Friday, July 29, 2011

Time to Consider Putting Your Home Search On A Fast Track

With the current Debt Crisis facing the increased possibility of Default, downgrading of our government's credit, and the prospect of skyrocketing interest rates, now might be the time to put your home search on a fast track. HGTV"s has posted their 10 step scenario for speeding up the process to the max and closing your deal on the tightest of deadlines. Their 10 steps:

1. Start your search online

2. Get pre-approved

3. Look for motivated sellers

4. Prioritize your housing needs

5. Find a great buyer’s agent

6. Steer clear of short sales

7. Try a real estate auction

8. Negotiate repairs

9. Have cash read for closing

10. Have a Plan B

Depending on the property you pick, our team of Century 21 specialists have locked in a low interest rate in a matter of days.and closed deals as quickly as 3 weeks.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

More Financing Options Needed to Stem Foreclosures

The housing market could face an onslaught of new foreclosures if policy makers and industry professionals fail to develop more financing options that keep real estate investors active in the market, Amherst Securities Group said in a report yesterday. The
problem is twofold, according to the analyst group. On one hand,
the market needs to stifle a growing supply of distressed
properties by implementing solutions — including principal
write downs — that will save homes from distressed inventory
pools. The second step is ensuring the market has multiple
financing options available to investors who want to buy up the
existing streams of distressed and existing real estate. "Rental
yields are high enough to entice some amount of private capital,
but financing for investor properties would certainly attract
more capital and cushion further home price declines," the agency
said in its Amherst Mortgage Insight report.

Amherst Securities believes 10.4 million homes are still at risk
of going into default after analyzing the number of loans that
are currently classified as non-performing, previously delinquent
and underwater. The tightening of underwriting guidelines also
is making it more difficult for investors and homebuyers to get
into the market to extract the access inventory.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Growing Evidence of Connecticut Cougar Migration

The cougar, also known as puma, mountain lion, mountain cat, catamount or panther, depending on the region, is a mammal native to the Americas. This large, solitary cat has the greatest range of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes. An adaptable species, the cougar is found in every major American habitat type. Although large, the cougar is closer genetically to the domestic cat than to true lions.

Numerous reports of sightings of the animal in suburban Connecticut, had beed dismissed by conservation officers as unlikely, since the species had long since been thought to be extinct in the eastern U.S. On June 11, the rumors were confirmed with news of the lions demise -- hit by a car on a highway near Greenwich. just reported that DNA tests matched those of his nearest relatives from South Dakpta suggesting that the mountain lion had somehow managed to prowl through at least six states covering 1800 miles of midwestern farms, highways, and wilderness without being spotted.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Push for Conforming Loan Limit Extension

In 2008, Congress allowed Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration to guarantee or buy mortgages worth as much as $729,750 in most neighborhoods. The limits will expire Oct. 1 and drop to $600,000 or more, varying by county. (The darker areas in the map show counties that will face the biggest drops.)

Housing Wire is reporting that Mortgage Bankers Association CEO David Stevens, the former director of the FHA, said he would like to see the limits extended through the end of 2012.

"While we had hoped improved economic conditions could warrant a return to the loan limits established by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, the reality is that the temporarily higher loan levels are still needed. A number of bills have been introduced that would extend these limits and we urge Congress to address this important issue," Stevens said in the letter to Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) and Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) introduced just such a bill last week, which would extend the limits for another two years.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

NJ's Undiscovered Lake Escape

Like Minnesota, New Jersey is a land of many lakes, most of them private or hard to access without long hikes, Louis Morris County Park couldn't be much easier to get to. It's a mere 4 miles west of Morristown. Perhaps one of the reasons it's parking lot is never full is that the wealthy towns nearby all have private pools or town pools. Maybe it's the history of geese-induced closings(rare in recent years). We arrived as per our usual late Sunday timetable to find 3 youngsters in the roped off section of Sunrise Lake being well supervised by two lifeguards. We were swimming far enough from them to avoid the slightest ripple in the refreshing waters. A couple of paddleboats were sliding across the lake and a few fishermen could be seen on the far shore. Peace!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Foreclosure Painting More Timely Than Ever

