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Buying a Home This Spring Will Be Hardest in Years

With tight inventory and rising prices and mortgage rates, this season will be the toughest for buyers in a decade
Minneapolis is one metro area seeing a scarce supply of homes for sale and rising prices. Above a Minneapolis agent at a showing with a potential buyer.
Minneapolis is one metro area seeing a scarce supply of homes for sale and rising prices. Above a Minneapolis agent at a showing with a potential buyer. PHOTO: JEFF WHEELER/MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE/ZUMA PRESS
Robin Manthie and her husband have been looking for their first home in Minneapolis since last May. They thought this spring would bring a flood of inventory, making their search easier. But by most measures it is getting tougher.

The inventory of homes for sale in Minneapolis dropped by about 25% in February compared with a year earlier, while the median sale price rose by 7.6% to $223,000, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors. That’s on par with the national median home price of $228,400. The average number of days homes in the area are spending on the market is at a 10-year low of 81 days so far this year.

Ms. Manthie, a 33-year-old consultant, is 41 weeks pregnant, but she and her husband are still trudging to open houses most weekends in search of a four-bedroom home in the $700,000 range—up from $400,000 when they started.

“It’s shocking. The house [two doors down from] my mother-in-law went in three hours,” she said.

This year’s spring selling season promises to be the toughest for buyers in a decade, economists said, as rising prices and mortgage rates combine with inventory near 20-year lows.

“We think that 2017 will be the fastest market” since the peak of the last housing boom in 2006, said Nela Richardson, chief economist at Redfin. So far this year, homes are selling an average of eight days faster than last year.

It isn’t just hot spots like Seattle and Denver that are seeing scarce supplies of homes for sale but also sleepier locales like Minneapolis, Cleveland, Nashville, Tenn., Tampa, Fla., and Louisville, Ky.

These markets typically are enjoying strong job growth with young first-time buyers out looking for homes, but also declining inventories, according to Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow.

Economists had predicted the inventory crunch would ease this year, as several years of solid price gains induced more sellers to put homes on the market and spurred home builders to break ground on more new homes.

Instead, inventory has gotten tighter as demand has increased rapidly and the pickup in construction has lagged behind. Sellers also have become hesitant to put their homes on the market because rising prices and mortgage rates have made it more expensive to trade up.

In December, the number of homes for sale hit the lowest level since the National Association of Realtors began tracking such data in 1999. It has ticked up slightly since, but inventory in February remained 6.4% below a year earlier and about 30% below the long-term average.

What’s more, there is a growing mismatch between an abundance of high-price inventory on the market and increasing demand for starter homes. In Minneapolis, 32% of online searches are for starter homes but 21% of the inventory is in the appropriate price range, according to real-estate tracker Trulia. There is a relative glut of luxury homes, which account for 40% of searches but 58% of the inventory.

Single-family housing starts rose to a 10-year high in February but remain about a third below the 50-year average.

The lack of inventory is pushing up home prices, which grew at the fastest rate since mid-2014 in January, climbing 5.9% compared with a year earlier, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices.

Adding to affordability challenges for buyers, mortgage rates have risen to 4.14% from about 3.5% in November, according to mortgage-company Freddie Mac.

Economists expect strong price growth and soft sales this year because there isn’t enough supply to meet demand. Freddie Mac predicts home sales will decline slightly this year to 5.9 million from 6 million from last year.

“Looking at 2017, we feel pretty good about housing but we don’t think we’re going to match [last year’s] volume,” said Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac. “The main reason for that is this tight inventory and that, when many buyers come to the market in the spring, affordability is going to be a real challenge.”

Unlike boom-bust markets such as Las Vegas, Miami and parts of coastal California, Minneapolis has typically been a fairly stable housing market. Investors are fairly rare and the area has long been an affordable place for young families to buy homes.

Home prices have risen 55% since the market bottom in 2012 and hit a new high in 2016, according to the local Realtors association.

Chris Prescott, an agent at Redfin, said he has seen examples of sellers receiving 25 offers, including cash buyers bidding significantly over the listing price.

