Social Security Office Hours Change

Social Security Field Offices to Begin Closing to the Public a Half Hour Early
Congressional Budget Cuts Force Reduced Public Hours

Effective August 15, 2011, Social Security field offices nationwide will close to the public 30 minutes early each day.  For example, a field office that is usually open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. will close daily at 3:30 p.m.
“While agency employees will continue to work their regular hours, this shorter public window will allow us to complete face-to-face service with the visiting public without incurring the cost of overtime for our employees,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security.  “Congress provided our agency with nearly $1 billion less than the President requested for our budget this fiscal year, which makes it impossible for us to provide the amount of overtime needed to handle service to the public as we have in the past.”  

Most Social Security services do not require a visit to an office.  For example, anyone wishing to apply for benefits, sign up for direct deposit, replace a Medicare card, obtain a proof of income letter or inform us of a change of address or telephone number may do so at or by dialing our toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
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SSA Press Office  440 Altmeyer Building  6401 Security Blvd.  Baltimore, MD 21235
410-965-8904  FAX 410-966-9973

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Homeowners Levels Declining

A recent MSN Real Estate blog posting provided U.S. Commerce Department data showing that homeownership has declined again.  Currently, only 65.9% of Americans own their own homes, which is at the lowest level since 1998.  Experts predict that this declining trend will persist as we continue to experience high unemployment, real estate market uncertainty and continual strict lender guidelines.

From a relocation industry perspective, it will be interesting to see how declining homeownership impacts the mindset, focus and policies of corporate clients, government agencies and the relocation management companies that are assisting them with their relocations.  The home sale component has always been central to the relocation transaction.  If this transition to a “rentership society” is accelerated, we will likely see a more renter-focused relocation transaction become the norm.

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July Appraisers of the Week

As part of our ongoing recognition of mortgage and relocation appraisers who deliver exceptional services to Dwellworks and our clients, we issued Dwellworks Team Awards in July to the following appraisers:

  • Annette Young of Columbus, OH
  • Kevin Brown of Affiliated Appraisal Service in Medford, NJ
  • First Class Appraisals of Las Vegas, NV
  • Terry Fife of Fife Appraisal Services in Pendleton, OR
  • Willis Smith of Willis Smith & Associates Little Rock, AR
  • Jay Seaton of Peoria, IL
  • Jay Faustini of Faustini Appraisal Services in San Francisco, CA
  • Carolyn Eppley of Carolyn Eppley Appraisals in Charlotte, NC

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Dwellworks, LLC Shortlisted for a 2011 EMMA Award

Dwellworks, LLC, a provider of innovative services for the relocation, real estate, and mortgage lending industries, was recently shortlisted for the 2011 EMMA awards, presented by the Forum for Expatriate Management (FEM). Presented at the FEM Global Mobility Summit at the prestigious Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile in Chicago on September 12, the EMMA Awards are considered the “ultimate recognition of professional excellence.”

Dwellworks was nominated for the Destination Services Provider of the Year Award. This selection is based on the company’s continued focus on the quality of its International Destination Services team. Dwellworks recently established communication protocols to better incorporate the exchange of information and the building of relationships internally and with customers. Dwellworks also successfully passed the SAS70 Type II audit and PCI Data Security vulnerability testing, providing clients an enhanced level of assurance that maintains adequate controls and safeguards for financial and operating data. These various initiatives have ensured that the International Destination Services team continues to exceed expectations and improve service to their customers.

“We are honored to be considered for the Destination Services Provider of the Year award,” said Bob Rosing, CEO of Dwellworks. “I would like to thank the entire International Destination Services staff at Dwellworks for continuing to service our clients with professionalism and excellence.”

About the 2011 EMMA Awards
The EMMAs 2011 U.S. Awards will be held in Chicago as part of the US FEM Global Mobility Summit. The awards span 22 categories ranging from the areas of Global Mobility, Relocation Management, International Benefits and Destination Services.

