Luxury Homes: How to Tell If You’re Getting a Fair Price

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Buying a luxury home isn’t as straightforward a process as one might think. This market has a lot more variables when it comes to each property, making it difficult to establish an exact market value on a home. That being the case, buyers may wonder if they’re getting a fair price on a luxury piece of property. If you’re in the expensive real estate market, here are some steps to take to ensure that the price for your home is fair.

Compare
It should be said that comparing two luxury homes isn’t the same as comparing other types of real estate. When you buy a “normal” home, your REALTOR® will look at similar homes in the area, keeping in mind the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. Luxury homes aren’t built with that in mind. When you compare these types of homes, you may want to look at features like great views (if it’s a penthouse, for example), privacy, sports features, etc. This gives you an idea of what’s on the market.

Know What You’re Looking For
Once you’ve looked at a couple of properties and have had a chance to compare them, you should be able to develop a “must-have” list. Think about your financing options as well. All of these will become a factor once you’re ready to buy.

Hire an Expert
Like any other profession, the real estate market has professionals that specialize in high-end homes in certain areas. These REALTORS® know what properties in the area are going for and how to find good deals.

Additionally, real estate professionals can tell you what types of transportation amenities are in the area. This is especially important if you’re moving into an area that’s very different from your current location. Hiring someone who knows how the flow of a geographic area works will be better able to steer you toward a good location.

Timing and Motivation
Once you’ve done the first three steps, you’ll finally want to start narrowing down the properties you’re looking at. It’s at this time that you’ll be able to make an offer on a home and, more importantly, hopefully, get it at a fair price.

Luxury homebuyers should consider the timing of their purchase. They may be able to get a better deal on a home in the winter than in the summer. The same can be said for homes that go up for sale at the end of the year. These homeowners may want to get rid of the property by year’s end for tax purposes.

Additionally, you may also be able to secure a luxury home at a reasonable price if the seller is motivated to sell—but be warned. Homes priced to sell go fast, in sometimes as little as two weeks. If you find a luxury home at an excellent price, be sure to ask your real estate professional to make an offer on it.

Buying luxury real estate at a good and fair price is a process. You should start by doing some research and by hiring a real estate professional who specializes in the luxury market. From there, compare the different homes on the market. Finally, once it comes time to buy the home, look for a motivated seller. This factor, combined with all of the previous work you’ve done, will help ensure that you’ve gotten the best price for your new place.

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

One Canadian couple is making a splash transforming shipping containers into backyard swimming pools. (We always knew those shipping containers were universal!)

Paul and Denise Rathnam launched Modpools earlier this year and the idea has taken off, with orders mostly coming from the hottest locales in North America, particularly California, Nevada, Texas and Florida.

“The traditional pool is a symbol of excess and waste. This is a little more modern, more modest. We’re repurposing something rather than recycling. This pool can be resold, and you can take it with you if you move,” Paul Rathnam told Vancouver Sun.

It’s an interesting concept, for sure, and the design, once installed, looks pretty slick. It’s as if your backyard was always destined to house a shipping container.

The standard size Modpool is eight feet wide by 20 feet long, and just over five feet deep. It also comes with a clear, acrylic window on one side, which is actually a pretty spiffy design element. Customers can opt to add another acrylic window on the other side for a see-through look if they want one.

In Canada, after delivery, a Modpool will cost you $35,000 plus tax, which could be a cheaper alternative for families planning on installing an in-ground swimming hole.

Would you buy a Modpool for your home? Tell us what you think!

Nick Caruso is RISMedia’s senior editor. Email him your real estate news ideas at nick@rismedia.com.

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Everyone wants a magic and immediate path to wealth. The bad news? The path doesn’t exist. Wealth is attainable through more conventional means. If you come to understand the real estate industry and if you deepen your own firsthand experience as you buy and sell investment properties, you’ll be on the road to success.

Along the road, there are six core principles that will make or break each real estate investment deal. They are the most important concepts you will learn. I call them the Big Six. With each successive deal I negotiated, I grew to recognize the common elements. The Big Six are part of a sequenced step-by-step formula that enables you to identify and purchase the right income property at the right price.

