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Is Justin Bieber hunting for a Rancho Mirage home?

Whispers of Justin Bieber shopping for a desert getaway have been floating around after the pop star stopped by Rancho Mirage over the weekend.

Bieber sightings popped up on social media, with posts showing him drinking a milkshake at Johnny Rockets in Rancho Mirage.

Now a user of the Facebook group “Rancho Mirage News” has posted about Bieber possibly visiting a “high-end realty office” in that city, but there are few details beyond that.

Any whiff of a celebrity — particularly younger stars — house-hunting in the Coachella Valley draws much attention. Leonardo DiCaprio is said to have bought a Palm Springs home earlier this year, and rumors swirled around Anne Hathaway taking a peek at homes.

Perhaps the greatest media firestorm came when President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle visited the desert over the summer during a trip that seemed more like a vacation and less like official White House business.

Gossip about the Obamas buying a home in Thunderbird Heights, an exclusive neighborhood in Rancho Mirage, made national headlines. The spotlight beamed on two homes in question: a home once owned by the author Joseph Wambaugh, and a hilltop house owned by Michelle Obama’s friend Michael Smith and his partner James Costos, the US ambassador to Spain.

But after much speculation and denials from the White House, the rumors, at least about the Wambaugh house, appeared to be false.

Should Justin Bieber buy a home in the Coachella Valley? Would you welcome him to the desert?

Dominique Fong is a business and real estate reporter for The Desert Sun. She can be reached at (760) 778-4661, dominique.fong@desertsun.com and on Twitter @dominiquefong.

How to Upgrade Your Secured Credit Card

When people are struggling to rebuild their credit, a secured card can offer them the opportunity to qualify for a credit card and establish a positive credit history. Unfortunately, secured cards also have several drawbacks compared with standard credit cards. For example, secured cards always require a refundable deposit that is held by the card issuer, and nearly all secured cards charge an annual fee. In fact, there are many secured cards that charge a monthly fee. Also, secured cards tend to offer fewer benefits such as purchase protection policies and travel perks.

Eventually, secured card users are going to want to graduate to standard, non-secured credit cards to enjoy some of features they have been missing. If you are a secured credit card user, here is how you can get there:

1. Make Sure You Pay All of Your Bills on Time

The only way to rebuild your credit and move up to a standard credit card is to establish a strong payment history. The benefit of most secured cards is that they report your payment history to the major consumer credit bureaus, but that will be a drawback if you make your payments late or miss them altogether. Further, you should be extra careful to pay all of your bills on time, not just your credit cards.

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2. Pay off Your Balance

Making on-time payments is only part of your journey to a good credit score; you also need to stay out of debt. Even though a secured card will require a deposit, any balance you carry on your secured card will appear as debt on your credit report. Paying your balance in full each month will help your credit score and allow you to avoid interest charges.

3. Track Your Progress

Any goal you want to achieve will be easier if you can see the results of your effort. You can use Credit.coms free credit tracking tool to watch your credit improve over time. In addition, many credit card issuers are now including a free FICO score online and on cardholders monthly statements.

4. Wait a Year

In most cases, secured credit card users will need a years worth of payment history in order to improve their credit scores enough to qualify for a standard credit card. So when your secured card comes up for renewal, and the annual fee is due, this is an excellent time to start looking for a standard credit card to apply for.

5. Contact Your Secured Card Issuer

If the bank that issued your secured card also issues standard credit cards, this can be a great place to start. This bank will already be familiar with your payment history and will likely want to keep you as a customer. Give your bank a call, and let them know that you are interested in moving up to a standard credit card, and see what their representatives recommend.

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6. Speak with Your Retail Bank

If you have a checking or savings account at a bank other than the one that issued your secured card, this is another institution that is more likely to offer you a standard credit card. Give them a call, or stop by and speak to someone about your credit history and your desire for a standard credit card.

