How to Spot a Home-Contractor Scam

Most have integrity, but you have to rely on more than a handshake and your gut


April 24, 2013 RSS Feed Print

Couple standing in front of house while contractor points at something

This is the season when the lawn mowers begin roaring, the mulch is spread and homeowners, if they haven’t already, begin thinking about getting that roof fixed or finally putting up a privacy fence. But it isn’t just the sun that comes out. There are also the pests—the ticks, the mosquitoes and the con artists.

As plenty of homeowners are aware, there are ample anecdotes in the media of home-contractor scams. These often con the elderly into either giving up money for no work done, or having work done but at an exorbitant price that wasn’t agreed to. In the last few weeks alone, a 77-year-old man in the Philadelphia area paid for his roof to be repaired only to end up paying to have a useless, tar-like substance splattered across it; in Norfolk, Va., an 83-year-old woman gave a home contractor $4,300 and never saw him again; in San Diego, a con artist has been offering to fix driveways, collecting down payments as high as $2,500 and giving nothing in return.

The anecdotes go on and on. So what should you do if you want a project completed but don’t want to see your name in the local paper, where you’re quoted warning your neighbors not to fall for a scam?

Research your contractor. Everyone thinks they’re doing that, but it isn’t as straightforward as one might think to vet a home contractor.

“In many cases, we see a person posing as a licensed or reputable contractor, and all checks out until the first payment is made to begin the job, and then the subject disappears. We see fake business cards and websites being used, and criminals can assume the identity of a real contractor, register a company or use an alias. The goal is always the first payment,” says Tom Burnett, a spokesman for Wymoo International, a worldwide detective agency headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla. Burnett is also a former private eye.

Despite all the tricks a con artist can play, you can vet a contractor, says Burnett. Obviously, there’s the tried-and-true method of using a contractor that a friend or family member swears by, but if you don’t have that avenue, Burnett suggests:

• Contact the Better Business Bureau where the company or contractor operates and check for complaints.

• Ask for references and make sure you actually contact, say, two of them.

• Check to see if the company is registered with its state or your state’s division of corporations.

• You can ask for the contractor’s license number to verify with your state’s Department of Professional Regulation, or your contractor’s state license board or similar office.

• And, of course, search the Internet for whatever you can find on the company.

Be wary of paying upfront. This is tricky, too, because even honest home contractors ask for money upfront, for good reasons. “Let’s say you want your front door put in, and if the contractor makes the order, and you back out, they essentially own that front door,” says Amy Matthews, a home contractor who has hosted numerous DIY Network and HGTV series and is a spokesperson for Home Advisor, an online portal that matches, for free, homeowners with licensed home contractors (

So it isn’t weird for a home contractor to ask for money upfront, but it shouldn’t be astronomical numbers, says Matthews. “It’s very common for home contractors to ask for a percentage, say, 30 percent at the start, 30 percent in the middle and the rest at the end, and you should never pay at the completion until you’ve really looked it over.”

She adds that every state is different, and that in California, home contractors aren’t allowed to ask for more than 10 percent of the job upfront. Meanwhile, some states have no regulations regarding home contracting projects.

It is also wise to pay a home contractor with a credit card instead of forking over a wad of cash or paying with a check. This will give you a record of the payment for the authorities and improve the odds of getting your money back if you are swindled, since credit card companies may refund your money in such situations.

If the proposal isn’t very detailed, that might be a red flag. A home contractor who plans on putting a fence around your yard or fixing your roof isn’t likely to offer up lengthy, detailed plans, but if you want to hire a contractor for a fairly elaborate project, such as a room addition, you’ll want to see some detailed blueprints.

“The less gray areas there are, the better off homeowners will be,” says Nicholas Iarocci, who owns a home contracting company, Source Development, Inc, which services the New York City area. He says detailed plans can “make the homeowner aware of possible additional expenses,” which can help you if the contractor is ethical and if the contractor isn’t. After all, some unethical contractors deliver when it comes to work, but they overcharge. Or they might not plan to destroy your finances but do because of the shoddy way they run their business.

“If an insured contractor brings a day laborer or an employee that’s not on the books, and they get injured, the property owner is directly affected,” says Iarocci. “I collect certificates of insurance from my subcontractors.”

