Florida Realtors: May Ends with Year-on-Year Increase of Existing Condo and Home Sales

Sales of existing condos and homes in Florida posted a year-over-year increase of 17 and 3 percent, respectively, in May, according to the latest data from the Florida Realtors.

During May, a number of 17,228 existing homes were sold, up three percent from 16,790 in May last year.

This is the sixth month in a row with year-over-year growth in sales of both existing condos and existing homes. Furthermore, Florida Realtors data shows that sales of existing homes increased in 12 of the state’s metropolitan statistical areas, while sales of existing condos increased in 14 metropolitan statistical areas.

The president of Florida Realtors, Patricia Fitzgerald, said that many buyers realized that the current times could be the best in a long time to buy homes and condos, as mortgage rates are low and the inventory of properties at affordable prices is high.

The median price in Florida for existing homes was 135,000 dollars, down 5 percent from May 2010, when it was 142,900 dollars. May also brought a 2.9 percent increase of the median price for Florida homes.

The median price for condos was 98,200 dollars, up two percent from 96,400 dollars in May last year. Compared to April this year, the median price was 6.9 percent higher but still way below the national average of 167,300 dollars.

Real estate analysts pointed out that the increase must take into account the high number of distressed and foreclosed properties, which still has negative effects on the statewide median price. Another factor with negative influence on the real estate market is the tight credit conditions, which continue to suppress the recovery of the market.

Experts forecast that the condo and homes market will increase at an uneven pace for the remainder of the year, and tight credit is making market recovery more difficult than it should be, as banks continue to hold on to high reserves of cash.


CIOs under Pressure to Balance Innovation and Utility in Order to Retain Influence

New research from Harvey Nash and PA Consulting Group suggests that chief information officers and IT leaders will need to find the right balance between innovation and utility if they want to have influence in the future.

The survey for the year 2011 polled some 2,500 IT leaders and chief information officers, who are seen as gaining increasing influence in their companies. About 50 percent of IT executives and chief information officers are part of their company’s management or operational team.

Despite the fact that their main responsibilities are to deliver stable and consistent IT performance to the company (64 percent), increase operational efficiency (65 percent) and save costs (67 percent), they will have to bring in a balance of innovation and increased utility if they are to remain influential within their respective organizations.

Furthermore, focusing excessively on these utility areas can undermine the companies’ pursuit of innovation in the IT department.

As such, ambitious chief information officers cannot afford to focus on only one of the components. While putting a focus on utility, CIOs risk turning into the equivalent of facility managers, especially in the context of increased outsourcing, a strong focus on innovation can lead to decreased IT daily performance and the end of the CIOs career.

At the moment, 71 percent of the CIOs in the financial services industry, 75 percent in the retail industry and 77 percent in city markets focus on innovation. Less than half of the chief information officers in the pharmacy industry focus on innovation, and in the fields of engineering and construction the number of IT managers pressing for innovation is even lower – below 25 percent.

Last year, more than half of the surveyed CIOs said they considered cloud computing solutions for their companies. However, this year, only eight percent of those CIOs have actually implemented cloud computing and only 22 percent of them are using cloud computing for the core processes of the business. The wide majority is still evaluating the potential value of cloud services for their company’s business.

FDA Issues Draft Guidance for Use of Nanotechnology in Products Subject to Regulation

The FDA took a historic step by releasing the first guidance for regulated industries on the use of nano-materials and applications of nanotechnology in regulated products.

The guidance, posted only by the Food and Drug Administration and open to public debate, provides a clearer view on how FDA intends to approach nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology – the manipulation of various materials at atomic and molecular scales – has broad potential for applications in several industries, including, but not limited to, pharmaceutical products, beauty and personal care, food packaging, energy materials.

In the guidance, the FDA names characteristics of nano-materials, such as size and properties, which can be taken into account when nanotechnology applications are considered for FDA-regulated products.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg explained that the agency is not planning to issue nanotechnology’s regulatory definition. The guidance, she added, is more like a first step in a dialog with the industries that use nanotechnology, which aims to determine whether the FDA is on the right path for regulating the use of nano-materials in regulated products and industries.

For the products that have to undergo an FDA review before entering the market the agency intends to use the final form of the guidance in understanding the behavior and properties of the nano-materials used in the product.

Manufacturers producing items that do not need an FDA green light to go on the market will also be urged to consult with the FDA in the early stages of development in order to address issues of public health, effectiveness, safety and regulatory status in a timely manner.

The guidance was issued following a report by the Nanotechnology Task Force, which indicated that the agency needed to create additional regulatory guidelines for the use of nanotechnology in the pharmaceutical and medical devices industries, as well as other sectors subject to FDA regulations.