Some real estate agents tend to regard foreclosure properties as just an "asset" that can be unloaded quickly once it becomes vacant.
"Foreclosure" should remind us that there are still people involved. As with many of gallery painter Max Ginsburg realistic paintings, this one looks like it could have been done during The Depression. An exhibition of 60 paintings dating from 1956 to the present by the New York illustrator will be on view at the Salmagundi Club at 47 Fifth Av. at 10th St. in New York City from July 18 to August 5. A major book with 150 reproductions will be published in September. The opening reception Thursday July 21 between 5:00 and 8:00pm

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Countrywide and Wells Fargo Return 193M to Homeowners

Some troubled homeowners got the promise of a little relief Wednesday in the form of separate settlements with Bank of America's Countrywide Home Loans and Wells Fargo & Co. Nearly $108 million in refund checks are being mailed to homeowners allegedly overcharged by Countrywide Home Loans as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

In an unrelated action against Wells Fargo, the Federal Reserve Board issued a cease-and-desist order and assessed an $85-million civil penalty over allegations that Wells Fargo Financial Inc. employees improperly pushed borrowers into more expensive subprime loans and exaggerated income information on mortgage applications from January 2004 to June 2008.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission reached the settlement with Countrywide, which is now owned by Bank of America Corp., and said Wednesday that the agency was beginning to mail the checks to 450,177 defaulting homeowners from whom the company allegedly collected excessive fees.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lead Testing Advised for All Ringwood Residents

WCBS News is reporting that lead levels in homes just outside a New Jersey superfund site have been found to be dangerously high and that has some observers demanding quick action. Photo by Chris Pedota

The sludge dumped on the site continues to surprise the people trying to clean it up — and the residents trying to live their lives nearby. Environmentalist Robert Spiegel is so alarmed he said the entire population of this rural community should be screened for contamination.

Recent soil tests show that some homes in the area have lead levels of 22 thousand parts per million in their yards. That’s 50 times what the government considers safe. The EPA said it has removed 37,000 tons of soil and debris from the site since 2004 and has no estimate how much more is left.

The New Jersey Department of Health has offered lead screening for children living here, but not for adults, few of whom have health insurance or the means to get the tests themselves. A spokesperson for department in Trenton said it’s taking the advisory panel’s recommendation under advisement.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Closing Costs Compared's exclusive survey of lenders in each state and Washington, D.C., reveals which borrowers are likely to face the highest costs and includes a detailed breakdown of fees in each state. The estimates are based on a borrower with excellent credit buying a $250,000 homeResearchers requested a good faith estimate for a $200,000 loan, assuming a 20 percent down payment and good credit.

The table below ranks the states, from most expensive closing costs to least expensive, by average closing costs charged by the lending industry for a mortgage in each state.(Click on graphic to enlarge) Your costs will be higher than shown here because the most highly variable costs are not included: taxes, other government fees and escrow fees. While New York continues to lead the nation in costs, New Jersey is inching up from 9th place to a tie for 7th.

Bankrate surveyed one city in 49 states, two cities in California -- Los Angeles and San Francisco -- and the District of Columbia. An asterisk below denotes a tie.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

SBA Loans Now Available for NNJ March Flood Victims

WASHINGTON – Residents and businesses affected by the severe storms and flooding on March 10-17, in Essex, Morris and Passaic counties in Northern New Jersey can apply for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration, SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills announced today.

Mills made the loans available in response to a letter from New Jersey Gov. Christie on June 9, requesting a disaster declaration by the SBA. The declaration covers Essex, Morris and Passaic counties and the adjacent counties of Bergen, Hudson, Hunterdon, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren in New Jersey; and Orange and Rockland counties in New York.

“The SBA is strongly committed to providing the people of New Jersey with the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist homeowners, renters, and businesses of all sizes with federal disaster loans,” said Administrator Mills. “Getting businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority at SBA.”

“Loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for loans up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property,” said Frank Skaggs, director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East in Atlanta. SBA’s customer service representatives will be on hand at the Disaster Loan Outreach Center to answer questions about the disaster loan program, explain the process, issue and help individuals complete their applications.

Those affected by the disaster may apply for disaster loans from SBA’s website at
The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is August 15, 2011. The deadline to return economic injury applications is March 14, 2012.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Debt Ceiling Debate and Real Estate

Since the United States is in a deficit position, the only way we can continue supporting our expenses is by borrowing. This is where the Debt Ceiling comes in.

If Congress does not raise the ceiling on our debts, it means only one thing ...

We will find it difficult to borrow more money by selling more Treasury Bonds because no one will trust us to pay it back.

If we cannot sell more Treasury Bonds, we won’t have enough money to cover our debts.

If we don’t have enough money to cover all our debts, we will have to ‘default’ on some of our debts.

If we default on our debt, we’re no different than you or me, who hit hard times and start paying only the interest on our credit card debt.

Because we must default on paying back our debts in full, interest rates on any new debt we manage to acquire will skyrocket. In other words, U.S. Treasuries will become junk bonds.

And junk bonds — bonds whose repayment is questionable — require high interest rates for investors to take on the risk.

When this happens, all interest rates will skyrocket. On auto loans. Credit cards. And, of course, mortgage loans.

And there goes the real estate market.
This was posted by Judy Chapman, a Chicago /Realtor, on her ActiveRain Blog.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Growing Green Jobs

Steve Lacy writes in Grist that a look at the increase in job postings for clean energy and sustainability-related jobs anecdotally suggests that the "sustainability" sector is faring better than most, according to the Wall Street Journal:

In the past two years, the number of online job postings containing the keyword "sustainability" has more than quadrupled to 8,245 in May, according to, which aggregates online job postings. The number containing "wind" and "solar" more than doubled in the same time period.

Some of that growth might have come from the $800 billion economic stimulus package, about $100 billion of which was devoted to green-related projects, said Robert Pollin, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Much money was devoted to helping companies retrofit buildings to be energy efficient, and according to Mr. Pollin's research, every $1 million devoted to that task created about 17 jobs for the life of the project, he said.

Because many of the jobs are cross-sector, we can't be exactly sure how many were created for what reasons. But it's clear that tens of thousands of Americans are being employed in the clean energy field who might otherwise not have jobs. This rough analysis from the Wall Street Journal illustrates the increase in activity.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Maximizing Your Credit Score

High credit scores mean lower mortgage rates and lower credit scores mean higher mortgage rates. That’s why having a good, solid credit score (720 or above) will result in lower rates, assuming all other things are equal. However, there are some credit score limits that will have a more profound impact on your rate. Below are the most important edges:

580 – This is the minimum credit score required for an FHA loan.
620 – This is the minimum credit score required by Fannie Mae. However, most Fannie Mae loans require at least 660.
660 – This is typically the minimum for most conventional loans. Anything below this is typically considered subprime and will be harder to get financing. Although you can get loans at this credit score, you will normally pay a much higher rate.
720 – This is the historical cutoff to get the best rates. At this level you will not get any negative rate adjustments. However, in the current market, you can now get even better rates for higher scores.
760 – This is where you will now get the best rates. There may be some lenders who give additional breaks at extreme scores (800+) but for the most part, anything above 760 will give you the best rates.
Although changing your credit score isn’t as easy as deciding to increase your down payment, there are some things you can do to make sure your score is as high as possible. You can check your free annual credit report and ensure there are no inaccuracies, pay your bills on time, refrain from maxing out your available lines of credit, and use credit repair sites to remove old blemishes.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

This Can Be Yours for Peanuts!

Former Home of Charles Schulz creator of Peanuts. Extraordinary, Hilltop Wine Country Estate. Magnificent panoramic views and landscaping, meticulously maintained, exquisitely renovated, located in the heart of Sonoma County.

