Thursday, April 28, 2011

Famous, Fabulous and Homeless?

How does Nicolas Cage get behind on his mortgage payments? The same way other rich and famous people do. Catch up on Nick's current woes as well as those of other celebrities from

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Prospects for Double Dipping in Housing Market

Housing is feeling awfully double dippy. S&P/Case-Shiller home-price data out Tuesday showed a 3.3% year-over-year drop in February, while the index's measure of 20 metropolitan areas was just a hair above the crisis low seen in April 2009. For banks, the renewed downturn is likely to mean some pain, although not necessarily a crushing blow. That is largely due to the jobs picture. Today's unemployment rate of 8.8% is almost exactly where it was in early 2009. But back then joblessness was rising. Now, it is falling. If that trend holds, and if renewed price falls don't near the 10% level, banks probably won't see a serious increase in delinquencies. Even underwater homeowners are less likely to default if they remain employed.

And one possible silver lining in the Case-Shiller data was that the size of month-to-month declines has been slowing of late.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Notable Facts for Earth Day

The Department of Interior reminds us that the greatest shallow-water offshore wind energy potential in the U.S. — which is 1,000 gigawatts of electricity, or one quarter of national demand — lies off the Atlantic Coast.

Through energy efficiency measures, the U.S. has the potential to reduce annual non-transportation energy consumption by roughly 23% by 2020 — the equivalent of taking the entire U.S. fleet of passenger vehicles and light trucks off the roads.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Supersizing Solar in NJ

New Jersey may not exactly be the sunniest state as far as solar compatibility is concerned, but it continues to be one of the most supportive for solar subsidies and innovative installations. Now it can also claim the title of the largest single installation in the U.S. Avidan Management, one of the state's largest commercial Realty companies has just formally commissioned the giant array on the rooftop of it's Edison complex.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Peak Season for Best of Green

The Grammy and Oscar winners for this year are history, but you can still go on TreeHugger's website and check out both nominees and winners in just about every Green category you can imagine. What is the greenest computer, the most helpful smart phone app, the coolest concept gadget, the best sci-tech blog? Who is the greatest green geek to follow on Twitter? Included are TreeHugger results from readers polls in such categories as Green Celebrity and Musical Group.

Then, head on over to Planet Green, where you can rate the winners in each category in their View and Vote slideshow polls, open through April 22. Once the picks are in for the highest rated organization, person, product, or idea in each category, they'll have a final vote:for the best in show of Best of Green.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Freddie-Mac Expects Housing Market to Spring Forward

Our number one backer of residential home mortgages has just released it's forecast for the spring Real Estate Market. We've picked out some major highlights:
Unemployment declined for the fourth straight month to 8.8 percent, and net employment sprung up by 216,000, the largest monthly job gain since last May and a hopeful signal that the labor market was warming up. On a March-over-March basis, employment was up by 1.3 million…Driven by low mortgage rates and home prices well below peaks, homebuyer affordability is at the highest level in at least forty years, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Indeed, sales contract signings for existing homes were up in February, positioning the market for a bounce up in settlements during the second quarter, the traditional time for the seasonal upswing in sales…..Look for home sales to be up about 5 percent in 2011 compared with 2010, on a calendar year basis…. short-term rates will remain low and supportive of household borrowing. The coupon difference between 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages has gradually widened to about three-quarters of a percentage point….The rental market should continue to have gradually warmer market conditions as well, with rents continuing to pickup and vacancies dipping.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

If Solar Energy Got the Same Subsidies as Fossil Fuels...

The Energy Establishment contends that renewable energy sources like solar power and wind are decades from being viable alternatives to fossil fuels. A pro-solar group One Block Off the Grid disagrees. To challenge this longstanding myth advanced by opponents of subsidies for renewable energy, the pro-solar group put together the Infographic at right.

Germany, for example, only receives 2.6% of the sunlight as the US does, but still manages to produce 60 times as much solar power. How do they do it? According to Triple Pundit, it was done through a  government-introduced mechanism called a feed-in tariff (FIT) that was first initiated twenty years ago. The tariff requires utilities to connect renewable energy generators to the grid and buy the electricity produced at a rate of 65 to 90% of the retail cost. Other countries have now replicated this model.

Meanwhile, the GOP has proposed massive new cuts for renewable energy subsidies.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Paint Your Home and Get Your Mortgage Paid -- For Free!

