Monday, December 28, 2009

At What Point is Flying More Trouble Than It's Worth? is suggesting that Air Travel may be going the way of the horse and buggy. Forget the lines while you wait to get on the plane, the real torture starts when you are in the air. Gizmodo lists the new rules, and flying has just become a far more miserable experience than it ever was before; we now have to sit on our hands:
1. Passengers must remain in seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
2. Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
3. Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight.
4. While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks.
5. Passengers may not have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
Does this put us at the tipping point where people might start flocking to trains? Or change our attitudes toward travel?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Latest Surge in Existing Home Sales Spurs Optimism for 2010

November's better than expected housing data is reinforcing last summer's market turnaround. As existing home sales for November rose to their highest level since February 2007, industry watchers are anticipating a buying spree in 2010. Stocks rallied with new signs of a stabilizing housing market.
The momentum is expected to continue into 2010 since the $8,000 tax credit was extended and expanded with $6,500 tax break for repeat home buyers that expires on April 30.

Current sales remain at the highest level since February 2007 when they hit 6.55 million, according to the National Association of Realtors®

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Few Survival Items for "The Blizard of the Century"

Brett and Kate McKay are living proof that their eclectic website: The Art of Manliness is not for men only. Their latest collaboration is "13 Things A Man Should Keep in His Car." If 13 seems like too many to cover most emergency contingencies, scroll down their page for many more practical reader additions(This is only a selection from the first 94 posts -- please forgive any duplication) including:

- A good lockback knife
- Rope and/or tiedown straps
- I keep a 2 liter bottle of water stuck in a corner of my tirewell in the event of overheating
- rags or cloths for cleaning up after a tire change
- I always keep a can of Fix-a-Flat in my car. I’ve never used the stuff myself, but more than once I have handed it to someone else when I didn’t really trust the way a stranded motorist situation looked.
- Keep a general interest book you love and don’t mind re-reading. Great way to entertain yourself when stranded anywhere.
Flat and Phllips head screwdrivers, knife, channel-lock pliers, a crescent wrench, some long cable (zip) ties,
Space blankets (Takes up less space than normal blankets; plus, it can be used for signaling.)
Two more essentials: a $20 in the first aid kit, and a hide-a-key with a working key.
Steel coffee can with a roll of toilet paper inside
Granola bars
A 2-liter pop bottle filled with water (but with enough room left for expansion if it freezes)
A towel
A socket wrench set, hammer and pliers....
a Battery Booster/ Air Compressor/ small appliance charger with a built in flash light. I find it to be a life saver since it combines so many necessary features that I think are a must have for your vehicle.
- a winter sleeping bag
- snow gear (boots, snow pants, proper jacket, winter gloves, several cheap toques, ski goggles are handy)
- 3 or 4 pairs of simple cotton gloves
- A full-sized shovel, forget the folding shovel this will cause more aggravation than good, do yourself a favor and bring a full sized shovel on all long winter trips. i leave mine in the car all winter.
- hot pockets hand-warmers.
Water resistant coveralls stuck in the tool box will keep you looking your best upon return to civilization and give you an added level of protection from automotive fluids. Don’t forget the leather work gloves and a box of disposable nitrile gloves as well.
Nobody’s said road flares yet, as far as I can tell. These, along with jumper cables, have been by far the most commonly used and important things I’ve had in my trunk.

...the Bible is also a great book in any situation; but especially good for warmth, cheering up, confidence and encouragement. Also, heaven forbid… it’s thin pages are great fire starters.

Sometimes the trunk may become inaccessible and you can’t get to what you need.
If you can carry what you need in the back seat in a small box, it could possibly save your life and prevent frostbite.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Your Guide to Copenhagen

The earth’s temperature has risen by 0.74 degrees Celsius in the last 100 years.

An increase of increase of just 2 degrees Celsius more will lead to massive loss of species, 100 million climate refugees, and other major stresses.

We need to set strict emissions restrictions by 2012 in order to avert a worldwide climate catastrophe.

The conference marks a milestone in climate change history, so if you’re not familiar with all the issues being discussed and the global changes we need to make to ensure a sustainable future, read on for Inhabitat's green guide to COP15!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Foreclosures Foreclosed

As foreclosed homes became more and more widespread, investors and bargain hunters have sought them out in growing numbers. But what happens when the owner of bank owned homes is foreclosed on. You then can have an FDIC owned home that may be an even bigger bargain. The Huffington Post reports that decent homes can be often found for as low as $500 at the FDIC website.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Down By the Riverside

