Monday, February 28, 2011

TownStats: Your Window on Local Government

Bloomfield, NJ: March 1 will see the official unveiling of TownStats is the website of the New Jersey Municipal Budget Website Project and was created by The Independent Center, Inc., a non-partisan public policy group dedicated to increasing citizen participation in government, improving public access to government information, and making elections fairer and more democratic. The site was developed in consultation with high-level state and municipal government officials and academics.

The New Jersey Municipal Budget Project was conceived by Tom Byrne and Chris Daggett, co-chairs of the Property Tax and Cost-Cutting Task Force of the Citizens` Campaign: Jersey Call to Service. They were frustrated by the fact that municipal budgets, employee salary data and other critical municipal government information was not readily available to citizens, public officials, community activists, journalists and academics. With a new spending cap in place and state aid likely to be frozen, municipal officials and citizens looking for places to regionalize, share services or find savings needed to be able to compare their towns to towns of similar size and demographics to be able to assess where their spending is high or low and where they can be more efficient.

We did a trial run by running a comparison with Bloomfield, Nutley and Montclair.(click on table to enlarge). It may be a typo, but we're fairly certain that the average residential property value in Bloomfield is at least twice the 140K figure shown. We hope the other stats turn out to be more accurate.

Friday, February 25, 2011

EPA Proves that Where You Live Matters More then How You Live

Smart Growth advocates have long claimed that where you live matters more for energy consumption than what you live in.

Now the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirms it in a new study published on

The paper finds that a home's location and access to transit -- in other words, its location efficiency -- are as important to reducing energy use as are energy-efficiency measures in homes and cars.
The study also confirms the importance of housing type- that the single family home is an energy hog compared to row housing or multi-family housing.(click on chart to enlarge)

This study illustrates two key points about the effect of compact, location efficient development on energy consumption:
1. A home's location relative to transportation choices has a large impact on energy consumption. People who live in a more compact, transit-accessible area have more housing and transportation choices compared to those who live in spread-out developments where few or no transportation options exist besides driving. Choosing to live in an area with transportation options not only reduces energy consumption, it also can result in significant savings on home energy and transportation costs.

2. Housing type is also a very significant determinant of energy consumption. Fairly substantial differences are seen in detached versus attached homes, but the most striking difference is the variation in energy use between single-family detached homes and multifamily homes, due to the inherent efficiencies from more compact size and shared walls among units. Moderate energy-efficient building technologies, such as those qualifying for Energy Star performance, also generate household energy savings that are notable but not as significant as the housing location and type.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

If You Bought at the Peak of the Market, A Short Sale May Be the Best Option

South Orange, NJ – Many homeowners bought their home at the peak of the market. In the hardest hit areas, they paid $500,000 for homes that are not selling for $250,000 (or even less.) Their home is costing them $4,000 a month. (That is the total after paying property taxes and insurance.) Renters have moved into the neighborhood and are paying less than $2,000 to rent a comparable home.

It just seems like these homeowners are getting an unfair deal all around. Should homeowners dump their homes in favor of a lower priced home? Some people say No! “That is breaking your word. If everyone did it, just think of what would happen?” they say. There is a little problem with that logic. Many of those homeowners see everyone else taking advantage of the system. It has gotten so bad that in some neighborhoods most of the homes have been abandoned.

Why shouldn’t a homeowner do what is best for themselves? After all, they can save hundreds of thousands of dollars. Let’s say they short sale their home with a $500,000 mortgage, rent for 2-3 years, and then buy later. But, what if home prices appreciate over the next few years?

If they are already upside down by 50%, then it still may make financial sense to short sale now. If the housing market has improved by 5% a year, their $250,000 house will have increased to $289,400 in three years. That is still much less than $500,000. In addition, they will save even more on interest payments. I'm not recommending this. I just want to lay out the benefits and leave the decision up to them. Much more on this subject can be found on my short sale blog.

Thinking about a short sale? Discover how other sellers successfully avoided foreclosure by completing a short sale by clicking here.