The elements of the Big Six Formula that will guide you into the basics of buying income properties are the following:

Location
Location is the single most important component of any real estate deal. It is crucial in determining your investment success. Look for properties that are situated in an “A” location. Such locations include the socioeconomic levels of the people who live or work in a particular neighborhood, its proximity to shopping centers, public transportation, crime levels, the nearness of prestigious universities and medical facilities, traffic congestion, zoning restrictions, the quality of schools, fire and police protection, and even the reputation of the local government and its officials.

Building Quality and Design Efficiency
Design efficiency interfaces with building quality. When you find an investment property you’d like to buy, you will need to scrutinize both elements. Look for properties that far exceed minimum construction requirements and that have useful and innovative design elements. This will not only make the property attractive to tenants but will add value to the property in the future. Design features on apartment complexes that stand the test of time include walk-in closets, large kitchens with windows, and his-and-her bathrooms. In an office building, a common area factor of 15 percent is desirable as well as a ratio of four parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of rentable space.

Tenant Profile
Tenants can represent either an asset or a liability in an investment. When you invest, your mission is to make sure your tenant profile is the former and not the latter. Just as you want a well-constructed and well-designed property, you’ll want stable tenants who are a good match for your property and have appropriate lease agreements. Find out how much rent is generated and whether it is at market rate or under market. You want to focus on finding an income property that offers the opportunity to increase rental income and, by doing so, multiply the value of the property so that you can resell it at a substantial profit.

Upside
This fourth element refers to the cash flow growth possibilities offered by a particular property along with the likelihood that the property will increase in value. A property may cost $1,500,000 to construct, but if it brings in only the income of a $900,000 property, then it is worth only $900,000.  The key to increasing value lies in buying a solid Class B property in an “A” location where the rents are under the market, the leases are short term, and there are no options to renew the leases.

Financing
In the musical Cabaret, there is a song with the lyrics “Money makes the world go around.” It could just as easily be used to describe real estate’s role in the economic landscape. The free flow of money and access to credit is what adds vibrancy to property investment. Before you get started, you’ll need to get a number of finance-related items in order. The first thing you should do before applying for a mortgage loan is to review your credit reports and your credit scores. Also, learn the terms, understand the components of a mortgage and how they interact, and be open to the full range of financing options available. Banks and other financial institutions make money from mortgages. They are willing to negotiate. Be creative—you may be surprised at the terms you’re able to obtain from a bank or insurance companies, especially in today’s low interest rate environment.

Price
The successful evaluation of a property’s price has to do with how much information you can gather about a seller and the property than it does about the price tag on the real estate deal. You must look at the value of the property, which is not the same thing as its price. The crucial concern is not just how much the property costs, but what kind of income it can generate for you. A property may be architecturally perfect and engineeringly sound, but if you’re locked into long-term, under-market lease rates, the value will be eroded.

If you master these principles, wealth will be within reach. However, it’s not enough to just understand and utilize the Big Six. You must execute them in order. That’s because they all fit together snugly to form your customized real estate formula.

Author Kenneth D. Rosen, CCIM, is a real estate investor and the president of Kendar Realty, Inc.

Investing in Income Properties, The Big Six Formula for Achieving Wealth in Real Estate, Second Edition is currently available at InvestingInIncomeProperties.com in both hard back and digital versions. It is also available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

As people reach retirement, their current house may simply be too big for their needs. Paying large utility bills, maintenance costs and property taxes for an older home on a large lot can often drain nest eggs and retirement funds. During a time when you have a lower income and too much house, there may come a time when downsizing to a smaller home will fit better into one’s lifestyle and budget.

Retiring to a Custom Home
When you hear about a retiree downsizing to a smaller place, most people think that the person will be packing up and moving into an apartment in a senior community or a mother-in-law suite in their adult children’s homes. Yet many retirees still want their freedom to come and go as they please in their own place. Purchasing a smaller home then becomes the ideal option.