“I don’t know where these cash buyers are coming from,” he said. “We have not seen a market like this in the Twin Cities in a very long time.”

Katey Bean, a Realtor for Keller Williams Realty in Minneapolis, recently held an open house for a three-bedroom bungalow priced at $265,000 and counted at least 80 attendees.

“You can see in their face, they just look distraught,” she said of the would-be buyers. “You just almost want to hug them.”

Corrections & Amplifications 
Buying a home this spring will be the hardest in years. The headline on an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated it would be the hardest ever. (April 2)

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Tiny Device Allows You To Track Your Vehicle Using Your Smartphone

 

This is The Most Affordable Solution to Find Your Lost Items!

Have you ever lost your car on a parking lot? It happens. You park and go shopping. When you get back, you don't have a clue where your car is. Then you start roaming around clicking on the panic button on your car keys so the alarm goes off. It can be frustrating, especially on a hot, sunny day.

No, you don't need to install an expensive GPS system to keep track of your car. That's way too expensive. You would need to pay a monthly subscription fee just to use it. Don't we have enough bills to pay already?

But is there a way to track your vehicle without spending a fortune? Yes, now there is!

A California-based startup company was able to make this a reality. They created a tiny device that works with your smartphone, and it could be exactly what you're looking for!

What is it?

It's called TrackR. It is a state-of-the-art tracking device the size of a quarter. It's changing the way we keep track of the important things in our lives.

How Does it Work?

It's easy! Install the free TrackR app on your smartphone, connect the app to your device and you're ready to go! Simply attach TrackR to whatever you want to keep tabs on. The entire process of setting it up only takes 5 minutes or less.

You can attach it to your keys, briefcase, wallet, your latest tech gadgets and anything else you don't want to lose. Then use the TrackR app to locate your missing item in seconds.

"This device has saved me tons of time and money!"

Forget expensive GPS systems or tracking services. Nobody wants to pay expensive monthly subscription fees. We understand how stressful these things can be, and this is the reason why TrackR was created. This device is your VIP when you need to take care of more important things in life.

Remember the car scenario above? If you have the TrackR, you can just hide it under your car's floor mat, in the trunk or in the glove compartment. Somewhere it won't be found if your car gets stolen.

If you forget where you parked your car, whip out your smartphone and open the TrackR app. Tap on the "lost item" icon on the screen and the app will tell you the exact coordinates of the last known location of the TrackR.

How Much is it Going To Cost Me?

You're probably thinking that this device is very expensive… False! TrackR only costs $29! That's a small price to pay for peace of mind, isn't it?

NOTE: As a special promotion, the company is now offering an incredible "Buy 4 – Get 4 FREE" deal to all new customers.
What else can I do with TrackR?

As we said before, TrackR has unlimited possibilities. The device is small and unobtrusive enough that you can attach it to your pet. Put it on their collar, and the issue of searching for them as they scamper off to nearby places will be over! Attach it to your keys and wallet, and never waste a minute rummaging the whole house for it.

TrackR even comes with a double-sided adhesive so you can stick it to your laptop or under your bike seat. Track down and punish the thieves who steal your expensive things!

Attach it To Everything That's Important To You…

Now that you've been informed about this brilliant invention, let me show you how easy it is to track your valuable items. All you need to do is to follow these 3 steps:

Step 1: Order TrackR today to take advantage of the 50% OFF sale.
Step 2: When you receive it, open the package and place the thin battery inside the device. Then download the free TrackR app on your smartphone and link up the unit with the app. Finally, hide TrackR in your car or attach it to the item you wish to track.
Step 3: Relax… Use the TrackR app to find your things. It's easy!
Here's a tip: TrackR is a great gift idea because there's no monthly fee involved!
"Remember, they have an amazing sale going on right now.