Don’t let yourself be rushed into a project. Some perfectly honest home contractors will come to your house unsolicited, says Matthews. “They’re called storm chasers,” she says, “and there are some very credible contracting companies that look for homes that have been hit after a windstorm or heavy rain, but you still have to do that background check to make sure.”

So if the contractor can’t wait for you to think about their offer, or for you to summon your inner Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew and check them out, stay away. And you should always keep an eye out for that classic red flag waving in the warm, friendly breeze. Sadly, just as there is no free lunch, there is also rarely an extremely cheap lunch.

Says Matthews: “If someone offers to do a really quick job on your house for a really low price, and it sounds too sound to be true, it probably is.”


Courtesy of your Arcadia Real Estate Agent

A U.S. housing recovery like never before?

April 16, 2013


Chief Economist, CanaData

U.S. new home starts in February were 917,000 units, seasonally adjusted and annualized (SAAR), according to a joint press release from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The monthly level of housing starts has been above 900,000 units for three months in a row. Within that period, their monthly high was 982,000 units reached in December of last year.

On a month-to-month basis, February 2013’s level was almost even with January 2013 at +0.8%, but it was a much more impressive +28% when compared with February of last year.

Additionally, the latest building permits figure — which is a leading indicator, by a month or two, for starts — was quite encouraging. The number of residential permits issued in February was 946,000 units SAAR, an increase of 5% versus January and an uptick of 34% when compared with February 2012.

It’s possible the importance of housing’s recovery to the overall U.S. economy is being underestimated. Gross domestic product (GDP) projections for 2013 mostly lie between +2.0% and +2.5%, after a +2.2% performance in 2012.

An upward creep in taxes, higher medical costs for employers, plus jobs cuts and furloughs in the public sector are being blamed for keeping growth lower than it might otherwise be. Still, there are some forecasters who think +3.0% is attainable and the main reason will be better residential construction. The ripple effects (i.e., “multipliers” and “accelerators” in economic jargon) of a stronger homebuilding sector are enormous.

There are no guarantees, but this argument may have validity. Consider that the current recovery in housing starts will have a magnitude never seen before in the U.S. economy.

A look at historical data from the Census Bureau is revealing. Going back to 1959, when the statistical series begins, there has never been another period of decline nearly as steep as between January 2006 and April 2009. Within that interval, starts plunged 80% from a pre-recession peak of 2.273 million units SAAR to a bottom of only 478,000 units.

Only bungee jumpers had ever experienced that kind of descent before and lived to tell about it.

Economic events are often governed by a pendulum that swings back and forth to establish equilibrium. Sometimes, the duration of the movement in one direction or another can be a long time coming. A perfect example is the recovery in NASDAQ stock prices since the collapse. They still haven’t returned to their prior peak. But they are finally showing that such an eventuality isn’t totally out of the question.

U.S. home starts don’t have to make it all the way back to 2.3 million units to have a huge impact. Their average level of 940,000 units in the three most recent months is nearly double the volume to which they sank in the trough. Even if they only return to the lower end of a “normal” range of 1.5 million to 1.7 million units — which some forecasters are saying will happen by the end of next year — they will have more than tripled since their most recent low.

In the U.S., there have traditionally been two sub-sectors with exceptional influences on the overall economy — automotive demand and residential construction. Bringing the analysis up to date, those two might now be augmented by a third major player, the high-tech sector.

In Canada, where the economy is smaller and therefore more factors can assume larger roles in the overall results, the number of sub-sectors that can create an out-sized influence may be a little larger — auto production, energy exports, residential construction and start-ups or completions of mega projects in non-residential construction.

Economics 101 provides the following advice on how to move an economy out of a recession. Step number one, cut interest rates in order to stimulate the housing sector. It’s taken a long time south of the border, but the standard framework for recovery is finally taking hold.

And what a recovery it might be. Simply consider all the side effects of stronger housing starts. Remember in what follows, that improved activity levels reap a harvest of greater profits and more employment.

Suppliers of building products will realize a pick-up in sales. The Home Depots, Reno-Depots and Lowe’s of this world and their close cousins will benefit.

Further back in the supply chain are sawmills and cement manufacturers. Softwood lumber producers are already seeing prices for their output that have escalated dramatically.

The railroad and trucking industries move building products to wholesalers, retailers and other customers.