One interesting trend is that retirees are looking to custom build a new home that is smaller in size. The retiree may be at a unique advantage of having the financial independence to cover the costs of home construction without straining their retirement funds. At this point of time in their retirement years, most retirees have already paid off the mortgage for their other home as they now own the house outright. With the home value having appreciated, they can now ask for a higher sales price that can cover the land purchase and all the home construction expenses.

Building a Home Tailored to Health Needs
Another advantage to having a custom home built is that it can be designed to current medical conditions or physical restrictions. You can work with builders and architects to design the home so that it can make your daily life easier as you grow older. The custom build may have wider first-floor spaces and hallways to accommodate mobility devices. There can be outdoor ramps by front entrances for wheelchairs and walkers, as well as lower kitchen cabinets so you can get items without having to stretch to reach higher shelves. In addition, bathrooms can be designed for retirees with physical disabilities who may have problems using the shower, tub or toilet.

You can have more flexibility when having a smaller home built with adaptable features. The custom home can be later modified for different life stages without having to deal with costly renovations later on that can be a major disruption to your daily life.

Custom Home Offering Less Maintenance Hassles
During retirement, retirees often don’t want to deal with major maintenance and repairs that are associated with larger, older homes. Even downsizing to a smaller, existing home can lead to stress as there may be significant issues with the existing house that will need to be dealt with before moving in.

By having a custom home built at a smaller size, buyers will know that everything in the house is new. They will have new wiring, plumbing, mechanical systems, appliances, a roof, a foundation and other aspects. Even if something should break during those first few months, builders normally provide a builder warranty that will cover defects and provide repairs.

Downsizing to Your Custom Dream Home
Downsizing to a custom home has many advantages. Buyers can have the home built at a chosen destination that offers everything they could possibly need during their retirement years.

It helps to perform comprehensive research regarding the real estate market when purchasing land at another location. Also, researching building plans and contractors can make the difference in purchasing a custom home built with superior craftsmanship. A real estate agent’s help can be just what buyers need to find a new place that is specifically designed for their golden years.

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Selling your home can be an exhausting, overwhelming process, and it is even more so when you have toddlers in the house. Ideally, your home will look as close to a model home as possible and will be in pristine condition when buyers tour the home; however, as a parent, you may understand the need to have toys and games available for the kids.

You may want the home environment to be comfortable for your family, and you may also have concerns about keeping your home in pristine condition when your little ones are constantly making messes in various areas of the house. While staging a home with kids in the house can be challenging, you can accomplish your goals more easily by following these tips.

Think About Hidden Storage Areas
As soon as you first learn you are expecting a child, you may begin gathering toys, clothes, gear, furnishings and more. Your house may now be filled with their items, as well as their artwork, projects and more. Your kids will continue to need access to these items on a daily basis, but you must find a way to conceal them during showings. After all, a primary goal of staging is for buyers to see themselves living in the home, rather than to see signs of your family life all around.

Consider clearing out closets and cabinets with unnecessary items so that the kids’ items can easily be stored in them. Use storage bins with a lid that you can easily pull out of the closet or cabinet as needed. When a buyer opens up closet or cabinet doors during a home tour, they will only see the neat organization of storage bins. As a side benefit, this will make it easier for you to move out of the home, as well.

Re-Decorate Bedrooms and Playrooms
Your kids’ rooms may be painted pink, blue or other bold shades. These may be cute for your kids, but they are often undesirable for most buyers. Buyers will see these walls as a to-do project, and they may even have trouble envisioning their family living in the space. It is best to re-paint these rooms a neutral shade before you list the home.

You should also focus on the playroom. Store away most, or all, of your kids’ toys. Bring a couch, a TV or other items into this space to make it less age-specific. This can broaden the appeal of your home.

Create a Routine to Follow Before Tours
Some sellers can easily run out the door at a moment’s notice when an interested buyer wishes to tour the home. In most cases, these are single adults or couples who do not have kids and who are able to keep their home perfectly clean on a regular basis when listing their home. For parents with young kids in the house, you may need to sweep, mop and vacuum before a house tour.

