Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Slow Money Approach to Food Activism

Thousands of Americans have begun affirming a new direction for the food system and the economy. It’s called Slow Money.
It is a new way of connecting investors to local food systems, catalyzing new forms of social investing and philanthropy for the 21st century.

Inspired by the vision of "Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing As If Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered", published in 2009, the Slow Money Alliance is bringing people together around a new conversation about money that is too fast, about finance that is disconnected from people and place, about how we can begin fixing our economy from the ground up, starting with food.
Food activists, concerned citizens and a new generation of food entrepreneurs are working across the country to improve school lunches, bring healthy food to the inner city, get toxics out of the food chain, fight obesity and diabetes, and rebuild local economies.

Since mid-2010, local Slow Money chapters have emerged in roughly a dozen locales around the country. Some are hosting local entrepreneur showcases like one that took place last month in NYC.
Nationally, the Alliance;s goal is to get a million people investing 1% of their money in local food enterprises, within a decade.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Upbeat Housing Updates for April

According to the newly released S&P/Case Shiller 20-city index, prices rose 0.7%
in April compared with March, although they fell 0.1% when
adjusted for the strong spring selling season. Prices were down
4% year-over-year. "In a welcome shift from recent months, this
month is better than last -- April's numbers beat March," said
David Blitzer, S&P's spokesman, in a statement. "However, the
seasonally adjusted numbers show that much of the improvement
reflects the beginning of the spring-summer home buying season.
It is much too early to tell if this is a turning point or simply
due to some warmer weather," Blitzer added. Any hint of good
news in the troubled housing market will likely bring cheer to
the industry, and there are some signs that market conditions are
not quite as dire as some of the statistics may indicate.

Much of the price drop over the past year can be blamed on severe
price slashing for homes in foreclosure, as Federal Reserve
chairman Ben Bernanke pointed out in a press conference last
Wednesday. Prices for homes sold by regular sellers have held up much better.

Commenting on the latest numbers, Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac SVP, said, “Tuesday's Case-Shiller report is the first positive pricing news we’ve seen in quite some time, but not a signal that the housing market is on the road to recovery.”

Commenting on the latest numbers, Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac SVP, said, “Tuesday’s Case-Shiller report is the first positive pricing news we’ve seen in quite some time, but not a signal that the housing market is on the road to recovery.”

much better.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The NYC Regional Housing Market

The New York area referred to in this report covers the geographic area of the New York-Wayne-White Plains metro area
as officially defined by the Office of Management and Budget of the U.S. Government (click on graphic to enlarge). The official coverage area includes the following counties:
Bergen County, Hudson County, Passaic County, Bronx County, Kings County, New York County, Putnam County,
Queens County, Richmond County, Rockland County, and Westchester County

More information on the White House OMB's geographic definitions for their housing stats can be found here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chinese Copy an Austrian Village

Photo: Sander Hoogendoorn under a Creative Commons license

The picturesque Austrian village of Hailstatt, is home to the world's oldest known salt mine, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and hosts up to 800,000 visitors annually. But soon tourists coming from China won't have to go so far to see Hallstatt in all its mountain and lakeside beauty. That's because China is busy building an exact replica of the famous village,

Der Spiegel is reporting that Hallstatt, China, will include every building, statue, and architectural detail of its original Austrian "inspiration." Not to mention the lake and mountains. And while Hallstatt's 800 residents see the Chinese clone as a potential boon for tourism, others are not so happy. It raises unprecedented legal issues regarding copyrights which have rarely been an issue in China.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Window for Both Buyers and Sellers

We no longer have to remind buyers why this is an ideal time to take advantage of all-time record low interest rates.
It's also becoming clear to homeowners that their home's value to a potential buyer is not likely to increase anytime soon.
One of our most reliable sources for Real Estate information and forecasts, The KCM Blog, is predicting that sellers have a window of opportunity for the next 90-120 days in which to sell their homes for the best possible price.

Any item’s price is determined by ‘supply and demand’. In many parts of the country existing housing inventory is already high and actually increasing. In addition, an inventory of distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) will be coming to market later this year....Waiting until later this year or until next year will not guarantee a higher sales price. If anything, it probably guarantees the exact opposite.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Camping in the Brooklyn Wilds

Finding a good campground isn’t really one of the first things you think about when it comes to New York City, but that might just change. Floyd Bennett Field, an old airport on the edge of Brooklyn, is set to become the largest urban campground in the United States. The location, which is owned by the National Parks Service, is currently home to five campsites, but the new plan would create an additional 600.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Home Sales Slip Slightly

The National Association of Realtors reports that existing home sales fell 3.8% to 4.81 million units in May, that’s from a downwardly revised 5 million units in April.
* Sales were down 15.3% from a year ago. The median home price $166,500, that is down 4.6% year-over-year -- largely due to distressed sales.
* Distressed Sales sales made up 31% of the market in May, down from 37% in April.
* Inventories fell 1% to 3.72 million units representing a 9.3 month supply.
* All cash transactions grew to 30% of the market. while first-time home buyers dropped to 35% of the market.
* Single families sales fell 3.2%.
* Condos, down 8.1%.

According to, the report came in about as expected, to help reduce market fears that the housing sector recovery has reversed course.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Just beginning to get the hang of Twittering. Pleasantly surprised to get a plug today from none other than the Daily. Don't forget to check out our Twitter feed in the right hand column and give us a follow.
BTW, those pesky Iranian fans seem to have faded away. Wonder if they could have been using this blog as cover to catch up on the world via Twitter. The latest number 3 is Ukraine. Oh well...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

5 Tips for First Time Buyers

Major changes in mortgage lending and housing markets have created a new world for first-time homebuyers.
Sure, much of the traditional advice still applies. But today's buyers need to get savvy about certain dynamics that are new on the homebuying scene. Here are five fresh tips to get first-timers off on the right track to homeownership from

Friday, June 17, 2011

Global Warming and Those Wildfires

The National Wildlife Federation reports that this spring, in a region marked by exceptional drought (see map), preventing and controlling wildfires has been a losing battle.