New homes have to be heated and cooled, bringing in the energy utilities.

Governments will receive more property taxes from new subdivisions.

Lawyers, real estate agents and mortgage brokers will smile more.

Let’s not forget the banking community. Sales of more new homes will mean greater mortgage business, contributing to better earnings. (In Canada, a decline in new home starts is expected to eat into banking sector profits this year.)

Stronger housing starts will also mean more retail sales by storekeepers who supply furniture, appliances, television sets, stereos, lighting fixtures, plumbing supplies, cabinetry, carpeting, drapes, blinds, dishes, silverware, paintings, paint and the list goes on and on.

The better housing sector alone will be a big boon to the U.S. economy. But it’s not just housing that’s picking up smartly south of the border.

Earlier, I mentioned some other pillars of the U.S. economy. Autos sales have improved nicely. Many high-tech firms are experiencing a renascence as evidenced by the surge in NASDAQ equity prices. There is an energy boom underway in a number of states. And an unprecedented amount of money has been made available by the Federal Reserve.

The politicians give the impression they’re still trying to gum up the works. But there is a great deal of underlying strength in the economy that will continue to march forward, with new home starts riding point.

Wouldn’t it be lovely — and a refreshing change — if whatever happens in Washington turns out to be irrelevant?

Courtesy of your Arcadia Real Estate Agent

US housing starts rise

By Christopher S. Rugaber THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON —  U.S. builders started more homes in February and permits for future construction rose at the fastest pace in 4-1/2 years. The increases point to a housing recovery that is gaining strength.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that builders broke ground on houses and apartments last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000. That’s up from 910,000 in January. And it’s the second-fastest pace since June 2008, behind December’s rate of 982,000.

Single-family home construction increased to an annual rate of 618,000, the most in 4-1/2 years. Apartment construction also ticked up, to 285,000.

The gains are likely to grow even faster in the coming months. Building permits, a sign of future construction, increased 4.6 percent to 946,000. That was also the most since June 2008, just a few months into the Great Recession.

And the figures for January and December were also revised higher. Overall housing starts have risen 28 percent higher over the past 12 months.

Separately, a private report showed the number of Americans with equity in their homes increased last year. That suggests one of the biggest drags from the housing crisis is easing and could clear the way for more people to put homes on the market.

“The road ahead for housing is still, so far, looking promising,” Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in a note to clients.

The pair of positive housing reports helped drive early gains on Wall Street. But stocks edged lower later in the day as investors awaited the outcome of a vote on an unpopular bailout plan in the European nation of Cyprus. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 35 points in afternoon trading.

Housing starts jumped in the Northeast and Midwest, while they fell in the South and West. Permits rose in the South, West and Midwest, falling only in the Northeast.

The U.S. housing market is recovering after stagnating for roughly five years. Steady job gains and near-record-low mortgage rates have encouraged more people to buy.

In addition, more people are seeking their own homes after doubling up with friends and relatives in the recession. That’s leading to greater demand for apartments and single-family homes to rent.

Still, the supply of available homes for sale remains low. That has helped push up home prices. They rose nearly 10 percent in January compared with 12 months earlier, according to CoreLogic, the biggest increase in nearly seven years.

Higher prices mean that more Americans have equity in their homes. Last year, about 1.7 million Americans went from owing more on their mortgages than their homes were worth to having some ownership stake, CoreLogic reported Tuesday. That benefits both home owners and the broader economy.

When homeowners have some equity stake, it makes it easier for them to sell or borrow against their homes. Still, 10.4 million households, or 21.5 percent of those with a mortgage, remain “under water,” or owe more on their home than it is worth.

The number of previously occupied homes for sale has fallen to its lowest level in 13 years. And the pace of foreclosures, while still rising in some states, has slowed sharply on a national basis. That means fewer low-priced foreclosed homes are being dumped on the market.

Those trends, and the likelihood of further price gains, have led builders to step up construction. Last year, builders broke ground on the most homes in four years.

Homebuilders have become much more confident over the past year.

Courtesy of your Arcadia Real Estate Agent

3 Top Tips To Selecting The Right Home For Your Family

Published March 12, 2013

New Home With Family

Whether you are moving to a new house with children or you are buying your first Greenville home with the intention of raising future little ones there, many factors will come into play when making your decision.

