Best Place to Raise a Family rankings. College-town Blacksburg, Virginia took top honors, breaking a 2-year win streak for the Chicago, Illinois region.

In 2009, suburban Mount Prospect, Illinois placed first. Last year, it was Tinley Park, Illinois.

The BusinessWeek report employs data from real estate information firm Onboard Informatics to make its rankings, compiling data across categories such as education, crime, and jobs plus access to parks and affordable homes. All selections are limited by population; all selections are home to 50,000 residents or fewer. Median incomes are within 20 percent — plus or minus — of the state’s median income levels.

BusinessWeek names one winner in each state. The winners in the 10 most populous states and their nearest “big city” are listed below

  1. California : East San Gabriel (Los Angeles)
  2. Texas : Wells Branch (Austin)
  3. New York : Hampton Manor (Albany)
  4. Florida : Niceville (Fort Walton Beach)
  5. Illinois : Morton Grove (Chicago)
  6. Pennsylvania : Cecil-Bishop (Pittsburgh)
  7. Ohio : St. Henry (Dayton)
  8. Michigan : Spring Arbor (Jackson)
  9. Georgia : Hoschton (Atlanta)
  10. North Carolina : Tryon (Spartanburg, SC)

The winners in all 50 states can be found on the BusinessWeek website.

Rankings like the BusinessWeek America’s Best Place to Raise a Family can be useful for home buyers in Lake Geneva real estate , but like everything in real estate, statistics do not apply to every home equally. Even within the “best towns”, there are areas in which school systems are better, crime figures are lower, and amenities are more plentiful.

Therefore, before you make the decision to buy a home, talk with a real estate agent who has local market knowledge. It’s the most effective means to get data that matters to you.

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Lake Geneva Real Estate 25 Least Expensive U.S. Cities

A report issued Monday by the U.S. government showed core inflation rising 2.5 percent in the last 12 months for its biggest one-year gain since January 2010.

Everyday living is becoming expensive, it seems.

But there are some U.S. towns in which the cost of living remains affordable — and downright cheap — as compared to the national average. They’re detailed in a BusinessWeek piece titled “The Cheapest 25 Cities In The U.S“.

In comparing costs across 340 urban areas as compiled by the Council of Community & Economic Research, cities in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Oklahoma ranked consistently high.  Cities in Hawaii & Wisconsin did not.

Take note, though.  Although the BusinessWeek piece highlights inexpensive cities in which to live, a low cost of living does not necessarily correlate to a high standard of living.  Cost-leader Harlingen, Texas, for example, boasts a poverty rate nearly triple the national average.

Other “Inexpensive Cities” feature similar poverty rates.

The Top 10 “cheapest cities”, as shown by BusinessWeek are:

  1. Harlingen, Texas
  2. Pueblo, Colorado
  3. Pryor Creek, Oklahoma
  4. McAllen, Texas
  5. Cookeville, Tennessee
  6. Commerce-Hunt County, Texas
  7. Brownsville, Texas
  8. Fort Smith, Arkansas
  9. Muskogee, Oklahoma
  10. Springfield, Illinois

And, at the other end of the spectrum, the top 5 most expensive cities/areas were, in order, Manhattan, New York; Brooklyn, New York; Honolulu, Hawaii; San Francisco, CA; and Queens, New York.

Manhattan’s cost of living is more than twice the national average.

The complete list is available at the BusinessWeek website.

Lake Geneva Real Estate Taxes compared to local household income

Lake Geneva real estate mortgage rates may be a function of free markets, but real estate taxes are a function of government.  And, depending on where you live, your annual real estate tax bill could be high, low, or practically non-existent.

Compiling data from the 2009 American Community Survey, the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan educational organization in Washington D.C., published property taxes paid by owner-occupied households, county-by-county.

The report shows huge disparity in annual property taxes by region, and by state.

As a percentage of home valuation, Southeast homeowners tend to pay the fewest property taxes overall, while Northeast homeowners tend to pay the most.  But statistics like that aren’t especially helpful.  What’s more useful is to know how local real estate taxes stack up as compared to local, median household incomes.

Not surprisingly, real estate taxes are least affordable to homeowners in the New York Metro area.  The 10 U.S. counties with the highest tax-to-income ratios physically surround New York City’s 5 boroughs.  The areas with the lowest tax-to-income, by contrast, are predominantly in southern Louisiana.

A sampling from the Tax Foundation list, here is how select counties rank in terms of taxes as a percentage of median income:

  • #1 Passaic County (NJ): 9.7% of median income
  • #6 Nassau County (NY): 8.6% of median income
  • #15 Lake County (IL): 7.2% of median income
  • #18 Cheshire County (NH): 7.1% of median income
  • #70 Travis County (TX): 5.0% of median income
  • #90 Marin County (CA): 4.6% of median income
  • #110 Middlesex County (MA): 4.4% of median income
  • #181 Sarasota County (FL): 3.9% of median income
  • #481 Douglas County (CO): 2.4% of median income
  • #716 Maui County (HI): 1.3% of median income
  • #40 Milwaukee County (WI): 6.1% of median income
  • # 51 Kenosha County (WI): 5.4% of median income
  • # 58 Racine County (WI): 5.2% of median income
  • # 60 Walworth County (WI): 5.2% of median income

The U.S. national average is 3.0 percent.

