Wednesday, March 29, 2017

35 Facts about craft beer - the industry that's always thirsty!


If you're a lover of frosty suds, then that title alone will make you happy. So today, we wanted to bring you a few fun facts about the craft beer movement in the US, which has grown like wildfire in the last few years. Enjoy these fun facts, quips and statistics about craft beer and in part two of this blog, we'll go into detail about the craft brew scene in California and Sacramento, including our favorite!

1.    Is our hometown Sacramento one of the top spots for craft beer in the entire US? You bet it is! According to a Nielsen study, the top 5 metropolitan areas for craft breweries and popularity of their beers include Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, San Diego, and San Francisco (in no particular order).

2.    Last year, an estimated 212,159,327 barrels of craft beer sold! (By the way, a single barrel contains 31 gallons of beer.)

3.    In fact, it's estimated that craft brews now account for 1 out of every ten beer sales in the US.

4.    The trend is so popular that most Americans now live within 10 miles or less of a craft brewery.

5.    To brew beer, it takes water, malt, hops and yeast. But brewers are also experimenting with additional ingredients like fruit, coffee beans, chocolate, spices, and fermented sugar to add flavor and character.

6.    It also takes about 20 hours of manpower to produce just one batch of beer.

7.    According to the Brewer’s Association, there are 152 recognized styles of beers.

8.    But IPAs are the most popular style of craft beer in the US.

9.    Beer is the third most popular drink in the world, behind water and tea.

10.  Archeological evidence suggests that human beings were brewing beer as far back as 7,000 BC.

11.  Of course, we took a short break from (legally) consuming beer and other alcohol in the US during Prohibition.

For the record, Prohibition lasted 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, 17 hours, and 32.5 minutes.

12.  Not long after, in 1935, beer was first put in a can. (Genius!)

13.  California (350), Washington (150), Oregon (134), and Colorado (160) are the states with the most craft breweries.

But it’s Portland, Oregon that leads the entire world for the most breweries in a city, with 58 in Portland's city proper and another 84 in the metro area.

14.  Some craft beers, like Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout (ABV 15-20%) and Founders Brewer Bolt Cutter (ABV 15%) have an alcohol content as high as wine or even mixed drinks!

15.  Now part of the craft brewing tradition, aging beer in wooden barrels was never the intention of the first brewers, who accidently stored their beer in barrels used to distill whiskey and then loved the taste.

16.  What’s old is new, as there’s now a reemerging trend of aging beer in liquor barrels that were used to store bourbon, cognac, or even tequila, giving the beer unique flavors and characteristics.

17.  Several US Presidents have been home brewers, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and, more recently, Barack Obama.

18.  Craft beers taste excellent but they also pretty substantial. In fact, the average calories in a 12-oz glass for lagers (140 calories), pale ales (150 calories), pumpkin ales (240 calories), and imperial stouts (300 calories) is far more than your average light beer.

19.  How do essential ingredients impact our craft beers? The amount of malt in a beer usually dictates how dark it is. Rye sharpens flavors, adds crispness, and gives a hint of spiciness. Cascade hops are the most popular hops varietal among craft brewers,

20.  But hops is also poisonous to dogs and pets, so be careful not to leave it around if you’re home brewing your own beer.

21.  In 2015, overall beer sales grew by only 0.2% in the US. But in that same time, sales of craft beers jumped by 12.8%, and exports of our craft beers surged 16.3%.

22.  The US beer market grew to $105.9 billion as of 2015, with craft beers making up a significant 12.2% share of that by volume and a 21% share by sales.

23.  As of the end of 2015, the U.S. was home to 4,201 craft beer breweries, an increase of 15% since 2014. (4,269 operated in 2015 but 68 of them closed.)

24.  Of those 4,269 craft breweries, 1,650 are brewpubs, 2,397 microbrews, and 178 regional craft breweries.

25.  Using regional ingredients and supporting the local economy are two big parts of the popularity of craft beer. In fact, 53% of beer drinkers ages 21-34 say that a beer with local ingredients is important to them.