You will want to find a house with the right size and layout, that has a suitable number of bedrooms and bathrooms, is in an excellent neighborhood and has all of the local amenities your family will need.

Here are three important factors to consider during your new home search:


Take a look at the area where the property is located.

Is it close to a school that your kids can attend when they are old enough?

Is there a playground where they can play with their friends?

Are you near any convenient shopping areas or stores for picking up groceries?

Location is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a place to raise your family.


Take a look at the demographics of the neighborhood.  You may want to spend some time walking the neighborhood and learning about the surrounding area.

Taking evening walks in the neighborhood might allow you the opportunity to meet other people who are living there and learn what they think is important about the area.

If it has mostly young families around the same age as you, your children will likely have plenty of neighbors to play with as they grow up.


You may think that spending as much as you can possibly afford on an expensive home is the best thing for your kids, but you might be wrong.

In fact, you could end up stressed out from working too hard to make your mortgage payments and feel like you never get enough time to spend with your family.

Another option would be to buy a more modest house that you can reasonably afford and have more time with your children.

Choosing the right place to live is difficult. It might take a while to find the right house, but when you do, it will be worth it.

When you do, you will have a wonderful place to fill with love and memories, where your children can grow up in peace and happiness.

If you’ve been seriously contemplating purchasing your first home, or possibly the next home, the best thing you can do is contact a licensed real estate professional to determine what is available in the market that would fit your needs.

Courtesy of your Arcadia Real Estate Agent

U.S. Homeowners Are Repeating Their Mistakes

U.S. Homeowners Are Repeating Their MistakesPhoto illustration by 731: Hand: Getty Images

Global Economics

By Brendan Greeley on February 14, 2013

If there’s one thing Americans should have learned from the recession, it’s the importance of diversifying risk. Middle-class households had too much of their net worth tied up in their homes and were too exposed to stocks through 401(k)s and other investments.

Despite the hit many Americans took, there’s little sign they’ve changed their dependence on homes as the mainstay of their wealth. Last year, Christian Weller, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, looked at Federal Reserve data for households run by those over 50. The number of families with what Weller calls “very high risk exposure”—a low wealth-to-income ratio, more than three-quarters of their assets in housing or stocks, and debt greater than a quarter of their assets—had almost doubled between 1989 and 2010, to 18 percent. That number didn’t decline during the deleveraging years from 2007 to 2010; its growth just slowed to a crawl.

The Fed will conduct a new wealth survey in 2013, but don’t look for a rational rebalancing. The same pressures that drove families to save less before the recession are still in place: low income growth, low interest rates, and high costs for health care, energy, and education. Families have been borrowing less since 2007, but the rate of the decline has slowed. As soon as banks start lending again, Weller says, people will put their money back into housing. “The trends look like they’re on autopilot,” he says. “They don’t suggest that people properly manage their risk.”

In a 2012 paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, economist Edward Wolff concluded that from 2007 to 2010, the median American household lost 47 percent of its wealth. Average wealth—a number that includes the richest Americans—declined only 18 percent. Houses make up a smaller share of the wealth of a rich family. The wealthy also benefit from better financial advice, Weller says.

A home is what economists call a consumption good; you have to live somewhere. It’s also a store of wealth. Unlike other assets, you can’t buy a portion of a house. “You want to consume a big home,” says Sebastien Betermier, an assistant professor of finance at Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University. “But if you want to buy that home, it’s a huge investment—probably more than you really want.” Betermier, who studies consumers’ financial decisions, says homeownership makes it harder to diversify risk. Since 1983, for the richest 20 percent of U.S. households, the principal residence as a share of net worth has been around 30 percent. For the next 60 percent—most of us—housing has risen from 62 percent to 67 percent of total wealth.

To compound the problem, home equity dropped for this middle group even as home values rose. Rising house values, low interest rates, and easy refinancing encouraged property owners to take out home equity loans. And Wolff’s analysis shows the middle class reducing their cash cushion from 21 percent of assets, starting in the early 1980s, to 8 percent just before the recession. Cash is bad luck insurance; you pay a premium because you don’t earn a return on it, but it’s available in case of an emergency. Americans borrowed against their homes, spent the cash, and were left only with risk.

