Monthly Archives: October 2010

Pound Ridge N.Y. Mortgages are Under 5% | Pound Ridge NY Real Estate

 The possibility of securing a mortgage rate below 5% has greatly improved in recent weeks, in a positive sign for would-be home buyers.

Home mortgage rates fell for the sixth straight week, according to two key measures, with one of them pointing to a sub-5% rate for the 30-year fixed loan for the second week in a row.

Freddie Mac’s (FRE, Fortune 500) weekly report said the 30-year rate slipped to 4.87% for the week ended Thursday, the lowest since May. According to the mortgage backer, last week’s rates stood at 4.94%.

Mortgage tracker Bankrate.com said the average 30-year fixed loan slipped to 5.22% from 5.25% the previous week. The 15-year fixed rate also fell, Bankrate said, to 4.6% from 4.64% the week before.

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Pound Ridge NY Homes

Michael Douglas Moves to Bedford N.Y. | Bedford NY Real Estate

Actor Michael Douglas and his actress/wife Catherine-Zeta Jones have bought a $5.25 million estate in toney Westchester County, N.Y.

The New York Post said the Bedford, N.Y., spread features a five-bedroom main house, a guest house, a pond, a pool and a three-car garage. The paper said the couple rented the 5.7-acre estate for some six months before actually buying it.

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Bedford NY Homes

How to Buy a Foreclosure in a Robo Signing World

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — You want to buy a foreclosure? It has gotten a lot harder the past couple of weeks.

The fallout over “robo-signing” — where bank executives sign off on foreclosure filings without reviewing the paperwork to make sure they’re valid — has led to a freeze on foreclosure sales, limiting the number of properties available.

In South Florida, for example, the inventory of repossessions — also known as bank-owned properties — for sale sank nearly 20% between late September and October 18, according to Peter Zalewski of Condo Vultures.

“The whole distressed property market is probably going quiet until the freeze ends,” he said.

But, there are still bargains out there to be had for buyers who are willing to do some extra work.

“The safest and best way to buy is still when it’s a bank-owned property,” said Rick Sharga, a spokesman for RealtyTrac, the online marketer of foreclosure properties. “As long as there’s a clear title and the buyer can get title insurance, it’s a great time to buy.”

In addition to bank-owned properties, there are two types of foreclosures you can buy: 1. pre-foreclosure; 2. sheriff’s auction. All three are affected by concerns over the way foreclosures have been handled.

Pre-foreclosure: These homes are in the foreclosure process, but they have yet to be sent to auction. Owners are typically trying to unload them because they are “underwater,” owing more on the homes than they are worth.

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Autumn Comfort Food: Pumpkin and Peanut Curry

Making pumpkin soup is one of our Halloween week traditions. Last year, it was pumpkin tortilla. This year, we tried a Thai-inspired recipe for pumpkin curry with peanut butter and coconut milk.

The recipe, by chef Tom Norrington-Davies, attracted us with all its flavorful ingredients. In addition to the peanuts and coconut, there’s lime juice and zest, soy sauce or fish sauce, cilantro, chili peppers, ginger, and garlic. If you keep a well-stocked pantry and have a pumpkin or butternut squash lying around, you might not even need to do any additional shopping.

Unfortunately, we were a bit underwhelmed with the recipe as is. (It also ended up looking a lot more homogenized than the image that accompanied the recipe – not a big deal, but it struck as more of a comfort food/family meal than the company-worthy dish we had originally imagined.) However, we would still recommend it as an excellent base recipe. After making a few adjustments and serving it over nutty brown rice, it was hearty and warming.

Original recipe
• Pumpkin and Peanut Curry, from Delicious

Here are the adjustments we made to punch it up:
• More peanut butter: We doubled the amount. If we had them on hand, we would also add some crushed peanuts as garnish. 
• More spices: The recipe calls for fresh coriander (cilantro) only. We added ground coriander as well as ground cumin – about a teaspoon of each in step 2. 
• More heat: We kept the seeds in one of the chili peppers. 
• More ginger: The recipe calls for a 1 cm piece, which we increased to an inch. 
• Lemongrass: We didn’t have any on hand, but we’d probably add some next time. 
• The pumpkin: We used a sugar pie pumpkin. Next time, we’d probably go for an even sweeter kabocha or butternut squash. 
• Garnishes: We threw on some sliced pickled shallots for a tangy counterpoint. Fried onions or shallots would also be good.