26.  However, your local craft beer may not be quite as local soon, with the big beer companies rapidly looking to cash in by buying smaller breweries. In fact, Anheuser-Busch, which owns 50% of the beer market and makes Budweiser, acquired four craft breweries in just two days last year. Heineken kept up, including buying a 50% stake in our regional Lagunitas beer.

27.  In all, there were 24 craft brewery mergers and acquisitions in the US in 2015.

28.  Why are the better beers not served too icy? In fact, cold masks the flavors of the craft beer.

29.  Instead of pouring them in the normal pint glass, strong ales should be served in a snifter to increase the heat transfer from your hand, just like some wines.

30.  Frosted glasses cause more foaming when beer is poured into them, so that's why room-temperature glasses are used for craft beers.

31.  An expert beer maker is called a Cicerone, but only three people in the U.S. hold the title of Master Cicerone!

32.  Craft brewers are making some incredibly creative beers these days, including Mamma Mia’s Pizza Beer that’s infused with pizza crusts and tastes like garlic, basil, oregano, and tomato.

33.  The Porterhouse Brewing Company in Ireland shucks fresh oysters into their tanks during the brewing process for a fresh seafood-beer combination!

34.  And Sprecher Mbege Ale is a unique African style beer that fire-brews bananas in the brewing process.

35.  Will drinking beer improve your health? Research shows that there are plenty of health benefits from moderate beer consumption, such as decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, helping to lower cholesterol levels, osteoporosis prevention, and even anti-cancer activity in liver cancer cells.

Exposing common real estate, housing, and rental scams. (Scams #1-5)

When it comes to housing, mortgage and renting, there are plenty of hucksters out there ready to party you with your hard earned money. In fact, fraud in the real estate market is a lot more prevalent than you may think, with California home to four out of the top ten zip codes, and ten out of the top 25, when it comes to scams and fraud.

Each year, billions of dollars are siphoned off illegitimately by criminals who set out to sham the real estate, mortgage, and housing system. But it’s not only shady career felons, professional con artists, and organized crime bosses that perpetrate this kind of fraud, as plenty of regular citizens also dabble in doing the wrong thing.

In fact, an FBI special report on fraud states that guilty parties include Realtors, mortgage brokers, loan officers, lenders, appraisers, underwriters, accountants, attorneys, land developers, investors, builders, bankers, escrow and title employees, and plenty of landlords, renters, and plain old lawbreakers.

In this series, we’ll bring the most common scams from real estate, housing and renting to light, allowing you to protect yourself from being taken, too.

1. Straw-Man schemes
During the real estate boom of the mid-2000s, the market was white-hot, with homes appreciating so fast that it was all-too-easy to get a mortgage in someone else's name, and then cash in with a bogus sale, cash-out refinance, or over-appraisal.

In 2010 alone, more than $10 billion in mortgage loans originated based on fraudulent data on applications. Financial institutions also file their own Suspicious Activity Reports, and that same year, they reported $3.2 billion in losses, a 16% increase from 2009 and a shocking 117% increase since 2008.

The "Straw Man" was usually the person presented on paper to the banks, lenders and for the sake of the real estate transaction. They're usually someone with good credit, a legitimate job, etc., so everything was put in his or her name, which protects the real masterminds. Once the home/loan closed, the Straw Man got a small percentage of the profits for their trouble. Unfortunately, they were also usually the ones that got led away in handcuffs when the Feds started investigating this fraudulent transaction.

2. "Slamming"
"Slamming" is the street term for this scam, entailing when someone signs up for utilities like water, electric, gas, etc. in your name. There are a variety of ways they can run this cam, but often they knock on your door claiming to be a legitimate rep from the utility companies, offering to switch your account and save you money. Once you give them your personal and even financial information, they can open new accounts in your name, which you'll only find out about six months down the road when your own lights are shut off for non-payments in your name, and a host of collections hit your credit report.

3. The moving company holds your items hostage
Too often, moving companies run a hustle where they extort you for more money before delivering or even releasing your stuff. This happens most often when homeowners hire amateurish, unlicensed, and fly-by-night moving operations. Once they get your things on the truck and drive away, you'll probably get a call from the owner of the company saying that your items were over weight, over volume, or some other made-up story. Or they may just come out and tell you that if you ever want to see your boxes, bags, and furniture again, you better come up with some more cash.

