Friday, February 26, 2010

Digging Out

Our latest Snowmagedden brought back memories of one of the earliest comic books I can remember reading. Little Lulu was a plain Jane ageless pre-teen with a thimble-hat, whose parents were rarely seen or heard, but had countless humorous encounters with her boy friend, Tubby, brother Alvin and her curious puppy.
For this snow-deprived California born lad, her most memorable adventure was digging out of her home alone after a blizzard that left drifts above the roof line. My comic book collection is long gone, but Google brought the circa 1950 story back to life. Loved the fact that she could dig a tunnel for blocks that beelined to the front door of her favorite soda fountain. Holsteins here I come!
(click on images to enlarge)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Housing Affordability at Near Record Level

(photo of Levittown model home)
The typical American family, who makes the nation’s median income of $64,000 a year, could afford to buy 70.8% of all homes sold in the United States during the last three months of 2009. By comparison, only 55% were affordable in the second quarter of 2008.
The National Association of Home Builders judges a home to be affordable if a family making the median income could devote no more than 28% of their take-home pay toward housing costs.
There was a huge variation in affordability around the nation. All five of the most affordable major housing markets were in the Rust Belt, led by Indianapolis, which has been the nation’s most affordable major metro area for more than four years. More than 95% of all home sold there were classed as within the budget. Detroit was the second most affordable major market with 93.4%. The least affordable city? New York, at 20%.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Homeowners Renting Out Rooms to Avoid Foreclosure

Economic setbacks are forcing increasing numbers of people to reevaluate where and how they live. In addition to former homeowners becoming renters, those who cannot afford their mortgage payments have decided to rent out rooms in their homes to make ends meet. A recent story in The San Jose Mercury News suggests that we are now becoming a nation of “sharers,” as homeowners continue to take in tenants to pay their mortgages. Some may even take in multiple tenants although many towns have restrictions on "Rooming House" zoning. College towns tend to be more tolerant of such setups. My cousin paid off the mortgage on his modest 3BR Palo Alto Ranch home by taking in as many as eight Stanford students at a time for over 30 years.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snowpocolipse in a Warming World

Dr.Jeff Masters puts it in context in his Wunderblog post: It’s not hard at all to get temperatures cold enough for snow in a world experiencing global warming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. the globe warmed 0.74°C (1.3°F) over the past 100 years. There will still be colder than average winters in a world that is experiencing warming, with plenty of opportunities for snow. The more difficult ingredient for producing a record snowstorm is the requirement of near-record levels of moisture. Global warming theory predicts that global precipitation will increase, and that heavy precipitation events—the ones most likely to cause flash flooding—will also increase. This occurs because as the climate warms, evaporation of moisture from the oceans increases, resulting in more water vapor in the air.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Open House on Orange St.

Had an interesting encounter with a gent with a different approach to open houses. He's not licensed as a Realtor, but apparently gets paid to snag passers by(like me) who he sees pausing in front of these condo steps -- from the relative warmth of his minivan a couple of houses away. He then shares info about the units and gets a fee from management for showing them. We discussed the sluggish condo market in Bloomfield and he reported that half the 14 units are still unsold after over two years on the market.

Meanwhile, several blocks away on Montgomery Street, sits another just completed block of a dozen townhouses with no sign of life on a Sunday afternoon. They're asking about 100k more. Their 339k unit is the highest priced in Bloomfield. It has been on the market for 443 days. For yet another 100K you can move up to the Brookdale section of Bloomfield where Bloomfield's last woodland forest has been clear cut in half to make way for a much larger development of 42 townhouses.

I've written earlier about my discussion with the aforementioned Liongate developer who seemed unaware of the declining market for condos and townhouses in town. He seems to have had a reality check since the only development to the site in the past year has been a growing pond of stagnant rainwater. Developers continue to be attracted to Bloomfield's proximity to the high end gloss of Montclair and express RR and Bus service to NYC. Commuters are just starting to appreciate the advantages of Bloomfield, but not so much the advantages of condo living.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Top 5 Home Improvements Updated, one of the first websites to offer Web-based free instant home values, has released the results of its nationwide home improvement and home staging Home Sale Maximizer survey.

HomeGain’s recent survey shows the top do-it-yourself home improvements that Realtors recommend to home sellers. According to their survey, the top five home improvements that Realtors recommend to home sellers based on cost and return on investment (from highest to lowest ROI) are:

1. Cleaning and de-cluttering ($200 cost / $1,700 price increase = 872% ROI)
2. Home staging ($300 cost /$1,780 price increase = 586% ROI)
3. Lightening and brightening ($230 cost / $1,300 price increase = 572% ROI)
4. Landscaping ($320 cost /$1,500 price increase = 473% ROI)
5. Repairing plumbing ($385 cost /$1,250 price increase = 327% ROI)

Cleaning and de-cluttering continues to rank as the top suggested home improvement recommended by 98% of Realtors, costing less than $200 and returning a value of nearly $1,700 to the home’s sale price, or an 872% return on investment.

“Many Realtors agree, especially in a buyer’s market, that sellers who make these recommended home improvements often get their homes sold faster and at higher prices,” stated Louis Cammarosano, General Manager at HomeGain. “We have customized our Home Sale Maximizer online home improvement tool to help identify and prioritize the projects that can increase the salability and selling price of a home.”