This way you and your loved ones can keep track of everything. Keys, car, wallet, bike, toys, pets and even electronics such as a laptop, iPad or Kindle!

 https://www.thetrackr.com/?ref_code=3ffKi

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36 Startup metrics every SaaS founder should follow up with

Bhavik Limbani in Lifestyle, IT – Information Technology, Entrepreneurs
Mobile Apps Developer • 
36 Startup metrics every SaaS founder should follow up with

Entrepreneurship is always referred to a roller-coaster ride and the fact doesn’t come without valid reasons. When you are starting up, you don’t just start with an idea where you are creating a product or service, but you are striving to create a sustainable business and there’s much more to it. You have got to evaluate the market, raise enough money, think about growth and profitability,  and most importantly gauge your own personal growth. Until and unless you are authentic about your own conviction and see it clearly coming up along the way (no matter how small it is), you might be spending a lot of useless time working hard on vague goals. It is important to track some key metrics to turn  your startup into a profitable business. These 36 startup metrics will not just help you keep a keen eye on your business but also give you a clarity of vision of the journey ahead.

Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)
MRR is the total revenue that your business gets from paid customers on monthly basis. It is probably the most important metric for startups which are based on subscription model. If you get a customer on board, then prices are charged on a regular basis. You should track your MRR  and always strive for it's uplift. 

Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR)
Recurring means there’s a subscription in place and customer is charged on a recurring basis rather than on one time basis. This is calculated simply by multiplying the monthly recurring value by 12. 

Note: Calculation of ARR excludes any one-time fee or upfront cost you charge from the customer during onboarding. 

Average Revenue per Account (ARPA)
It refers to the revenue that your business earns from each account typically over a month or a year. It can also be thought of as revenue earned per customer but you should remember that a customer can have more than one account. It analyses a company's revenue generation and growth at the per-unit level and thus help investors to identify which products are high or low revenue-generators. This can immensely help your business to make decisions on rolling out of future products.

Gross Profit
Gross profit is the difference between the total revenue and the costs of goods you sell. Gross profit is the profit a company makes after deducting the costs associated with making and selling its products, or the costs associated with providing its services.

Total Contract Value
It is the projection of your booking value and helps you at times when you are planning your revenue or tracking the growth of your startup. It involves all the one-time and recurring charges and professional service fees but doesn't include usage charges.

Annual Contact Value (ACV)
ACV  measures the value of a contract over a 12-month period. So let’s say a customer commits to a 24-month contract of $160,000. Considering this money will be recognized as revenue ratably, you will have $80,000 as your ACV.

Lifetime Value (LV)
It is how much you expect to earn from a particular customer during the time they are involved with your business. For the profitability of your business, it is important that the CAC is always less than the LV. If CAC is far greater that LV, your business will require significant amount of capital to grow and run and that is no way desirable.

Deferred Revenue
Deferred revenue, or unearned revenue, refers to advance payments for products or services that are to be delivered in the future. It is considered as a liability for a business as it refers to revenue that’s not being earned and is still owed to a customer.

Billings
It is the total of current quarter revenue and he total of deferred revenue from the previous quarter.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
A startup's growth entirely depends on customer acquisition and of course, there's a significant amount of cost involved which you can't afford to neglect. It helps you to evaluate the efficiency of your sales process. If the metrics is not improving over time, you will quickly understand that there's a need to make few tweaks at steps to reduce cost and increase the number of customers involved with your startup.

Customer Concentration Risk
Any founder should be aware of the customer concentration risk especially if their business is dependent on top clients. It is the ratio between the size of the business’s top customers and the total revenue of the business. You may have a customer concentration risk if one or more of your customer’s total revenue for the year represents 8% or more of all your customers’ revenue for the same year.

Daily Active Users
Daily Active Users are the number of users who are active on your platform per day. This doesn’t include one-time users. 

Monthly Active Users
Monthly Active Users are the number of users who are active on your platform per month. This doesn’t include one-time users. This helps you understand how useful your product/service is and it is important in this case to take reviews from existing users for improvement.

Number of logins
As the name suggests, it is the number of users logging in to the account to use or view the product or service.

Activation Rate
It measures of the number of converts that your startup gets, i.e., how many prospects started using your product/service on a regular basis. It can be estimated when a user takes some kind of action like a sign up or a download. This is especially true for SaaS based products which generally work on a freemium model.