Arizonans are currently fighting a raging wildfire that has scorched more than 480 square miles of the state and sent smoke all the way to Iowa. Residents have been evacuated, flights have been diverted on account of heavy smoke, and air quality alerts have been issued

In Texas, more than 400 homes have burned across the state amid severe drought and high winds since November.
Twenty-seven wildfires were reported in a single four day period last month in New Mexico.

The National Climatic Data Center reports that wildfire activity “scorched more than twice the area of any April this century.”
These numbers are scary on their own, but they are even more alarming if taken as a harbinger of things to come. While many are attributing this year’s fire season to La NiƱa, scientists warn that the trend of larger and more severe fires will only get worse as a result of climate change.

While it is not possible to attribute a single weather event to climate change, recent events have many drawing a link between climate change and the surge in droughts, floods, heat waves and other extreme weather events.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Market Trends in LIttle Falls

According to, the median sales price for homes in Little Falls NJ for Mar 11 to May 11 was $290,000. This represents an increase of 6.4%, or $17,500, compared to the prior quarter and a decrease of 12.8% compared to the prior year. Sales prices have depreciated 22.7% over the last 5 years in Little Falls. The average listing price for Little Falls homes for sale on Trulia was $374,742 for the week ending Jun 08.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Analyzing an Analytic

I've become increasingly fascinated by the Google Analytics for this blog. It's a great way to see what stories are of current interest to the most viewers (above).
Take a look at the geographical breakdown below. While the numbers vary quite a bit from day to day, the top three sources have stayed the same for the past few weeks. I can sort of understand why Germany would be following many of my environmental posts. But number 3 baffles me. Can anyone explain this?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Apple's Planned HQ 2.0

Just a day after taking to the stage to unveil iOS 5, the iCloud and Mac OS X Lion, Steve Jobs appeared in front of Cupertino City Council officials to present his stunning plans for the new Apple HQ.

The company's vision is to have 12,000 employees all housed in a circular "spaceship" building which contains glass without any straight edges. There will also be an apricot orchard to partially replicate the original look of the site with double the trees than when HP owned the land. Jobs told the Council that Apple hopes to break ground next year and move in 2015.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The High LIne Doubles Up

Today is the official first full day that the newest section of the NY HIgh Line is open. The new section doubles the length of the public park. After years of planning and construction, the High Line is now one mile long, connecting the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and Hell's Kitchen. (click on photos to enlarge)

Monday, June 06, 2011

Foreclosing on Bank of America

A homeowner and her attorney showed up at Bank of America with movers and deputies in tow, ready to seize the bank's property! They were foreclosing on the bank for not paying court ordered fees, this after Bank of America made a mistake and tried to foreclose on a property they bought with cash.

A story about homeowners turning the tables on the bank spread like wildfire all over the Internet. Major news websites picked up the story, then it was posted and re-posted on hundreds of websites, blogs, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages. Thousands leaving comments.

The Judge said the bank wrongfully tried to foreclose on the Nyergers' house.
"They've ignored our calls, ignored our letters, legally this is the next step to get my clients compensated, " attorney Todd Allen told CBS. Sheriff's deputies, movers, and the Nyergers' attorney went to the bank and foreclosed on it. The attorney gave instructions to to remove desks, computers, copiers, filing cabinets and any cash in the teller's drawers.

After about an hour of being locked out of the bank, the bank manager handed the attorney a check for the legal fees.
"As a foreclosure defense attorney this is sweet justice" says Allen.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Land Generator Chosen for Fresh Kills

Staten Island’s Freshkills Park has just been chosen as the site for the 2012 Land Art Generator Initiative, an exciting competition that will create a stunning piece of public art that will produce clean energy to power New York City homes. Jessica Dailey reports at that NYC is already planning to use land in Freshkills Park to build wind or solar fields, so it’s no surprise that the park’s expansive landscape was seen as the perfect empty canvas for LAGI.

The New York City Parks Department has partnered with LAGI to host the competition. Officials say that the guidelines will be similar to the 2010 competition, which used three sites in the United Arab Emirates. The goal of the initiative is to change the way we think about what green energy generation looks like, while expanding public awareness about the potential for a renewable energy future through art. Solar fields and wind farms can be unsightly, so first and foremost, LAGI will consider aesthetics. Hundreds of designers from more than 40 countries submitted proposals.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Feeding the Hungry Through Public Parks

What if our public parks produced food for those who need it? With harvests donated to homeless charities, Sami Grover writes in that the idea has been applied with great success in Denver and elsewhere:

It's always seemed strange to me that most parks grow only ornamental flowers and shrubs. Sure, it's nice to have pretty flowers around, but what if our parks also produced food for those who need it? From sharing gardens in Oregon to community nut tree plantings, we have indeed seen some moves to turn shared land into a productive food producing resource. Now a group of Colorado residents are aiming to utilize multiple city parks to produce 1,500 pounds of produce to help feed the homeless.

The gardens are maintained by neighborhood groups, churches and non-profits, and the produce that is harvested will be donated at the end of the season to homeless charities and shelters.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Rates Drop Near Record Lows

Since Thursday, we have had significant market improvement and rates are close to the record lows we saw last November.

30 Year Fixed 4.37%
20 Year Fixed 4.25%
15 Year Fixed 3.87%
5 Year ARM 2.87%
7 Year ARM 3.37%

FHA 30 Year Fixed 4.25%
FHA 5 Year ARM 3.25%