SDG Attends Advanced Collaborative Divorce Training with Jacinta Gallant

Partners Christopher Guetti and Jennifer Dominelli recently attended an advanced training for Collaborative Divorce with renowned trainer Jacinta Gallant from Prince Edward Island.

The training continues to build upon Chris and Jennifer’s experience and training in handling divorces through collaboration in lieu of litigation. This option provides clients with the opportunity to remain out of Court while still achieving a result that meets all of their needs and those of the family. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about Collaborative Law, please contact SDG. Also please see CDACD.org for more information.

Survey: More Than 8 in 10 Fell Victim to Phishing Attacks in 2018. Here’s What to Know About the Practice.

Phishing and other social engineering attacks cost victims more than $1.4 million in 2018, according to an Accenture study.

When hackers go phishing, they reel in the likes of credit card numbers, email account passwords and bank login information. Droves of sensitive information can end up on the hook, and all it takes for a consumer to fall vulnerable is a moment of trust in the wrong email, website or payment portal.

The practice is on the rise: An annual study by Accenture found that 85 percent of organizations experienced phishing and social engineering attacks — an increase of 16 percent year-over-year — and the incidents cost victims upwards of $1.4 million. Results from Proofpoint’s annual phishing survey back that up, as more than eight in 10 respondents reported attacks in 2018. The good news? Practicing good email hygiene — using a password manager, turning on two-factor authentication and even adding a recovery phone number — can significantly lower your risk.

Credit:  Hayden Field –  Published 10:00 am CDT, Tuesday, July 16, 2019 and mySA Credit also ALTA [American Land Title Association] TitleNews Online Archive

Check out the below infographic for more on phishing — and how to protect your sensitive information from ending up as the catch of the day. 

DRINENY Hosts Forensic Weather Expert Howard Altschule

The Defense Research Institute of Northeastern New York, and Christopher Guetti of Smith Dominelli & Guetti, president, hosted Howard Altschule, lead meteorologist and founder of Forensic Weather Consultants LLC. The presentation provided insight into Howard’s command of weather data, and how it can be used in a variety of different premises liability and property loss claims.

He and consulting meteorologist John Lombardo showed the increasing sophistication of the technology, and how it can assist to support or refute claims.  Say a line of storms have come through and caused considerable property damage to a certain geographical area, his expertise can be used to verify an insured’s claim for a new roof has not been fraudulently made, confirming whether a particular property fell within the damage zone of a particular storm.  When it comes to premises liability, the combination of data and expert opinion can assist in determining whether ice had been present on the walking surface for a sufficient period of time such that the property owner should have known that it existed.  He also discussed how reliance on weather records available online alone may not be reliable, and has personally been involved in seeking amendments to those types of records as a result of his research. 

We want to thank Howard and John for taking the time to present to the DRI.

Millennials vs. The Housing Market

The number of millennials entering the housing market is set to burden an already challenging market for first-time buyers, according to a new report by Zillow. 

Zillow states that 45 million people will reach the typical age for first-time buyers—34 years old—within the next decade, which is 3.1 million more than during the previous decade.

There are currently 44.9 million Americans aged 24-33, or potential first-time buyers, compared to 41.8 million people between the ages of 35-44, which is a 7% increase.

The area of concern, according to Zillow, is the shrinking inventory and higher prices of homes, especially in the least expensive third of homes, which are the homes most likely to be sought by first-time buyers. Zillow states that these homes’ values increased 57.3% over the past five years, despite inventory dropping 23.2%.

“The potential first-time buyer bulge, without inventory to meet it, suggests that the typical age of first-time buyers will continue to be pushed further and further out,” said Skylar Olsen, Director of Economic Research at Zillow. “The rate of single-family construction is still behind the pace we experienced in the 1990s, and without an increase in truly new supply, would-be first-time buyers will instead persist in the rental market.”

Olsen added, “Buyers making the transition from renting to homeownership helps ease rental demand, which limits rent-price growth. If this coming wave of buyers have to compete fiercely for homes to purchase, that could drive up rent prices as well as home values.”

Two of the nation’s least affordable markets, San Diego and Boston, are expected to see an almost 20% increase over the next 10 years of potential first-time buyers.

While Zillow is reporting that first-time buyers need 1.5 times longer to save for a down payment than they did 30 years ago, Ellie Mae released a study that found millennials are taking advantage of falling interest rates and quickly closing on loans.

The average 30-year rate dropped to 4.75% in February and the average time to close all loans dropped to 40 days, marking the shortest closing period since February 2015. Millennials, overall, closed all loans two days faster month-over-month.

For loans closed by millenials in March, 68% were conventional while 28% were FHA.

“Homebuying tends to pick up in the spring and lower interest rates are intensifying this trend among Millennials,” said Joe Tyrrell, EVP of Strategy and Technology at Ellie Mae. “Likewise, lower interest rates are providing increased purchase power to millennials, allowing them to participate in a very competitive home buying market.”

Zillow’s report added that the three best markets for first-time buyers are Tampa Bay, Florida; Las Vegas; and Phoenix.Credit:

Credit:  Mike Albanese, Reporter for DS News and MReport, and

Daily Dose – 5.1.19

Credit also ALTA [American Land Title Association] TitleNews Online Archive

Dominelli & Campito Present at FLICC

Jennifer Dominelli and Paul Campito were featured presenters on May 1, 2019 at the Finger Lakes Insurance Council Claims Roundtable held at Madison Mutual Insurance Company.  Jennifer presented on Discovery of Electronically Stored Information (ESI) and Paul provided a recent case law update on significant coverage decisions.  The attendees included both new and seasoned claims adjusters, representing nearly 20 different companies from Upstate New York.  Jennifer and Paul were honored to be included in the event and given the opportunity to educate the insurance industry on topics of interest.

