The United States Senate has just passed “The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act” by a vote of 72-22 (both US Senator Nelson and Senator Rubio voted in favor of the bill. This is the bill the US House passed on March 4. This is incredible news for Florida REALTORS® and property owners. The bill will now be sent directly to President Obama for his signature!
* Reinstates Grandfathering – This bill permanently repeals Section 207 of the Biggert-Waters Act, meaning that grandfathering is reinstated. All post-FIRM properties built to code at the time of construction will have protection from rate spikes due to new mapping – for example, if you built to +2 Base Flood Elevation, you stay at +2, regardless of new maps. Also importantly, the grandfathering stays with the property, not the policy.
* Caps Annual Rate Increases at 18% – This bill decreases FEMA’s authority to raise premiums. The bill prevents FEMA from increasing premiums within a single property class beyond a 15 percent average a year, with an individual cap of eighteen percent a year. Pre Biggert-Waters, the class average cap was 10%. Currently (Post Biggert-Waters), the class average cap is 20%. The bill also requires a 5% minimum annual increase on pre-FIRM primary residence policies that are not at full risk. The updated legislation also states that FEMA shall strive to minimize the number of policies with premium increases that exceed one percent of the total coverage of the policy (e.g., 1% of $250,000 = $2,500).
* Refunds policyholders who purchased pre-FIRM homes after Biggert-Waters (7/6/12) and were subsequently charged higher rates
* Permanently Removes the Sales Trigger – This bill removes the policy sales trigger, which allows a purchaser to take advantage of a phase in. The new purchaser is treated the same as the current property owner.
* Allows for Annual Surcharges – This legislation applies an annual surcharge of $25 for primary residences and $250 for second homes and businesses, until subsidized policies reach full risk rates. All revenue from these assessments would be placed in the NFIP reserve fund, which was established to ensure funds are available for meeting the expected future obligations of the NFIP.
* Funds the Affordability Study and Mandates Completion – This legislation funds the affordability study required by Biggert-Waters and mandates its completion in two years.
* Includes the Home Improvement Threshold – This bill returns the “substantial improvement threshold” (i.e. renovations and remodeling) to the historic 50% of a structure’s fair market value level. Under Biggert-Waters, premium increases are triggered when the renovation investments meet 30% of the home’s value.
* Additional provisions: This legislation includes several other provisions including preserving the basement exception, allowing for payments to be made in monthly installments, and reimbursing policy holders for successful map appeals.
Apple has released iOS 7.1, the latest iterative version of its mobile software for its smartphones and tablets.
The software was made available for download on Monday, a week shy of six months after a radically redesigned iOS 7 was released.
The latest software version is compatible with iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, and iPod touch (5th generation) devices.
Users of iOS 7 and older versions can upgrade compatible devices over-the-air by navigating to “Software Update” in the “General” section of the device’s settings.
iOS 7.1 includes 41 bug fixes that have plagued some early adopters, along with user interface design tweaks, such as visual changes to the phone dialer and power-off features.
The software also lands with a number of new features, including:
- CarPlay: formerly known as iOS in the Car, which supports iPhone calling, music, maps, and messaging. It also allows users to control certain functions through iOS’ in-built voice-activated assistance Siri;
- Siri improvements: Including natural-sounding voices for U.K. English, Australian English, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese. You can also use it in push-to-talk mode by holding the Home button for the duration of your query;
- Calendar changes: The list view has returned in month view, and the update has also included country-specific holidays added for many locales;
- iTunes Radio updates: The radio feature, first introduced in iOS 7, has been updated with new features, including the ability to buy albums over-the-air from “Now Playing”;
- Accessibility additions: The “parallax” motion feature option now includes Weather, Messages, and multi-tasking user interface animations;
- Camera settings bolstered: Including a setting that allows users to automatically enable HDR mode for iPhone 5s users;
- Touch ID improved: The software that controls the biometric reader has been improved to make fingerprint recognition better.
Overall, with its user interface and bug fix improvements, the update is designed above all to resolve some of the initial problems with the software, which some insiders previously reported was rushed in order to land in line with the release of iPhone 5s and 5c smartphones in September.
According to Apple, about 82 percent of all compatible iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch devices are running iOS 7 as of late February, based on App Store data.
As many millions have waited to upgrade until some of the known and well-documented bugs and user interface flaws have been resolved, that figure is expected to rise significantly in the next days.
For those not able to download over-the-air, Windows and Mac users can alternatively connect their compatible iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch devices to iTunes, and upgrade by selecting the “Check for Upgrade” button in their device’s summary window.
Or, users can download the software bundle (.IPSW) files from Apple’s website for offline installations in the coming hours. (Enterprise users can use Apple’s Phobos server for download links.)
In past updates, downloads are often slow at first as millions attempt to upgrade at the same time.
Downloading over a Wi-Fi connection is recommended due to the size of the file, and some users may have to delete content from their devices in order to install.
By Zack Whittaker, ZDNet
The Importance of Creating Human Connections with Your Brand in Social Media
One of the best things about social media is that people are becoming more real, revealing more about themselves. People are showing more courage in putting themselves out there – sure, some guy you went to school with might judge you for sharing your feelings, but there are others with whom your opinions will resonate, and those are the people you really want to connect with. Social media facilitates better connections with likeminded folk, leading to the creation of online communities that foster encouragement, creativity and genuine relationships. It’s really great to see, really heartening to see people who might have felt out of place in the world finding others who feel the same way.
I was reminded of this when Bryan Kramer did a presentation recently where he summed this up perfectly from a business perspective:
It’s a simple, inspiring summary that’s been rightfully praised by many in the industry. It underlines that community spirit, that tangible sense of belonging that people are finding in the social media landscape. Inspiring is the best word for it, and I applaud Bryan for his clarity.
What does this mean for business?
Bryan’s statement really captures the mood around social media and how it should be used by brands. There’s a clear shift away from advertising and selling and a move towards creating genuine connections with people. The emphasis on content is largely due to it being a way to create human connections, an opportunity to present who you are as a company, as opposed to what you do. It’s an exciting time to be involved as the opportunities for creating real, meaningful relationships are there, waiting, and the audience is looking for engagement. You just have to reach out to them, understand them, and, ideally, contribute to their world. The opportunity to take up a place of trust and service has never been better, it’s now up to businesses to take it.
So how do you do it?
Listening. This is emphasized by every social media expert in every post and every publication. You need to learn what your customers want, listen to what they’re after, then be responsive to their needs. You’ve got access to more consumer data than ever before, and most of it is happening in day to day discussions, right now, conversations that you can tap into and take notes from. You need to listen, but more than that, you need to hear what’s being said and absorb that information into your processes.
Brands need to be more human
Be real, be genuine. Be adventurous with your messaging. You know your target audience – ideally, you are amongst them yourself – so if you’re taking a risk and putting yourself out there, think about what would resonate with you. What would you respond to as a target consumer? You have the data, the platforms, the means – you can find like minded, or better ‘like-wanted’, folk that will connect with your brand identity. You just have to establish what that identity is.
Be about people
What’s the thing that people always say when they leave a company? ‘The best thing about working here was the people’. Social media gives you a chance to make all businesses about the people. Obviously, your product still needs to be great, but that inner-company camaraderie can be spread further, creating a more collaborative relationship between your business and your clients. People want to be part of a community, to feel like they belong. Social media gives you the chance to show that they belong with you.
It’s not about consumers, it’s not about clients. It’s about people. Listening, engaging, creating real connections. H2H.
They’re out there now, talking to each other, establishing like minded communities. All you have to do is go meet them.
Source: Andrew Hutchinson, Social Media Today
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