Monthly Archives: October 2013

Gruesome incidents may not be disclosed to homebuyers | South Salem NY Real Estate

Halloween is upon us and some house hunters out there may be wondering what spooky things have occurred in the homes they’re eyeing. Tales of haunted real estate abound at this time of year, and they are often tied to a particularly traumatic incident in a home’s history. But the reality is that most prospective buyers may not find out about any such incident unless they ask.

In most states, a murder, suicide or other violent crime occurring in a home does not have to be disclosed, Walt Molony, spokesman for the National Association of Realtors, told USA Today.

Most lawmakers agree the psychological damage of such an incident in a home would not be a material defect that should be required to be disclosed to buyers, the paper said.

But at least one case is heading to a state supreme court next month. In 2007, Pennsylvania homeowner Janet Milliken found out her home, purchased the year before, had been the scene of a murder-suicide after experiencing several disturbing incidents in the home, including the sound of a gun clicking.

She filed suit against the former owner of the house and the real estate agents involved in the deal, alleging fraud and breach of the state’s real-estate disclosure law.

Source: USA Today

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Mortgage rates drop for second straight week | Waccabuc Real Estate

Amid data that has lowered expectations for the performance of the housing market in the fourth quarter of this year, mortgage rates dropped for the second straight week.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.1 percent with an average point of 0.7 percent for the week ending Oct. 31, down from 4.13 percent last week but up from 3.39 percent a year ago, according to Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

Rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages and five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans also decreased, while rates on one-year Treasury-indexed ARMs increased.

“Fixed mortgage rates eased further leading up to the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) Oct. 30th monetary policy announcement,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist at Freddie Mac. “The Fed saw improvement in economic activity and labor market conditions since it began its asset purchase program, but noted the recovery in the housing market slowed somewhat in recent months and unemployment remains elevated.”

“As a result, there was no policy change which should help sustain low mortgage rates in the near future.”

Source: Freddie Mac

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Record $1.6 Billion Loan Approved To Build New Tappan Zee Bridge | Mt Kisco NY Homes

The Department of Transportation has approved a record loan of up to $1.6 billion for construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge, Congresswoman Nita Lowey announced in a press release today.

The largest-ever loan is part of the DOT’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.

“This is a huge milestone for the construction of a New Tappan Zee Bridge, a critical link in our region’s infrastructure system and lifeline for commuters and businesses,” Lowey said in the release. “I am excited that the DOT has approved the largest ever TIFIA loan for a transportation project and that the work on a new bridge can continue to move forward.

“The construction will continue to create jobs and help New York’s economy grow. I was very pleased to work closely with Gov. Cuomo and our federal delegation throughout this long process to bring a new Tappan Zee Bridge to the Lower Hudson Valley.”

Average rate on 30-year mortgage at 4.1% | Cross River Real Estate

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell for the second straight week and are at their lowest levels in four months.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan declined to 4.10% from 4.13% last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan eased to 3.20% from 3.24%.

Rates have been falling since September when the Federal Reserve surprised investors by continuing to buy $85 billion a month in bonds. The purchases are intended to keep long-term interest rates low.

Rates had spiked over the summer when the Fed indicated it might reduce those purchases later this year. But hiring has slowed since then. Many now expect the Fed won’t taper until next year.

The average on the 30-year loan has now fallen about half a percentage point since a hitting two-year high over the summer. The lower rates appear to be sparking a surge in activity by prospective homebuyers and homeowners looking to refinance. Many home owners get personal loans for people with bad credit so they are able to pay their high interest rates on their mortgage.

Mortgage applications jumped 6.4% in the week ended Oct. 25 from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Applications for purchases rose 2% from a week earlier, while refinance applications soared nearly 9%.

U.S. home prices rose in August from a year earlier at the fastest pace since February 2006, according to the latest Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index. But the price gains slowed in many cities from July, a sign that the spike in prices over the past year may have peaked.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1% of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage declined to 0.7 point from 0.8 point. The fee for a 15-year loan rose to 0.7 point from 0.6 point.

The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage increased to 2.64% from 2.60%. The fee eased to 0.4 point from 0.5 point.

Doctor Gives End Of Daylight Saving Time Tips | Katonah Real Estate

We’ll all be “Fall”-ing back this weekend. You can get ready for it now.