You may also need to put the kids’ toys back in their storage bins, ensure there are no messes in the bathroom, wipe down the counters, empty dirty diapers from the diaper pail and more. It is wise to create a checklist of items that you need to do before each home tour. In addition, tell your agent that you need a notice of at least two hours before a tour to ensure that your home is ready to show.

Selling your current home and moving into a new home can provide you with great benefits. For example, you may have plans to move into a larger home, a more desirable neighborhood, a more affordable home or something else; however, before you can move forward with your relocation plans, you must find a buyer for your home. These simple staging tips can make the sales process much easier for you and your family.

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

There are several places in the U.S. where millennials can be found due to the high employment rates and beautiful settings. For adults who are in their 20s and 30s, there are several places where it’s smart to invest. When you’re looking to move, these are a few cities that millennials are flocking to throughout the country.

Salt Lake City, Utah

 

The high job growth in Salt Lake City makes it a desirable place for young adults to live as they look to obtain steady employment. The city is affordable to live in and has a median home price of $233,000 with job growth of 2.4 percent. Salt Lake City also has a lower unemployment rate compared to other markets throughout the U.S. with 2.9 percent, which is below the national average by a few points.

Seattle, Wash.

Pike Place - Public Market in Seattle

Seattle is considered to be a hot spot for millennials, which make up 24.1 percent of the population. Its busy nightlife scene and generous median incomes of $67,000 make it an ideal place to live for younger generations. It also boasts a job growth rate of 10.8 percent. The beautiful views of the water and the long list of activities and attractions in the area are additional reasons that many millennials relocate to the city.

Austin, Texas

 

Millennials are drawn to Austin for its real estate market, which includes homes that have a median price of $226,000. The job growth is also 4.2 percent, and it’s the second-top city in the country for the number of jobs that are becoming available. Some of the top companies that are run out of Austin include Dell, Apple and Google, making it known as “Silicon Hills.” The average median income is also $58,932, which allows many young adults to afford to purchase their first home.

There’s also a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability, making the city desirable for millennials who make green practices a priority. Austin is also known for selling more renewable energy than other nations.

Charlotte, N.C.

Charlotte is one of the best places to live in North Carolina with 14 percent of the population between the ages of 25 and 34. Many of the youth are post-college graduates who have relocated to the city to seek employment and purchase a home in a neighborhood that has a suburban family profile. The draw of millennials is also causing many companies to relocate their headquarters to Charlotte in hopes of hiring talented employees.

Dallas, Texas

 

Dallas continues to grow each year and attract young out-of-towners due to its job growth rate of 3.9 percent and median home price of $175,000. The big city boasts plenty of shopping opportunities and attractions for those who want to stay busy without spending a lot to live close to the downtown area. The city hasn’t attempted to control ride-sharing, and many places are also easy to access by walking. There are also neighboring cities that are affordable to live in for those who don’t mind commuting to work.

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Many upper-middle class households with young children are caught between an inability to afford childcare and an inability to sustain on one less income with a stay-at-home parent—a predicament that has a driving force on their housing decisions.

According to the Zillow Housing Aspirations Report (ZHAR), many upper-middle class households choose to put down roots close to relatives who can provide childcare, even more so than low-income households. Roughly one-quarter of upper-middle class household members surveyed for the report, as well, cite “proximity to family” as an influencer on their choice about where to live.

Low-income households do, however, struggle with childcare costs in pricey housing markets, such as San Francisco, Calif. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed overall depend on relatives for childcare.

Most households with young children are being pinched by a combination of higher housing costs and standstill income growth.

“Housing costs and childcare are among the two largest budget items for working families, costing as much $43,000 a year in urban areas and over $34,000 a year in the suburbs,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “While many Americans are tied to the places they live for a variety of personal and financial reasons, it’s necessary for some households to live near family in order to make ends meet. Sometimes extended family might move together to provide childcare, or grandparents might even follow their children when they move to a new city to help care for their grandkids.”

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

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If you were around during either run of “The Jetsons”—first in 1962 and again in 1985—you may have watched the show and wondered if the technology the futuristic family used would ever become a reality. In fact, quite a few of the gadgets used on the show have become commonplace in real life. From robotic maids to video chatting, here’s a look at how the future predicted by “The Jetsons” has become the present, and how you can get in on it today.