 

(Image: Emily Ho)


Source: TheKitchn.com

5 Worst Halloween Candies (and 10 Best Survival Tips!)

A cocker spaniel weighs about 24 pounds. You know what else weighs 24 pounds? The heft of candy the average American gobbles down each year, a big chunk of that falling to our waistlines in the days before and after Halloween. Fun size? I don’t think so—unless it’s fun being size 16. These stats could very well turn you as white as a ghost:

  • Three miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups—the kind you find in office candy bowls and trick-or-treat-bags—fill your belly with more sugar than a glazed doughnut.
  • Half a pack of Skittles has more sugar than a scoop of Haagen-Dazs Cookies and Cream Ice Cream. 
  • Nine Twizzlers carry as many calories as a Wendy’s Double Stack Burger.

These are some spooky treats. And Halloween is only the beginning of the eating season: Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner. If you want to see your feet come January, start by conquering the sugar fest that’s nearly upon us. Here’s your plan for surviving the scariest night of the year for your waistline. (And speaking of frightful food, check out the Scariest Food Creations of 2010!)

Real Estate News

This article will give the low-down of pertinent news pertaining to the world of real estate for October 2010. 

PLANO RESIDENTS ‘DOING THE SAFETY DANCE’

America’s Safest Cities (Forbes.com)

If you’re in Plano, absolutely. So says Forbes.com, which has deemed the Dallas suburb “America’s Safest City.”

Plano, the only Texas city to land in the top ten on Forbes list, has the lowest violent crime rate of all big American cities, according to Forbes. It also has a much lower rate of fatal car accidents.

Coming in behind Plano were Portland, Ore.; Honolulu, Hawaii; San Jose, Calif.; Omaha, Neb.; New York, N.Y.; Santa Ana, Calif.; Anaheim, Calif.; San Diego, Calif.; and Glendale, Calif.

To determine which cities are the safest, Forbes writers studied violent crime data compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and traffic fatality data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

12 CITIES – WHERE TO BUY V. WHERE TO RENT 

(CNN Money)

Cities like Detroit and Columbus boast killer buying opportunities, but you’re better off renting in places like New York and Seattle, according to Trulia’s quarterly Rent vs. Buy index.

PUSH TO HALT FORECLOSURES GAINS STEAM

(CNN Money) Oct. 2010

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Pressure is mounting on U.S. banks to halt more foreclosures amid widespread allegations that loan servicers failed to verify legal documents in what could be hundreds of thousands of cases.

Members of Congress from California wrote to the heads of the Justice Department, the Federal Reserve, and the Comptroller of the Currency on Tuesday, requesting that they investigate the foreclosure processes of banks under their purview for “possible violations of law or regulations.”

BANK OF AMERICA HALTS FORECLOSURES IN 23 STATES

(CNN Money) Oct. 2010

 

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Bank of America is the latest in a string of banks to freeze home foreclosures in 23 states as it investigates whether there were flaws in its process.

“We have been assessing our existing processes,” Bank of America said in a statement. “To be certain affidavits have followed the correct procedures, Bank of America will delay the process in order to amend all affidavits in foreclosure cases that have not yet gone to judgment in the 23 states where courts have jurisdiction over foreclosures.”

 

 

8 VACATION HOMES TO BUY NOW 

((CNN Money) Oct. 2010

The first few months after the end of the summer season is usually the best time of year to buy a vacation home. 

Vacation-home owners often squeeze out one more season of rental income before putting their properites on the market. That means many beach homes and summer cabins go up for sale in the fall. 

This year, there are even more bargains than usual, thanks to the sustained home price plunge and rock-bottom interest rates.

“Vacation home owners are sitting fat and happy, having collected their rents all summer,” said the author of “How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner,” Christine Karpinski. “Now, they’re looking at long periods during which bills are coming in but vacation rents are not.”

FOMC – GROWTH SLOW, BUT ECONOMY UNLIKELY TO REENTER RECESSION

Mortgage News Daily  Oct. 2010

“Although participants considered it unlikely that the economy would reenter a recession, many expressed concern that output growth, and the associated progress in reducing the level of unemployment, could be slow for some time. Participants noted a number of factors that were restraining growth, including low levels of household and business confidence, heightened risk aversion, and the still weak financial conditions of some households and small firms.”

YES on Prop B! Launches New Ad Campaign

On November 2, animal lovers everywhere will be watching election returns from the State of Missouri as its citizens decide the fate of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, which will appear on the ballot as “Proposition B.” If passed, the Act will vastly improve the lives of dogs in Missouri’s commercial breeding operations by limiting the number of breeding dogs to 50 per facility and requiring basic elements of humane care including clean water, regular exercise and adequate rest for female dogs between litters.

With just over three weeks to go until Election Day, Missourians for the Protection of Dogs/YES! on Prop B—a coalition of animal welfare groups that includes the ASPCA—has intensified its efforts to get state voters to the polls by producing and airing four short television commercials. The first 30-second ad, which you can watch below, began running on October 4 in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Columbia/Jefferson City, Joplin and Cape Girardeau.