Which would you prefer: An oceanfront, lakefront, or riverfront home? Most North Jersey folks would probably put riverfront living 3rd on the list because of flooding reports from monster storms of recent decades. As discussed in an earlier post, homes that need flood insurance are usually priced below market value and often turn out to be good deals. Many may have never had serious flooding but require close examination for signs of water damage. An older finished basement with wood trim, for example, may be a safer bet than a cleaned up concrete unfinished basement.
Garden State MLS listings are no longer required to state whether or not any property is in a flood zone or requires flood insurance. Yet even in non-flood areas, sellers are required to disclose if they have ever had water damage -- even in unfinished basements.The best time to find bargains is a few days after a major storm. Even several weeks after water levels have receded, tell-tale garbage piles can still be found in front lawns.
Incidentally, our office currently has three low priced listings in good condition with backyards on the Passaic River. The largest at 148 Bergen Ave. in Woodland Park(top), is listed at $269,900.
Two smaller properties at 4 and 5 Barber St.(below) in Little Falls are priced at $195,000 and $240,000 respectively. Since they are adjoining lots, they could be combined.

Friday, November 20, 2009

4 Northeastern States Make Progress in CO2 Reduction

Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use are declining in a growing number of states as they invest in the clean, renewable technologies that are part of a new energy future. Emissions remain on the rise in other states that have not eased their reliance on dirty fuels.
Environment New Jersey reports that Four Northeastern states—Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts and New York—emitted less carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption in 2007 than they did in 1990. Since 1997, gross state product in these four states increased by 65 percent while carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 5 percent.
• Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have seen total emissions decline since 2004, a year of peak emissions for many states. Maine saw the largest percentage decline over this period, while New York and Texas—the nation’s eighth-highest and highest emitters of carbon dioxide, respectively—saw the greatest absolute declines.
• Still, emissions in 33 states increased between 2004 and 2007. Emissions in Oklahoma saw the greatest percent age increase, followed by Montana and Hawaii.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hopes for NJ Tax Cuts Fade After Key Merger Vote

Brian Donahue notes on that this month's decision not to merge the tiny towns of Wantage and Sussex could have larger implications for the debate over property taxes and consolidation in New Jersey. It's one of the great paradoxes of New Jersey politics: most people agree there are too many layers of government, too many town halls and police departments and bureaucrats in a tiny state with 566 municipalities. But ask taxpayers to merge their town with the one next door, or maybe even share a police department and most of the time, the answer is a loud, "No way."(Don't miss Brian's Feature Video and reader comments)

That's just what happened last week in the Township of Wantage, where voters rejected a ballot measure that would have joined the town with the tiny Borough of Sussex. Sussex is essentially Wantage's downtown, cut off from the surrounding township in a feud over utilities costs in the late 1800's.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bloomfield Wins Eco-Recognition

New Jersey is the first state in the nation to have a sustainability program that links certification with strong state and private financial incentives, and a fully resourced program of technical support and training. The Sustainable Jersey program is now the accepted benchmark for evaluating a municipality’s progress.

Bloomfield is part of an elite group of municipalities that have achieved the prestigious Sustainable Jersey certification in the first year of the program. Municipalities that earn the designation are considered by their peers, by state government and by the experts and civic organizations in New Jersey, to be among the leading municipalities in the state. Thanks to John Palomaki and the volunteers at Greener Bloomfield for their tireless efforts in achieving the designation.

The 43 actions of the Sustainable Jersey program are ambitious, covering areas such as energy and efficiency, health and wellness, land use and transportation, waste reduction, local economies, natural resources, and diversity and equity, to name a fewThe Sustainability Champion award recognizes municipalities that have scored the most points in the Sustainable Jersey certification program in three population categories: small (0-5,000), medium (5,000-50,000) and large (50,000+). The 2009 Sustainability Champion award winners are:
• Large: Woodbridge Township (Middlesex County)
• Medium: A tie between Ocean City (Cape May County) and the City of Summit (Union County)
• Small: Woodbine Borough (Cape May County)..

Friday, November 06, 2009

A New Day for Homebuyers' Tax Credit

It's official! President Obama today signed legislation H.R. 3548, which includes a provision to extend and expand the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit, with a new $6500 Credit for current homeowners wishing to move up. The New Jersey Association of REALTORS® (NJAR®) anticipates that the newly signed legislation will help maintain the recent momentum seen in the New Jersey real estate market and spur the state's economy as a whole.

"It's a brand new day for those first-time home buyers who were rushing through their transaction in anticipation of the original November 30th deadline because they now have more time to complete the process," said NJAR® Executive Vice President Jarrod C. Grasso, RCE. "The extension to April 30th of next year is key because these new buyers now have the opportunity to analyze every aspect of their purchase carefully and still close in time to obtain the $8,000 credit."