  1. Robot Vacuums
    The Jetsons had robotic helpers that took care of all sorts of daily tasks around the house. Rosie, the family’s robot maid, was always working to keep their home in tip-top shape. While we may not be quite at the Rosie level with our robots, little helpers like the Roomba from iRobot can get you pretty close.

Roomba will take care of the vacuuming for you. It may still need some maintenance—like emptying dust bins or making sure the floor is clear so it can do its job—but if you hate vacuuming, this little guy is going to be your best friend. These types of home automation devices promise to free up tons of time for more important activities in your day-to-day lives.

  1. Smartwatches
    Way back when Steve Jobs was just a boy, the Jetsons had little square watches they would watch TV on. While the Apple Watch doesn’t have the ability to stream television—yet—it does bear a striking resemblance to the gadget the Jetsons used almost 50 years before the Apple Watch was unveiled.

Even if you can’t catch up on your Netflix queue, today’s smartwatches have a lot of futuristic capabilities. You can take calls, set reminders, check sports scores, see weather forecasts, and do other tasks right on your wrist.

  1. Video Calls
    Another technological capability that probably seemed far-fetched at the time “The Jetsons” aired was video chatting. The characters would call each other up and communicate as if they were face-to-face. These days, apps like FaceTime and Skype make it as easy as tapping a contact name.

Of all the advances in technology that have accompanied the smartphone craze, video chatting might be the most life changing. Grandparents can see their grandkids from thousands of miles away at any time. Soldiers can chat with their spouses and children from across the ocean. The impact this tech has had on families can’t be overstated.

  1. Talking Tech
    In “The Jetsons,” George was woken up each day by a talking alarm clock built into his bed. After being rudely startled awake, he could silence the alarm with his own voice—usually an angry grunt or groan.

If you want the talking alarm clock experience, plenty of options are available. Smartphone apps like the Rock Clock allow you to rise every morning to Dwayne Johnson’s soothing vocals, while dedicated alarm clocks that talk to you are available for the old-school consumer.

It isn’t just alarms that talk, though. It’s possible to have anything on your screen read to you using accessibility tech like screen readers, and digital assistants like Siri and Alexa will not only speak info to you, but also have actual conversations with you.

  1. Flat-Screen TVs
    At a time when many TVs were still black and white and all of them were thick and bulky with tiny screens, “The Jetsons” featured flat-screen TVs with huge screens that lowered from the ceiling. In the ’60s, this would have been unthinkable.

Today’s televisions are ultra-thin and often very light with huge screens and ridiculously high resolutions. LG unveiled a model at CES this year that is less than 2.6 millimeters thick and weighs only 17 pounds—and it’s a 65-inch display!

TVs that retract into the ceiling are also a thing. Companies like Nexus 21 can install a TV concealment system that makes it impossible to tell anything is there until you’re ready to watch, keeping your walls and living space open until show time.

  1. Drones
    The Jetson kids were dropped off at school each day by robotic drones—a far cry from the school buses most of us grew up with. While we are still a long way off from personal drones to chauffeur us around, the technology is advancing rapidly, and drones are being used for a variety of purposes.

Consumer-oriented drones are basically futuristic RC cars, and military drones fly combat missions while keeping our troops out of harm’s way. Even Amazon’s delivery drones can have an order to your doorstep in less than 30 minutes. Self-driving cars are also coming along nicely, so it might not be long before these technologies converge to bring us our very own Jetsons-style transport pods.

  1. Pill Cameras
    A piece of technology that’s easy to miss both on “The Jetsons” and in everyday life is the PillCam. On the show, George swallows a little robot that travels around his body and performs a checkup. If you’ve had any sort of digestive issues in the last several years, the chances are good you may have swallowed a very similar device.

The PillCam is exactly what it sounds like—a camera in a pill-shaped case that you swallow. It can be a little hard to choke down due to the size, but once swallowed, the camera goes to work, imaging your digestive tract and transmitting the info to a receiver. This helps diagnose a variety of illnesses, like Crohn’s disease, and helps the patient avoid a much more elaborate and invasive endoscopy procedure.

