Friday, December 30, 2011

Surprising Increases in Home Prices in Varied Locations

While most of the U.S. continued to see home values decrease in 2011, Zillow has found year over year increases in many housing markets from Florida to Hawaii. Here are their top 10.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How NOT to Maintain Your Home

One of the top home inspectors in Minneapolis, Reuben Saltzman, shares his top inspection photos from 2011 that are life lessons in home repair problems and mistakes.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Peace Over Earth

From MSNC's photo blog, here's the way Earth looked on Christmas morning, blending imagery of Earth's surface from the MODIS instruments on NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites current weather data from NOAA's GOES-East satellite. While we're at it, how about a look at the years's best photographs taken from space?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Solar Paint: A Gift That Can Keep On Giving -- When It's Perfected

It has just been reported this week that researchers at the University of Notre Dame are developing a new type of solar cell that can simply be painted on to a surface.

The team has created a "power-producing nanoparticle" called a quantum dot, which can be combined with a spreadable paste that can then be painted onto any conductive surface. It requires no special equipment, making this solar paint an inexpensive alternative to traditional solar cells.

The technology isn't quite ready for commercial use yet — its efficiency is much less than traditional solar cells, at around one percent as opposed to the typical 10-15 percent.

Tata Steel is working with researchers at Swansea University to produce sheet steel treated with a sensitive coating of solar cells. According to Dr. Worsley, the project leader for the Swansea Solar Paint Project, if all the steel cladding produced by one manufacturer was energy generating, it would be the equivalent of 50 wind farms (or 4500 gigawatts/year) at an efficiency rate of 5%.

Monday, December 19, 2011

How to Get Those Great Low Rates

With home mortgage rates still hovering around record lows, this should be the perfect time to lower your borrowing costs.

Yet with tough standards and more people in a home-equity hole due to the housing slump, it's mot easy to to get the best rates. There are some ways to improve your odds, but you'll have to jump through hoops to sweeten your application.

Since there aren't too many home buyers around, some 80 percent of mortgage activity is refinancing, according to the Mortgage Banker Association. But up to half of those applying for refis may not qualify, according to

If you're looking for a loan and have a low credit score or are buying anything but a single-family home, the odds are you'll pay higher rates than today's phenomenally low average rate of 3.74 percent for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage according to our Zillow update on your left.

How do you get the best deal? Here are some guidelines via Reuters

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas at the Kips

The first floor of Kip's Castle is open to the public for the month of December. This year's theme is Christmas 1928.

Kip's Caslte was built in 1905 to replicate a medieval Norman Castle. Frederic Ellsworth Kip and his wife, Charlotte, lived here until 1926. Frederic, a wealthy textile magnate, was a descendent of one of the first European families to inhabit NYC. The family gave its name to Kip’s Bay in Manhattan.
Kip's Castle Park is located at 22 Crestmont Road, Verona, 973.239.2465

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gifting Green

Don't fret if you have yet to find the perfect presents for your friends and loved ones - Inhabitat is here to help with their 2011 Green Holiday Gift Guide! This year's guide is jam packed with over 300 sustainable gifts spread over 21 categories, so you're sure to find a special sustainable gift for everyone on your list

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why Tuesday May Be Pivotal Day for Interest Rates

Mortgage market expert Dan Green is predicting that major changes are likely in mortgage interest rates after tomorrow's meeting of the Federal Reserve.
Tuesday, the Federal Open Market Committee meets for a scheduled 1-day meeting, its eighth of 8 scheduled meetings for 2011, and ninth overall.

The FOMC is a branch of the Federal Reserve; a 12-person, revolving committee led by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Members of the FOMC make the final votes on U.S. monetary policy which includes the establishment of a "Fed Funds Rate".

Even though this rate is expected to stay the same, Green explains that other factors are now at play that could easily result in a sharp rise in rates
that have been hovering at record lows for over a month.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

FEMA Grants Awarded for Home Buyouts

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded more than $28 million in Hazard Mitigation Program grants for voluntary home buyouts in New Jersey.
The grants have been awarded to these North and Central New Jersey communities:

· $6.3 million for approximately 56 homes in Wayne
· $3.1 million for approximately 13 homes in Pompton Lakes
· $2.9 million for approximately 15 homes in Little Falls
· $4.1 million for approximately 18 homes in Lincoln Park
· $3.1 million for approximately 12 homes in Fairfield
· $3.8 million for approximately 15 homes in Pequannock

· $2.9 million for approximately 13 homes in Manville
· $1.9 million for approximately 7 homes in Middlesex

Friday, December 09, 2011

Top Lenders Sued Over Foreclosure Practices

Massachusetts has sued the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers for allegedly pursuing illegal foreclosures and misleading troubled borrowers hoping to get loan modifications in that state.