The legislation will extend the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit past its original November 30 deadline, and it will now be available through April 30, 2010. Additionally, existing homeowners who have lived in their homes for at least five consecutive years out of the last eight will be eligible for a credit that can total $6,500. In both cases, a written, binding contract to purchase must be in effect by April 30, 2010, and the purchaser needs to close by July 1, 2010.

On the "trading up" side, Goldman Sachs estimates as many as 70 percent of owners will be eligible.

"The credit has been shown to be a powerful incentive that significantly spurred the real estate market here in New Jersey," said Diane Dilzell, president of NJAR®. "Expansion of the tax credit to current homeowners is bound to aid in continuing to elevate the housing market and the economy further as it offers a bonus to those buyers. In addition to experiencing low prices and low interest rates, current homeowners are now faced with a prime opportunity to trade up to the home of their dreams."

The new law raises the limits for first-time buyers. The new limits for obtaining the full credit are $125,000 for a single person and $225,000 for a married couple. Individuals earning up to $145,000 and married couples earning up to $245,000 are eligible for partial credit.

According to data from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR), in New Jersey, the home buyer tax credit has brought in an additional 6,500 buyers into the market in 2009 compared to 2008. NJAR® is hopeful that the credit extension and expansion can lead to continued growth in 2010.

More than 1.4 million people nationally have claimed the original tax credit, based on figures provided by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). About 350,000 of those would not have made their purchase without the tax credit, according to estimates from NAR.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Well Rounded Home

Nothing like thinking of the box in home design. Building materials and construction techniques are part of the story, but even once a residence is built there are furniture objects, wall fixtures and all kinds of other design elements that make rounded homes a radical challenge inside and out. Thanks to

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Time to Move UP?

Had very good turnout at my Open House in Nutley. 10 sets of people with no audible complaints about the roomy split level. First time in a long time that majority of buyers were current homeowners looking to upsize.

Experts are now predicting that the "first-time buyer" tax credit will be expanded to "move-up homeowners. Crucial Senate vote should come in next couple of days. Let us pray...

Monday, October 26, 2009

No Paws Left Behind

Displaced borrowers haven't been the only victims of the foreclosure crisis. An alarming number of pets are being abandoned in vacant homes and properties. Shelters in areas with high numbers of default properties and foreclosures have warned of over-crowding of animals while neighbors of foreclosed properties report stray animals roaming the streets and parks.

No Paws Left Behind is one way that Real Estate Professionals can help save these animals. 63 percent of U.S. households own a pet, according to the 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey, which equates to 71.1 million homes. If foreclosure rates continue at current levels, more than one million animals could be abandoned over the course of the next year.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bloomfielders for the 350 Project

Congratulations to Bloomfield's environental groups led by Bloomfield College.for your valiant efforts, on a stormy Saturday, in supporting the efforts on climate change awareness.
I just wish they were positioned a little closer to the cameras.(Click on photos to enlarge)

Friday, October 23, 2009

New British Map shows Impact of Climate Change

The British government yesterday raised the political stakes on climate change when it published a new map of the world that details the likely effects of a failure to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The map shows the impact of an average 4 degree Centigrade rise in global temperature, which John Beddington, the government's chief scientist, said would be "disastrous". A study by the Met Office last month said that such a 4C rise could come as soon as 2060 without urgent and serious action to reduce emissions.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

There's Still Time to Get Your $8,000

Know anyone ready to purchase their first home? There's still time to move to receive that $8,000 Tax Credit before it expires on November 30. We work with attorneys and Mortgage specialists who(depending on the situation) can help you close on a home in less than 4 weeks -- if you act NOW.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Treehouses On the MLS

Tree houses are a dream living space for so many kids, yet some of the most amazing tree buildings are planned, designed and constructed for adults – from restaurants and resorts to homes away from home. Not something you'd expect in NJ, this one posed a bit of a challenge for one Montclair homeowner. We have mobile homes in Wayne listed for less than this sky high property -- but that's another story.

Once a far-fetched futuristic idea, a living tree building is now not only possible but is also a reality – amazing living architecture that uses growing trees as their structural supports, twisted, shaped and connected as they make their way skyward.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mortgage Delinquicies Mapped by County

The Federal Reserve considers the record rate of mortgage delinquencies, foreclosures and their impacts on communities an urgent problem. The New York Fed uses its expertise and knowledge to provide detailed data on U.S. credit conditions to the public to establish a body of factual data for use in forming policy decisions and developing mortgage foreclosure mitigation efforts.

The website, which also tracks other measures of consumer credit, including auto loans, student loans, and bank loans, is intended to help "government agencies, community groups, commercial institutions and other practitioners better understand, monitor and respond to local conditions associated with foreclosures and credit and mortgage delinquencies.

