Archive for February, 2016

images

By Chelsea Bengier

We already feel like airlines are screwing us enough. Add long delays, overbooked flights, lost bags, and it turns into hell on the runway. But there’s a silver-lining, if you know what to ask for. Here are seven ways to get even.

Get refunded for bumping

It’s hard not to freak out when you’re bumped off an oversold flight. But remember this: you can get paid back. According to the Department of Transportation, if you get to your destination between one and two hours of your original arrival time on a domestic flight, or between one and four hours on an international trip, the airline owes you 200 percent of the one-way fare (up to $675). If you arrive more than four hours later than planned, you’ll pocket 400 percent of the ticket (up to $1,350). Still can’t believe it? An AirHelp study found that the average payout is $643.

Opt out of a tarmac delay

So you’re stuck on the runway, forced to watch Taken for the fifth time as the hours tick by. (No offense, Liam.) Lucky for you, you can’t be held on a delayed plane for more than three hours on domestic flights or four hours on international routes (if you don’t want to be at least). Airlines are also obligated to update passengers every 30 minutes, and serve food and water after a two-hour wait. Pass the pretzels.

Ask for cash not vouchers

Don’t let an airline ever give you a voucher for a bumped flight, or any other inconvenience. Vouchers are like Monopoly money. They look good on paper, but they’re not as useful in reality. Your best bet? Ask for cash or a check because credits almost always come with strings attached (i.e. blackout dates). So before you pass go, collect your $200 — in cash.

Cancel tickets for free

Got a bad case of buyer’s remorse? Don’t worry, most airlines allow you to cancel or change your ticket within 24 hours for a full refund. In fact, on some carriers (like Southwest) you can even change plans until right before takeoff at no charge. But there are some exceptions. Take American Airlines: You can hold a ticket up to 24 hours, but once you book, you’re locked in. Also, keep in mind that third-party sites like Kayak or Expedia have their own set of rules too.

Pay-back for itinerary changes

When flights are delayed, rescheduled or canceled (ahem, winter storm Jonas), many passengers are forced to rearrange transportation. In situations like these, the airline must either cover all the expenses and fees to reroute you or give you a full refund — even if you bought a non-refundable ticket or were rebooked on a different carrier. So, if the only seat left on the next flight out is first-class, it’s yours without costing a cent. More champagne, please.

Snag a hotel voucher

This will be the last time you’ll ever have to sleep at the gate, or worse, on the terminal floor. Airlines are required to offer free accommodations if you’re stuck overnight involuntarily. Just don’t expect the Ritz. These hotel vouchers can be claimed at any time, meaning if you decide to stay with friends instead of a Holiday Inn, you are still entitled to the coupon. It’s also worth asking if they’ll cover meals as well.

Cash in for lost luggage

If your checked bag is lost, delayed or damaged, don’t settle for the small $50 sum you’re usually offered. Depending on how much your items were worth and how long your bags are MIA, you could be repaid up to $3,500 per passenger in liability for a domestic U.S. trip, and up to $1,675 on international flights. Hello, shopping spree.

Advertisements

images

By Diana Olick

House flipping is always hottest when home prices are nearing a peak. That is not the case right now nationally, and so flipping has remained pretty stable overall … with two very glaring exceptions. Las Vegas and Miami. Sound familiar? They should.

These two markets may well have been the poster children for the flip trade during the last housing boom, and they both paid dearly for it, with homes losing more than half their value when the markets inevitably crashed.

House flipping is generally defined as buying and selling a home within the same calendar year. During the mid-2000s flipping was easier than ever for several reasons. Prices were rising with seemingly no ceiling, builders were putting out more product than anyone could use and even a dog could get a mortgage with no money down. That is not the case now. Not even close, and yet flipping is back in certain spots.

At the peak of the last housing bubble, flipping made up 8.6 percent of all home sales nationally, according to Trulia. That share is now down to about 5 percent and holding steady. In Las Vegas, however, house flips are making up 10.4 percent of home sales, the highest in the nation, and the share is rising. Las Vegas flipping is now at about 80 percent of its 15-year peak.

Over the past year in Miami, where condominium construction is fast and furious yet again, flipping activity has increased most, from 4.7 percent of all sales to 6.4 percent. Other Florida markets are also seeing the practice gain popularity again, according to Trulia. Both Florida and Las Vegas held the highest foreclosure rates in the nation during the housing crash and are still mopping up the mess with higher-than-average distressed sales. The market with the smallest share of flips: Detroit.

While large-scale investors scooped up foreclosures and turned them into rentals, smaller investor-flippers had to sit out the housing crash years. Homes were losing value, and lenders all but locked up the mortgage market. In the past four years, as home prices began gaining value again, flipping became profitable, although not nearly as profitable as it once was. Companies cropped up to help streamline the process, like Texas-based 1-800-CashOffer, also known as WeBuyHouses, which connects investors with sellers across the country.

“Miami and Las Vegas are extremely hot and are very big markets for us. There are still a lot of houses that need repair. Home flippers make their money by buying a house and fixing it up,” said Jeremy Brandt, CEO of We Buy Houses. “Everyone has their own strategy, and out of 10 homes in a month, the WBH investor might keep one or two for their rental portfolio, flip six to other investors, then fix up and resell the rest on the MLS (multiple list serve) in order to turn their cash over so they can buy more properties.”

Last fall, Brandt said he was getting between 5,000 and 10,000 contacts a month from home sellers looking to unload their properties quickly. He admits, with tight inventory of homes for sale nationwide, finding and securing the right, profitable property is harder than ever.

On the flip side, “Selling a house isn’t a problem,” he added. Brandt’s company spends millions on marketing, building a strong national brand so that they can find sellers more easily. While Las Vegas is hot, he said investors are making the most money in Los Angeles — that is if they have deep pockets. Investors, there are flipping multimillion-dollar properties, so the rewards are therefore greater.