Changing the clocks back at the end of Daylight Saving Time can throw your body for a loop, but there are ways to help you ease into that one-hour change.

Dr. Praveen Rudraraju at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco has five tips to help adjust to the end of Daylight Saving Time.

  • Try to change one of the clocks on Friday and start following that clock to eat meals, sleep and wake according to that clock. When Monday comes, you will be better adjusted.
  • Exercise early in the day not too close to the bedtime.
  • Give ample time to digest your dinner before you go to bed.
  • Try to spend time outside during the daytime if weather permits, Dim the lights in the evening, so that your body understands that it’s time to wind down.

How to Choose the Right Woodstove | Bedford Hills Real Estate

Have you considered heating with wood? In many parts of North America,  firewood is cheap and plentiful, so wood heat could potentially save you money.  Not only does a woodstove give you a re­liable source of heat even when the  power goes out, it’s also a green option, because wood is a renewable resource  when har­vested sustainably.

Deciding which woodstove to buy can be tough, however, even if you’ve been  heating with wood for years and are simply looking for a replacement stove.  You’ll find a huge range of options in sizes, shapes, materials and  technologies. Also, there are few recognized woodstove experts and no reliable  ratings that use consistent criteria to fairly judge all the options. So how do  you choose the best woodstove for you?

Woodstove Dealers and Brands

I recommend finding a good dealer first, then selecting from that store’s  stock. Working for more than 30 years in the wood heating business has taught me  that no one can tell you exactly what stove to buy, because all kinds of  personal prefer­ences influence the final choice. However, a good dealer can  be a great resource. Look for one who has been in the business for a number of  years, heats his or her home with wood, and has burning models in the showroom.  Keep in mind that only people who burn wood regularly can give you reli­able  advice about woodstoves. You can also visit the site dkbræ for more information.

Next, pay attention to woodstove brands. In my opinion, the ideal stove is  built by a company with at least 20 years’ experience in wood heating because  it’s more likely to honor the warranty and continue to carry replacement  parts.

For example, the stove in my house is a Super 27 built by Pacific Energy. The  model has been on the market more than 20 years, and its combustion system has  been revised at least twice during that pe­riod, mostly to make it more  durable. I’ve rebuilt three older versions of the Super 27, one of my own and  two for friends who own them. The current parts found in new stoves fit  perfectly in older stoves that were originally sold with quite differ­ent  internal parts. You can certainly find other stove manufacturers that follow the  same thoughtful approach when they up­grade their products. site gives you the better information.

In fact, a sizable group of North American stove manufacturers has been  around long enough to learn what makes people happy with their products. These  are the makers of mid-priced steel stoves, a category that dominates the market.  Over the years, I’ve watched these com­panies and been impressed with their  corporate stability and product consis­tency. These brands include  Quadrafire, Lopi and Avalon (both made by Travis Industries), Regency, Pacific  Energy, and some regionally popular brands including Buck, Harman and Blaze  King. In addi­tion to this group of mainly steel stove manufacturers, the  Jøtul brand of cast-iron stoves merits a mention because this company’s products  seem to consistently satisfy people’s needs.

Of course, this is just a sample of the many good brands you can choose from,  and even among these brands there may be stoves that do not meet expectations.  The brands I am most familiar with have all, at one time or another, produced a  dud stove that didn’t perform well or that had features people didn’t like. I  have also heard users complain about stoves that I think are among the best,  which just goes to show that tastes differ widely.

Woodstove Features

To choose a woodstove you’ll be truly happy with, you should also review some  com­mon features of woodstoves and consider how they will affect you during  your day-to-day use of the stove.

Materials. Most woodstoves are made from either welded steel  or cast iron, and with today’s stoves, there’s no difference between the two in  performance or du­rability. The choice is strictly one of per­sonal  preference.

Soapstone stoves are a special case. The stone on the stove absorbs heat and  re­leases it slowly, thereby evening out the normal fluctuations in  woodstove output. While this has some advantages, it also tends to mean that  soapstone stoves are slow to respond when heat is needed. If you’ll be running  your woodstove con­stantly all winter, and will rarely need to start it  cold, a soapstone stove may be a good fit for you — or maybe you just love the  look of a soapstone stove. In any case, you’ll want to be aware of its  particular characteristics before buying one.

