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. Gadling.com 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

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The East Coast Quake

The United States Geological service has a site that monitors earthquake reports, It includes a revealingr Community Internet Intensity Map.
UPDATE: The screen capture above was posted about an hour after the quake. You can click here to see the latest update of their map(zoom out) which reflects thousands of additional reports.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Go North Young Critters!

Animals and plants are shifting their natural home ranges towards the cooler poles three times faster than scientists previously thought. In the largest study of its kind to date, researchers looked at the effects of temperature on over 2,000 species.
They report in the journal Science that species experiencing the greatest warming have moved furthest.

Scientists have previously reported on individual species moving towards the poles or uphill, in mountainous regions, as their traditional habitats shifted due to global warming. But this new study analysed data on more species to get a more comprehensive picture. On the average, these species are moving to higher elevations at 36 feet per decade and higher latitudes at 10.5 miles per decade. at the extreme end, the comma butterfly in Great Britain has moved more than 135 miles in 21 years. According to USA Today, the average distances are two or three times faster than when it was last measured, in 2003.
Might be time to invest in Canadian real estate.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Banks Increasing Incentives for Short Sales

NJ Realtors are beginning to notice that banks are more willing than ever to expedite the short sale process. They've naturally tended to avoid working with underwater sellers since their mortgage holders were so often understaffed and uncooperative in responding to buyer's offers.
A short sale is a home that’s priced below the seller’s mortgage balance, because the balance exceeds its current market value. Banks agree to short sales because the next best alternative is often foreclosure, which will cost them even more. With local foreclosures suspended for nearly a year because of the "robo-signing" fiasco, short sales have come to dominate the market.
They've come to realize that increasing their staffing and speeding up the extra paperwork involved, saves them money in the long run.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Caring for Older Homes

Older homes need special attention. Ron Holborn, a fellow Realtor from Southern California, suggests his top five tips on how to keep your older home safe and going strong.

1. If your home has an old boiler system, replace with a modern, efficient boiler or furnace for energy savings.

2. If central air isn’t an option, consider installing a large ventilation fan or whole-house fan in the attic. The fan can bring in a breeze through the open windows in the house.

3. If your home has knob and tube electrical wiring, replace it with a safer, modern system with a new electric panel and house wiring.

4. Inspect the roof every six months. Replace or repair worn or cracked shingles immediately. If the roof is more than 20 years old and most shingles are worn or damaged, it’s time to replace it.

5. Steel plumbing pipes can clog from internal rusting. Replace them before they burst or reduce your water pressure.

Dozens more tips from Realtors nationwide can be found on Holborn's ActiveRain blog.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Updated Details of Apple's New HQ

Two months ago, when Steve Jobs originally introduced his grandest vision for Apple's future, eyebrows were raised concerning it's practicality. This finalized plan, presented to the Cupertino Planning Board, may or may not be a prototype of the corporate headquarters of the future, but somehow it makes sense for Apple.

Friday, August 12, 2011

HUD's New Tool for Mapping Local Foreclosures

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has unveiled a Web-based mapping tool displaying the location of all foreclosed properties held by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) -- nearly half of all "real estate owned" (REO) properties in the U.S. The goal is to help local communities, homebuyers and investors locate and acquire government owned properties.

As HUD explains it:HUD's REO Portal "is a consolidated neighborhood listing and mapping tool to assist neighborhood stabilizers in identifying Real-Estate Owned (REO) properties from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA in targeted geographies. The portal supports more efficient disposition of REO properties to support the stabilization of neighborhoods and recovery of local housing markets by enabling a neighborhood-focused strategic approach to acquisition. "

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Breaking it Down for Climate Change Skeptics

It's not just the statistics of another hotter than usual summer. There is a set of phenomena we would see happening if human-emitted greenhouse gases were causing climate change. There is a set of phenomena that are happening. They are the same phenomena.
Skeptical Science has more graphics and an extended web page to elaborate. Scroll down for an extended online discussion on the subject.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Your New Landlords, Fanny and Freddie?

