Saturday, April 25, 2009

Our Busy Season

Homebuyers are returning to the market in growing numbers according to CNBC. U.S. home prices fell a record 8.2 percent in 2008 as the recession and the surge of foreclosures caused the worst devaluation of real estate since the Great Depression, according to the Federal Finance Housing Board.

A recent online survey by Century 21 Real Estate of those who say they will buy a home within the next two years points out how pricing is effecting the market:

* 78 percent of those surveyed say now is a good time to buy a house
* 68 percent say now is a better time to buy than six months ago

Besides falling prices, experts point to lower interest rates as an incentive. The rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages hit an average of 4.85% for the week ending March 26. It's the lowest rate since Freddie Mac’s weekly survey began in 1971.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Does Earth Day Still Matter?

This year marks the 40th celebration of Earth Day. But with green exploding everywhere and a progressive administration in the White House, do we still need it? Grist asked writers, activists, and business types from around the country to weigh in:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Out of This World

Today is the start of "Earth Week" with a long list of global events centering around Earth Day on Wednesday. For the last 10 years NASA has been featuring it's Image of the Day selected from the thousands of photographs snapped from its satellites and astronaut missions. The website publishes fantastic aerial imagery with highly detailed descriptions. Most are in the public domain and can be downloaded in high res form for personal use.

The Boston Globe is presenting its favorites in a breathtaking slide show format.The Earth Observatory is a website run by NASA's Earth Observing System Project Science Office (EOSPSO). This is the last week you can vote for your favorite from NASA's top 50 images taken in the past 10 years. Winners will be announced on the site on April 29th.

Above is one of NASA's Global Maps that show vegetation pictured as an index, of greenness. Greenness is based on several factors: the number and type of plants, how leafy they are, and how healthy they are.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Way to FHA

“Without FHA financing, families would be unable to purchase homes and communities would suffer from continued foreclosures and blight,” said Lennox Scott, a member of National Association of Realtors® Real Estate Advisory Board.

Over the past 18 months, FHA has handled an increase in volume four times greater than 2007 levels, increasing its market share to over 30 percent.
NAR suggests
a number of FHA improvements that will help maintain safe and affordable FHA loan products. These improvements include investment in staff and technology improvements; increased oversight and risk management; technical correction to help implement FHA programs; and monetizing the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit to allow buyers to apply it toward down payment requirements.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Our official White House eggs, dog, and wonderful news of rescued ship captain.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Banking on the Recession

The current national (and even global) financial melt-down is likely to grow worse before getting better. Yes, the Federal Reserve was put into place to prevent a major banking crisis from wrecking havoc on the nation in a 1929 style run but keep in mind, despite the stabilizing efforts of the Fed, inherent differences also place the system at risk. For example, derivatives were all but non-existent. According to the Office of the Comptroller, the five biggest banks in America control 96 percent of the total derivatives. This means a new round of failure, bail-outs and banking crisis could hit the nation at any moment should even one of these banks be exposed to major losses. Remember, banks must "make good" on those losses but with only 10 percent or even less of the capital required to pay out a claim, banks are simply unable to do so; creating the risk of a domino like default scenario.

This is another reason banks are not lending - they are frantically attempting to hoard as much cash reserve as possible in order to hedge against the risk of a default looming in the future. Again, savvy short sale investors should recognize the ongoing threat of tighter lending standards far into the future -without government intervention (and even with it), purchasing a home for decades into the future may simply be out of reach for many Americans.

Make sure you are doing business with a solid bank. Either deal with small local banks that have strong bottom lines, didn't engage in derivatives or other risky investments and are able to work with you personally...or, work with one of the A rated big banks. To find out how your bank is rated, visit or which publishes a list of the best and worst banks in the US.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Your Neighborhood Commodities Market

Veggie Trader is a free resource for
bringing good food and good people together. Wish you could turn your excess plums into lemons, or maybe even a little cash? Use this site to find neighbors to swap with
or sell your excess produce to. Or if you specialize in growing tomatoes, find neighbors who specialize in other produce and form networks to share in the variety. Even if you don't have a garden, Veggie Trader is your place for finding local food near you.

If you live in the Montclair area, you can take your gardening to another dimension with Cornucopia. which conducts open gardens and composting demonstrations as well as many other activites which "encourage more efficient, effective and safer food Systems". Their first open organic garden day of the year will be April 25(2PM to 4PM) in Pat Kenschaft's garden at 56 Gordenhurst.