7. Apply for Cards Offered to Those with Fair or Average Credit

When you are looking to move up from a secured card to a standard credit card, the last thing you want is a rejection. So stay away from the high-end travel reward cards that are only for those with the highest credit scores, and look for products specifically offered to those in the middle of the credit score range. For example, Capital One offers several credit cards for those with average credit, which it views as those with a limited credit history and those who have defaulted on loans within the past five years.

Not Buying a Home Was the Best Life Move I Ever Made


Every one of us has had aha! moments. Epiphanies. Days when we reach a crossroads and realize that we have to make some changes. For the next two months, were sharing moments like those in our Life Stage Lessons series: Real stories straight from the financial lives of our DailyFinance contributors about times when they realized they were due for a serious course correction. So read on, learn from our mistakes, and get inspired to improve your relationship with your money.

I was five years into my career, saving $10,000 a year, making my 401(k) contributions, and flush with a big raise. The logical next step was to buy a house — a place I could call my own. Society supported it. It would allow me to feel established, and buying real estate was a great investment — right? Well, two months later, I quit my job, and six months after that, the economy crashed. I never made that home purchase.

Heres what I learned by avoiding disaster.

Its the American Dream

There are certainly good reasons to buy a home. Owning a home allows you to create a comfortable living environment you can call your own, in a neighborhood that suits you, with good schools for your children. You might even be looking far down the road, thinking of it as a place to retire.

But I wanted to buy because society said it was the next step for me, and that in general owning real estate is a good thing. I wanted to buy because it would prove to everyone that I was established, like I was staking my claim and owning my land. (That has a certain Wild West feeling to it, dont you think?) I wanted to buy because real estate was viewed as always a good investment. But where did these thoughts come from? Why was I thinking this way?

Society has a funny way of planting seeds in our heads that sprout into full-blown ideas that look like facts. Yet, many of these ideas are completely irrational. The truth is that I was considering this major life decision under false pretenses.

People say hindsight is 20/20, so lets look back and see why a home purchase at age 27 would have been a disaster for me.

Putting Down Roots

For one thing, buying a home is a little like a tree growing roots. Once that home is purchased, you dont have all that much freedom to move around. And, as a guy in my late 20s who hadnt found his place in the working world and didnt have a significant other, being tied to a single location wouldnt have worked for me.

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Repo 2.0: Cameras Are a New Tool in Repossession Industry

When the police finally intervened, he climbed down with only bumps and bruises.

Chalk up another victory for a business that traditionally booms when the economy goes bust.

The past three years have been no exception. As the economic downturn forced millions of Americans into arrears on their vehicle loans, the collateral recovery industry grew dramatically.

Now, the market for repossessions has started to slow, which probably means better times for everybody else, right?

Not so fast, repo insiders say.

Repossessions are dwindling not because the economy has suddenly improved. Rather, the roads have been swept of the juiciest targets – newer vehicles with high resale values and big unpaid loans attached. With new-car sales in a state of collapse, the pipeline of attractive repo candidates is running thin.

In addition, after getting burned in the recession of 2001-02, vehicle lenders adopted stricter standards, resulting in fewer loans that shouldnt have been made. Given high unemployment, default rates have soared, but these were good loans gone bad, said Tom Webb, chief economist at Manheim Consulting. Its not like the mortgage market.

The same cautious lenders recently have been cutting back on their spending for repossessions, partly to reduce expenses and also because of diminishing returns. It all adds up to a sharp drop in repos over the next few years.

Weep not for the repo man, however.

Plenty of vehicles with overdue loans remain at large, if only they could be tracked down more efficiently.

For 21st century recovery agents like Scott Jackson of Palatine, Ill.-based MVTRAC LLC, the looming downturn is a call to action. Technology, he believes, holds the key to revive growth rates in a business rarely associated with sophisticated practices.

The same cameras that monitor traffic, toll booths and red lights also can be watching for wanted vehicles. Mounted on a spotter car or tow truck, optical character recognition can transmit the letters and numbers from license plates into databases that search for what the industry calls hits.