Combustion System. Some stoves use a catalyst to clean up  smoky exhaust, and others use special firebox features to do the same job. The  basic trade-off is that catalytic stoves can burn cleaner on aver­age than “non-cats” and can be more ef­ficient under some conditions, but “cats” are  also more complicated to operate and their maintenance costs can be higher.

An experienced dealer of catalytic stoves once said that cats work well for  techni­cal types — the kind of people who tinker with antique sports cars.  But for users with little mechanical aptitude, a non-cat may be a better choice.  Non-cats normally have only one operational control, and they’re more tolerant  of various firing techniques.

Heating Capacity. Selecting the right size of woodstove for  the heating load is a challenge, because manufacturers’ perfor­mance  specifications are not standardized and can be misleading. For example, one  common measurement is the maximum heat output rating, but knowing this number is  about as meaningless as know­ing the top speed of a car — you should never  use it. Heating capacity in dwelling square footage can also be misleading,  be­cause regional differences in climate and home construction make for a  wide range of heating loads per square foot. This is where an experienced dealer  can be a big help. Dealers learn how each stove be­haves and know how  satisfied customers have been with various models.

Log Length. Some manufactur­ers’ specification sheets  imply a firebox that takes long pieces is an advantage, but you’re unlikely to  need this feature. Commercial firewood dealers usually cut wood to a standard  length of 16 inch­es — with good reason. Most people find pieces longer than  16 inches too awk­ward and heavy to handle comfortably.

Handling Coals and Ash. Look for a stove in which the  firebox floor is at least 3 inches below the doorsill. This drop will help keep  live coals inside the fire­box — and off your floor — while you’re doing  normal fire management.

Ash pans are a common optional fea­ture, but many stove shoppers demand  an ash pan on the assumption that it will make ash removal easier and neater.  This may be true in some cases, but many of the ash pans I’ve seen and used are  worse than not having one. Some are so shallow they can’t hold more than a day  or two of ash production. Some involve removing a plug from the firebox floor,  which can be a fussy, time-consuming job. Others are designed so poorly that  when they’re removed for emptying, ashes are likely to spill all over the  hearth. Compared with dealing with badly designed internal ash pans, the regular  use of a small bucket and shovel isn’t so bad — I haven’t used an internal ash  pan for many years and am a happier woodburner for it.

Woodstove Shape and Door Features. Manufacturers like to  offer stoves that are wider than they are deep. These stoves project less into  the room compared with other shapes, and they offer a wide ex­panse of glass  for a panoramic view of the fire. Both of these advantages may seem attractive  in the showroom, but they can have unfortunate consequences when you start using  the stove. For example, a wide loading door can be awkward be­cause you have  to move back from the stove to allow it to swing open.

Also, the wide but shallow firebox gives a so-called east-west firebox  ori­entation, meaning that when looking through the glass door, you see the  sides of the logs. East-west loading limits the amount of wood per load  because logs can fall against the glass if you fill the stove more than about  half full. North-south loading, in contrast, tends to be best for  full-time winter heating because more wood can be loaded for the coldest nights,  and there is no risk of logs roll­ing against the glass. The best of both  worlds is a firebox with a roughly square floor so you can choose which way to  load logs.

Top Loading. This can seem like a great feature when  inspecting stoves on the showroom floor, but top loaders can be messy to  maintain. Also, the chim­ney must produce strong draft to keep smoke from  rising out of the open top. If you have an outside chimney or must have elbows  in the flue pipe, a top load­er could contribute to poor indoor air quality  by spilling exhaust whenever it is loaded. Finally, top loading does not allow  for precise log placement, which can lead to serious frustration when  try­ing to load firewood.

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Townhouse of Park Slope’s First Gentrifiers Listed for $4.8M | Bedford NY Real Estate

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Location: Brooklyn, N.Y. Price: $4,800,000 The Skinny:Identified by theNew York Times in 2004 as “the original gentrifiers,” Evelyn and Everett Ortner dedicated their lives to the historic preservation of Brooklyn’s Park Slope, campaigning against big development projects, pushing for the neighborhood to gain landmark status, and setting a shining example by meticulously maintaining and restoring the 1886 four-story brownstone that they bought for $32,000 in 1963. With both Ortners now gone—Everett died in 2012, Evelyn in 2006—the house now finds itself back on the market for $4.8M. Featuring original mahogany woodwork, parquetry ornamentation, Lincrusta wallpaper, and its original heating system (uh-oh), the 5,043-square-foot house is one of the best preserved specimens in an area where people are paying above ask for historic properties on a regular basis—a phenomenon that Everett Ortner was not above jokingly taking credit for, telling friends he’d convinced to buy townhouses in the ’60s, “I made you all millionaires, and I think you should give me a commission.”