In suing, Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley increases pressure on the banks, which are negotiating with a coalition of attorneys general in an effort to reach a settlement over the companies' foreclosure and mortgage servicing practices. The suitcontends the banks — Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.,Citigroup Inc. and Ally Financial Inc., “charted a destructive path by cutting corners and rushing to foreclose on homeowners without following the rule of law.”

In a statement, Coakley said the latest legal action was necessary because “the banks have charted a destructive path by cutting corners and rushing to foreclose on homeowners without following the rule of law.”

Monday, December 05, 2011

Our Sister Planet

This artist's conception illustrates Kepler-22b, a planet known to comfortably circle in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. It is the first planet that NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed to orbit in a star's habitable zone -- the region around a star where liquid water, a requirement for life on Earth, could persist. The planet is 2.4 times the size of Earth, making it the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star like our sun.

Scientists do not yet know if the planet has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition. It's very possible that the world would have clouds in its atmosphere, as depicted here in the artist's interpretation.

Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Much Ado About Mulch

Can you use some more mulch around your house? Just call your local DPW. These days an increasing number of them in the Northeast are more than willing to let you take all you can carry out for free.
The surprise October storm that dropped a record amount of snow across northern New Jersey knocked down tons of trees and branches. Nearly 5 weeks later, most residents are still seeing fallen branches scattered along the sides of roads.

Those big pulverizing trucks are working overtime to recycle the obstacles, but they are running out of room to stack the growing mountains. Our suggestion: just leave a small pile of the stuff on every "donor's" driveway to be shoveled onto appropriate spots around their yard.

WNBC environmental correspondent, Brian Thompson, demonstrated just how big a job the Jersey Mulchup is in this video piece.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Goes Home

From a news release on
On December 6th Occupy Wall Street will join in solidarity with a Brooklyn community to re-occupy a foreclosed home. The day of action marks a national kick-off for a new frontier for the occupy movement: the liberation of vacant bank-owned homes for those in need. The banks got bailed out, but our families are getting kicked out. The fight to reclaim democracy from the banks is growing from Wall Street to Main Street.

The NYC foreclosure tour and home re-occupation is part of a big national day of action on Dec. 6 that will focus on the foreclosure crisis and protest fraudulent lending practices, corrupt securitization, and illegal evictions by banks. The Occupy movement actions, including eviction defense at foreclosed properties, takeovers of vacant properties by homeless families, and foreclosure action disruptions, will take place in more than 25 cities across the country.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New Records Set in Foreclosure Time Lines

Non-judicial state foreclosures inventories are less than half those of judicial states such as New Jersey. Foreclosure sale rates in non-judicial states are four to five times higher, but judges are starting to ramp up the process.

Bank repossessions actually surged in October in many judicial states, up 48% in New Jersey and up 73% in Indiana month-to-month, according to RealtyTrac. Still, the backlog is enormous.

Overall foreclosure inventory is at an all-time high, 4.29% of all active loans, according to LPS


Friday, November 25, 2011

A Tower grows in Brooklyn

The long delayed and controversial Atlantic Tower project for Brooklyn;s Atlantic Yards is on its way to becoming a reality. Designed by SHoP Architects, the 32 story building will be the world’s tallest prefab structure.
While the project will save on energy use, cost and waste, critics note thatthe downside of the prefab efficiencies is the reduction of the promised 17,000 construction jobs to a measly 190.
More from

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Notorious "Foreclosure Mill" Shuts Down After Halloween Uproar

The NY Times reports that Steven J. Baum P.C., the firm of foreclosure lawyers who had earlier agreed to a settlement of 2 million dollars for improper activities that included "robo-signing" foreclosure documents, will permanently shut down. The reason was not because of their bank related actions, but rather a Times story showing photos of a homeless themed party last Halloween.