How can the middle class manage risk better? Financial education would help. Olivia Mitchell, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, is alarmed at how few people understand basic principles. “What we do know is that people who are more financially literate … do accumulate more wealth,” she says.

The other option is for banks to devise ways to reduce housing risk. When Weller worked as a banker in Germany in the 1980s, the bank would set up a savings account with automatic deposit for every mortgage customer. That way, the client would build up a cash reserve to pay the mortgage in a bad month. This remains a common practice in Germany, where banks hold on to their mortgages rather than securitize and sell them.

Weller, Betermier, and Mitchell agree that the mortgage interest deduction contributes to the problem, as it encourages families to move their assets into housing. “When people think about renting vs. buying, the tax subsidy looms large,” says Wharton’s Mitchell. Weller endorses an approach suggested by Senator Barack Obama in 2008: Turn the deduction, which lowers taxable income, into a flat credit, which cuts your tax bill by a fixed amount. That would lead to slower growth in house prices, says Weller, since the credit wouldn’t rise even if people took on a bigger mortgage to buy a more expensive house. As the price of housing climbs more slowly, the shift of a family’s savings into housing would.

In 1999, Robert Shiller of Yale University proposed a way to hedge house values. New owners would buy an option with their mortgage, tied to an index of house prices (such as the one developed by Shiller and Karl Case). The option would function as home value insurance. But “when you buy insurance and you don’t die,” says Shiller, “you think how I spent all this money and got nothing. It takes sophistication.” The problem with his idea, he says, as with similar approaches by the Bank of Scotland and Bear Stearns, was that house prices were rising. People don’t buy insurance for a risk they don’t see.

This leaves Shiller, like Wharton’s Mitchell, pushing for education. At the Obama Treasury several years ago, he suggested the White House hold conferences on housing risk. “They would invite top financial organizations,” he says, “and ask them ‘What are you doing about this?’ ” At the time, Treasury and the banks had more pressing things to do. The federal government could also resort to regulation. Shiller points to the example of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who mandated that homeowners buy fire insurance with their mortgages. “I think it could be expanded to home value insurance,” he says.

The best remedy of all would be a higher savings rate. Mitchell tells her daughters, who are in their twenties, to hold off buying a house and save 25 percent of what they earn. But, she says, “They don’t find this very helpful.”


The bottom line: Americans still have too much of their net worth tied up in their homes. There are limited options to encourage diversification.


Courtesy of your Arcadia Real Estate Agent

Housing Issues to Watch in 2013

By Nick Timiraos

Home prices finally hit a bottom in 2012, well ahead of many predictions that called for continued price drops this year.

Prices were up 6% from one year ago in October, according to CoreLogic CLGX -0.26%, putting them on track for their best year since 2005. Housing starts, which hit a bottom three years ago, ramped up to their highest level in four years. Sales of new homes are running around 20% of last year’s levels, while existing home sales are up around 10%. Continued declines in homes listed for sale—particularly foreclosures—explain much of the improving price picture.

So will 2013 be the year of recovery or relapse? Evidence points more strongly to a continued rebound, albeit one that still has considerable headwinds and that varies from one market to another. This week, we’ll offer five areas of focus for 2013.

1. Don’t fear the shadow. For years, housing analysts have warned that a glut of delinquent mortgages—a so-called “shadow” inventory of eventual foreclosures—would overwhelm housing markets. That hasn’t happened.

On a national basis, the shadow inventory is still there, but it is slowly getting smaller. The number of homes that were 90 days or more past due or in foreclosure fell to around 3 million in October, down by more than 430,000 this year and nearly 1.3 million from the peak in 2010, according to Barclays Capital. Normally, there’s a “shadow” of around 800,000, which means the excess shadow supply stands at around 2.2 million.

Banks have slowed down their foreclosure processes and while those could ramp up in 2013, they’re unlikely to lead to a deluge of supply. Also, big declines in new construction over the past few years have pushed the current housing demand, however muted, towards absorbing the excess supply of foreclosed homes.

The shadow inventory is often discussed as a national phenomenon, but it isn’t really national anymore. States where banks have struggled to meet court-administered foreclosure processes have a significantly higher share of unresolved bad debt: around 5.9% of mortgages are in foreclosure in those judicial states, compared with fewer than 2% in nonjudicial states, according to Lender Processing Services.