Homeowners having trouble keeping up with their payments may have a new option available to them. Along with loan modifications, short sales, and going cold turkey by defaulting with their lender, they can now opt to get a free paint job -- and turn their house into a billboard. Adzookie, is an innovative mobile advertising company known for its direct advertising on smartphones. They sum up their tempting offer on their website:

Adzookie will pay the home-owner’s mortgage for at least three months with an option to extend up to a year. If the contract is canceled by Adzookie or the home-owner during the contract period, they will paint the house back to its original colors.

The other likelihood is that their town's Zoning Board will step in with new restrictions -- if there is nothing currently spelled out in their codes. For those on busy streets, this could be an effective, if temporary, win-win. For those on quieter streets, this could make them busy(and unpopular with their neighbors) if they're the first to take the dare and jump in. Some neighbors may actually prefer it to some other options.

Be warned that Adzookie is not a huge company and has already gotten thousands of requests within a week of it's announcement. It is planning to pick 10 to get the ball rolling this spring. CEO, Romeo Mendoza, is now looking for other advertisers to sign on so it might help as many as 100 homeowners this spring.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Realtors® Urge Congress to Approach GSE Reform Slowly

Washington, DC, The National Association of REALTORS® is urging Congress to move cautiously when reforming government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Reforming America’s housing finance market can only be achieved through a forward-looking, comprehensive approach that supports the housing and economic recoveries, said NAR President Ron Phipps in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Capital Markets today. “As the leading advocate for home ownership, NAR strongly agrees that the existing system failed and that reforms are needed; however, redesigning a viable secondary mortgage model that will protect taxpayer dollars and serve the country’s home owners today, and in the future, can only be achieved through a methodical, measured effort,” said Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I.

NAR is concerned that without a comprehensive plan for reforming the secondary mortgage market, proposed legislation to quickly constrain Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before an adequate replacement secondary mortgage market mechanism is established will further disrupt the still fragile housing market recovery.

“REALTORS® agree that increasing private capital in the mortgage finance market is necessary for a healthy market and for reducing the government’s involvement; however, proposed legislation that relies only on private capital to operate the secondary mortgage market will slow, if not stop, the housing and economic recovery,” he said.

Phipps testified that the pendulum on mortgage credit has already swung too far in the wrong direction and is hurting consumers and the economy. He added that quick decisions aimed at punishing certain market players will only punish the taxpayers by constraining their ability to access affordable mortgage financing, and that making it harder for those who can afford a safe mortgage does not further the goals of the recovery.

“Home ownership is a pillar of our economy. NAR research shows for every two homes sold, a job is created, providing needed revenue to both our state and local economies. This must be considered when debating the future of federal housing policies,” said Phipps.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Banks Increasing Incentives to Encourage Short Sales

A year ago, the big news was the government's $8,000 buyer incentive to jump start the housing market. Last summer, Wachovia(now Wells Fargo) began extending cash incentives to homeowners willing to sell their homes as a short sale, rather than going through foreclosure. Borrowers who have found themselves upside down on their Wachovia mortgage could receive 1% of the purchase price (minimum of $2,500) when they sell their home as a short sale. The borrowers get their cash incentive after the successful sale.

More recently, Chase is reported to have raised their ante to as much as $30,000 for higher valued homes. With the Bank's approval borrowers in a short sale sell their property of less than they currently owe in home loans. The lender forgives a portion of the mortgage in order to allow the seller to sell the property.

In the past short sales have been given a bad reputation, often taking longer than a traditional sale, often nine months or longer to obtain the necessary approval of the lender. Many homeowners are intimidated by the whole process and let their home go to foreclosure. They may lose out on a short sale that could in fact be a better choice in the long run.

Banks know that underwater owners are more likely to do a strategic default. Lenders would rather lessen their losses by proactively offering pre-approved short sales to their underwater owners than have the homes go through a foreclosure. Recent studies have proven that the cost of a foreclosure is significantly more than a short sale. Lenders have recently figured out that a short sale ends up saving them money and is in fact quicker than a foreclosure. Wachovia and Chase have set themselves apart from other lenders by turning foreclosures into short sales instead of the other way around. It creates a win-win situation for the homeowner and their Lender.

More info on Short Sales here.

Friday, April 01, 2011

MIT Scientists Create Artificial Solar Leaf That Can Power Homes

An April fools prank? Not likely, since this was published in on March 28th. Scientist Dr. David Nocera has perfected a low-cost, artificial leaf-like device, that like a real leaf, mimics the process of photosynthesis. Nocera announced the creation of a miniature solar cell at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society last week. Nocera hopes to use his “leaf” to help make individual homes capable of becoming their own self-sufficient power stations.

Nocera’s “leaf” is ready for commercial production and distribution. Hopefully one day soon, each home will find it as common as a hot water heater!