After the finalization of the initial guidance, the agency will develop guidelines specific to products and industries, as needed in the future.


DuPont: Cooperation Required to Meet the 2050 Goal of Providing Food for 9 Billion People

The latest report from DuPont calls for collaboration to increase sustainability, food access and productivity, featuring recommendations on how to achieve greater food productivity, in the context of the challenging task of providing sufficient food for 9 billion people by 2050.

The report stems from the work of an external committee which was tasked to examine the best business practices and policy mechanisms that would contribute to growing productivity and sustainability of agricultural projects.

According to Thomas Daschle, former US Senator and the committee’s chair, this century presents a difficult challenge to provide the food needed by an ever increasing population, in the context of diminished arable land and water resources, high rates of urbanization and malnutrition. He added that farmers will need the assistance of NGOs, research institutions, universities, the private sector and government agencies.

The recommendations in the report are focused on three key areas. In order to achieve the objective of higher food production and the nutritional value of food products, farmers will need to have access to new tools and technologies. Furthermore, cooperation will be required to remove the barriers to the transportation of food products, such as tariffs, government policies or weak infrastructure. These objectives should be reached by also increasing sustainability, addressing the issues of natural resources, and boosting economic and social development in vital markets.

The executive vice president of DuPont, James C. Borel, said that by cooperating closely with other actors and listening to what farmers have to say, the challenge can be approached successfully. He underscored the fact that, due to the complexity of the issue, one actor alone will not be able to succeed.

Figures from the United Nations indicate that the population has been growing by some 78 million people every year, and, by 2050, it could reach 9 billion people. A population this size would require much more food. As such, food production should increase by 70 percent, without forgetting to address the issues of limited water resources and arable land.

Water Treatment Facilities to Become More Efficient with New Rain Sensor

Based on similar principles as rain sensors for cars, a novel rain sensor developed by Hydreon Corporation promises to increase the efficiency of waste water treatment facilities.

The Optical Rain Gauge from Hydreon is relatively small, about the size of a tennis ball, and it senses the water that hits its surface with the help of infrared light.

Over the past decades, the quality of the lake and river waters has been improving constantly, as sewage waters are treated before being discharged. However, approximately half of US raw sewage doesn’t get any treatment.

One of the main causes for lack of treatment is the fact that sewage and rainwater runoff are intermingled by many systems and, in heavy rain periods, treatment plants find it difficult to handle the large amounts of sewage and rainwater mixture coming to them. Furthermore, most treatment facilities have no way of identifying the incoming material – whether its rainwater or sewage.

The capability to predict rainfall rates would be highly helpful for most facilities. However, the tools that would offer this input – meteorological sensors – require too much maintenance work if they were to be used in wastewater treatment.

The Optical Rain Gauge is capable of providing water treatment facilities with the necessary information. With the help of the Rain Gauge, treatment facilities will be able to reduce the level of untreated sewage discharges to very low levels, as well as to diagnose their systems in order to optimize energy usage, outflow and inflow.

Considering the quantities of sewage generated on a daily basis in the US, any improvement in the efficiency of water treatment can have considerable impact on the quality of the lake and river waters across the nation.

The Optical Rain Gauge has no mobile components. It has a self-cleaning rounded surface, which reduces the maintenance costs to zero, and it comes at a very low price of 99 dollars only, for one-item purchases.

Expert Warns: Majority of Financial Advisors Offer Bad Advice to Customers

Bad AdvisorsAmericans are challenged by personal finance expert Roccy DeFrancesco to take charge of their finances, and to stop relying on advice from bad financial advisors.

In his latest book, “Bad Advisors”, DeFrancesco reveals some of the secrets of the financial services industry. The author, who is also a leading trainer of advanced strategies for managing personal finances, asks a very simple question. Namely, if Americans received good advice from their financial advisors, how did they happen to lose trillions of dollars in their IRAs, pension plans, 401ks, and the stock market in three years alone?

Roccy DeFrancesco answers this question by saying that, in his opinion, about 95 percent of financial advisors didn’t care as much about the financial well being of their customers, as about selling them company products. That translates into offering inadequate or plainly bad advice, which did not help customers achieve their financial goals.

DeFrancesco added that financial advisors might also impact the financial situation of many Americans in a negative way by not disclosing vital financial information, of which their clients should be aware in order to make informed decisions.

This attitude and behavior of financial advisors is highly detrimental to their clients. The finances of their clients are put at risk, and many Americans might be forced to seek jobs in their retirement years.