The complete, sortable list of U.S. counties is available at the Tax Foundation website.  For specific tax information in your neighborhood or block, talk with a real estate agent.

Lake Geneva Real Estate Mortgage Average Commute Times In The US, By County

As part of the Census Bureau’s data collection activities from 2005-2009, a number of interesting charts have been published at

The data should not be confused with Census 2010 — a separate survey conducted every 10 years.  This is the first-ever, 5-year American Community Survey.  Based on data from 3 million households, it details social, economic, housing, and demographic data “for every community in the nation.”

Among the surveys:

  • Median Household Income, Inflation-Adjusted To 2009 Dollars (Chart)
  • Median Housing Value Of Owner-Occupied Housing Units (Chart)
  • Percent Of Households That Are Married, With Children Under 18 (Chart)

The ACS survey also charts average commute time by county.  Walworth County Wisconsin residents average 20 to 24.9 minutes per day.  The chart is shown at top.

Whether you live in a “long commute” town like Richmond, NY (40 minutes), or a “short commute” town like King, TX (3.4 minutes), rising gas prices have made commute times and distances relevant to everyone.

Since the start of 2011, the average price for gasoline is higher by 54 cents per gallon.  Assuming 22 miles per gallon on a passenger car, that’s an increase of 2.5 cents of gasoline per mile driven in the last 90 days.  It’s a cost that adds up quickly, and can affect a household budget.  Plan for higher pump prices moving forward, too.  Historically, gas prices surge between April and June.

The American Community Survey is loaded with charts and data.  It can tell you a lot about your current neighborhood, and any neighborhood to which you may want to relocate.  Then, to bridge the ACS data with community details such as school performance and typical home prices, talk to a Lake Geneva real estate professional.

Expensive ZIP codesThe value of a home is based on the basic economic principle of Supply and Demand.  When the number of buyers exceeds the number of sellers, home prices rise.  Conversely, when sellers outnumber buyers, home prices fall.

There’s always a opening price point for negotiation and that figure often factors in specifics like square footage, number of rooms, and finishes and amenities. Location matters, too.

On a ZIP code-by-ZIP code basis, prices can vary wildly and it’s tiny, tiny 91008 — located in Duarte, California — that tops the 2010 Forbes list of America’s Most Expensive ZIP Codes. Home to fewer than 1,400 residents of Los Angeles County, the ZIP code’s median home cost is $4,276,462.

By contrast, the median home cost across all of Duarte’s ZIP codes is just $358,454.

As listed by Forbes, America’s 10 most expensive ZIP codes are:

  1. Duarte, CA (91008) : $4,276,462
  2. Atherton, CA (94027) : $4,010,200
  3. Rolling Hills, CA (92074) : $3,892,456
  4. Alpine, NJ (07620) : $3,814,885
  5. New York, NY (10014) : $3,785,445
  6. Beverly Hills, CA (90210) : $3,684,150
  7. New York, NY (10065) : $3,626,001
  8. Belvedere (94920) : $3,283,269
  9. New York, NY (10012) : $3,221,371
  10. Santa Barbara (93108) : $3,151,220

Did any Wisconsin ZIP codes make the list? No, Not one of our ZIP codes made the top 500.

The real estate market is a local one, as evidenced by the Forbes list.  Even within large cities like New York, there are areas that stand out from the pack in terms of cost and affordability and the same is true for all cities.

Therefore, when you need local market data , look past the “national statistics.”  Talk to a real estate agent with local market knowledge instead.  It’s the most reliable way to get data that matters.

Lake Geneva Real Estate Search

Relocate America Top 100 Places To LiveRelocate America recently released its 2010 list of Top 100 Places To Live In America.  The rankings are topped by some cities you may expect, and some you may not.

According to Relocate America, the rankings highlight communities “moving in the right direction,” defined as having a combination of strong leadership, job opportunities, improving real estate markets, recreational options and a good quality of life.

It’s not a bad formula and topping the list of Top 100 Places To Live In America is Huntsville, Alabama.   Huntsville was chosen for its low levels of unemployment, stable housing stock, and low cost of living.  Last year, Huntsville placed fifth on the Relocate America list.

The Top 10 cities in which to live, as selected by Relocate America are:

  1. Huntsville, AL
  2. Washington, DC – REALLY, C’mon
  3. Austin, TX
  4. San Diego, CA
  5. San Antonio, TX
  6. Tulsa, OK
  7. Charlotte, NC
  8. Raleigh, NC
  9. Boulder, CO
  10. Minneapolis, MN

View the complete Top 100 Places To Live In America 2010 list at the Relocate America website.

I’m sorry after seeing this list I had to comment.  Washington D.C. as one of the top places to live in America?  This list lost credibility in my eyes, what do you think?

I know I’m prejudiced but I believe Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to be one of the finest places to live in the country.  If you’re looking for a great new Lake Geneva real estate home now is the time to consider this move.

Travis Egan

Lake Geneva Real Estate, Lender