Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sequester Eve, and All Thru the Housing Market....

(The original use of the word dates back to the 14th century and defines it better than the common "jury room" usage we use today. According to Meriam Webster: Origin of SEQUESTER Middle English sequestren, from Anglo-French sequestrer, from Latin sequestrare to hand over to a trustee, from sequester third party to whom disputed property is entrusted, agent, from secus beside, otherwise; akin to Latin sequi to follow.)

 The real estate market is seeing a noticeable turn-around in the past few months, but the impending sequestration could have a significant impact on jobs, incomes and ultimately the ability of potential homebuyers to close on a home.

(Collage courtesy Newseum) The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to minus 32.8 in the week ended Feb. 24 as the share of Americans with a positive view of the world’s largest economy matched the highest since March 2008. In spite of this encouraging news, the housing market is once again at risk.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) reportedly guaranteed 23 percent of all mortgages last year, but because of sequestration they can expect job cuts and ultimately less processing of loans, refinances and properties in major distress--all of which need attention for a recovering housing market.

 Federal funding most at risk would be this year's Community Development Block Grants and HOME programs, which may be reduced by 10 to 25 percent. The HOME program helps develop low-income housing.

In the New Jersey area, families who were affected by Superstorm Sandy are bracing for deep cuts to their programs and aid, according to Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development(HUD).

The Patch has just introduced an interactive chart showing the effect of the sequester on jobs in each county. Essex and Morris counties are predicted to take the hardest hit. Job losses created by the sequester would put a damper on th e housing market too. “Borrowers need to be employed to close on their home loan, Craig Strent, CEO of Maryland-based Apex Home Loans, tells Olick. “As a quality control measure, lenders call a day or two before closing to verify an individual is still employed. If a loan is denied during the process due to the borrower losing their job, they are likely to lose their loan lock as well,

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Where Homes Can Be Bought for Less than $600/month

Taken together, lower home prices and cheap mortgage rates have made homebuying much more affordable than just a few years ago. And given that real-estate values in many traditional retirement spots — like Florida and Arizona — have fallen even harder than the national average, Americans who are ready to retire are in a particularly favorable position. To that end, U.S. News & World Report has compiled a list of 10 places where retirement homebuyers can purchase property for less than $600 a month. In putting together our list, we obtained median home-price data from the National Association of Realtors for 159 metropolitan statistical areas throughout the country. After subtracting a 20% down payment, we plugged the remaining figure into a mortgage calculator using a 4.24% rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage. We then looked for places that would make desirable retirement destinations and where monthly mortgage payments totaled less than $600.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Urban Homesteading in the 'Burbs

When you look at some of the issues that motivate homeowners to turn their front yards into gardens, it's surprising that more folks don't do it.

Some backyards are either paved or just too small and shady to support a garden. Some folks resist conforming to the dominant cookie cutter lawn culture and need to express their creativity.

In the southwest, a green lawn may get you a fine, but in most of the rest of the country it takes courage to plant anything more lush than an ivy patch.

Urban Homesteading has grown up from being part of the counterculture movement of the '70's to embrace many suburban lifestyles.

Now, some New Jersey towns like Bloomfield and Maplewood are looking to clarify fuzzy ordinances to specifically allow for expanded front yard gardens as well as backyard chicken coops to support the trend towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle. They may model their proposed ordinance after that of their upscale neighbor,  Montclair, which for years has had a number of productive chicken coops scattered around the town.  Where to draw the line? Rabbits, goats, and pigs all have their own fans. Even New York City in now taking steps to legalize porkers as pets.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Living Large by Thinking Small

Small is the new big when it comes to micro-living. If you think a tiny home would crimp your way of life, check these out via Here are three homes with curb appeal that feel like much larger homes. The home pictured here is only 500sq. feet and has a garage.  In western Canada, they call them lane houses. The trick is that each place maximizes space to compliment the resident’s lifestyle.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

NJ Dems Dump On New DEP Flood Maps

When Gov. Chris Christie signed emergency regulations adopting FEMA’s advisory base elevation maps as the rebuilding standard, a number of prominent Democratic state senators and local political leaders promptly questioned the move as a knee-jerk reaction to Hurricane Sandy that would be ultimately detrimental to shore residents hoping to rebuild.(Click on map to enlarge) Contractors that costs for an effective "house raising" for a smaller home would be in the 45k to 60k range. Because of federal reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program to move toward increased flood insurance rates that reflect actual risk, families who rebuild their properties in a manner that does not conform to base flood elevations will see significant premium increases.

Monday, February 11, 2013

FICO Credit Score SNAFU's

As many as 42 million consumers have errors on their credit reports, and around 20 million have significant mistakes, a Federal Trade Commission study of nearly 3,000 credit reports indicates in a report released today,

Not all of these errors will impact your ability to get credit, however. About 13% of study participants saw their FICO credit score change once a mistake on their credit report was fixed, and those changes were big enough to potentially result in better credit offers for 2.2% of participants. The Consumer Data Industry Association defended this 2.2% rate, saying in a statement that overall, the report "shows that 98% of credit reports are materially accurate."

But since the three biggest credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- maintain credit reports for about 200 million consumers, the 2.2% error rate still means millions of Americans are being denied loans or given higher-priced credit due to errors on their reports, said John Ulzheimerpresident of consumer education at and a former manager at FICO.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Code Red for Nemo

As this weekend's megastorm approaches, it's a good time to register with Code Red. Just fill in the appropriate information to be notified by your local emergency response team in the event of emergency situations or critical community alerts. Examples include: evacuation notices, bio-terrorism alerts, boil water notices, and missing child reports.

The township pays for this service, and it is used only to distribute official emergency notifications

Monday, February 04, 2013

Algae Powered Apartments About to Open

The walls of the four-story, 15-unit residential BIQ building in Hamburg, Germany, have large glass panels with microalgae inside. The bacteria-sized plants are fed with water and sun until they can be harvested and sent as a thick pulp to a nearby plant that converts the biomass to biogas. The algae will insulate the cubic building and cast shade during the summer months, when the plants will grow fastest as a result of longer days and more sunshine.

The panels can also absorb the sun’s rays to provide hot water and heating to the building, even storing extra heat in the ground as geothermal energy. The building is scheduled to open this spring.
 More details from