Many housing markets “will swallow what foreclosures come to the market whole because we’re seeing inventory shortages develop, acutely,” says Jeffrey Otteau, president of appraisal firm Otteau Valuation Group in East Brunswick, N.J.


In New Jersey, which has the second highest foreclosure rate in the country, the bigger problem is that many foreclosures are concentrated in certain communities, particularly inner-city and rural areas. “Those markets are going to take it on the chin,” he says.





Courtesy of your Arcadia Real Estate Agent

Olympic Medal Count 2012: Early Day 5 Standings and Bold End-of-Play Predictions


Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY

The London Olympics are going strong, and Day 5 looks to continue the fun and excitement.

After the crowing of Michael Phelps’ Olympic record on Tuesday, we turn our heads to some different action.

Medals will be handed out in 11 different sports on Wednesday. From kayaking to weightlifting, athletes will rise to the occasion for their countries or falter and return home without realizing their Olympic dreams.

Most of the medals being earned today are not in the high-profile events, but they add to to the overall medal count all the same.

London Olympics Medal Count as of Aug. 1, 8 a.m. ET.

Olympic Medal Tracker Gold Silver Bronze
China Total: 23 13 6 4
United States Total: 23 9 8 6
Japan Total: 13 1 4 8
France Total: 11 4 3 4
South Korea Total: 8 3 2 3
For full medal results, check out Bleacher Report’s official leaderboard.


Quiet Day for Americans

Wednesday won’t be a day filled with medal upon medal for the USA. There are opportunities here and there to snag a few, most notably in the men’s individual all-around gymnastics finals and women’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay, but overall it should be fairly quiet on the American front.

The American contingent will be focused on preliminary action. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings look to continue their Olympic set and match records in beach volleyball, and Team USA attempts to continue their domination in women’s basketball.

Don’t look for a big influx in gold on Wednesday.

Gymnastics Redemption

After a disappointment in the team competition, the men will go their separate ways and look for individual gold. This will be their chance to some sort of redemption after not claiming a medal as a group.

The men are talented and can come away with some individual hardware. Supposedly they have the best talent since the 1984 squad, but they have yet to live up to that potential in London.

It will be interesting to see what their mindset is entering the competition after their previous performances. As much as they were celebrated entering the Games, it is time for the men to step up. Maybe they can be inspired by what the women did on Tuesday.

China Will Extend Gold Lead

With the Americans only having a select few opportunities to close the gap on gold, look for the Chinese to extend their lead.

They already have one gold guaranteed as the gold-medal match in women’s table tennis features Ding Ning and Li Xiaoxia.

Their early grasp on gold may be difficult to overcome, but it’s still early in the Games, and the Americans have plenty of opportunities to close the gap as the days pass. But for today, it looks as if they will extend the lead and continue their firm grasp over the rest of the world.

I hope you enjoyed the article! -


Olympics social media: Get as connected as the rings for 2012 Games

Olympic FacesThe International Olympic Committee is enhancing its social media hub to include Instagram photos from the Olympic Village (IOC / July 19, 2012)
By Michelle MaltaisJuly 19, 2012, 1:20 p.m.

This summer’s Olympics will be more connected than the five rings of its emblem. It’s on Twitter,FacebookGoogle+, Instagram (@Olympics) and foursquare.

And the International Olympic Committee is building up an Olympic Village online by integrating these social media to help connect a worldwide audience with the athletes in the London 2012 Games.

“When I went to the Games for the first time it was back in Barcelona in 1992—those games had an internal email system, and it was groundbreaking,” six-time Olympic British archer Allison Williamson told a press conference unveiling the hub. “In London, I will be sharing photos of the Athletes’ Village and other fun things.”

Through the IOC’s Olympic Athletes’ Hub, you can virtually enter the exclusive Olympic Village to connect with your favorite competitor’s Facebook and Twitter profiles, get Instagram portraits of the athletes and chat directly with a featured athlete in a Twitter #asknathlete Q&A.

“Social media has been a great way to connect with fans and share not just my stories but the stories of other amazing people and athletes,” said South African Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius at the press conference. “I am truly blessed and thrilled to be participating in the 2012 London Olympics and look forward to sharing my Olympic experiences with the social media community and inspiring young athletes to do amazing things.”