Get Your Projects Into Clients’ Hands | Pound Ridge Homes

So you want to get your projects published. Why?

It’s great for exposure and marketing. You can use print articles as an extension of your showroom for clients to get ideas, to learn design terminology, and to help you learn what clients do and don’t like; you can use it to show architects.

But take advantage of the longevity of print publications, which often sit on coffee tables in homes but also in doctor’s waiting rooms, salons, and fitness studios. Buy a bunch of issues and slap a banner on them with your logo and some text that reads: “Check out the local home remodeled by YOUR COMPANY featured on page X”

And, of course, most print publications have a web presence, where your work—and links to your company’s website—will live forever.

RESEARCH YOUR OPTIONS There are local and national publications that are always looking for content. Head to your local bookstore and buy a bunch of magazines and study them. Ask yourself if your project might be a good fit. You wouldn’t contact Dog Fancy with your latest kitchen remodel—unless it has a fantastic dog bowl area and they actually publish stories about such things.

Think about who the reader is going to be and who your ideal client is. Where do those two intersect?

You’d be surprised how many local publications there are in your market—from newspapers to business journals, women’s weeklies, and food-focused magazines. And don’t discount association publications from NARI and NAHB, but also those for related industries: doors and windows, concrete, metal fabricators.

Then read the articles themselves and determine how they’re put together and what they focus on. Are written about the lifestyle of the owner? Do it Yourself carpentry? The biggest, the best, the first of its kind, only a particular room?

You ultimately want to make things easy for an editor to see that, yes, your project/story is going to be something their readers will be interested in.

THINK LIKE AN EDITOR Have an idea about what makes a good story. Come up with a hook. “We had to design and build a kitchen for a homeowner who is in a wheel chair.” “Our client’s daughter was going to be married in two months and they wanted a quick kitchen pick-me-up so we did cabinet refacing.” Think about packages: “5 storage options” “kitchens with fireplaces,” “poolside outdoor kitchens.”

Pay attention to lead times. If you built a special Christmas tree closet for a client, don’t pitch that story to a monthly magazine on December 1. Even newspapers might budget time for a story like that a few months in advance. Pitch an outdoor living story in January, a winter holiday story in September.

BUILD A RELATIONSHIP Look on the publication’s masthead to find the appropriate editor—and it’s not the editor-in-chief. You most likely want to contact a senior editor, writer, or contributing writers or editors. There might be a specific editor for the type of material you want to have published. In a national publication, get the name of the regional editor near you.

Call or email and establish a relationship with that person. In many cases, they are hungry for material. Offer to take that person to coffee and show them photos of your projects, help them understand the scope and scale and level of design involved; take them on a tour of your most recent project.

Even if it doesn’t turn into something right away, keep up the relationship. The publication might not need anything right now, but your new editor friend will have your name and might call on you as a source for another story. Or, he or she might know that in a few weeks the publication needs 10 contemporary baths. It’s good for them to have contacts in the architecture and design community.

Kitchen of the Week: Contemporary Meets Rustic in Southern California | Bedford Corners Real Estate

The brick-like tile, vintage light fixtures and reclaimed wood in this kitchen may imply an earlier era, but the clean cabinetry and modern fixtures point to its more recent design. The owners, newlyweds in Southern California, wanted a kitchen that would replace the outdated old space without looking blatantly brand new. After reworking the layout and closing up unnecessary doors, designer Lisa Gutow expertly blended both contemporary and rustic elements to create a warm, welcoming and eclectic kitchen. Kitchen at a Glance Who lives here: A newly married couple Location: San Clemente, California Size: 130 square feet