The new equipment could alter the balance between hunter and hunted forever, said Jackson, chief executive of the 60-employee firm.

If I can get enough cameras out there, its game over, he said. Everywhere we go, we will be picking up cars, like a fisherman casting his lines.

Jackson got his start in the business two decades ago and came to specialize in tough to find vehicles, he said. Today, he has licensed 8,000 stationary cameras covering the roadways, he said. But the bigger opportunity is in mobile.

He launched his first camera-equipped vehicle in May and deploys fewer than 100. By the end of next year, he said, he wants a fleet of 5,000.

Economist Webb expects the industry to impound roughly 2 million vehicles this year, a record, and then see its volumes decline by roughly 10 percent in 2010.

How to Build or Rebuild Your Credit Using a Secured Credit Card

The horror stories about credit cards are real. Far too many people have used them irresponsibly and dug themselves a deep, deep financial hole that takes years or decades to get out of. But those unfortunate tales shouldnt overshadow the very real fact that credit cards have revolutionized how we live, arguably doing for commerce what the automobile did for travel and what the mobile phone has done for communications. Just imagine the pre-credit card days when travel, shopping or going to a restaurant meant carrying around a wallet full of cash or travelers checks.

These days, in the wake of the financial crisis – which both spawned tougher regulations and prompted banks to be circumspect about extending credit – many people simply cant get a credit card. While that is probably a good thing overall, it means that people who have a poor credit history or are simply too young to have established a credit history cannot take advantage of the many real benefits of having a credit card in their wallet. That is, unless they opt to obtain a credit building card, aka as a secured credit card, and begin a journey to obtaining a full-fledged credit card.

Whats Secured About It?

A secured credit card comes with a string attached, a fairly big string. To get a secured card, you have to put up some money.

This protects the bank or credit union that issues the card. Fair or not, if you have shaky credit, youre considered a high-risk customer. To reduce that risk, the bank requires you to deposit a certain amount of money for security. If you cant repay what you owe on the card, the bank can take money out of that account to cover itself.

The Payoff Down the Road

A secured credit card is like training wheels on a bicycle. Its meant to get you to a place where you no longer need it. The goal is for your secured card to evolve into a regular credit card, cutting the string and eliminating the need for the security deposit.

When you have a secured card, youre under a microscope. Think of it like getting a try-out on a baseball team; the coaches want to see how you perform before giving you a slot on the roster. In the same way, the bank keeps track of how you handle your account, and so do the three major credit bureaus, which are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian (not all secured cards report to the bureaus). While you get some of the albeit limited benefits of a full-on credit card, youre able to show that you pay off your bill on-time.

Beverly Harzog, an independent credit card expert and author of the forthcoming book Confessions of a Credit Junkie, says a secured card is a great way to rebuild or establish credit. But she adds: The key is to use the card responsibly.

Plastic Look-alikes

Because you have to deposit money before you can use a secured credit card, it may sound to some like a debit card, especially a prepaid debit card. But its very different.

A debit card draws money directly from the users bank account to make purchases. Using one is like writing a paper check. Theres no credit involved. A prepaid debit card takes this one step further, letting you access funds without even having a bank account. The customer loads and reloads the card with money (there are various ways to do this) and spends as needed.

If you simply want the speed and convenience of paying with plastic, debit cards are handy. But because they dont involve credit, they do nothing to build your credit score. The secured credit card has that niche pretty much to itself.

How to Apply

Because banks face limited risk, theyre fairly receptive to an applicant for a secured credit card, assuming the person has money to deposit. Still, not every application gets a green light. For instance, a recent bankruptcy may limit a persons eligibility and an especially reckless use of credit in the past may scare banks off.

Offers for secured cards are everywhere. The important things for consumers are to find one that is issued by a reputable lending institution (an FDIC-insured bank or NCUA-insured credit union), choose an affordable sum to deposit, and to compare secured card offers.

Deposits for secured cards range from the low hundreds of dollars to more than $5,000. A cards credit limit is tied to the size of the deposit.