Publication of pictures some of of the firm's 89 employees in costumes mocking folks who had lost their homes led Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to forbid servicers of their mortgages from using Mr. Baum and his colleagues.

Joe Nocera, The Times columnist who originally wrote about the firm’s Halloween party, published another column about the controversy. In it, he quoted an e-mail that Mr. Baum had sent him last week.
“Mr. Nocera — You have destroyed everything and everyone related to Steven J. Baum PC. it took 40 years to build this firm and three weeks to tear down."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Surprising Rise In Existing-Home Sales

Existing-home sales improved in October while the number of homes on the market continued to decline, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 1.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million in October from a downwardly revised 4.90 million in September, and are 13.5 percent above the 4.38 million unit level in October 2010.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Evidence Of Liquid Water Found On Jupiter's Moon

Taking a leap beyond the man-made tracks in yesterday's piece, scientists analyzing data from NASA's Galileo spacecraft have found ice blocks on Europa's surface that suggest an interaction between the moon's icy shell and a lake-like body of water under the surface. They now feel they are one step closer to determining whether or not the freezing satellite is suitable for the development of extraterrestrial life.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

China's Latest Landscape Riddles

You may have seen some of these Google Earth images in the news recently. To some, they seem like site specific abstract art. Others find them a signal of an alien invasion. Wired magazine has the definitive collection on their website followed by nearly 200 comments from their savvy readers that speculate on their possible function. The photo pictured here may be a practice target for a satellite war game. Only time will tell which theory is closest to reality.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupying Rooftops -- A Novel Way to Spread Solar

(photo from Arlington County via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)
As the protesters leading the Occupy Wall Street movement decry the big banks that crashed the economy, foreclose homes and continue to finance mega fossil fuel projects like the Tar Sands, community solar represents one path forward: clean energy created for and by the people. Community solar projects are taking the first steps toward a future where people can move their money out of low-yield savings accounts and into safe and high-yield solar investments that lower carbon emissions and create green jobs and local prosperity. Occupy Rooftops, organized by community solar advocate Solar Mosaic, aims to make that point this November 20th. Get together with your family and friends and take a picture occupying the rooftop of a community building that you want to take solar!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Low Time to Buy or ReFi

The latest issue of Mortgage Reports explains why It's a great time to buy and an even better time to refi.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Half of All Mortgages Now Effectively Under Water

CNBC Real Estate Reporter Diana Olick gives us reality check on todays Realty market.

Negative equity rose to 28.6 percent of single-family homes with mortgages in the third quarter of this year, according to Zillow. That's up from 26.8 percent in the second quarter. In real terms, that's 14.6 million borrowers. As Olick explains it, the biggest drag on the housing market is the growth in "effective" negative equity, which is borrowers who have so little equity in their homes that they cannot afford to move.

Monday, November 07, 2011

6 house repairs you shouldn't neglect

Home maintenance chores can be daunting, especially for newer homeowners who aren't familiar with their home's maintenance needs. When the list of home repair chores, from inspecting the roof to regrouting the bathtub, grows overwhelming -- perhaps because necessary tasks have been put off due to financial pressures -- the question naturally arises: What's most important?

The answer: Maintenance chores that involve safety or water intrusion should be top priority, according to David Tamny, 2010 president of the American Society of Home Inspectors and owner of Professional Property Inspection in Columbus, Ohio.

"One of the most important elements of homeowner maintenance is anything that has to do with drainage or water flow. Gutters or problems with grading and drainage around the structure that can contribute to foundation problems are probably things you don't want to defer," he says.

More details here from

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Blowing in the Wind

The Windstalk energy concept was created by a New York design firm Atelier DNA for the planned city Masdar, a 2.3-square-mile, automobile-free area being built outside of Abu Dhabi. The proposal for the ambitious project includes 1203 stalks that are 180 feet high (55 meters) and are anchored on the ground with concrete bases that range between 10 to 20 meters in diameter. They are made from carbon fiber reinforced resin poles, about a foot (30 cm) in diameter at the base and 2 inches (5 cm) at the top. There are LED lights at the top of the stalks, and their intensity varies with the force of the wind. If there's no wind, there's no light.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