Thinking out of the foreclosed box, the Obama administration is has a novel idea for easing the impact of it's 250,000 repossessed residential properties on the housing market. They're considering renting them out. They've asked for reactions from housing experts, Realtors, and the public -- and they've gotten an ear full. Here's a selection from the hundreds of reader comments that followed some online news clips on the idea:
….This will invariably become another entitlement program that creates its own constituency taxpayers can ill afford. Do you honestly believe the federal government is going to kick people out of these houses as renters quit even paying rent? Sell the houses, take the (taxpayer) loss, and move on.... they will take a loss in the short term but in the long term these distressed properties would become valuable assets which could be sold for profit or kept as rental income.....this will only lead to the "slumification of America" as Democrats will look to place Section #8 housing into residential/suburban neighborhoods --under the label of affordable housing.…these bulk sales would have to be done at very low prices to make it work and even then the rent prices probably would not cover expenses.....A bottom wont be made in the housing market until the supply demand equation reaches an equilibrium point. There is still an enormous supply of homes that no amount of government solutions will eliminate...
If approved, the program would most likely be tested out in states that have had the most foreclosures along with the highest demand for rentals such as Florida, Nevada, and Arizona. The deadline for responses is September 15.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

S & P Credit Drop Extended to Fannie and Freddie

Standard & Poor's on Monday downgraded the credit ratings of
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and several other U.S. government
entities, reflecting their dependence on federal support.

Ten of the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks, which also provide
funding for home loans, also received downgrades. Two of the
Federal Home Loan Banks--of Chicago and Seattle--already had the
lower AA-plus credit rating. The downgrades of Fannie and
Freddie reflect the mortgage firms' "direct reliance" on the U.S.
government, S&P said. Fannie and Freddie depend on the U.S.
government's support to stay afloat, and therefore would be on a
shaky footing if the U.S. ever defaulted on its debt.

Fannie and Freddie, which were placed under federal control in September 2008, receive infusions
of cash from the Treasury Department on a quarterly basis if
their net worth drops below zero. Stabilizing the two firms has
cost taxpayers $141 billion so far.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Don't Worry, Be Happy!

Time to get our priorities straight. Here's a newly written summary of 7 elements for a happy life, by Henri Junttila, that are great to keep in mind lest we become overly preoccupied by interest rates, property values and global warming. After you've read his brief, just keep in mind the the key words which are Here and Now, Relationships, Kindness, Growth, Goals, Embracing Death, and Following Your Heart. Scroll down for contributions and comments from readers of the dumblittleman.com website.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Stock Market Dives -- But So Do Interest Rates

We just checked our interest rate calculator on the far right and did a double take. At the moment I'm writing this it's at an all time low of 4.01%. Since Zillow's numbers tend to be on the low side, we've included some other major lenders above.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

World's Most Expensive Cities

Luanda, Angola, now holds the dubious title of the most expensive city for expatriates to live in according to Mercer Consulting’s annual cost-of-living survey released last month.

Mercer surveyed 214 cities across five continents, measuring the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.

New York is used as the base city for the index, and all cities are compared against this location. Currency movements are measured against the U.S. dollar.London ranked 18th, while Paris dropped 10 places to No. 27 from 17th last year. New York was the priciest U.S. city, with a rank of 32, falling from 27 last year.

The cost of housing — often the biggest expense for expats — figures prominently in determining where cities are ranked, Mercer said. Karachi, Pakistan, retained its place as the world’s least expensive city. The Mercer survey found that it was more than three times as costly for an expatriate to live in Luanda as in Karachi.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

New Fuel Efficiency Standards Challenged by GOP

Last week, environment -alists received news that President Obama had reached a landmark agreement with 13 automakers to pursue a 54.5 MPG average fleet goal by the vehicle model year 2025. The agreement was a huge step forward for Obama’s environmental campaign, and shows that automakers and our government are on the same page when it comes to fuel efficiency.

"This is another important step toward saving money for drivers, breaking our dependence on imported oil and cleaning up the air we breathe,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “American consumers are calling for cleaner cars that won’t pollute their air or break their budgets at the gas pump, and our innovative American automakers are responding with plans for some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in our history.”

In 2010, Obama had already imposed a rule that will require vehicles from model years 2012 to 2016 to reach fuel-efficiency of 35.5 mpg. The rules will save drivers a whopping $8,000 per vehicle at the pump, but Republicans aren’t having it. Claiming that Obama violated administrative law by meeting with automakers behind closed doors, Inhabitat is reprting that the GOP, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Cali.), is launching an investigation into the new fuel economy requirements.

New Fuel Efficiency Standards Challenged by GOP

Last week, environmentalists received news that President Obama had reached a landmark agreement with 13 automakers to pursue a 54.5 MPG average fleet goal by the vehicle model year 2025. The agreement was a huge step forward for Obama’s environmental campaign, and shows that automakers and our government are on the same page when it comes to fuel efficiency. The rules will save drivers a whopping $8,000 per vehicle at the pump, but guess what? Republicans aren’t having it. Claiming that Obama violated administrative law by meeting with automakers behind closed doors, the GOP, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Cali.), is launching an investigation into the new fuel economy requirements.


Read more: GOP Investigating Obama's New Fuel Economy Rules | Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World