The white planked cabinetry gives the kitchen a low-key feel that’s in line with its coastal location. Gutow installed a reclaimed rough-sawn wood beam above the hood as a rustic accent. Our custom composite or vinyl round top windows are just what you need to transform any room in your home to “the” room that will wow your guests. You can find best tips from
The kitchen’s size and layout didn’t allow for as much storage as the couple would’ve liked, so Gutow put glass shelves in front of one window to maximize space and still allow for natural light. Since the small window just has a view of a guesthouse next door, the client prioritized storage over the view.
Hardware: Restoration Hardware; range: Electrolux with concealed hood
The rustic brick-style backsplash is actually made of cement field tile. Gutow and the clients chose the tile with brick in mind, so it would look like this kitchen has always been here. “We wanted it to look like the drywall had been chiseled away and brick was found,” says Gutow.
Hand-painted Italian tile above the stove adds a more modern element and stays in line with the rest of the home’s Mediterranean undertones.
Backsplash tile: Hacienda San Felipe, Ann Sacks; tile above stove: Haveli, Ann Sacks
The previous kitchen had been neglected for years. Here’s a view of the original space, looking away from the smaller window at the back of the kitchen. The large window above the sink was maintained in the new design.
The kitchen’s outdated cabinetry had entire drawers and cabinets missing. The black and white pattern on the floor had worn through in many spots, so Gutow sanded it down and used Annie Sloan chalk paint to create a low-contrast stripe.
AFTER: Although Gutow kept the original appliance layout to avoid moving gas and plumbing lines, she reworked the traffic patterns.
When looking into the kitchen, where the small window exists now, there were two additional doors; one led to the courtyard, the other to a laundry room. The empty wall is where the stove sits in the new kitchen. Gutow closed up both doors, created another entrance to the laundry room and turned the courtyard door into a smaller kitchen window. Now foot traffic goes through the living room, rather than the kitchen.
AFTER: Replacing the courtyard door with the smaller window on the left created room for cabinets, including the ones below the window and the unit that sits on the counter, holding the coffeemaker and microwave.
The playful blue pendants add some necessary color; the client found these vintage pieces on her own, and Gutow had them rewired for the kitchen. The butcher block is another antique piece the client found. The extra surface area near the refrigerator is the perfect place for putting together a cheese plate or an appetizer before taking it into the adjacent dining room.

3 Facebook Survey Tools You Will Love | Chappaqua NY Realtor

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook. It’s hard to get through any internet focused  blog without reading something about Facebook. It has become so common that  refraining from using the company in articles has become a challenge and at the  same time, a breath of fresh air.

We all have started to try to find other examples of sites and options for  marketing that don’t include the social media giant. However, for surveys and  understanding your customer base, nothing can beat Facebook.

We’re going to go through why Facebook is so necessary for a quality survey.  We will also look at some interesting apps that will help you to reach your goal  of a loyal audience and build your customer base.

The three major advantages of Facebook polling

1. Comprehensive metrics

Facebook is an undeniably huge database of information collected from  millions of people, including your audience and potential customers. At times,  people share much more about themselves than they probably should, and this is  all stored on Facebook’s servers. Why does this matter?

It matters because this data can help you analyze your responses much better  and with more detail than a classic poll. Many Facebook survey tools allow you  to use the already available information to narrow down your respondents by:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Gender

They then use a scale to mix and match these demographics.

2. Easy to obtain a large number of respondents

I bet just about everyone you know has a Facebook profile. It is so  integrated into our lives that the average smartphone user checks their Facebook  14 times a day. This means that there is already a large amount of active people  who are readily available to take your survey. Facebook allows you to gain much  more respondents in a much shorter amount of time than if you used classic  survey methods.

3. Low cost

Small businesses, new businesses, and even large businesses need to cut costs  where it makes sense. Traditional polling can be very expensive which often  mitigates the final outcome of a survey. However, most Facebook polling  solutions are very cheap and can offer more than enough information to make  smart changes and to help generate more effective content.

3 Facebook survey tools

Facebook used to offer its own polling service but it has since been shut  down as it was quite honestly useless. Sure, if you needed to make a painless  poll to get an answer quick without having to analyze it, it worked.

However, most users needed to gather real data to achieve real goals, and so  3rd party applications started taking the lead. These three applications are  some of the most popular and affordable ways for just about anyone to get  actionable results from their survey.