(The New York Fed's site has full data on each county.)
Red indicates counties where delinquencies have worsened, green indicates areas where conditions have improved, and the gray shading indicates areas where there has been no change. See extended comments at Huffington Post:

Monday, October 05, 2009

Climate Change Brewing Washington State

Visibility dropped to zero in parts of eastern Washington on October 4, as a large dust storm blew through. This image of the storm was captured on NASA’s Terra satellite shortly after noon. According to local news, the storm brought strong winds gusting to 43 miles per hour in places that propelled the dust across the southeast corner of the state. After numerous multi-vehicle accidents, sections of Interstate 90 near the town of Moses Lake and several local roads had to be closed for several hours.

Looking a bit like a new Starbuck's concoction, A thick, rippling plume of dust runs northeast to southwest through the center of the image. Dust stretches as far south as the cities of Pasco and Kennewick, which sit on opposite banks of the Columbia River.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Building An Even Better Lightbulb

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), though far more energy efficient than their incandescent, have their critics. The lighting quality tends to be less intense and cool. They also contain trace amounts of mercury, posing health-related breakage and disposal concerns.

The L Prize is the first government-sponsored technology competition designed to spur lighting manufacturers to develop high-quality, high-efficiency solid-state lighting products to replace the common light bulb. Among the requirements is that the bulb must last more than 25,000 hours -— about 25 times longer than a standard light bulb.

The competition will substantially accelerate America's shift from inefficient, dated lighting products to innovative, high-performance products. Just as Thomas Edison transformed illumination over a century ago, the L Prize will drive innovation and market adoption.

The Department of Energy has announced that Philips Electronics has submitted the first entry in the L Prize competition. "The race is on," said DOE Solid-State Lighting Program Manager Jim Brodrick. "Philips is the first to submit a formal L Prize entry, demonstrating their leadership and corporate commitment to energy conservation in lighting. Philips' entry into the competition is a clear signal that massive energy savings from solid-state lighting are within our grasp. The field is wide-open, and we hope to see more entries from both large and small manufacturers."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Avoiding A Housing Relapse

Bloomberg is warning that the recovering housing market may be heading for a relapse as President Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke consider ending support for the industry that is widely viewed as he source of the global financial crisis.

The Obama administration is studying whether to let a first-time home buyers’ tax credit expire as scheduled at the end of November. The $8,000 credit has had a major impact on the demand for hew and existing homes in most markets nationwide, with new-house sales rising 9.6 percent in July from the prior month, the most since 2005.

Ending these efforts may stifle the housing rebound by depressing sales and pushing up both mortgage-backed bond yields and interest rates on home loans, even in the face of the record-low zero to 0.25 percent short-term rates the Fed has engineered, said economist Thomas Lawler.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

New FDIC Info to Prevent Foreclosures.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) announced on Wednesday that it is releasing a free tool kit of information that will help borrowers, community stakeholders and the banking industry avoid unnecessary foreclosures and stop foreclosure "rescue" scams that promise false hope to consumers at risk of losing their homes.

The tool kit includes critical information to help borrowers know who to contact and what documents they need to have available to apply for a loan modification that could save their home from foreclosure. This tool kit also describes the warning signs of potential foreclosure "rescue" scams and how consumers, community stakeholders, and bankers can report scammers and prevent fraud. The public can access the free tool kit at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Does Living Green Increase your Life Expectancy?

It's no coincidence that healthy living has a direct connection to green living. People that care about the health of the planet often care about eating well, being outside, and avoiding the crap that will shorten their time on this beautiful planet. So it wasn't a huge surprise that when Prevention Magazine and Planet Green came up with a list of Surprising Signs That You'll Probably Live Longer, many of them fit right into a green lifestyle.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Open Houses

The 20 towns I cover the most usually average well over 200 open houses each Sunday. Yesterday there were 16 on this Labor Day weekend. What are the odds that the only two in Bloomfield were 3 doors apart from each other by competing brokers?
Both assured me they didn't coordinate with each other, but the two houses were very similar 4BR 2 Bath colonials comparably priced. We weren't the only party to show up -- got to listen to a sales pitch to a young couple in the kitchen as we snooped around.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Pending Home Sales Continue Record Roll

Contract activity for pending home sales has risen for six straight months, a pattern not seen in the history of the index since it began in 2001, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in July, increased 3.2 percent to 97.6 from a reading of 94.6 in June. It is 12 percent higher than July 2008 when it was 87.1. The index is at the highest level since June 2007, when it was 100.7.

Affordability at Record High
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the housing market momentum has clearly turned for the better.

“The recovery is broad-based across many parts of the country. Housing affordability has been at record highs this year with the added stimulus of a first-time buyer tax credit,” he says.

