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2012Apr2 More location, location

“The best investment on Earth is earth.” ~ Louis Glickman

Real Estate:

At least 20 times a day, Alan Hladik walks into a fixer-upper and tries to figure out if it is worth buying.

As an inspector for Waypoint Real Estate Group, Mr. Hladik takes about 20 minutes to walk through each home, noting worn kitchen cabinets or missing roof tiles. The blistering pace is necessary to keep up with Waypoint’s appetite: the company, which has bought about 1,200 homes since 2008 — and is now buying five to seven a day — is an early entrant in a business that some deep-pocketed investors are betting is poised to explode.

With home prices down more than a third from their peak and the market swamped with foreclosures, large investors are salivating at the opportunity to buy perhaps thousands of homes at deep discounts and fill them with tenants.

Nobody has ever tried this on such a large scale, and critics worry these new investors could face big challenges managing large portfolios of dispersed rental houses. Typically, landlords tend to be individuals or small firms that own just a handful of homes.

But the new investors believe the rental income can deliver returns well above those offered by Treasury securities or stock dividends. At the same time, economists say, they could help areas hardest hit by the housing crash reach a bottom of the mark.

Auto Sales:

  

Demand for fuel-efficient cars shot higher in March, as consumers sought relief from climbing gas prices.

As a result, Detroit automakers are finally winning the competition with their overseas rivals in this important part of the auto market.

General Motors said that in March the company sold 100,000 cars in the United States that got 30 miles per gallon or better on the highway. That's a first for the company.

In the industry, 30 mpg is considered a fairly high level of fuel efficiency. And until recently, American automakers depended on sales of gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs.

GM said that demand rose for all of its 12 models that get 30 mpg on the highway. Those high-mileage cars will make up between 40% and 45% of the company's U.S. sales, up from only 16% four years ago, when gas prices first spiked to $4 a gallon.

 

Summer is coming:

With airfares to Europe on the rise, it looks like Americans are planning to rediscover the good ol' U.S.A. this summer.

As a result, perhaps more Americans will use the opportunity to visit some of the country's landmarks such as the Alamo and the Grand Canyon that sometimes get overlooked.

Summer airfares to Europe have climbed about 11% compared with last summer, according to travel website Kayak, which attributes the jump to airlines trying to cash in on travelers visiting the London Olympics starting in July.

The growth in domestic travel may address a surprising national condition: Most American adults have not visited some of the nation's best-known landmarks.

For example, 72% of U.S. adults have never visited the Alamo, the site of a pivotal battle in the Texas revolution against Mexico, according to a survey of more than 2,000 adults commissioned by the website Hotwire and conducted by Harris Interactive.

According to the survey, 65% of American adults have yet to visit the Grand Canyon. 62% have not checked out the Statue of Liberty and 61% have never been to the Golden Gate Bridge. Just over half (57%) of U.S. adults have never visited the White House.

Why?

"Often when folks plan a vacation, they are attracted to the lure of an island, beach or big city, leaving many of America's historical sites and natural wonders unseen," said Clem Bason, president of the Hotwire Group. "Overall, I think we just take for granted the diversity, richness and memorable experiences our country offers."