“Bad Advisors”, published by KS Publications, will offer readers a set of highly relevant questions that should be asked when meeting with financial advisors. The book’s goal is to teach Americans to take control of their financial situation. The author commented that people should not be afraid that they would offend their advisor through those questions and that they should keep in mind that what is at stake is their family’s future.

Residential Building Becomes the First in New York to Be Powered By a Fuel Cell

A residential building located on the Roosevelt Island goes into green energy history by becoming the first building in New York that will be powered by a fuel cell.

The cell made its way to the Island in the past winter and it is now fully operational, providing electricity and heat to the Octagon, a residential apartment community.

The project was pushed with the help of incentives offered by the New York State authority for Energy, Research and Development. The financial incentives amount to 1.2 million dollars.

The fuel cell in question is a PureCell model from UTC Power with a capacity of 400 kilowatts. The cell will power up and heat the building through electrochemical, combustion-free processes and it will provide sufficient energy to meet most of the building’s energy needs.

PureCell is characterized by considerably better efficiency compared to the grid, while having a low level of emissions. While generating electricity, the fuel cell also generates heat, which is captured and then used to provide to building with heating and hot water.

Proud that the company he represents was selected to provide on-site power to one of the projects that make green energy history, Neal Montany, UTC Power’s director for the stationary fuel cells department, said that knowing that the fuel cell technology will touch the lives of Octagon residents was very rewarding.

The building’s architect and developer, Becker + Becker, represented by its president, Bruce Becker, emphasized the fact that fuel cells are the future of generating electricity. Bruce Becker added that, although fuel cells have been used before for hospitals, schools and other facilities that make intensive use of electricity, the potential for residential buildings is untapped.

It was estimated that, by using the fuel cell, the Octagon building will reduce the carbon emissions of the development site by approximately 790 metric tons per year.

“Mango” Windows Phone Release Previewed by Microsoft

The new release for Windows Phone 7, named “Mango”, promises to deliver easier applications, communication and Internet experiences. Furthermore, with Mango, the Windows Phone 7 will become available in an increased number of countries.

The Mango release will bring more than 500 features, and Windows Phone 7 users will be able to access it for free after its release this fall. Microsoft will release more details closer to the date of availability.

Windows Phone will also have support for several other languages, and Microsoft will also launch a Windows Phone Marketplace in the newly added countries.

The president of Microsoft’s Mobile Communications division, Andy Lees, said that Mango will redefine the way people communicate and that people will be able to do more with their Windows-powered smart phone while employing less effort.

Mango promises to connect a variety of accounts and applications that have so far been disconnected. The initiative aims to help people keep pace with all the modern means of communication, from text messaging and call to email, instant messaging, tweets, status updates and photo sharing.

The new release will organize information around the groups of persons the user interacts with, and not around the application itself.

For instance, users will be able to switch easily, in the same conversation, between Live Messenger, Facebook chats and text messaging. Another feature is the grouping of multiple email accounts into one inbox, which will make it easy to keep up with the newest email messages. For those who are very busy, Windows Phone 7 will also have a hands-free messaging feature, which will employ text-to-voice and voice-to-text support, making chatting easier than ever.

The Mortgage Fraud Index for the First Quarter Up 44 Percent

The first quarter of the year witnessed an increase of 44 percent in the volume of money in mortgage fraud activity, reveals the Mortgage Fraud Index.

The index also revealed that, in average, mortgage fraud cases are prosecuted four years after the fact. At the end of the fourth quarter last year, the mortgage fraud index was 814, with 867 million dollars of mortgage fraud activity and 126 cases.

Despite index increase of 44 percent, to a dollar volume of 1.25 billion dollars and 150 cases, the situation for the first quarter of 2011 is somewhat improved over the levels in the same period last year, when the index was situated at 1144, corresponding to 172 cases of fraud with a dollar volume of 1.92 billion in real estate loans.

The report was announced at the Global Technology Summit. The Mortgage Fraud Index is based on the tracking of mortgage fraud cases on FraudBlogger.

According to the publisher of the Index, MortgageDaily, represented by founder Sam Garcia, the recent increase seems to be generated by repurchases. He explained that small companies are put in the situation where they have to buy back real estate loans from lenders or housing agencies. In the process, they make their own investigation into the case and discover fraudulent activities.

The highest index was registered in the state of Florida, at 130, followed by California with 103. Indices lower than 100 are in New York (60), Ohio (53), and Pennsylvania (50).

The highest dollar amounts in mortgage fraud cases were in California – 273 million dollars, Florida – 156 million, Illinois – 132 million, Virginia – 125 million and Texas – 64 million dollars.

Historically, the highest index was in 2009, at a peak of 1676, four years after the peak of sub prime mortgages in 2005, added Sam Garcia.