Boom Or Bust For Spring Homebuying?

Home prices reached an all-time high in most markets in 2018. Homeowners benefitted greatly as a result, with their overall net wealth rising by a cool $1 trillion. A typical homeowner’s wealth is estimated to have reached $254,000 while that of a typical renter stood at only $5,000. Looking ahead, home values are poised to advance further in 2019, albeit more modestly. However, home sales slumped badly in the closing months of last year. Persistent sales declines are nearly always associated with dampening home prices and homes sitting on the market for a lengthier time.

Home sales had been on a steady increase from 2010 to 2017, from 4.2 million to 5.5 million for existing-home sales and from 320,000 to 620,000 for new home sales. The early months of 2018 were neutral, with similar sales activity as in prior months. Then came the plunge, with home sales marking a 10% decline in December compared to the year before. Sales got whacked by 15% in the West region, where home prices rose too fast too soon and made it too difficult for a middle-income household to buy. Days on market rose to 46 days compared to 30 days just one year ago, inventory started a rise of seven straight months after having fallen for 40 straight months, and home price appreciation got halved to only 3% gain in one year.

How will the critical spring home-buying season fare this year: a continuing slump or a meaningful turnaround? Multiple data show definitively improving conditions. First, consumer sentiment about home buying is turning for the better. Our NAR survey of consumers had shown weakening optimism about home buying that has stretched for nearly two years. Only 34% of consumers indicated that it was a good time to buy in the third quarter of 2018 compared to 47% in early 2017. So this decline in sentiment should have been a forewarning about potentially softening home sales, even though consumer psychology can be a bit fickle about what they say versus what they actually do. The latest early read of consumer sentiment, fortunately, is showing a rebound, portending more foot traffic ahead at open houses. In fact, the number of openings of lockboxes – where a Realtor would access a key before unlocking a home – has been trending up. NAR’s SentriLlock data reading was measurably higher in January and February compared to the second half of 2018.

More than the softer economic data of sentiment and opening lockboxes, the hard data on the number of people applying for a mortgage to buy a home has also been on the uptick. After weak conditions of late last year, mortgage applications have picked up notably in 2019 with more consumers evidently searching for a home compared to a one year ago. In addition, the number of contract signings to buy – captured in the pending home sales index – increased 4.6% in January. Finally, the broader consumer outlook about the economy is back to near an all-time high after a brief slump. The consumer confidence index reached 131 in February, slightly better than the figure one year ago and well above the 50-year average of 93.

What caused the slump and what sparked the sudden change? Home prices were becoming unaffordable. The tight supply of inventory from multiple years of inadequate new home construction pushed the median home price to reach an all-time high of $259,300 in 2018 from $166,100 in 2011. This 56% home price gain was too much in relation the wage gain of only 18% over the same period. Mortgage rates were also not helping as they steadily trended up to above 5% for the first time in a decade.

But thankfully, the Federal Reserve changed its tune in late December. Rather than the two or three rate hikes scheduled for 2019 as was mentioned in the FOMC statement, the Fed later said it will be “patient” in 2019. That is, no further rate hikes. Quickly, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to under 4.5%. A typical homebuyer would save nearly $100 per month from this change in mortgage rates. Moreover, the job market is tight and pushing up income. The latest wage gain of 3.4% is the highest in a decade. For the first time in a long time, people’s income will outpace home price growth, thereby helping on affordability.

The slump is over. Better times are ahead for homebuyers.

Credit:  Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist of National Association of REALTORS(r)

Credit also ALTA [American Land Title Association] TitleNews Online Archive

SDG Celebrates Adoption in Saratoga County

SDG is proud to announce the completion of an adoption proceeding commenced in Saratoga County Family Court for a very beautiful little girl.  This matter, as with any adoption, was not without challenges, as it involved a hard to find biological father that had relocated to Florida and had never been an active part of the child’s life.  Her now proud father and the child’s mother had been together for so long, he has been the only father she ever knew. The process of adoption can at times seem long and frustrating, but was completed fairly timely and well within the goals the parents had set for themselves. The lovely couple have a wedding date set, and wanted the adoption completed in advance.

Dominelli to Present at Evidence Primer

Jennifer Dominelli will be lecturing other attorneys in Albany on April 30, 2019 on the topics of “The Big Six Admissibility Questions Handling Email, Social Media and Other ESI”.  Attorneys are required to take 24 credit hours bi-annually in order to maintain their license.  Jennifer, along with other veteran faculty, will be providing attorneys with a solid foundation and real-world tips for navigating the rules of evidence.  SDG has an experienced team committed to meeting of the varied needs of individuals facing ligation.  Having command of how to effectively apply the rules of evidence at each stage of the litigation process, from discovery to trial, is vital. If you would like more information about the seminar chick here The Rules of Evidence: A Practical Toolkit or should you have a question about a legal issue, please contact Jennifer at jdominelli@sdglawfirm.com.

SDG Attends Charity “Bowling for Morgan” Event

SDG was proud to sponsor a charity bowling event held for Morgan Waite on February 3, 2019 at the Spare Time bowling facility in Latham, New York, a young lady who sustained a severe spinal cord injury as a result of a pool accident. A link to a couple of articles related to her recovery can be found here and here

SDG used the opportunity to not only give back to a good cause, but also take some time to hang with the rest of the SDG family outside the office as a kind of pre-Superbowl warm up. It was a sold out event, and great fun for adults and kids alike.

We want to wish all the best to Morgan, her recovery efforts, and her family.