Friday, December 30, 2011

Surprising Increases in Home Prices in Varied Locations

While most of the U.S. continued to see home values decrease in 2011, Zillow has found year over year increases in many housing markets from Florida to Hawaii. Here are their top 10.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How NOT to Maintain Your Home

One of the top home inspectors in Minneapolis, Reuben Saltzman, shares his top inspection photos from 2011 that are life lessons in home repair problems and mistakes.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Peace Over Earth

From MSNC's photo blog, here's the way Earth looked on Christmas morning, blending imagery of Earth's surface from the MODIS instruments on NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites current weather data from NOAA's GOES-East satellite. While we're at it, how about a look at the years's best photographs taken from space?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Solar Paint: A Gift That Can Keep On Giving -- When It's Perfected

It has just been reported this week that researchers at the University of Notre Dame are developing a new type of solar cell that can simply be painted on to a surface.

The team has created a "power-producing nanoparticle" called a quantum dot, which can be combined with a spreadable paste that can then be painted onto any conductive surface. It requires no special equipment, making this solar paint an inexpensive alternative to traditional solar cells.

The technology isn't quite ready for commercial use yet — its efficiency is much less than traditional solar cells, at around one percent as opposed to the typical 10-15 percent.

Tata Steel is working with researchers at Swansea University to produce sheet steel treated with a sensitive coating of solar cells. According to Dr. Worsley, the project leader for the Swansea Solar Paint Project, if all the steel cladding produced by one manufacturer was energy generating, it would be the equivalent of 50 wind farms (or 4500 gigawatts/year) at an efficiency rate of 5%.

Monday, December 19, 2011

How to Get Those Great Low Rates

With home mortgage rates still hovering around record lows, this should be the perfect time to lower your borrowing costs.

Yet with tough standards and more people in a home-equity hole due to the housing slump, it's mot easy to to get the best rates. There are some ways to improve your odds, but you'll have to jump through hoops to sweeten your application.

Since there aren't too many home buyers around, some 80 percent of mortgage activity is refinancing, according to the Mortgage Banker Association. But up to half of those applying for refis may not qualify, according to

If you're looking for a loan and have a low credit score or are buying anything but a single-family home, the odds are you'll pay higher rates than today's phenomenally low average rate of 3.74 percent for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage according to our Zillow update on your left.

How do you get the best deal? Here are some guidelines via Reuters

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas at the Kips

The first floor of Kip's Castle is open to the public for the month of December. This year's theme is Christmas 1928.

Kip's Caslte was built in 1905 to replicate a medieval Norman Castle. Frederic Ellsworth Kip and his wife, Charlotte, lived here until 1926. Frederic, a wealthy textile magnate, was a descendent of one of the first European families to inhabit NYC. The family gave its name to Kip’s Bay in Manhattan.
Kip's Castle Park is located at 22 Crestmont Road, Verona, 973.239.2465

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gifting Green

Don't fret if you have yet to find the perfect presents for your friends and loved ones - Inhabitat is here to help with their 2011 Green Holiday Gift Guide! This year's guide is jam packed with over 300 sustainable gifts spread over 21 categories, so you're sure to find a special sustainable gift for everyone on your list

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why Tuesday May Be Pivotal Day for Interest Rates

Mortgage market expert Dan Green is predicting that major changes are likely in mortgage interest rates after tomorrow's meeting of the Federal Reserve.
Tuesday, the Federal Open Market Committee meets for a scheduled 1-day meeting, its eighth of 8 scheduled meetings for 2011, and ninth overall.

The FOMC is a branch of the Federal Reserve; a 12-person, revolving committee led by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Members of the FOMC make the final votes on U.S. monetary policy which includes the establishment of a "Fed Funds Rate".

Even though this rate is expected to stay the same, Green explains that other factors are now at play that could easily result in a sharp rise in rates
that have been hovering at record lows for over a month.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

FEMA Grants Awarded for Home Buyouts

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded more than $28 million in Hazard Mitigation Program grants for voluntary home buyouts in New Jersey.
The grants have been awarded to these North and Central New Jersey communities:

· $6.3 million for approximately 56 homes in Wayne
· $3.1 million for approximately 13 homes in Pompton Lakes
· $2.9 million for approximately 15 homes in Little Falls
· $4.1 million for approximately 18 homes in Lincoln Park
· $3.1 million for approximately 12 homes in Fairfield
· $3.8 million for approximately 15 homes in Pequannock

· $2.9 million for approximately 13 homes in Manville
· $1.9 million for approximately 7 homes in Middlesex

Friday, December 09, 2011

Top Lenders Sued Over Foreclosure Practices

Massachusetts has sued the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers for allegedly pursuing illegal foreclosures and misleading troubled borrowers hoping to get loan modifications in that state.

In suing, Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley increases pressure on the banks, which are negotiating with a coalition of attorneys general in an effort to reach a settlement over the companies' foreclosure and mortgage servicing practices. The suitcontends the banks — Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.,Citigroup Inc. and Ally Financial Inc., “charted a destructive path by cutting corners and rushing to foreclose on homeowners without following the rule of law.”

In a statement, Coakley said the latest legal action was necessary because “the banks have charted a destructive path by cutting corners and rushing to foreclose on homeowners without following the rule of law.”

Monday, December 05, 2011

Our Sister Planet

This artist's conception illustrates Kepler-22b, a planet known to comfortably circle in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. It is the first planet that NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed to orbit in a star's habitable zone -- the region around a star where liquid water, a requirement for life on Earth, could persist. The planet is 2.4 times the size of Earth, making it the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star like our sun.

Scientists do not yet know if the planet has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition. It's very possible that the world would have clouds in its atmosphere, as depicted here in the artist's interpretation.

Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Much Ado About Mulch

Can you use some more mulch around your house? Just call your local DPW. These days an increasing number of them in the Northeast are more than willing to let you take all you can carry out for free.
The surprise October storm that dropped a record amount of snow across northern New Jersey knocked down tons of trees and branches. Nearly 5 weeks later, most residents are still seeing fallen branches scattered along the sides of roads.

Those big pulverizing trucks are working overtime to recycle the obstacles, but they are running out of room to stack the growing mountains. Our suggestion: just leave a small pile of the stuff on every "donor's" driveway to be shoveled onto appropriate spots around their yard.

WNBC environmental correspondent, Brian Thompson, demonstrated just how big a job the Jersey Mulchup is in this video piece.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Goes Home

From a news release on
On December 6th Occupy Wall Street will join in solidarity with a Brooklyn community to re-occupy a foreclosed home. The day of action marks a national kick-off for a new frontier for the occupy movement: the liberation of vacant bank-owned homes for those in need. The banks got bailed out, but our families are getting kicked out. The fight to reclaim democracy from the banks is growing from Wall Street to Main Street.

The NYC foreclosure tour and home re-occupation is part of a big national day of action on Dec. 6 that will focus on the foreclosure crisis and protest fraudulent lending practices, corrupt securitization, and illegal evictions by banks. The Occupy movement actions, including eviction defense at foreclosed properties, takeovers of vacant properties by homeless families, and foreclosure action disruptions, will take place in more than 25 cities across the country.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New Records Set in Foreclosure Time Lines

Non-judicial state foreclosures inventories are less than half those of judicial states such as New Jersey. Foreclosure sale rates in non-judicial states are four to five times higher, but judges are starting to ramp up the process.

Bank repossessions actually surged in October in many judicial states, up 48% in New Jersey and up 73% in Indiana month-to-month, according to RealtyTrac. Still, the backlog is enormous.

Overall foreclosure inventory is at an all-time high, 4.29% of all active loans, according to LPS