“Other buyers are taking advantage of low home values before prices turn higher," Yun says. "Nationally, the typical mortgage payment now takes less than 25 percent of a middle-income family’s monthly income to buy a median priced home, with payment percentages so far in 2009 being the lowest on record dating back to 1970. As long as home buyers stay within their budget, mortgage payments will be very manageable."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Treeless Tree City?

For many years, Bloomfield has been praised as one of the most prominent Tree Cities in New Jersey. This image has been tarnished in the past 2 weeks by the rapid cutting of about a dozen of it's older trees on Broad St Between Bay and Haines. Apparently no one in Bloomfield was notified in advance -- not even the town Forester or Council. Since the trees are all located inside the sidewalk line, County spokesperson initially told me that they couldn't have done it since they "had no jurisdiction". Bloomfield's 2nd Ward Councilman and environmental advocate was finally able to reach someone familiar with "The Project" and received an email late Friday: "...the decision to take down a County tree is made solely by our Arborist, Dennis Beury. I was informed that 12 trees were removed in total and that our right of way is 66 Ft along Broad Street. I believe Dennis will be sending you a comprehensive list of our removals along with an explanation for each on Monday."
The explanation is expected to be that they may have been diseased. Among the questions that remain unanswered are: 1) Is this a contagious disease that is affecting nearby trees not under Essex County jurisdiction? 2) What types of trees are still vulnerable? 3) Why wasn't Bloomfield's Forester consulted? 4) Will this have a negative effect on property values in affected areas? 5) At what point will we lose our Tree City designation? Stay tuned...
Monday morning update:
The Essex Couny Director of Roads & Transportation, Sal Macaluso, called me this morning with some clarifications in leu of the Arborist's report. He wasn't certain all 12 were diseased, but they were "compromised" in ways that threatened to eventually fall on Broad St. Plans are to replace them next spring with 50 - 75 smaller trees. BTW, Essex County's jurisdiction on county roads is 75 feet from across the road. So if the road is 60 feet wide, they can go 12.5 from the curb.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Watching the Sun Go Down -- In Price

For solar shoppers these days, the price is right. Panel prices have fallen about 40 percent since the middle of last year, driven down partly by an increase in the supply of a crucial ingredient for panels, according to analysts at the investment bank Piper Jaffray.

The price drops — coupled with recently expanded federal incentives — could shrink the time it takes solar panels to pay for themselves to 16 years, from 22 years....(from The Times)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Open House in Little Falls

A great day for showing Tulip Garden Condo, Hot muggy weather to weed out the time A great day for showing Tulip Garden Condo, Hot muggy weather to weed out the time wasters. Loud stereo next door to show off the sound proof walls. Great turnout balanced between first-timers and downsizers. Guess the 8K rebate isn't the only reason buyers are venturing out. Rain held off until last 15 minutes; car full of younger buyers flagged me down as I headed back to my car and pleaded for me to reopen. They were very appreciative. Then to BestBuy to help the Ms pick out a new PC Tower. Looking forward to not sharing my laptop and mixing up Gmail and Facebook pages!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lights On! No More Excuses

The phase-out of incandescent bulbs in the European Union begins next month, so it’s time to get prepared for a new round of excuses about the "inconvenience" of using more efficient lights. Lane Burt of the Natural Resources Defense Council answers the most common complaints about the new bulbs for Grist.

Here in Bloomfield are the final stats from the Greener Bloomfield/Project Porchlight event of 8/15/09 where volunteers perserveered through the blistering heat.
35 Volunteers gave out 1,650 Lightbulbs to just as many homes

Resulting in:$50,000 in energy savings

544.5 tons CO2 emissions prevented of entering the environment

94.05 Cars removed from the road in the form of Green House Gases(GHG)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bouncing off the Bottom

August's Dog Days have been full of encouraging news from a variety of sources. From and USA Today:
Home prices rose across a large swath of the country during the second quarter, adding to the growing list of signs that the housing market has stabilized. Out of 155 markets included in the survey, 125 showed median price increases compared to the first quarter of this year.

Overall, the National Association of Realtors reports a nearly 4 percent rise in the median sales price for single family homes since the first quarter of the year, from $167,300 to $174,100.

In addition, several distressed markets are getting some much needed relief from the quarterly hammering they've been taking since the housing market peaked in the second quarter of 2006.

At the same time, 30 year mortgage rates are up for the third week in a row to 5.49%.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Housing Prices Rise 5% in 2nd Quarter

From All regions saw quarterly gains as of July, with the Midwest soaring 11.2%, the South rising 5.3%, the Northeast posting a 2.4% increase and the West gaining 1.1%, according to Clear Capital.