Month-on-Month Growth (MOM)
This is the average of monthly growth rate of your startup. Although investors like to see the compounded month-on-month growth as it helps to understand the periodic growth of your startup.

Compounded Monthly Growth Rate (CMGR)
It measures the return of an investment over a certain period of time. It takes three coefficients into consideration – investment’s beginning value, ending value and the time period. It is calculated simply by using the formula – {(ending value/beginning value) ^ Number of months} – 1

Monthly Churn Rate
Churn Rate is the measure of the percentage of subscribers who discontinue with their subscriptions within a given time period. Monthly Churn Rate tells you the total number of customers that you have lost in a particular month.

Retention by Cohort
One way to know if customers love your product is through Retention by Cohort. It is calculated as the percentage of original installed base i.e., in the first month, who are still engaging with your business.

Gross Churn Rate
It is the measure of the monthly recurring revenue that you lose in a month when subscribers or customers discontinue with your service.

Net Churn
It is calculated as – (MRR lost – MRR from upsells)this month/MRR at the beginning of the month. It is an important metrics to understand how well you resonate with your customers. It should descend over time and if it doesn't, it's time to first figure out the reasons.

Monthly Cash Burn Rate
It is the money that goes out of the door every month. This is one of the most complicated factors that many startups fail to understand and hence fail. To be successful, you are ought to keep a check on it.

Net Burn Rate
It is the difference between revenues and gross burn. This helps you determine how long you can survive, how close you are to break even and when and how you can start generating profits.

Gross Burn
It is a measure of all the cash outlays and monthly expenses that your startup incurs. If you are a startup with not much cash in hand, this is one of the most important factors that you should be concerned about.

Total Addressable Market (TAM)
It helps to measure the revenue opportunity available for a particular product or a service. If you are thinking to startup, don’t miss out on this criterion as this will help you to get an idea of your future prospects.

Annual Run Rate
Run Rate refers to the financial performance of your company based on current projections which acts as a predictor of future performance. It often says that the current condition may continue. It is extremely helpful in understanding how likely you are to hit your forecasts and capture latest market trends. It also helps to measure the performance of segments that are running within your startup for shorter periods of time.

Gross Margin
Gross margins are a measure of your operating profitability which gives the difference between revenue and cost of goods sold. Gross margin is an important metrics to understand at what stage of the curve your business is in and also shows you how effective your management and team are at driving the business. It also helps you to know how much money from sales is left over which you can invest in operating expenses.

Sell-Through Rate
Sell through rate = Number of units sold in a period/ Number of items at the beginning of the period

The calculation of the period (usually one month) is useful when comparing the sale of a product against another, or when comparing the sell through of a specific product from one month to another.

Network Effects
It is a phenomenon where a service or product gains value when more people start using it. It tells you how well you are capturing the market and how well off you are compared to your competitors.

Virality
Viral coefficient measures the organic growth of your startup. A startup usually gets started by referring to friends and family. If they like the product, the word spreads out and your customer base increases. Other prominent ways are through social media, email invitations and so on. One way to improve viral coefficient is by building incentives into your product which urges an existing user to share their experience leading to more traffic.

It is calculated as: 

Viral coefficient = Average number of invitations sent existing user x conversion rate of invitation

Net Promoter Score
It is defined as a tool which gives you an idea of how likely your customer is to recommend your product/service to a friend. It is an important metric to understand customer’s expectations and satisfaction.

Platform Risk
If you are too much dependent on a specific platform through which you promote or sell your idea/product, it may become a risk in the long run. It is important to take care of diversity so that you don’t just reach a wider customer base but also mitigate risk.

Direct Traffic
Direct traffic is the number of visits that your site gets directly and not through any intermediary. Example: Social media or some other website. Although there is no foolproof way to measure direct traffic, you can get a fair idea by looking at the traffic of landing pages.

Organic Traffic
Organic traffic is the traffic that comes to your website as a result of unpaid search results, your network effect, brand awareness, website's SEO and insightful contents for your target customers, As a founder, your aim should be  improving your SEO by setting practical goals and sharp content strategy.