The deposit amount and credit limit are not always the same, though. In a few instances, the deposit is more than the credit line. And there are a few partially secured credit cards that offer a higher limit than the amount deposited. This is a little riskier for the issuer, Harzog notes. Banks will provide more leeway to applicants it deems to be less of a financial risk.

Fees, Interest and the Finish Line

As is the case with any financial product, shoppers considering a secured credit card should look for ones that have fees that are as few and as low as possible. While annual fees are common with secured cards, a good secured card will not have an annual fee in excess of $35 or so.

Even the best deal on fees (no fees at all) will do you little good if youre stuck with an outrageous interest rate. You have to balance the two factors, look at the big picture and do the math. That being said, a good secured credit card should not charge more than 19 percent annual interest.

For most applicants, the important part of having a secured credit card is the end game. When will their card become a regular credit card? Harzog, the credit card expert, cites 12 to 18 months as the average period, if [the card is] used responsibly. But she adds the caveat: The specifics of each persons credit file will be a factor.

A Helpful Tool

Being shut out of the credit market is a difficult situation. But getting a secured credit card shows lenders that youre a serious person, willing to bet your own money that you can handle your obligations. And it allows you to prove yourself month by month. This financial tool has helped millions of people to establish or rebuild their credit and, in so doing, helped them get on the path to financial freedom.

4 Best Credit Cards for Improving Your Credit in Fort Lauderdale

One of the most effective ways to rebuild your credit history is to establish good credit through the responsible use of a low-interest credit card. This is not to say that if you have a credit card and you pay what you owe promptly and consistently your credit will be rebuilt fast, its a gradual process.

There is no quick remedy for damaged credit. However, you can choose to commit to responsible personal-finance management to avoid or minimize your chances of being in the same situation again.

Much has been written about the effectiveness of secured credit cards to rebuild credit. A secured credit card has a fixed credit limit and is linked to a savings account. As financially sound as it is, the product earned a bad reputation following events wherein companies offered secured cards to prey on the credit-burdened market, charging hefty interest rates and outrageous fees.

Considering the fact that people with poor credit often struggle to obtain a credit card, the ability to qualify for a secured credit card will likely come as a relief. To help you get your credit back in shape, here are four credit cards in Fort Lauderdale that will actually help you rebuild your credit safely:

1. BrightStar Credit Unions Secured MasterCard

BrightStar Credit Union Secured MasterCard is not a credit card youll have to worry about.

With 8.99% APR when you open your account based on your creditworthiness and 3.99% introductory APR for balance transfers on new accounts, BrightStar Credit Unions Secured MasterCard gives you a great opportunity to rebuild your credit without necessarily having any credit at all.

Because there is a low APR on balance transfers, you can move money from a high-interest credit card to this secured card to save money in interest payments with this lower APR.

2. City County Credit Unions Secured Visa

If you want to enjoy extra perks while rebuilding your credit, City County Credit Unions Secured Visa is what you have in mind. With up to a $2,000 credit limit, City County Credit Unions Secured Visa also offers automatic payments from your savings or checking account. It comes with a 16.9% APR on purchases, cash advances and balance transfers, an annual fee of $50, and penalty fee of up to $35 for late payments.

It is important to note that late payments are likely one of the major reasons you have poor credit in the first place. City County Credit Unions late-payment fee should serve as a form of deterrence, dissuading you from missing payments and hurting your credit further.

3. Tropical Financial Credit Unions Visa Platinum Secured

One of the keys to rebuilding credit is to acquire a card from a financial institution that reports to credit bureaus without imposing unreasonably high fees. With 17.99% APR and 3 percent on cash advances, Tropical Financial Credit Unions Visa Platinum Secured card is a great vehicle for rebuilding credit.

Tropical Financial Credit Union’s Visa Platinum Secured card has no annual, application and balance transfer fees. However, it charges up to $25 for the first late payment and up to $30 each if you miss two or more payments within six months. The credit union also charges an additional $25 if payment is returned for any reason.