10 Cities With The Lowest Poverty Rates

From The Huffington Post:
Across metropolitan America, poverty rates vary widely, according to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau. Indeed, the city with the highest poverty rate and that with the lowest are separated by a full 25 percentage points. The report examined poverty levels in areas with more than 500,000 people last year.
In general, highest-poverty cities tend to be found in southern cities, low-poverty cities in the North, a trend mirrored at the state level. Speficially, seven out of the 10 cities with the lowest poverty rates are located in the Northeast.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Like hundreds of towns in the Northeast, Bloomfield had an unreal feeling today, as the one of the earliest snowstorms in recorded history hit the region. Forget about driving anywhere. With large tree branches continually snapping all around, it was even scarier to walk outside to shovel your sidewalk. For the NYC/NNJ area, there were no comparable events in anyone's memory. Just a new variation in another year of remarkable weather events.

Is this the new normal? Some key climate change deniers are beginning to reevaluate their positions. A recent study by a major skeptic funded by the Koch Brothers concluded that the facts were unmistakable. As is often the case, the best coverage was by Jon Stewart.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Most Haunted Home's for Sale or Rent

Among the top ten Real Estate deals this week are some of the most haunted houses in the U.S. Several have connections to celebrities including Dean Martin, Mike Tyson, Janet Leigh and Ozzie Nelson. The majority are are located in California but the scariest may be in upstate New York(at right) on 8 acres for 289k.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Get Ready for E-Cat

This Friday, Andrea Rossi's E-Cat Energy Catalyzer technology will either make the history books by producing a Megawatt of thermal energy or will fizzle as have so many "revolutionary" energy pipe dreams. Rossi explains his new cold fusion inspired process here.
Updated 10/29: Initial tests were successful! Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rising Rates Threaten Refi Plans

Rates dropped to record lows a month ago, and while more borrowers went to refinance, the volumes were still very low. Then, more recently, we see basically a quarter point rise, and refinances fall off a cliff. The goal of the refinance proposals is to get the allegedly 3/4 of underwater borrowers with above-market mortgage rates (about 8.9 million according to CoreLogic) a break on their monthly payments. This would supposedly lessen the threat of default as well as add much-needed spending power back into the economy.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bloomfield Mega-Mortgage Scammer Sentenced

A loan officer from a Bloomfield-based business was sentenced Monday to 366 days in prison for his role in a $1.5 million wire fraud case, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

David Wynn of Englewood, from Home Start America Inc., previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, along with its chief executive officer and founder, Michael Kaufman, who has yet to be sentenced.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Kaufman founded HSA in Bloomfield, N.J., and at one time employed more than 30 people. Kaufman, through HSA, purchased and sold residential real estate properties. As part of the scheme, Kaufman and others recruited people – often first-time home buyers – to purchase properties quickly, with promises of no money down, no closing costs, and repairs paid for by HSA. Kaufman would then steer the purchasers to loan officers, including Wynn.

Many of the properties sold by HSA had actually been bought by HSA shortly before, and then “flipped” to the unsuspecting buyers for far more than HSA paid. Kaufman, Wynn, and others falsely inflated the buyers’ income and assets on loan documents to make it appear that the buyers could afford the properties HSA was selling, when the purchasers did not have the means to buy the properties.

Victim financial institutions – relying on the false figures in the loan documents – then issued the mortgage loans, unaware of the purchasers’ true financial conditions. HSA and Kaufman received illicit profits when the transactions closed, and Wynn and other loan officers received commissions for their fraudulent work. After the closings, the buyers could not make the payments on the properties, and nearly always lost the properties to foreclosure.

The fraud, which began as early as 2002 and lasted through June 2005, caused over $1.5 million in loss to the banks, and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits for Kaufman and HSA.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The World’s First Vertical Forest

Although not yet a reality, this adventurous design goes well beyond being a mere concept. Designed by Stefano Boeri - architect, academic and former editor of design and architecture magazine Domus - his Bosco Verticale is a towering 27-story structure, currently under construction in Milan, Italy. The Bosco Verticale is designed to produce and optimize energy. It should help to balance the heavily polluted Milanese microclimate.