“As with any housing recovery,” he added, “small pockets of neighborhoods and specific price tiers are leading the way and posting gains."

More than half of the highest performing local markets doubled their quarterly gains from last month’s report. Clear Capital said the gains reflect improving market demand, allowing banks to receive a higher sales price for REO properties(foreclosures) which represent up to 60% of all sales in some regions.

Monday, August 03, 2009

NJ Environmental Groups Call for DEP Investigation Following Corruption Arrests

"New Jersey's air, land and water are major victims of political corruption in this state. If we want our state to be green, we need to make politics clean," stated Dena Mottola Jaborska, the Executive Director of Environment New Jersey. "These reforms will help to ensure that government leaders make environmental policy decisions based on science and the law, not money and influence."

The reform agenda was developed by "CleanGreenNJ," a new consortium of environmental and public interest organizations which includes Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Environment NJ, NJ Environmental Federation, NJ Environmental Lobby, NJ Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation and others.

"We can never have clean air or clean water without clean government," said Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club Director. "Just like we have to clean up toxic waste sites, we have to clean up government and that is why we are forming this coalition. In New Jersey, development has become part of enterprise corruption: you take a worthless piece of property, use pay to play to change the zoning and get permits and then make millions. We have to stop this cycle of corruption that leads to sprawl and overdevelopment"

CleanGreenNJ's platform calls on Governor Corzine and the NJ State legislature to:

Investigate DEP operations and enforce ethics rules
Empower DEP whistleblowers
Bring transparency for citizen watchdogs
Fix the campaign finance system
and prohibit legislators from receiving outside sources of income Rein in recent developer initiatives

"DEP conducts public business behind closed doors, and provides routine daily access to political players and corporate lobbyists," said Bill Wolfe, Director of New Jersey PEER. "This access is used to influence science and regulatory decisions and weaken protections. DEP then conceals these liaisons from the public by refusing to publish visitor logs, honor OPRA requests, or disclose meeting schedules. In fact, they even retaliate against conscientious employees who disclose corrupt practices."

"This is not just a few bad apples," added David Pringle, Campaign Director for the New Jersey Environmental Federation. "This is systemic corruption."

More points of view on the problem can be found at

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The State of Volunteerism in NJ

(photo: Bloomfield volunteers showed up in force for Third River cleanup near Clarks Pond)
A new report shows that more Americans are getting involved in their communities in multiple ways. In 2008 volunteering held steady while working with neighbors to solve community problems significantly increased over 2007.
As part of its mission to improve lives, strengthen communities,and foster civic engagement through volunteering and service, the Corporation for National and Community Service conducts research on the volunteering habits of Americans. The site houses the most comprehensive collection of information on volunteering and national service in the U.S. We looked at their key findings for New Jersey -- how do we rank compared to other states? Fogedabodet! (The only consolation os that New York ranks worst of all.)
For those interested in hooking up with a volunteer organization, the state has a nifty new website.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sharp Rise in New Home Sales

(photo: Newest section of Four Seasons at Great Notch in Woodland Park and Clifton)

New home sales rose last month at the fastest clip in more than eight years as buyers eagerly took advantage of bargain prices — a clear sign, economists said, that the real estate market may finally be bouncing back.

Historically low interest rates and a federal tax credit for first-time homeowners also helped push home sales to their highest level since November, the Commerce Department reported Monday.

While home prices are still falling around the country, sales have now risen for three months in a row. Construction of new homes is at the busiest level since last fall. And home resales rose in June for the third straight month.

"The worst of the housing recession," said David Resler, chief economist at Nomura Securities, "is now behind us."

Monday, July 27, 2009

One Stop Shopping for Homes?

Google released their real estate search engine about a year ago but this month they took a huge leap toward becoming one of the web's most trafficked real estate search engines.
Many enhancementa have been to dramatically improve the entire site. They have added more markers on the page and also a more intuitive search interface. As usual, they've also published a detailed explanation of the improvements.
It's cool to view listings in Google's familiar "Maps" interface and see how many listings are available in your However, like Zillow and Trulia, Google Real Estate search is still limited by the data it receives. As with most Real Estate search engines, Google relies on "feeds" to get current listings, not on an MLS database. As a result the data can be flawed or out dated.
For the most up to date information, we still recommend checking multiple sources and not using just Google.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dream Home for 2015?

They call it the Net-Zero Energy home. It has ground source heat pumps (promising a 30% reduction in energy use), photovoltaic arrays, supplementary wind power, high efficiency appliances and battery storage, all talking to each other through a Home Energy Manager.
The folks at are a bit skeptical about the need for all the high tech "gizmos" in such designs, pointing out that " the net-zero energy house will cost 10% more than a conventional house. That's a lot of money; if people would pay that much for extra insulation and better windows they would probably save 30% of their energy costs without fancy heat pumps."