Lessons in Failure: The Startup Post-Mortem

Entrepreneur and startup advisor Eric Ries yesterday wrote an impassioned blog post at Startup Lessons Learned asking startups and other companies to “stop lying on stage” about their accomplishments, and to be more honest about their failures. Among other things, he mentioned a blog post last week from Wesabe co-founder Marc Hedlund that went into detail about why the company failed and its competitor (Mint) succeeded. Now Ries’s plea has sparked another failure post-mortem, from Standout Jobs co-founder Ben Yoskovitz, who wrote a post today about his company’s shortcomings.

Yoskovitz, who has since become the co-founder of a Montreal-based seed fund/incubator known as Year One Labs, sold the job-related startup he founded with investor and entrepreneur Austin Hill in May for an undisclosed price, but makes it clear in his post that the company more or less failed to achieve what he had hoped to achieve. Why? The founder names several factors, including:

  • Bad timing. “Our timing was terrible. We launched the paying version of our application in the fall of 2008 about 5 minutes before the economy collapsed.”
  • Not fast enough. “I had an exceptionally strong team… but in reality we didn’t code and launch fast enough. We didn’t get product into customers’ hands fast enough.”
  • Too much money. “Raising the money felt like winning. It felt like all (or most of) the justification we needed. It set us on a path of building a bigger product than we should have, and committing (falsely) to our own assumptions of what would work, without fully testing them.”

Yoskovitz also mentions that he didn’t make it easy enough for users to do what they wanted to do with the site, in part because Standout Jobs was trying to change user behavior in ways that the company thought would be better. The reality is that most users don’t like to change, and Standout Jobs didn’t manage to convince them otherwise. Marc Hedlund mentions a similar point in his post-mortem: Despite being first to market, and being revenue-positive, Hedlund says Wesabe failed because it simply made things too difficult and complicated for users, while its competitor Mint made them very simple, and simple almost always wins.

Another point the Standout Jobs founder mentions is that he didn’t have a strong enough understanding of the market he was attacking before he launched the service. “I see countless entrepreneurs make the same mistake,” he says. “They look at a market objectively and think, “I can fix that!” only to realize when they get neck-deep into it that there are a whole bunch of issues they didn’t understand.” As it turns out, this is almost the exact same advice given by Paul Biggar in another recent startup post-mortem — a post about the failure of NewsTilt earlier this year — when he admits that he didn’t really know much about the market he was trying to fix.

Final word goes to Marc Hedlund:

You’ll hear a lot about why company A won and company B lost in any market, and in my experience, a lot of the theories thrown about — even or especially by the participants — are utter crap. A domain name doesn’t win you a market; launching second or fifth or tenth doesn’t lose you a market. You can’t blame your competitors or your board or the lack of or excess of investment. Focus on what really matters: making users happy with your product as quickly as you can, and helping them as much as you can after that.

If you want to explore some more examples of the startup post-mortem oeuvre, ChubbyBrain has put together a list (hat tip to Paul Kedrosky for pointing that one out) that includes an analysis from investor Roger Ehrenberg about why one of his startups failed, as well as founder Scott Rafer’s post-mortem on the failure of Lookery (which he blames in large part on an over-dependence on Facebook). In a nice touch, Chubby Brain has even included its own failure post-mortem as part of the list.

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub req’d):

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Alex Proimos

6 Start-Ups Trying to Change the World

At TechCrunch Disrupt, dozens of new tech ventures battled for a $50,000 prize and killer buzz. Here are our picks for the ones to watch.

Qwiki
Headquarters: Palo Alto, Calif.
Founded: Oct. 2009
Raised: $1.5 million
TechCrunch Disrupt $50,000 Grand Prize Winner

Qwiki is like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy come to life: type in a topic — any topic — and you’ll get a narrated, multimedia tour of the subject. Co-founder Doug Imbruce sums it up well: “We think in the future information becomes an experience that you watch,” he says. “Today, everyone is absolutely overwhelmed with information. We need to simplify.”

Imbruce uses Qwiki as his alarm clock, waking up each day to a pleasantly intoned run-through of his e-mail inbox, the weather and upcoming events. (One Startup Battlefield judge dubbed the system “your personal HAL.”) The site’s visual interface is its most obvious breakthrough: “It’s amazing to see a product that’s in beta have so much attention to the product design,” judge and Twitter product head Jason Goldman said. TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington dubbed it “the sexy Ferrari with absolutely no promises of launching.”

That sizzle factor was enough to win the judges over — and the audience. They met the news that Qwiki was the event’s grand prize winner with wild cheering and a tweeting frenzy.

 

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