“The Jetsons” first aired in 1962, and, 50 years later, the show’s futuristic vision of life has very nearly become a reality. What do you think our homes and lives will be like in another 50 years?

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First-time homebuyers are shifting housing industry standards when it comes to home design preferences—and, according to the latest Home Design Trends Survey by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), one of the most significant changes is the end of the era of expansive property and square footage.

Small, simply, is the new big.

“With younger households that are increasingly entering the market looking for more affordable options, home sizes appear to have peaked for this economic cycle,” said Kermit Baker, chief economist of the AIA, in a statement on the survey.

Smaller homes are generally more affordable, which is key for many first-time homebuyers squeezed by high home prices and student debt. Small homes, however, are scarce in most housing markets.

Aside from less living space, the architecture professionals surveyed see the following trends taking shape:

  • In-Home Accessibility
  • Single-Floor Plans
  • Open-Concept Layout
  • Informal Spaces

Source: American Institute of Architects (AIA)

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(TNS)—Search on the web for “best time to book airfare” and you’ll find many conflicting answers, all of them completely wrong—and not only are they wrong, but they do a disservice to consumers who fall for this “voodoo” airfare economics.

One site gives a “guide” of 47 days before travel, although it admits that there is “quite a variance” depending on route and destination. Keep in mind that the booking site in question doesn’t offer or track Delta or Southwest, which together control about 35 percent of the domestic market, so its predictions have to be taken in that context.

Another site’s founder has infamously insisted that the best time is Tuesday at 3 p.m., (that site also doesn’t track Southwest or Delta). Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Company claimed earlier this year that the best day is not Tuesday but—wait for it—Sunday.

But wait: Skyscanner says it’s exactly seven weeks in advance of travel.

So who can you believe? Answer: none of the above.

There is no magic formula.

The best idea: sign up for “airfare alerts” by email. Search the term on the web and you’ll find many options from reputable companies that send out email alerts. Before you sign up, however, make sure that they at least include Delta Air Lines (that excludes such popular apps and sites as Hipmunk and Hopper along, with several others). If they also include Southwest, all the better, but few do.

These alerts all work a bit differently. Some only allow you to track specific dates, which is cool, except what if leaving a day or two earlier would have saved you hundreds? Some allow you to specify “to” and “from” specific airports, because a fare from Baltimore Washington International (BWI) might not be as ideal as one from closer-in Washington National DCA. Most alert systems treat “nearby” airports as equal, but tell that to someone who doesn’t want to trek out to Baltimore or Dulles when National is just a Metro ride away.

Another big annoyance is that the lowest fares are often on airlines that people hate to fly (because they charge for carry-on bags and seat assignments), so look for a service that allows you to eliminate alerts from airlines you’d never fly even if they were free (Airfarewatchdog.com does allow specific airline choice).

Another reason for signing up for several alerts: all online travel agencies do not show the same prices. I recently saw a fare from New York to South Africa flown on Delta and KLM for $200 less round trip if bought on Priceline versus the exact same flights, dates and airlines if booked on Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, or on KLM’s or Delta’s own websites. Some online travel agencies offer negotiated rates that are far less than the airlines themselves sell for. It’s worth searching more than one site.

Twitter is another great source for being alerted to short-lived airfare deals. Follow the #airfare hashtag, where over a half-dozen accounts tweet out unadvertised deals. The #flights hashtag is also useful. Follow the accounts you find there.

Once you’re signed up or following, you have to act. An airfare from L.A. to Singapore (this is a recent example) might go down, unadvertised, to $398 round-trip including tax on Singapore Airlines, whereas other airlines were charging $800 for the same travel dates but on less desirable connecting flights. But that fare, even if it’s good over several months of travel, might appear for just three or four hours and then it goes back up to $800. Now that airlines allow you to pay for a fare and cancel within 24 hours without paying a fee, the strategy is to book it, hold it, and then get your friends and family on board and sort out hotels.

George Hobica is founder of the low-airfare listing website Airfarewatchdog.com.
(c)2017 Airfarewatchdog.com

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