According to
Each apartment in the building will have a balcony planted with trees that are able to respond to the city’s weather — shade will be provided within the summer, while also filtering city pollution; and in the winter the bare trees will allow sunlight to permeate through the spaces. Plant irrigation will be supported through the filtering and reuse of the greywater produced by the building. Additionally, Aeolian and photovoltaic energy systems will further promote the tower’s self-sufficiency

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Future Plans and Prognostications

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) is out with predictions for the future of the U. S. economy as it applies to the housing market. Among their forecasts:

--Fixed mortgage rates are expected to remain low by historical standards, finishing 2011 at around a 4.5% average for the year, falling slightly to 4.4% for 2012 and climbing back up to 4.9 by 2013.

--Total existing home sales will stay around the 4.9 million
unit pace for 2011 and 2012, before increasing slightly to 5.2
million units in 2013 as the broader economy recovers. The
recovery in the new home sales will have a comparably slow start,
and may well be slow for most of 2012, but will show some
meaningful increases in 2013.

--Home price measures that exclude distressed transactions have
stabilized, and certain markets are showing year-over-year

--The unemployment rate will increase slowly until the second
quarter of 2012, hitting 9.3%, from the current level of 9.1%. It
is expected to be around 9.1% for 2011, 9.3% for 2012, and 9.1%
for 2013. Even though both economic and job growth are in
positive territory, they are still insufficient to lower the
unemployment rate in the near term.

And then there are the solar storm warnings

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chinese Biofuels -- Stir-Fry or Hogwash?

China’s omnivorous global appetite for energy resources is well known.

While biofuel production is one of the rising energy stars of the 21st century, it is unlikely to become a significant source for China in the near future, as the country’s arable land is devoted first and foremost to feeding the country’s massive population 1.3 billion citizens, unless a feedstock can be found that grows well on marginal land.

But the issue of food may yet prove to contribute to the country’s energy output by recycling a traditional component of Chinese cuisine – used cooking oil. According to a recent article in the People’s Daily, Beijing’s 19 million inhabitants are seeing the grease used to fry up their dim sum and other delicacies carted off by eight licensed collectors of used cooking oil, known as “hogwash,” for recycling into biofuel.

Hogwash oil is extracted from rotten pork and peroxided oil, used repeatedly in frying. The bad news is that when hogwash oil is reused in restaurants, it can breed a number of diseases, doctors suspecting that it is even a potential carcinogen.
Recycled into biodiesel fuel, hogwash oil accordingly becomes a public health service.

More from John C.K. Daly at

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Another Week in Real Estate Unreality

It was another wild week for homeowners: The House of Representatives voted to renew the National Flood Insurance Program, interest rates remained at record low levels, homeowners called on Congress to keep the mortgage interest deduction, and lower FHA loan limits went into effect. Check out the blog to catch up on the most important home ownership headlines and highlights from the week.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

New Jersey Homes are 3rd Priciest in U.S.

The following is a list of states ranked by the highest median list price of homes viewed at real estate search site in August:

Top 10 Places with Highest Median List Price of Homes Viewed at in August (among 50 states and Washington, D.C.)

State Med. list price of homes viewed
U.S. $214,990

Washington, D.C. $459,000
Hawaii $450,000
New Jersey $349,500
California $339,900
Massachusetts $339,900
Connecticut $299,900
Maryland $289,900
Rhode Island $279,900
New York $275,000
Virginia $275,000

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Tree Houses or Trailer Park?

This photo just popped up on a site for humorous pix. It may be a photoshop job, an environmental art project or a new reality in high rises. We'll update when we learn anything.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rise in 20 City Home Price Index

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city composite home
price index, which will be released on Tuesday, likely rose 1.2%
in July from the previous month, a Zillow Inc. forecast showed.
The Case-Shiller, a key housing price index that covers 20 US
metropolitan areas, likely fell 4% in July from the year-ago
period, Zillow said. The S&P/Case-Shiller 10-city index is
expected to show the same month-over-month increase compared
to June, while also registering a decline of 3.4% from a year
earlier. "The market is full of conflicting signals right now
with August consumer confidence down by 25%, July pending homes
slipping, and the four-week moving average of mortgage applications
also dipping," said Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries in a

Humphries' expectations for the Case-Shiller index were
initially much weaker, but were bolstered recently by two
indicators. The Zillow home value index, a key factor in its
Case-Shiller forecast, rose 0.12% in July, and August home sales
rose 7.7%, well ahead of expectations. Still, uncertainty is
plaguing the market and will exert a drag on housing.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Monday's All Day Program to Help Distressed Homeowners

A community outreach program to help homeowners deal with foreclosure is being held Monday at the Hanover Marriott on Route 10. The free event, which is being coordinated through the Morris County Foreclosure Task Force, is slated to run from noon to 7:30 p.m. and will feature counselors and representatives of a variety of banks, services and social service agencies looking to help area residents who are facing housing troubles.

