Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Case-Shiller Index at New Lows

Case-Shiller's latest summary of 2011 housing price stats has just been released:

“After a prior three years of accelerated decline, the past two years has been a story of a housing market that is bottoming out but has not yet stabilized.”

U.S. home prices fell in December from a month earlier, ending 2011 with 3 composite indexes at the lowest levels since the housing crisis began in mid-2006, according to Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home-price indexes.

During the fourth quarter, home prices reached new lows, falling 3.8% sequentially and 4% year-to-year. Prices are down 33.8% from their peak in the second quarter of 2006.

Monday, February 27, 2012

NJ Foreclosures Accelerate

While new construction is the traditional driver of supply in real estate, foreclosures now have a strong impact on inventories, particularly at the local level. Rising inventories, through construction or foreclosure, place downward pressure on the median home prices

Friday, February 24, 2012

Preparing for Power Outages

Most of Friday and Saturday night's weather forecasts in the Northeast include high wind warnings. This tipw of weather often leads to downed trees and power lines causing sudden blackouts.

Extreme weather conditions often cause power outages, often for long stretches of time. Whether you lose power for days, due to weather, or even for just a few hours because of a faulty power line, here are some tips to be fully prepared in emergencies.

Buy emergency supplies BEFORE disaster strikes, when items are easily accessible. Purchase items such as flashlights, matches, batteries, candles, lanterns, and lots of bottled water. Battery-powered space heaters may also come in handy. Consider getting a car cell phone charger to ensure continued battery life in your phone. Visit a camping store for food supplies in addition to your local grocery store for canned goods and non-perishable food. Don’t forget a manual can opener and disposable plates and utensils. Basic tools, extension cords, blankets and extra batteries should be included in your emergency supplies. Place all these items in a conveniently located waterproof container. Include a list of emergency phone numbers, such as your utility company, local fire and police department.

(This was one of several short articles in this month's Century 21 Newsletter which you can receive each month by emailing me at

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Signs of a Housing Boom This Spring

Sales of previously owned homes surged in January to the fastest pace since May 2010 in another sign that the housing market is finally making some headway against its longest downturn since the Great Depression.

The National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that existing-home sales — the lion’s share of the housing market — rose 4.3 percent in January. The equates to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.57 million homes, which is still well below the 6 million pace that economists say is needed for a healthy housing market.

Last month, there were 2.31 million unsold homes on the market last month, the lowest since March 2005. That represented a 6.1 months’ supply at January’s sales pace, the lowest since April 2006 and down from 6.4 months in December.

A supply of 6 months is generally considered ideal. But the median sales price fell 2 percent to $154,700 in January from a year ago.

Monday, February 20, 2012

FBI Warns New Cyber Scam Could Mean “Gameover”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation warns bank account holders of a new spam email scheme that involves a variant on a type of malware called "Gameover." The scheme involves fake emails from the National Automated Clearing HouseAssociation, the Federal Reserve or the FDIC.
Enclosed in each e-mail is a link that will allegedly solve the problem, but once clicked, it brings users to a website where the "Gameover" malware is downloaded," At this point, he malware quickly infects your computer and steals your banking information.

If you think you have been victimized by this type of scheme, contact your financial institution to report it and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at

Thursday, February 16, 2012

New Plan to Turn Foreclosures Into Affordable Housing.

NJ State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20), Elizabeth, introduced a bill today that would establish a central agency under the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) to use funds from the State Affordable Housing Trust Fund to purchase and deed-restrict foreclosed properties for affordable housing.

The Lesniak bill is supported by the New Jersey League of Municipalities along with trade associations for the banking, construction and real estate industries. George Vallone, a Hoboken builder who is a vice president of the N.J. Builders Association, said it would help avert a “death spiral in home values if all these homes are dumped on the market by banks that want to unload them.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Your Housing and Your Love Life

From this week's Time: In honor of Valentine’s Day, the real estate website Trulia commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct a survey looking at the intersection of attitudes about housing and romance. Are homeowners regarded as “marriage material” more so than noncommittal renters? Are people more interested in potential mates if they live alone?