Either way, the only way you can get them back is to pay more. Maybe you've signed a contract with fine print or maybe not, but having strangers hold everything you own in the world ransom is a terrifying experience, so unwitting homeowners usually just pony up the cash.

4. Collecting bogus rental application fees
This one is fairly simple, but also extremely difficult to detect and avoid. The enterprising con man advertises a rental property that’s just become available, usually for way less than market value. He or she may do open houses, put up CraigsList ads, or advertise it online by other means. When applicants express interest, they’re told that the house is going to go quickly since it’s such a good deal, so they should submit their application immediately if they want a chance.

The usual rental application comes with a $25 fee, of course, which covers the credit check and possibly a background check – all standard for rentals. However, this landlord/scam artist collects scores or even hundreds of applications, tossing them in the trash, and putting all of the $25 fees in their pocket without running one single credit check.

When no one hears back from the landlord, they just assume that they didn't get it, or they're told someone else got the home. In some cases, the scammer doesn't even own/manage the property, and they run this game online with ten houses at the same time!

In a more aggressive version, they collect first month’s rents and down payments from prospective renters en masse, but then no one is there to give them the keys on move-in day.

5. Renters hustle landlords, too
The homeowner isn't always the one in control and running game, as plenty of tenants can cheat money from their unsuspecting landlord. We've all heard horror stories about tenants that move in and just flat out refuse to pay. By the time the landlord can take them to court and have them forcibly evicted, they've been in the property for six months or so without paying a cent, usually also doing costly damage to the property.

But a more sophisticated scam looks to exploit the timing (and trust) between renter and landlord when the lease is signed. Renters for a long-term lease or vacation rental say they want the property and send an advanced check. However, they make an intentional mistake by sending way too much money, and then confess that they were confused, thought it would cost more, or wanted to pay several months in advance. The landlord then agrees to send them back the overage (or just hand them the cash) to make it right, but when he or she does so, the tenant is never heard from again. And their original check in that big amount? It either bounces or was a phony check, all together.

 Unfortunatley, we have a lot more scams to expose, so look for parts #2 and #3 of this blog series! 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Buying for profit; 10 ways to make sure your home keeps going up in value

There’s an old adage that you don’t make money when you sell your home, but when you first buy it. While that may seem nonsensical considering the big, fat closing check you get once it sells, but in reality, the ceiling (and floor) on your profit is first decided when you buy the home. Far from guesswork, there are a host of proven characteristics that will then determine if your freshly bought house appreciates in value over the years, and to what degree.

So when buying, it’s important to consider these factors to ensure that you make your money by buying correctly, delivering the most profit on your house long-term.

Proximity to parks, schools, and other daily conveniences.
Neighborhoods with parks, jogging trails, sports fields and other recreation areas are always attractive to future homebuyers. Likewise, look around for neighborhood grocery stores, gyms, doctor’s offices and hospitals, hair salons, banks, and gas stations in the vicinity when you’re considering buying a home. Drive around in a one-mile radius from your potential new home and check out the restaurants, pubs, cafes, coffee shops, boutiques, art galleries, and other establishments that add character to the community.

But there is no factor more important for predicting future home values that the quality of schools in the area. In fact, high-rated public schools help stabilize future values since young families, so concerned parents will always want to move there and that high-demand will help bolster home values.

Location, location…and you know the rest!
It’s been repeated so often it’s a cliché, but it also happens to be just as true as ever; location is maybe THE most important factor when buying a home. In fact, where your home is can help increase its future value a lot more than what it is. So look for a quality neighborhood above all else since homes in pleasant, safe, quiet, family- neighborhoods always do well when it comes time to sell. Just walk around and you’ll be able to spot signs of pride of ownership, like well-maintained lawns, freshly painted homes, decorated front porches, and other custom homeowner improvements. If you’re able to buy a house in a mature, high-end, or luxury community, you’re almost certain to make money as the values steadily rise over the years. On the other hand, being too close to a prison, halfway house, railroad tracks, or a waste facility may bring down your values no matter how nice your home is.

