Monday, July 21, 2014

The 38 Most Haunting Abandoned Places On Earth

These real life ruins offer an eerie glimpse into a world without humans.√ The location pictured below is barely an hour from Northern New Jersey.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mortgage Rate Predictions

Many of our readers ask us where interest rates are headed over the next several months. While no one has a crystal ball, we did want to share what some experts are saying on the subject.

Freddie Mac
“In the next few months, mortgage rates are likely to remain at their current, low level, but will not remain there for long. As the Federal Reserve is expected to ‘taper’ its purchases of long-term Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities, and as economic growth picks up, long-term yields will gradually rise. Fixed-rate mortgages are expected to be higher in six months, and may even approach 5 percent a year from now.”
National Association of Realtors

“Mortgage rates could move suddenly higher in anticipation of rate increases, much as they did last summer when refinance and transaction activity was high. Steady purchase transaction volume and lower refinance volume could mean that mortgages rates may adjust in a more gradual fashion. In either case, as the economy improves—and today’s data clearly suggests it is improving—the overall trend for mortgage rates is up, not down.”
Fannie MaeProjects the 30 year fixed mortgage rate to be 4.3% by the end of the year.
Mortgage Bankers AssociationProjects the 30 year fixed mortgage rate to be 4.7% by the end of the year.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What Males a Neighborhood Click

When Pulitzer Prize writer Tina Rosenberg recently wrote a short piece for the NY Times on the elements that can make an urban or suburban neighborhood come together for it's residents, it stimulated a range of comments that provide much food for thought:
"America is synonymous with big business and the success of neighborhood is highly relevant to small economies. Small economies with many small enterprises, would obviously make an ideal answer for an excellent neighborhood.... 
I have lived in several cities in the U.S. and abroad, but the best for neighborhoods that I have found is definitely Seattle. Its neighborhoods are walkable and center around shopping streets that are seldom more than a few blocks from where most people live. This tends to be more characteristic of the middle class neighborhoods than working class neighborhoods in the southern part of the city, but in most parts of town it is easy to live without a car. Developers and city planners would do well to follow Seattle's example..... 
Our most recent Streetfilm on The Better Block has been an enormous hit. Watch them celebrate their 4th anniversary with innovative crosswalks, music, art and pop=up shops! https://vimeo.com/95573182 .... 
The most effective change is from the ground up. I remember years ago as a graduate student working in Bushwick, the pride some local residents showed in a vest pocket park they built with their own hands -- at a time when NYC had no money to support this kind of work.... 
Great article. This seems like a real trend in America - medium size cities like Memphis becoming much more walkable, more lively, more desirable. The next generation has little interest in car ownership because they realize the obvious: your quality of life is far, far better when you live in a place where you don't need a car. The number of those places is only going to keep growing..... 
A wonderful idea! When I was a Civic Club President in a neighborhood near Sharpstown in Houston, a bunch of us brought telescopes out to a vacant lot. We set them up and kids could look at the moon and stars. It was a great event and, counting snacks, we pulled it off for less than $50..... 
Surprised the author didn't provide a list of resources or links to more placemaking organizations who are a catalyst and support for exactly these types of initiatives, such as Build a Better Block, http://betterblock.org/ Parking Day, http://parkingday.org/, and Projects for Public Spaces, http://www.pps.org/, among many, many others...... 
Did anyone else notice the actions are non partisan? I strongly suspect that the groups have members of all parties that reach compromises as well. The problem is the inherent threat it poses to elected partisan politicians whose power is being challenged. Too bad local residents don't try to use the same methods to influence the governance and instead fall back on political bickering. It is one reason I enjoy our small rural community. Local projects of all kinds are completed by people who leave their politics at the door.... 
he people who participate can create an ambiance in which with a minimum of effort or monies transform dysfuntion areas into a viable and productive community. Youthful passion can either be posiive or negative; destructive or can create a viable attitude which helps most get out of these tragic circumstances. This could lead to a change to positve cultural values. Why not ry these approaches where possible?..... 
These are all good points, but if cities weren't plagued by such unattractive education options (lousy/mediocre public schools vs astronomically expensive private schools), then I wonder if many people would want to live in the suburbs in the first place."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Celebrating and Reflecting on Home Ownership

National Homeownership Month actually started as a week-long celebration of homeownership during the Clinton administration in 1995. In 2002, President George W. Bush proclaimed June as the National Homeownership Month. Here is an excerpt from his proclamation:
“Homeownership is an important part of the American Dream…A home provides shelter and a safe place where families can prosper and children can thrive. For many Americans, their home is an important financial investment, and it can be a source of great personal pride and an important part of community stability.” 
“Homeownership encourages personal responsibility and the values necessary for strong families. Where homeownership flourishes, neighborhoods are more stable, residents are more civic-minded, schools are better, and crime rates decline.” 
“During National Homeownership Month, I encourage all Americans to learn more about financial management and to explore homeownership opportunities in their communities. By taking this important step, individuals and families help safeguard their financial futures and contribute to the strength of our Nation.”

Sunday, June 08, 2014

What to do With Those Clippings? Nothing!