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of unmarried renters said they’d be willing to consider living with their significant other in order to save money. Somewhat surprisingly, more men than women said they’d be very willing to make the commitment of cohabitation.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Real estate is a cyclical business. And although we can predict certain annual upticks and downturns based on historical buying and selling patterns, we must rely on what’s happening right now to determine when is the best time to buy or sell a home.

One of the mistakes I see many buyers and sellers make is trying to time the market – waiting for the ‘right moment’ when they think they’ll get the best price. The truth is, timing the market is almost impossible because just when you think it’s the right moment, the market changes.

Here’s what I know for sure: when you team up with me, we will make decisions based on your individual needs, my experience, and knowledge of your local market.

It’s a combination that has helped many clients buy and sell a home. Let us know if you need to buy or sell a home, or know someone who does.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Foreclosure Settlement Lenders

The settlement announcement listed telephone numbers for borrowers seeking information from their lenders:

Ally: 1-800-766-4622
Bank of America: 1-877-488-7814
Citibank: 1-866-272-4749
JP Morgan Chase: 1-866-372-6901
Wells Fargo: 1-800-288-3212

Thursday, February 09, 2012

NJ's Share of Today's 25 Billion Settlement

After months of negotiations, the nation’s five largest banks and state and government officials have agreed to a $26 billion settlement aimed at holding banks accountable for the mishandling of many foreclosures by questionable procedures like robo-signing.

The settlement is expected to help 1 million home owners, by having lenders reduce their mortgage debt or refinance into lower mortgage rates to reduce costs of their monthly payments.
New Jersey will receive an estimated $837.7 million as part of Thursday’s record breaking $25-billion settlement between five giant banks and state and federal authorities on foreclosure abuses.

The money will be used to lower loan amounts and allow refinancing for some homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth — a group that numbers 300,000 in New Jersey. It will also pay $2,000 to foreclosed homeowners hurt by “robo-signing,” in which servicers’ representatives signed legal documents without verifying them.

New Jersey residents will benefit from the settlement in several significant ways:"

the estimated $660 million in benefits from loan term modifications and other direct relief;

$12.5 million in cash payments for those who were abused by mortgage servers and lost their homes to foreclosure between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011;

an estimated $89.5 million in loan refinancing for some borrowers whose loans are underwater;

$75.5 million in direct payments to the state for housing programs.

To apply for restitution, borrowers who lost their homes between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011, must submit certifications to a claims administrator. Nationally, almost 4 million Americans lost property through foreclosure in that period.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Give Locally is a not-profit clearing house for folks who want to feel and track the impact of their gifts to specific families. Their objective is to assist working class Americans who would otherwise be overlooked by charities or government services. Donations by Give Locally are made in kind not in cash.

Where practical, Gifts are distributed within 30 days. Give Locally maintains that are the only place to find unique giving opportunities in local areas.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Rezoning Plan Could Bring 1,200 Acres of Rooftop Farms to NYC

Inhabitat reports that a new proposal by the NYC Department of City Planning would allow commercial buildings throughout the city to be topped with rooftop farms or greenhouses without increasing the building’s floor area ratio and height restrictions. According to a study by the Urban Design Lab, this amendment could bring almost 1,200 acres of rooftop farms to the city. The zoning proposal was spurred by the popularity of rooftop farms such as the expanding Brooklyn Grange pictured here.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Where the NJ Jobs Are

The monthly employment stats just came out this morning with another unexpected drop in the percentage of unemployed. The new figures show a sharp drop from 8.5% to 8.3% with the addition of 243,000 new jobs. the chart at right breaks down the jobs in the Newark area in comparison the the rest of the U.S.(click on the chart to enlarge it)
For a detailed update on the NJ housing market check out my latest NJ Housing Trends Newsletter. You will see links to several key NJ markets.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Rates Turn Up a Bit

Rates were up for the first time in several weeks as Freddie Mac announced a rise for the week ending January 26. 30-year fixed rates averaged 3.98%, up from 3.88% the previous week. The average for 15 year loans rose to 3.24%. Adjustable rates were up slightly, with the average for one-year adjustables increasing to 2.74% and five-year adjustables rising to 2.85%.

GROUNDHOG DAY UPDATE: Like Bill Murray, we've been here before -- rates have just dropped again to new record lows! We're now seeing rates as low as 3.65 to 3.85%.