Thinking about a loan modification? Our Essex County loan modification kit has the instructions you will need to get a loan modification approved with your bank. Click here to request a copy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

That One Upside To A Discouraging Housing Market.

If you are a homeowner, then the housing crisis has decimated the equity in your home. Many families have watched years of hard work spent building their equity go down the drain.

But, there is one group benefitting from the crisis: Home Buyers. They are able to buy a home at a substantially reduced price.

In some areas homes are selling for 30-50% lower than they were at the peak. Buyers are now able to buy a nice home at previously unheard off, affordable prices. Homes that were selling for $400,000 are now selling for $225,000. No longer is homeownership in those areas only reserved for the higher income people. Today the “average Joe” can afford to own a nice home. So at least someone is benefitting from the housing crisis.

Where does that leave homeowners stuck with an upside down home? We will detail their options in our next post.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

New Online System for Tax Appeals

Property taxes are expensive, and with the fall in housing prices across the nation, your taxes are more likely than ever to have been assessed unfairly in relation to other homes in your area. That can add up to hundreds and thousands of dollars in overpayment each year–and the problem is, most people won't see a refund unless they speak up. Filing an appeal with your local tax authority used to be an opaque, expensive and time-consuming process–until now.

ValueAppeal saves property owners thousands by evaluating their property taxes and then guiding them through a simple 3-step process to create a custom appeal. Their guarantee states that they will refund their $99.00 fee if you lose your appeal.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Where We're Moving

More than 10 million Americans moved from one county to another during 2008. has published a map that helps visualize those moves. Once you open this link, you can click on any county to see comings and goings: black lines indicate net inward movement, red lines net outward movement.
Source: Internal Revenue Service data. The IRS only reports inter-county moves for more than 10 people, so some moves are not shown on this map.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mortgage Rates Reach 10-month High

As we predicted lasst November when mortgage interest rates bottomed out, rates have continued a steady upswing with few signs of pulling back.
Rates began to climb last week and continued higher in the current period, according to Peter Thompson, a senior loan officer at Prospect Mortgage in Naperville, Ill.

"Rates were in a flat range, where they were pretty much sideways for over a month, and now it has broken out and is going in a higher direction," he says.

The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose 21 basis points this week, to 5.23 percent, according to the national survey of large lenders.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

5 Ways to Cut Your Electric Bill

Cutting back on your energy usage is one of the best ways to bring down your electricity bill. Making simple changes to not just your wattage consumption but the way your home retains and expels air can dramatically transform the way you experience your spaces and use electricity? invited Sustainable pioneer David Johnston to share his tips on how we can better green our homes. Johnston is a green visionary and who focuses on easy changes you can make with your appliances, air exchange, insulation and even windows that will pave the way to dramatic savings. Undoubtedly an expert on all things energy, David shares his over 30 years of experience and gives us a snapshot of some of the best ways we can reduce our energy consumption by up to 50%!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Home Ownership More Affordable in Most of U.S. Yet Most Still Prefer Renting, a top site for homebuyers, sellers and renters, today released its latest Rent vs. Buy Index which found that it is more affordable to buy than to rent a two-bedroom home[1] in 72 percent of America’s 50 largest cities[2]. Meanwhile, a nation of renters has emerged as more Americans rent by choice or due to unforeseen financial difficulties. In contrast to this nationwide trend, renting is only less expensive than buying in four of the cities included in this study – namely New York, Seattle, Kansas City and San Francisco. The remaining 10 cities are locations where buying may still be a financially sound long-term decision despite the relative affordability of renting.

“Since the start of the ‘Great Recession,’ many former homeowners have flooded the rental market. Following the principles of supply and demand, renting has become relatively more expensive than buying in most markets,” said Pete Flint, CEO and co-founder of Trulia. “Though necessary for achieving true economic recovery, stricter bank lending practices have also further aggravated the struggling housing market in the short term. Even highly-qualified homebuyers face intense scrutiny on their income, savings, existing debt and credit history before they can get a mortgage loan.”