The higher the ceilings, the higher the home values?
Ceilings that are taller than average always make a home look and feel airy, open, and bigger, no matter how big or small the home really is. However, making your ceilings higher isn’t something you can practically undertake once you already own the home since hiring contractors to raise your ceilings can be incredibly expensive – or impossible. Instead, look for a home with high ceilings when you’re buying, at least 6 inches or even one foot taller than standard building code in the area. You’d also be wise to avoid homes with low ceilings, giving rooms a cramped or smaller look and limiting your potential future home value.

Outdoor living spaces pay big returns
Over the last few years, outdoor living and entertainment areas have been hot commodities, and that trend is expected to continue as people look for usable spaces that allow them to have shared experiences, not just vast and empty lawns. So if you can find a house with nice sitting areas, old-fashioned wrap-around porches, gazebos, outdoor kitchens, or any number of areas to entertain and spend time with family and friends, you’re future values are in good hands.

The caveat to that is that if you’re considering buying a home with a swimming pool, built-in hot tub, or sports courts (like tennis or basketball courts), data shows that they won’t increase the value of the home. In fact, they actually may turn off a certain portion of buyers who don’t want to deal with the maintenance, liability, or expense – or just plain won’t use them.

Natural light brightens up your future home value
When you’re out looking at homes, pay attention to the amount of natural light each one receives in the main living spaces. Natural light always makes your home look bigger, more airy and open, and is flatting to any artwork or décor inside. Of course, you can just switch on light bulbs if a room is dark, but that's never the same. With good natural light, your home's worth will be easy to see when it's time for future buyers to walk through and form a first impression.

Plenty of square footage (but not the largest home in the neighborhood)
Spacious and roomy homes with plenty of square footage are always in demand, but just how much square footage is considered big depends on the neighborhood. But no matter what, it’s never a good idea to buy one of the smallest homes on the block, as the values won't rise like it should. You can easily remodel and upgrade the condition of a house, but adding square footage is so costly and time-consuming that it's usually not worth it.

Flowing, open floor plans
Having a cavernous mansion is one thing, but it’s perhaps more important that it’s planned and laid out correctly. Call it Feng Shui or just good design sense, but single story homes with open, flowing floor plans and great room concepts always do well when it comes to resale value. You also should try to buy a home with at least 3 bedrooms and at least 2 full baths, because any smaller than that and it won’t be attractive to families and young couples that are buying and looking to grow into it. The exception to this is buying in older neighborhoods where most of the homes only have two bedrooms and one bath, for example.

An abundance of comparable homes in the area
It may seem like a good idea to buy a home that really stands out from others in your area (especially since the price tag is probably lower than others in the neighborhood), but in reality, its uniqueness will probably only hamper your future value. Maybe it’s too small, too big, has a classic Roman fountain in the front yard, or has a homemade addition, but whatever the trait that makes it different, it will have little or no comparable properties to boost its value over the years. You never want the biggest or the smallest home in the neighborhood, and this is also true for funky or unique construction, so instead look for a home that has plenty of comparables when an appraiser does their valuation.

Hardwood floors add value and never go out of style
Some things never go out of fashion, and hardwood floors are one of them. While carpet wears out and gets dingy, tile in the whole house looks cold and antiseptic, and linoleum is just, well…linoleum. But as hardwood floors age, they only get more richness and character. Even when hardwoods do start to dull and get scratched up, they’re super easy to refinish and recolor before you move in – or sell – your home.

Focus on the kitchens and bathrooms

No matter which design trends come and go, homeowners will always want big, functional and nice kitchens. These days, kitchens are perhaps the most popular room in the house, a center point for all family happenings. Therefore, well-designed and open kitchens are always a positive when it comes to resale value. The same can be said for bathrooms, with the one exception that bathrooms are must subject to the whims of current popularity that dictate what's in and what's not. But sinks, fixtures, lighting, flooring, and even tile are relatively easy to upgrade in a home, but the space and layout of a bathroom (and having enough of them!) are always fundamental for ensuring your value down the road.