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Canadian Real Estate Market Update

We spend a great deal of time talking about the real estate market woes in the United States, but our neighbors to the north are continuing to see positive trends with house prices in the Canadian market.  A recent Royal LePage article reports that although there are signs of moderating, the market is expecting a year over year increase of house values of 7.7% by the end of 2011.

 The Royal LePage Quarterly House Price Survey (Q2 2011) shows mostly positive price changes across key housing segments and different markets. This is a markedly different perspective than a current US chart that is littered throughout with negative numbers.  While they are looking for these gains to level off, Phil Soper, president and chief executive of Royal LePage Real Estate Services, noted that improved employment levels and strengthening wages should continue to provide stability for the housing market.

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June Appraisers of the Week

As part of our ongoing recognition of mortgage and relocation appraisers who deliver exceptional services to Dwellworks and our clients, we issued Dwellworks Team Awards in June to the following appraisers:

  • Joe Trecola of TREA Corp in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tom Weber of Associated Appraisal & Property Services in Laguna Niguel, CA
  • Dan Swinney of Residential Value Services in Centreville, VA
  • Michael Tabacco of Michael P. Tabacco in Walnut Creek, CA
  • Prodigy Appraisal Services, Inc in West Hills, CA
  • William Finlay of Finlay & Company LLC in Montgomery, AL
  • Steve Nichols of Steve Nichols Appraisal Service in Dallas, TX
  • Rocky Whitaker of Associated Appraisers, Inc. in Roswell, GA
  • Hank Fontes of Fontes Appraisals, Inc. in Orange, CA

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Faster Foreclosures Are Needed

Kansas State University professor Eric Higgins recently released a study which shows that prolonging the foreclosure process is actually harming the housing sector; it drags the foreclosure process out and delays the chance for market recovery.  Higgins identifies the ineffectiveness of mortgage modifications as a postponing of the inevitable, as well as a link between the long foreclosure process and continued unemployment due to lack of mobility.

Clearly, the foreclosures currently on the market and the uncertainty of the shadow inventory threatening the market are negatively influencing the real estate market.  The question now is just how painful it will be to get all of that behind.

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Maryland: New Reciprocity Agreement for Out of Country Drivers

New rules that recently came into effect in Maryland for Out of Country drivers from the Federal Republic of Germany, France and Republic of Korea (South) allow them to waive the knowledge test and the practical skills test when applying for a license. Applicants are still required to attend the Drug and Alcohol Education program. License holders from France and the Federal Republic of Germany must surrender their licenses before a Maryland license can be issued. Details of these and any additional requirements can be obtained by checking the Maryland Department of Transportation website.


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Rental Housing Availability Alert

Dwellworks is issuing an alert to all companies relocating individuals into or within the United States regarding the state of the nation-wide rental market. Several factors, detailed in this US Rental Market Alert Summer 2011, are driving prices up and availability and landlord concessions down.

Watch this space for further updates.

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From Globalization to the Mega-region

National Georgraphic interviews author Richard Florida:

“Whether we’re in France, the United States, China, or Japan, we tend to eat the same foods, wear the same clothes, drive the same cars. But then simultaneously, people are trying to find what’s unique and authentic in the world, and that interest makes those things rise in value. In some ways, capitalism is wrapping its arms around a place’s sense of history and authenticity, viewing them as economic assets, a storehouse of value and profits. And yet, popularity threatens those assets.”

   – Richard Florida

To the relocation professional Florida’s argument seems overly simplistic, perhaps a difference between travel and relocation. As we facilitate life changing moves every day we see the cultural challenges both on the surface and deeper in the unconsciousness that go well beyond what car one drives or what food they eat even if the world is becoming more commercially homogenized. His broader point regarding the 21st century belonging to the city will have great impact on the relocation industry and all our lives in the years to come. Interesting food for thought.

Read the interveiw here

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