Private, gated and secluded family compound. 2 homes on 2+ acres. Expansive outdoor living areas, pool and Cabana. Can be purchased turnkey with all contents except artwork. 6 BR, 8.5 baths. Home Size: 7,894 sq.ft.Truly a unique property. Must see!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Weighing Home Affordability

Coldwell Banker Real Estate recently released its Home Listing Report (HLR), a snapshot survey of average listing prices for four-bedroom, two full bathroom homes in more than 2,300 North American markets. Newport Beach, Calif., led the list of most expensive U.S. real estate markets for the second year in a row, with an average home listing price of approximately $2.5 million for property listings meeting the subject home criteria. The most affordable U.S. market in the report is Niagara Falls, N.Y., which has an average home listing price of approximately $61,000. The dramatic difference of more than $2.4 million between most expensive and most affordable U.S. housing markets is just one of the many findings in this comprehensive market comparison.

The Coldwell Banker Home Listing Report compiles extensive information on real estate data from around the U.S. and Canada for home buyers and sellers. The HLR provides the average home listing price of four-bedroom, two full bathroom properties on that were listed between September 2010 and March 2011 from more than 2,300 North American markets. The U.S. average for the surveyed listings was approximately $293,000.

Put in perspective, a $200,000 property with a 30-year-fixed mortgage at a 5% interest rate (with a 20% down payment) could translate to a relatively low monthly mortgage payment of less than $860. Using the same parameters, the average $60,820 four-bedroom, two full bathroom home in Niagara Falls could translate to a month mortgage payment of approximately $260.

In New Jersey, HLR results show Newark at the top of the affordability list of 156 New Jersey real estate markets, averaging $170,427 for comparable 4 Bedroom homes. In Essex County, the next highest market for a home after Newark fell to Belleville at number 19, with the average priced four-bedroom, two-bathroom property coming in at $269,500. Essex County markets include number 44 Bloomfield, averaging $351,537, and Montclair at number 85, averaging $448,441.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Newest Program to Get Homeowners Out of Their Hole

A new federal program is offering aid without strings. It doesn't need to be repaid.

For the roughly four million homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments, the federal government is offering yet another remedy: free money to catch up on their loans. The effort, called the Emergency Homeowners Loan Program, is the latest in the federal government's efforts to slow down the flood of foreclosures a necessary step to a meaningful recovery in the housing market, says a Department of Housing and Urban Development official. For people who have lost their jobs, the $1 billion program offers loans of up to $50,000 that don't actually need to be repaid, if applicants meet certain requirements.

Rolled out by HUD and the nonprofit housing advocacy group NeighborWorks America, the program is making loans with far better terms than anything offered at a local bank. The loans are interest-free.

More from Yahoo Finance.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Prologue to a Revolution

(an encore blog) 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."

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Sign of the Times

RE/MAX Village Square has always been distinguished by it's prominent, highly visible, upper Montclair location next door to the A&P on Valley Road. After losing several of their top agents and getting a rent increase from their landlord, the decision was made to downsize. LIterally. They can now be found around the corner in the basement.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Higher Rents Reflect Slide in Homeownership

Prices on rental properties grew 6.7% in June as more Americans
chose low-risk rentals over homeownership, a new report from
housing search engine said Thursday.  The agency,
which compared June prices to last year, attributes the
rental-price surge to pent-up demand among first-time renters and
larger families who can no longer afford homeownership or who
lack faith in the stability of home prices.  San Francisco-based reached this conclusion by studying the median
listing price of 500,000 rentals located in major metropolitan
areas.  Price hikes in the studio and five-bedroom rental segment
grew the most, rising 14.3% and 12.1%, respectively. HotPads'
study is in line with analyst projections that show pent-up
demand for rental housing in the wake of the credit crunch.
Americans who rented out properties gained $3.3 billion in total
income from that endeavor during the month of May, up from $2.9
billion in April, according to the US Bureau of Economic
Analysis.  After surveying more than 1,100 property managers in
June, credit reporting agency TransUnion concluded that apartment
demand is up, especially among Americans who lost homes to