Saturday, May 30, 2009

Welcoming Weeds

If you've gone lackadaisically green, then you might find that regular gardening is too much work. You have to keep those plants alive, find non-chemical ways of dealing with weeds and insects, save water and generally care about things.

Josh Peterson of Planet Green tells the best way to grow a Weed Garden.
Desirable Weeds

Desirable weeds are the ones you can harvest and use. Here's a list from You Grow Girl!

Queen Anne's Lace
Sheep Sorrel
Stinging Nettle
Yellow Doc

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Home for the Ages

Our latest whirlwind trip to DC left us only a couple of hours to wander the Smithsonian National History museum,so serendipity would have to rule. We wound up spending the most time at a longstanding exhibit displaying the the largest single object in the museum.
The two-and-a-half story Georgian style Colonial home that once stood proudly at 16 Elm Street in Ipswich, Massachusetts is now the centerpiece of the groundbreaking exhibition called Within These Walls. Within the structure of this timber-framed home, professionally displayed for visitors interested in the architecture, lies the stories of five families from the wealthy Choate family of early colony days to the widow Mary Scott. We didn't find out until our return home that the the massive project, which included dismantling and reassembling the massive house from the ground up, was sponsored by our own National Association of Realtors.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

President Obama Signs Two Important Acts Affecting Homeowners

President Obama signed into law the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, and the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA), on May 20. The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act is aimed at helping homeowners by making mortgages more affordable and preventing "avoidable" foreclosures. As many as 9 million homeowners could benefit from this legislation. Obama, before signing the bill, said the bill "expands the reach of our existing housing plan for homeowners with FHA or USDA rural housing loans, providing them with new opportunities to modify or refinance their mortgages to more affordable levels." The original bill was criticized for the "cram down" provision, which according to critics would encourage borrowers to abdicate their responsibility towards loan repayment. The legislation, however, was ultimately passed without the cram down provision. FERA is a bid to revamp the outdated and ineffective laws governing mortgage fraud.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Affordable Housing in Montclair

HOMECorp has recorded a number of successes in its mission: to provide safe, permanently affordable homes in Montclair and to promote neighborhood development. As an organization, HOMECorp seeks to strengthen the community fabric by assisting families who are largely disenfranchised from the booming housing market in Montclair. They are an ecumenical, community-based non-profit organization that is the only entity in Montclair spending all of its time and resources on providing affordable housing.

Since its founding in 1988, HOMECorp restored and built new 19 dwellings (33 units) and 43 apartments in Montclair. Once barely habitable, these existing properties housed in excess of 260 homeowners and tenants, transforming a neighborhood of deteriorating rental units to one characterized by new energy and the optimism of first-time homeowners. In addition, HOMECorp's efforts have spurred private development of adjoining properties, further improving the housing stock.

HOMECorp has restored 18 historic houses in Montclair's Historic Mill District, transforming a run-down, distressed area into a comfortable, stable residential neighborhood.

This morning, we previewed HOMECorp's latest project: a 3 BR Colonial, in decent shape with curb appeal, for 290k. A short walk to the center of Montclair and MidTown Direct RR, the taxes are reasonable(for Montclair) at $7500.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

FHA to Allow 8K Tax Credit As Down Payment

Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development(HUD) has announced that the Federal Housing Administration is going to permit its lenders to allow homeowners to use the $8,000 tax credit as a down payment.

Donovan’s remarks came in an address to several thousand Realtors® at The Real Estate Summit: Advancing the U.S. Economy, a special daylong session at the Realtors® Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington DC.

Secretary Donovan said that important changes, which the National Association of Realtors® has been calling for, will help consumers purchase a home. “We all want to enable FHA consumers to access the home buyer tax credit funds when they close on their home loans so that the cash can be used as a downpayment,” Donovan said. According to Donovan, the FHA’s approved lenders will be permitted to “monetize” the tax credit through short-term bridge loans. This will allow eligible home buyers to access the funds immediately at the closing table.

Donovan said the Obama administration plans to further stabilize the housing market. “I do think we have some early signs hat the market overall is stabilizing,” said Donovan. “Since January we’ve seen both home sales moving up and down around a relatively stable number and we are seeing the first signs that the rapid decline in home prices is starting to abate.”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A New Model for Downtowns

New Jersey Future was founded to achieve smart growth statewide: growth that protects New Jersey’s open lands and natural resources, strengthens our communities, makes it easier to get around, and increases our housing choices.
NJF has just named Bloomfield Center as one of seven winners of this year's Smart Growth Award. Along with several public meetings that encouraged input from the town's residents, a newly formed environmentally oriented group, Greener Bloomfield, was a key inspiration for the inclusion of green building guidelines in the plan. What emerged from this inclusive process was a “Vision Plan” describing the key characteristics and core elements of Bloomfield’s redevelopment: a historic urban center, a New Jersey urban lifestyle, a transit village, a “green” downtown and an accessible downtown.

"I went through every word of the 73 page plan to ensure that sustainability was a primary theme throughout" comments John Palomaki, the founder of Greener Bloomfield. "We think the sustainability theme is one of the reasons it was selected, in addition to the public process. It should help attract developers".

Monday, May 11, 2009

Over a Fifth of Homeowners now Under Water

Home values in the United States fell again in the first quarter, posting a year-over-year decline of 14.2% to a Zillow Home Value Index of $182,378, according to the first quarter Zillow Real Estate Market Reports, which encompass 161 metropolitan areas and cover the value changes in all homes, not just homes that have recently sold. Declining home values left one fifth (21.9%) of all American homeowners with negative equity by the end of the first quarter. By comparison, 17.6% of all homeowners owed more on their mortgage than their property was worth in the fourth quarter of 2008, and one in seven (14.3%) was underwater in the third quarter of 2008.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Eco-friendly Solar Bench with WiFi

photo courtesy of Coroflot is breaking news of The Solar Inside, a collectively designed concept bench, is so much more than just a park bench.

Imagined by designers Seon-Keun Park, Byung-Min Woo, and Owen Song, the Solar Inside's made with thin-film solar which works in a variety of weather conditions. The rechargeable battery not only turns the bench into a night-light but also provides wifi access.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Pendings Push Markets Higher

The Dow Jones rose over 214 points today driven mainly by good news in Real Estate markets. The Pending Home Sales Index from the National Association of Realtors rose in March for the second consecutive month and is up 1.6% higher than a year ago, with a 3.2% gain to 84.6 from February, when it was 82. According to Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, it may still take a while before the market gains enough momentum to firmly state that the downturn has been reversed, because the upturn may have been helped along by the first-time homebuyers tax credit that will lapse in December.

Friday, May 01, 2009

MayDay for GreenFest

A few May showers shouldn't drown out today's biggest outdoor environmental festival.
Celebrate and learn about sustainable living, working, and community at the Bloomfield Green Fest on Saturday, May 2, 2009, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at Brookside Park. RAIN or SHINE

* See exhibits from over 40 local businesses and organization
* Hear guest speakers talk about green living, working, and community
* Learn about recycling, composting, and home energy efficiency audits

Stop by our EcoRealty table and enter the E-Book raffle.
This event continues Earth Day festivities locally and focuses on energy conservation and respect for the environment.