4. Florida Community Banks Secured Visa Card

Florida Community Banks Secured Visa Card offers a high 20.99% APR for purchases and a $35 annual fee, which will hopefully work to deter you from not paying your balances off in full. It has a minimum security deposit of $300 and a credit limit of $5,000 .

There is no quick fix to rebuilding credit, but if you are serious about your getting your credit history and score back to full strength you will want to make sure youre using the best credit card available to you.

Showing the credit bureaus and your prospective lenders that you can be trusted with their money starts with the responsible use of a credit card. Discipline and patience are required to improve your score and unlock major savings in the form of lower interest rates.  With a credit card that offers a low interest rate, you will be able to rebuild even the lowliest credit history.

City County Credit Union and Tropical Financial Credit Unions are clients of GOBankingRates.

5 Worst Big Cities For Buying A Home, And 5 Good Ones LEN DHI KBH

Homeownership is unaffordable in some of the biggest and most popular US cities. So says the new edition of an annual study that looks at how the cost of buying a home stacks up against income and expenses in various metro areas.

The study by Interest.com looks at city-specific data on median home prices, incomes and expenses such as property taxes and insurance.

A median-income household can afford a median-priced home in only 10 of the 25 largest US metro areas, says Interest.com, which is owned by Bankrate.com (NYSE:RATE).

Clarence man becomes Tully Rinckey partner

Swetz Clarence resident Darren M. Swetz has joined Tully Rinckey PLLC as a partner in the firms Buffalo office. He joins Tully Rinckey from Kelly amp; Swetz, LLP in Williamsville, where he was the managing partner.

Swetz will significantly expand Tully Rinckey PLLCs real estate and trusts and estates practice areas. He will be overseeing legal matters tied to these practice areas statewide for Tully Rinckey clients. Swetz will also manage business law, consumer bankruptcy and elder law legal matters for clients throughout Western New York.

In addition, Swetz is bringing to Tully Rinckey a number of staff members who have worked with him for many years.

Mathew B. Tully, Tully Rinckey founding partner, said Swetzs experience, work ethic and excellent staff make for a great addition to its team.

His presence at the firm further solidifies our commitment to provide law for life for the people of Western New York and the whole of New York State, as he will be handling real estate and trusts and estates legal matters for Tully Rinckey PLLC clients from Buffalo to Albany and all points in between.

A member of the Erie County Bar Association, Swetz has extensive experience with real estate law, including closings, elder law, trust and estate matters, as well as general business and commercial law and consumer bankruptcy.

Swetz is a graduate of the University of Akron Law School and a cum laude graduate of the University at Buffalo,

A native of Western New York, Swetz is married and has children. He belongs to several professional organizations, including Medicaid Practice Systems and Wealth Counsel.

Alston & Bird Partner Named American College of Bankruptcy Fellow

Alston Bird partner Jason Watson and chair of the firm’s Bankruptcy, Workouts Reorganization Group has been selected as a Fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy.

Watson has more than 15 years of experience representing secured lenders in pre-bankruptcy workouts and Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases. In addition to advising several food franchisors in the acquisition of additional stores out of bankruptcy, he has counseled numerous other companies spanning a broad range of industries, including real estate, manufacturing and telecommunications industries.

A frequent speaker and author on a variety of bankruptcy-related topics, Watson is a co-author of the Bankruptcy Litigation Manual, 2013-2014, published by Wolters Kluwer. He’s also a member of the Board of Directors of the Southeastern Bankruptcy Law Institute and a member of the Atlanta Executive Leadership Council for the American Cancer Society and the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Prior to joining Alston Bird, Watson served as a law clerk to the Honorable John T. Laney III, US Bankruptcy Judge for the Middle District of Georgia.

The American College of Bankruptcy is an honorary professional and educational association of bankruptcy and insolvency professionals. Fellows of the College include commercial and consumer bankruptcy attorneys, insolvency accountants, turnaround specialist, law professors, judges and government officials.