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Oculus could cost Facebook up to $11 billion, but it might be worth it

In 2014, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent $2 billion to purchase the virtual reality startup Oculus and its Rift headset. The deal was huge, not just from a price standpoint, but because it was proof of momentum behind the nascent VR industry.

Nearly three years later, though, it looks like that $2 billion was just a down payment for the VR company, as Facebook will likely have to shell out billions more until the social network can get the Oculus’ technology to a point where Zuckerberg and co. are satisfied.

The Facebook founder said as much while on the witness stand for a lawsuit that accuses Oculus of stealing some of its VR technology from video game company ZeniMax Media, according to The New York Times.

From $2 billion to $11 billion

That initial $2 billion payment for Oculus wasn’t even the entire amount Facebook paid for the company. The social networking giant also paid $700 million to keep certain Oculus employees and promised an additional $300 million if the company met specific milestones, according to the report.

On top of that, Zuckerberg said Facebook might have to dump an additional $3 billion into Oculus to shore up its technology.

Why commit to spending nearly $7 billion — plus an extra $2 billion if Oculus loses its lawsuit — on a technology that has yet to blow up in the consumer market? Well, because Zuckerberg is looking beyond VR in the traditional sense. See, where the Rift, HTC’s Vive and Sony’s PlayStation VR are primarily designed as gaming systems, the Facebook founder has his sights on making virtual reality a more social experience.

During the Oculus Connect 3 conference in October, Zuckerberg took the stage to show off a kind of virtual/augmented reality system the company was working on. In the demo Zuckerberg showed how he, through a digital avatar, could interact with friends and family in real time in a digital space as if they were all in the same room.

Price is still a barrier

It’s an interesting gambit, but it’s still far from complete. What’s more, the cost of VR systems like the Rift is still prohibitively high for many consumers. The company is working to bring prices down, though.

For instance, when Oculus launched the Rift in 2016, you needed to purchase a $1,000 to $1,500 PC to run the headset, plus another $600 for the device itself. Since then, the company has worked to ensure the Rift can run on systems that cost as little as $500. Still, at $1,100 for the whole setup, the Rift isn’t exactly cheap.

HTC’s Vive costs $800 and still requires a powerful PC, while Sony’s PSVR costs $400 and only works with that company’s PlayStation 4 console. Sure, gaming enthusiasts might not have a problem spending that kind of cash on a top-notch gaming experience, but none of these headsets is quite there yet. There’s no “killer app” for high-end VR systems.

The most successful headsets, so far at least, have been Samsung’s Gear VR, which costs $100 plus the price of a compatible Samsung smartphone, and Google’s Cardboard, which costs $15 in addition to the cost of a smartphone.

Zuckerberg’s big bet

Zuckerberg is obviously keenly aware of the importance of mobile platforms — the majority of Facebook’s traffic comes from mobile users and that will only continue to grow. Which is why Facebook split Oculus into two divisions, one primarily focused on PC-style VR and the other focused on mobile VR.

The hope is that Facebook and Oculus will be able to create a system impressive enough for all consumers to want to use. How long will it take for the company to get there? If Zuckerberg’s prediction on the stand holds up, it could take anywhere from 5 to 10 years.

Still, Oculus will be in an enviable position if Zuckerberg’s prognostications prove correct. That’s because the Facebook CEO sees gaming as just the tip of the VR iceberg. In its ultimate form, Zuckerberg sees virtual reality as a means to share experiences with others in real time and feel as though you’re actually there.

In a July interview with Bloomberg, Zuckerberg explained how virtual reality is the natural progression from sharing experiences via video, just as video was the natural progression of sharing experiences via photos. VR, then, will almost literally allow us to stand in another person’s shoes as they explore the world.

And with Facebook’s enormous audience — it has roughly 1.8 billion monthly active users, already sharing everything from selfies to wedding videos — the social network is just about the only company that can help push VR forward as a means to connect the masses. If that all works out, and Facebook becomes the VR company just as it is the social network, the billions Zuckerberg spent on Oculus will surely have been worth it.

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