Monday, July 06, 2009

Tax Appeals Pressure Local Budgets

I'd like to think that my post last fall clarifying the tax appeal process helped one or two EcoRealty readers along the road to getting back a few tax dollars. In any case, the financial pressures faced by many of us are resulting in a huge increase in such appeals.
The NY Times reports that, as home prices fall, homeowners and associations are appealing to the local authorities to have their property taxes revised downwards.

In suburbs of New York, tax lawyers are so busy that they have hired extra employees to go through the paperwork related to property tax reassessments. "We've been absolutely getting killed," said Robert W. Singer, the mayor of Lakewood Township in New Jersey. Singer's town expects to pay $2 million in tax refunds to homeowners. "We've never had this before. Usually they're undervalued. Now, everyone's overvalued."

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Prologue to Our Revolution

This is a day for reflecting on our country's roots in the human need for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." For my extended family, I can't help reflecting on my ancestors' little known contribution to the revolutionary fervor that culminated in the events of 1776:

From The Hampton New Hampshire Library archives:

"It is a singular and interesting fact that the first armed resistance to British oppression in the North took place in Hampton almost 100 years before the outbreak of the Revolution. In 1682, Charles II of England sent to New Hampshire as royal governor, Edward Cranfield, a most arbitrary and injudicious man. The ruling body at this time was the Assembly, made up of representatives of the four towns of Exeter, Hampton, Portsmouth and Dover, which ably managed the affairs of the little commonwealth. This Assembly refused to comply with Cranfield's commands and he dissolved it. One of the members was Edward Gove, of Hampton, a high-spirited and impulsive man, who resolved not to lightly submit to what he considered an infringement of the people's ancient prerogatives. Mounting his horse he rode through Exeter and Hampton with the cry: "Freemen, come out and stand for your liberties!" He gathered around him a little band of supporters. But before the movement could become formidable, Gove was surrounded by the militia in Hampton village and surrendered. He was tried, convicted of high treason, sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. But this ferocious sentence was never carried out.

After several years commitment to the Tower of London, he was pardoned by the King and permitted to return to Hampton. Gove has been harshly treated by the historians. They have represented him as a rash and impulsive man who headed a hopeless rebellion against constituted authority. But there is another side. I like to think of Gove as a pioneer patriot, as a man in advance of his times, as the morning star of the American Revolution. Had Gove lived a century later, he would have been acclaimed as a great patriot, and his name would have been enrolled with those of Sam Adams, Josiah Quincy, Joseph Warren and John Sullivan."

Friday, July 03, 2009

Pendings Continue to Push Markets Higher

According to the National Association of Realtors®, pending home sales show a sustained uptrend, rising for four consecutive months with very favorable housing affordability and a first-time buyer tax credit boosting activity.

The Pending Home Sales Index in the Northeast rose 3.1 percent to 80.9 in May and is 6.8 percent above a year ago. The last time there were 4 consecutive monthly gains was in October 2004.

In our Little Falls office, we're also seeing closings in May and June approaching the highest levels in recent years.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Qualify Your Lender!

Whether your a 1st time buyer, or a homeowner looking to refinance or modify your existing mortgage, it's more important than ever to "qualify" your lender -- just as they're qualifying you. The lowest interest rate isn't always the best deal. Closing costs and prepayment penalties, for example, can adversely affect the bottom line. We give our clients a selection of vendors who have a good track record, but they're still free to use someone with whom they've established a relationship.

The Star Ledger is reporting that six people have been indicted on various mortgage fraud-related charges in three separate cases in New Jersey. Among those charged are two women who authorities say used loan application information to obtain more than $1 million in unauthorized mortgages, lines of credit and credit cards. Banks in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York were defrauded in the schemes.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Getting Our Green

NAR has introduced a new GREEN designation for REALTORS®, which will help home buyers and sellers who care about energy efficiency and environmentally sound building practices identify REALTORS® who can help them meet their green home goals.

I've gone back to school to learn the most effective ways to reach these goals. I've aced my final exams and expect to receive my "degree" in the form of NAR's official Green Designation in a few weeks.

Green building may be incorporated from construction, through green materials and design, through reconstruction with energy efficient materials. There are basic inexpensive -- as well as costly -- methods for making yours a "green home."

