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.