Hope Now is a nationwide initiative through which government agencies, counselors, mortgage companies, investors and other mortgage market participants help homeowners in distress stay in their homes and prevent foreclosures, according to the initiative's website.

Representatives of social service agencies also will be on hand with information on programs, including job training and energy assistance. Agencies that will be present include Project Self-Suffiency, NORWESCAP, banks and other social service agencies.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Link Between Home Values and Jobs

Robert Freedman, Senior Editor at REALTOR® Magazine, describes how declining home values have stifled the growth of small business startups:

The pressure on home equity has been tough on everybody since the downturn but one segment of the population that’s been especially hard hit is the small business owner. Thanks to tight underwriting requirements by lenders, small business owners have been struggling to get capital just to keep their doors open. With lenders closed off to them, the only place left for them to go for capital is their own assets. That means tapping their savings or retirement accounts or their home equity, which is often their biggest source of wealth — or at least used to be.....
More, including a video clip, from My Realtv News:

Friday, September 23, 2011

From High LIne to Low Line

New York City's High Line - the now famous abandoned train-track-turned-park - has become well known around the world as a spectacular example of urban revitalization through smart design, even inspiring copycat elevated parks. Now Manhattan is considering another abandoned train track park renovation project called "The Low Line" - this time in the Lower East Side neighborhood. The big difference l is that the abandoned train station in question is entirely underground (below Delancey Street) - a subterranean challenge which would require an innovative approach to lighting in order to facilitate plant growth and human comfort. (Anyone who has ever been inside a NYC subway station knows that a lot of work would be required to transform one of these dank dark caves into a tranquil, pastoral setting).

That's why we're intrigued by this ingenious proposal for the new Low Line underground park by architect James Ramsey, the principal of RAAD, in part with Dan Barasch of tech think tank PopTech, to pump natural sunlight into the subterranean space with fiberoptic cables and mirrors, somewhat like a solar tube or a sunlight transport device (which we've covered here and here on Inhabitat), allowing plants to grow and creating a serene and sunny underground urban oasis.

The next task is to sell the neighborhood on a park with walls and a ceiling supported by I beams. Community Board 3 got its first look at the plan on Wednesday, giving residents the chance to start imagining what it might feel like to loll on a subterranean sheep meadow Another idea might be to include retail spaces and maintain a pubic arcade along a central corridor. This way private money pays for some of the capital costs and maintains it.

Some skeptics consider the logistics too complex to render a final park that is anything more than a glorified subway station. Perhaps, but why not start by converting q few functioning subway stations into more parklike environments.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Surprising Swing Up in Home Sales

Sales of previously owned homes came in 18.6 percent higher last month when compared to August 2010, according to data released Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

The latest numbers far surpassed market expectations. Many analysts were forecasting a decline while others were predicting a much more modest increase, with projections for the annual rate ranging between 4.61 million and 4.80 million.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Household Debt and Wealth Both Fall in Second Quarter

The level of U.S. household debt compared with after-tax income fell in the second quarter to the lowest level since 2004, according to data released on Friday. This may mark the continuation of a trend that could lay the foundation for greater consumer spending.

A Federal Reserve report showed that household mortgage debt fell while after-tax income rose in the second quarter. However, consumer credit, which accounts for a smaller portion of household balance sheets, rose.

More from

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Montclair's Butterfly Tent

“How does one become a butterfly? They have to want to learn to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”
― Trina Paulus, Hope for the Flowers

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Solar Lining Behind the Solyndra Fiasco

Grist is pointing out that the bankruptcy of the solar company Solyndra which media reports have depicted as the end of solar power in the U.S. This is like saying there is no future for the internet because Netscape went out of business.