The New Jersey Association of Realtors is making access to these methods easier for Realtor® and consumer alike with links on its newly enhanced website.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Residents Rally Council to Defeat Open Space Cuts

By a 4 to 3 vote, Bloomfield's town council voted down a contoversial proposal to reduce open space funding in the towns 2009 budget. We arrived too late to hear all the heartfelt appeals that residents made at the opening of the meeting, But I was allowed to make the following comments:

First, I'd like to give all of you your due credit for the tough decisions you've had to make to keep this year;s budget increase as low as you have.
Please don't blow it now by repealing the overwhelming vote of our residents to save our open spaces. As I recall, the open space referendum won by a 2 to 1 margin. Where do you get the right to negate these voters.? That's happening a lot these days in third world countries. It shouldn't happen here.

I live close to the formerly Copeck-owned open space that you, Mr. Mayor, once heralded as a pristine wilderness. Last fall, I watched the tractors rip out 2/3 of the trees that made that space magical.
The developer here is apparently asking 659k for slightly larger townhouses in Hasbrook heights. Does anyone know when there's going to be a market for let's just say half million dollar townhouses on a flood plain? As a Realtor, I have my doubts. The larger of the Greenbrook townhouses now sell for around 300k. I know there were lengthy negotiations to save that space with public funding. Apparentlly we didn't have enough funding to save it for our town. Suppose our open space fund had started 9 years earlier -- or even 5 years. That Liongate forest might have remained pristine.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Mortgage Rates Reach 25 Week High

Mortgage rates jumped across the board this week, with 30 year fixed mortgages reaching their highest point so far this year.

Freddie Mac reports a jump in the rate for the most popular conventional mortgages to a 25-week high of 5.29 percent during the week ended June 4, up from 4.91 percent the prior week. As recently as two months ago, rates had been 4.78 percent. The 15-year fixed rate also increased, rising to 4.79 percent from 4.53 percent.

Rates are still low by historical standards. Since 1985, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate has averaged 7.84 percent. That's distorted by years of double-digit rates in the 1980s and early 1990s, but even if you look at more recent times, today's rates look good. In 2008, the median rate on the 30 year fixed was 6.2 percent, meaning it was higher than that for half the year.

Analysts advanced a number of theories to explain this week's skyrocketing mortgage rates. A federal budget deficit of nearly $2 trillion, with more to come, is believed to be inflationary, and investors are demanding higher interest rates to compensate for the inflation risk.

Today, is posting an average rate pf 5.45%.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Brookdale Update

EcoRealty tries its best to dig up items of local or regional interest that deserve greater exposure. Every once in a while, however, we're able to scoop our colleagues in the local media. Such was the case with the previous story. While we were privileged to be in a position to get the ball rolling, Debbie Gallant at helped spread the word which got the attention of The NJ Star Ledger which helped bring it to a satisfactory conclusion for the residents.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Paving Paradise

(click on pix to enlarge)
First it was too many trees on Montclair's Myrtle street. Now an even bigger pushback is underway by residents in the Brookdale Park area for Essex County's widely publicized plans to pave new paths through Brookdale Park along with repaving on top of the old ones elevating the paths as high as 6 inches above "ground level." Members of the Brookdale Park Conservancy are up in arms at nearly every aspect of the project. "Not only were we not consulted in advance", complained one resident, "but Essex County has had this ready to go for 18 months without telling anyone. The roads may need work but no one thinks the paths are in need of repaving."

One neighborhood activist posted this sign at the planned starting point for a new asphalt path connector to Poe St:
Scores of neighbors object strongly to the addiion of the asphalt path at this location. It will unnecessarily destroy precious habitat, increase stormwater runoff poution and Heat, diminishthis woodsy settung Olmstead intended, require repaving, waste tax dollars, and aggrevate your voters. NO MORE ASPHALT IN BROOKDALE PARK. NO ADDITIONAL PATHS.
Neighbors-- If you share this sentiment, contact

Here's an excerpt form the letter that Susan and Richerd Mullins sent:

Dear County Executive Joe DiVincenzo,

PLEASE REVERSE THE “INSULT ONTO INJURY” OF REPAVING THE BROOKDALE PARK PATHS! On May 29th, We were heart sick as we walked the Brookdale Park paths last Thursday. There was a new, quite thick, layer of macadam from the Bellevue Ave entrance to the Grove Street entrance. Accompanying paths to the street were also redone. As a result, deep ruts are created alongside the edges through which water and topsoil and any other living thing will probably flow and become mud.

Runners who refuse to ruin their legs by continually running on macadam, now have the option to run in mud, and probably have the second hazard of spraining their ankles as they climb off and on the path. Daily walkers, like myself, will have the same hazards through a good deal of the winter while the park paths are slippery with ice and snow. The deep, unexpected ruts, alongside the curb-like height of the path will make walking incredibly treacherous.


Thank You ,
Susan C Muliins
Richard Mullins

County officials announced early Monday that plans for new paved paths would be scrapped, but all the old paths will still have to be repaved because "the money's been spent."