...or almost nothing. Scotts has a vested interest in selling you lawn and garden fertilizers and nutrients, but even Scotts goes out of it's way to make the case for leaving your lawn clippings on your lawn.
"It's a question we all face when mowing: Should I bag my clippings or leave them on the lawn? In most cases, the answer is easy: Leave the clippings on the lawn! Leaving the clippings will save you time and energy, and it will return valuable nutrients to the lawn."

If you have leftover clippings, another good option is to mulch your garden with same. Says Scotts:
"Grass clippings can also be collected for use in a compost pile or as mulch, unless you recently applied a weed control product to the lawn."

Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Future is Now for 3D Home Construction

LLoyd Alter (via FACIT) makes the case that we're much further along in using 3D printers in home construction than futurists have projected:
The 3D printed, digitally fabricated home is here and it is beautiful. It will also change the way architecture is done...While purists have complained that this is not strictly 3D printing in that it is not "additive", I respond that they are missing the point, which is that it is another way of taking computer generated designs and giving them 3D form, straight from computer to tool, and it doesn't use plastic or concrete, two materials that we are trying to use less of in green building.
Other experts debate and deconstruct his arguments in Treehugger's comments, but he includes a fascinating architectural slide show to back up his thesis.
 http://www.treehugger.com/slideshows/modular-design/facher's commentsit-takes-digitally-fabricated-house-next-level/

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Vertical Farming Plans Taking Shape in West

The concept of Vertical Farming is starting to spread it's ambitious wings in prominent locations from the far east to the south west.
Live Share Grow is a proposal by Brandon Martella for a combo residential tower and vertical farm for downtown San Diego. The multi-story tower is dual purpose – one side is holds residential apartments in varying sizes, while the other is a large-scale hydroponic vertical farm. Located in a popular area amidst other residential towers, offices, tourist attractions and very close to the bay, Live Share Grow would be sited to contribute to the larger community.

We hope that other cities with dreams of high rising sustainability will look into this.



Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Experts Predict Future Home Values

Today, many real estate conversations center on housing prices and where they may be headed. That is why we like the Home Price Expectation Survey. Every quarter, Pulsenomics surveys a nationwide panel of over one hundred economists, real estate experts and investment & market strategists about where prices are headed over the next five years. They then average the projections of all 100+ experts into a single number.

Results of their latest survey
  • Home values will appreciate by 4.4% in 2014.
  • The cumulative appreciation will be 19.5% by 2018.
  • That means the average annual appreciation will be 3.6% over the next 5 years.
  • Even the experts making up the most bearish quartile of the survey still are projecting a cumulative appreciation of 9.4% by 2018.
Individual opinions make headlines. We believe the survey is a fairer depiction of future values.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Foreclosures Decrease Nationally -- While NJ Breaks New Records in Reposessions

New Jersey was the only state to see an increase in loans in foreclosure on a quarter-over-quarter basis in the first 3 months of 2014. This is according to a new report from the Mortgage Bankers Association. New Jersey has fast become a focal point of the US foreclosure crisis. Eight % of New Jersey's loans are in the foreclosure process, the highest in the country. And there was no silver lining in the decline in loans that were over 90 days delinquent either — because this was driven by loans that entered the foreclosure process. Slower home price growth also tends to keep more homeowners in negative equity — when they owe more on their homes that their mortgage is worth.

RealtyTrac the nation's leading source for comprehensive housing data, yesterday released its U.S. Foreclosure Market Report for April 2014, which shows foreclosure filings - default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions - were reported on 115,830 U.S. properties in April, a 1 percent decrease from the previous month and down 20 percent from April 2013.

The report also shows one in every 1,137 U.S. housing units with a foreclosure filing during the month. Despite the decrease in overall foreclosure activity, bank repossessions in April increased 4 percent from the previous month, although they were still down 14 percent from a year ago.

There were a total of 30,056 bank repossessions nationwide in April. Bank repossessions increased from the previous month in 26 states and were up from a year ago in 16 states, including New York (142 percent increase), Oregon (91 percent increase), and New Jersey (58 percent increase).

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Nothing Tacky About These Living Spaces

Nothing works better than great photography to get potential homebuyers interested in a closer look at a charmingly cozy home.

Christopher Tack is a professional photographer; Malissa Tack works in 3D animation and graphic design. They have built themselves a tiny house and put their skills to work; it's not just a house but a real demonstration of their skills as designers, builders, and last but not least, tiny home entrepreneurs.

Treehugger.com has put together a portfolio of Tack's perfectly composed and photographed examples of appealing interior spaces. They're all in "move-in" condition.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Initial Reports Suggest Slow Start for Spring Housing Market

According to Morningstar Investment Research, the latest news was neither terribly encouraging nor discouraging. The good news is that the rather dramatic rate of decline in existing-home sales has been halted. By single month, at an annualized rate, existing-home sales dropped from 5.4 million units in July to 4.6 million units in March. That 4.6 million figure was nearly identical to February. Still, if this had been entirely a weather issue, the industry should have been able to do something a little better than eke out a slightly smaller decline. The year-over-year data doesn't paint a flattering picture, either.