The irony of it all is that Solyndra was the victim of a big success -- the price of solar power has fallen rapidly, making more expensive technologies like theirs uncompetitive, but more importantly, making solar power a real player in the U.S. energy economy -- especially in New Jersey.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Another Day, Another Record Low in Rates

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace at 3.89 percent, down from 3.92 percent at this same time last week. This rate represents the lowest rate recorded since Zillow Mortgage Marketplace launched The previous low was 3.92 percent, first recorded on Aug. 10, 2011.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate stayed below 4 percent for the majority of last week, hovering between 3.92 and 3.99, until jumping to 4.09 percent yesterday. The rate quickly returned to 3.92 percent the same day and spiked one last time before plummeting to the current rate early this morning.

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 3.12 percent and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 3.48 percent.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Memorium

‎"I'm caught off guard more often than I would like today, that it's still such a powerful shock. That whole surrealness, it just hits you again - like, did that really happen? "
ELLEN MORAN, whose brother John, a New York City firefighter, was killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Friday, September 09, 2011

The Enticing Promise of SPIN Farming

In these days of recession-ready frugal green living and personal green stimulus plans, many folks are looking for new sources of primary or secondary income. While farming may sound like it needs major capital investment, increasing numbers of people are growing surprising amounts of food on surprisingly small plots of land. Some are renting, others own land.
One solution may be to SPIN your garden into a profitable mini-farm.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011 Founder Finally Hires Broker to Sell

Ahh, sweet irony! Founder and former CEO of, Colby Sambrotto listed his 2,000 square foot New York condo, a two bedroom in Chelse, on his own through online classified ads and FSBO sites, but after six months, he opted to hire New York broker Jesse Buckler who immediately advised a price change as the listing was not attracting the right buyer.
Can you guess what happened next?

According to, the broker persuaded Sambrotto to RAISE the asking price. He woud up attracting multiple offers and closing for $150,000 over the original asking price -- $2.15 million--with the help of a real-estate broker and a standard 6% commission...

Saturday, September 03, 2011

US Freezing Payments to Chase and B of A

The Treasury Department will withhold payments once again to Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase for their poor performance modifying mortgages in the second quarter. Both banks need substantial improvement to their operations within the Home Affordable Modification Program(HAMP), according to the compliance review conducted by the Treasury.

The Treasury compliance team looked at how each participating servicer performed when contacting homeowners, evaluating them for the program and how they assisted with any questions or document submissions. Including these judgments, the Treasury also looks at HAMP data gathered by Fannie Mae to determine which servicers need improvement.

The government first criticized these lenders in June, along with Wells Fargo & Co. and Ocwen Loan Servicing, and began withholding financial incentives of up to $1,000 per permanent loan modification. Wells Fargo and Ocwen were taken off the list of lagging companiesin the second quarter.

Since HAMP launched in March 2009, servicers started more than 791,000 permanent modifications with roughly 28,000 reported in July, according to the latest Treasury data. Roughly 1.6 million trials have been extended, and more than 763,000 canceled due to a redefault or not enough information was submitted. (Note: Chart above reflects activity to 11/09)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Time for a Fresh Look

New month. New season. New look. Hope you like it.
We've also tried to rearrange some of the links and interactive widgets so that they're more accessible and make room for the addition of some new elements ion the near future. Analytics is showing that you're searching out posts that we've written up years ago so a few of the more popular links may pop up once agin on the right sidebar.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Power of the Passaic (Video)

A couple of miles upriver from the nationally renowned Great Falls, Little Falls can sometimes be even more turbulent after a storm. It's sound and fury two days after the "departure" of Hurricane Irene is awesome to behold.

Seen here just after reaching the high water mark in hundreds of Little Falls township homes on it's way to invading hundreds more in Paterson and other towns downriver.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Market Improves for Irene Survivors

Perfect time to check out those flood prone homes for good deals. If the basements are dry after this weekend's rains, they'll probably always be dry. If they're wet and require flood insurance, you may save enough to flood proof it and still make a profit.
We wrote about this strategy over 4 years ago and the advice applies now more than ever since interest rates may never be lower and sellers have never been more motivated.
If you're thinking of selling and your basement stayed relatively dry, this may be the ideal time to enter the market.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fixer - Uppers at the Height of Abandonment

Just as with foreclosed homes, many of the grandest of skyscrapers occasionally fail to become economically viable and fall into abandonment. has compiled a selection of such structures located from North Korea to Venezuela. These structures differ in their stories and circumstance, but each is a fine glimpse at post-apocalyptic urban decay.

Friday, August 26, 2011