Since we all like to pretend we are as informed as the judges, the IOC will soon launch the Olympic Challenge in the Athletes’ Hub, a social game that lets fans compete to predict the outcome of various Olympic events and see how they rank on the leaderboard against their friends and fans around the world.

Photos from various angles of the events will be available on Tumblr: an aggregation of existing social feeds, live from inside the Village with the Instagram portraitsGetty Images shots as well as shots and commentary on the fashion scene.

Enjoy the Games! -



Rosenthal Wine Estate in Malibu Is Listed for $59.5 Million


A 235-acre Malibu, Calif. wine estate has listed for $59.5 million. Candace Jackson has details on Lunch Break. (Photo: Simon Berlyn)

A 235-acre Malibu, Calif., wine estate has listed for $59.5 million. The seller is George I. Rosenthal, the chairman of Raleigh Enterprise, which owns and operates commercial real estate, hotels, and movie and TV studio complexes.

Mr. Rosenthal assembled the Rosenthal Wine Estate beginning in 1977. The property includes a 12,000-square-foot hacienda-style main residence with two swimming pools. There are also horse stables and two guesthouses, including one with an additional pool.

Photos: Private Properties

Nick SpringettA 235-acre Malibu, Calif., wine estate has listed for $59.5 million. The main house has two swimming pools.

The property includes 25 acres of hillside vineyards as well as a wine-tasting room, banquet room and office. The home’s furnishings are included in the purchase price.

“It’s been a great joy in my life but it’s time to take on other things,” says Mr. Rosenthal. His 90-acre Aspen, Colo., property, known as Jigsaw Ranch, is also on the market in two separate parcels, one asking $36 million and the other $22 million.

Irene Dazzan-Palmer and Sandro Dazzan of Coldwell Banker Previews International have the Malibu listing. Joshua Saslove of Joshua & Co. has the Aspen listings.

Former Congressman William Stuckey has listed his Washington, D.C. home for $6.25 million. Candace Jackson has details The News Hub. (Photo: Tom Schweda/Matt and Ryan Podskoch Global Real Estate Network)

Williamson Stuckey Asks $6.25 Million for Washington, D.C., Home

Former Rep. Williamson Stuckey and his wife, Ethelynn, have listed their Washington, D.C., home for $6.25 million.

Located on an acre in the Spring Valley neighborhood, the 8,000-square-foot house has six bedrooms and seven bathrooms. The 1920s-era home has a stone exterior and a slate roof, and there are extensive gardens. Inside, there’s a large dining room, a sunroom and a library. The home was extensively renovated and updated in 2006, though the original windows and exterior features were kept intact.

Mr. Stuckey, who is the chairman of Stuckey’s, a large chain of highway rest stops, purchased the home with his wife 45 years ago from then-Commerce Secretary John T. Connor. According to Mrs. Stuckey, Mr. Connor told Mr. Stuckey about the home over dinner at the White House and he decided then to buy it. They paid about $180,000 for it, says Mrs. Stuckey.

Mrs. Stuckey says they are selling because they plan to return to Georgia, where they are from. “I really have a lot of my heart in the house and the garden,” she said. Cathie Gill of Cathie Gill Inc. Realtors has the listing.

An Evergreen, Colo. home has listed for $18.95 million. Candace Jackson has details on The News Hub. (Photo: Cathie Gill, Inc./HomeVisit)

Home on 160 Acres Near Denver Is Listed for $18.95 Million

An Evergreen, Colo., home has listed for $18.95 million.

The property, about 40 minutes from downtown Denver, includes 160 acres on five separate parcels adjacent to a national forest. It includes a 9,500-square-foot stone and stucco main house, a 3,000-square-foot caretaker’s residence and two barns. The main house has a terrace along the back with mountain views.

The seller is Robert Truscheit, the owner of a private investment firm, who is based in Washington state. Mr. Truscheit assembled the property in 2004 and built the home in 2009. “Admittedly, it’s a high price,” says Mr. Truscheit. “The right person has to come along who wants the privacy.” Matt Podskoch and Ryan Podskoch of Global Real Estate Network have the listing.

—Candace Jackson—Email:

Corrections & Amplifications
Former Rep. Williamson Stuckey’s first name was incorrectly given as William in an earlier version of this article.