As the city’s known more nowadays for its inflated, six-zero asks, it might be hard to believe that apartments still exist within its confines under the $300,000 threshold. Okay, they may be small and not quite where all the action’s happening, but that doesn’t have to be a negative. Example: this slim studio on 87th Street between York and First avenues on the Upper East Side is south-facing and looks onto the block’s courtyards. It comes with two closets and a renovated bathroom all for $249,000.
↑ At $299,000, this plain jane of an East Village studio just barely makes the cut. The unit, which has two closets and a separate, windowed kitchen with room for two stools at a breakfast bar, is on the sixth floor of a prewar elevator building on 12th Street between Second and Third avenues. The photos don’t show a bed in the living area, though, so be warned that it looks larger than it probably is! (Which is, according to the listing, 350 square feet.)
↑ In Chelsea, there’s a townhouse co-op with a fun purple stripe on the wall asking $285K. It’s a walk-up, but there are hardwood floors. The location is central, on West 18th Street near Eighth Avenue, and the two windows have a bright westward view, plus there’s built-in storage above the kitchen and bathroom doors.
↑ The kitchen in this Park Slope apartment is divided from the living room by a partial wall with a pass-through window that also has shades, making it easier to divide up a small space into even smaller ones. There’s also a separate lofted area for sleeping, though that’s not pictured, with a walk-in closet underneath. The location is hard to beat: half a block away from Prospect Park West on Union Street, right near Grand Army Plaza. Asking price: $299,000.
↑ This Brighton Beach studio comes with a lovely oceanfront view for a discounted $214,000. Sure, the apartment is small tiny, but packs a punch in its nearly 500 square feet: the kitchen has all new stainless steel appliances (dishwasher included), there’s a terrace, and oceanfront and Manhattan views. And in those steamy summer months, the boardwalk and beach are but steps away.
↑ In Brooklyn Heights, $299,000 buys this shady studio in classy prewar co-op building The Remsen, off of Remsen and Henry streets. The apartment’s been recently renovated and has new floors, cabinets (installed post-picture taking), countertop, sink and backsplash, as well as two walk-in closets. The building also has a 24-hour doorman. Water, heat, electricity, and gas are all included.
↑ There’s no floorplan for this seventh-floor prewar co-op on Broadway between 102nd and 103rd Streets, but the listing promises “plenty of closet space, pre-war molding and original hardwood flooring throughout.” The main room of this $275,000 unit does look spacious, and the building (called the Broadmoor) has a nicely furnished shared roof deck with views of the Hudson.
↑ This studio in a 1939 Art Deco building in Washington Heights has a windowed kitchen and bath, deep closets, 9-foot ceilings, and hardwood floors throughout (although not a whole lot of windows in the living area). The studio is asking$249,000, and is close to neighborhood amenities like Fort Tryon Park. A negative?’ it’ll cost buyers an extra $240 per year to use the building’s gym.
↑ Near the Midtown Tunnel entrance, Murray Hill offers up this petite pad in a doorman building on 36th Street between Second and Third avenues. It’s basically one big room, but there’s an “entry hall” and a separate galley kitchen, as well as two “large and deep closets.” For $299,000 you’ll get a communal outdoor space on the roof here, too, in the event of claustrophobia.
↑ At the top of a building that towers over low-lying Forest Hills is this $268,000 studio. The 25th-floor digs have a recently enlarged and updated bathroom, and a renovated kitchen with Moen and Kohler fixtures, a wine refrigerator, and Caeserstone countertops. Gerard Tower has a 24-hour doorman, a seasonal pool, gym, in-building laundry, and underground parking.
Household debt continued to fall in July as the first mortgage default rate dropped to .88% from .89% last month, according to the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices.
This is significantly down from 1.35% in July 2014.
“At just above one percent, default rates remain at historical lows. Mortgage default rates have been trending down while Auto and Bank Card are a bit higher than their historical lows set in April and March,” said David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee for S&P Dow Jones Indices.
The second mortgage default rate slipped to .52%, down from .57% last month and .54% a year ago.
As a whole, the national composite hit 1.01% in July, down one basis point from last month and lowest level in over 10 years.
On the other side, non-housing debt increased slightly in the second quarter.
Auto saw its rate remain unchanged at 0.96%, falling only four basis points above its historical low, while the bank card rate declined 16 basis points to 2.86%.
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Upcoming Events and Workshops:
Black-lighting for Moths
Thursday, July 31
Join Charlie Roberto as we light up the night to attract night flying insects. All Welcome. Free.
Great Hudson Estuary
at Kathryn W. Davis RiverWalk Center
Kingsland Point Park, Sleepy Hollow, NY
Saturday, August 2
If you could lift the lid off the Hudson River in Tappan Zee Bay, what would you see? Catch the incoming tide with Teatown and Strawtown Art and Garden Studio at the Kathryn W. Davis RiverWalk Center in Sleepy Hollow, as we seine for fish and other creatures in the warm waters of the Hudson. We will focus on identification and record and share the results with other sites taking part along the river. Afterward mix paint and match the color of the River, and add sand from both shores of the wide bays to make a symbolic driftwood sculpture.
In the ongoing war for online real estate domination, the combatants lob (metaphorical) grenades at each other quite frequently.
Most recently, Move (MOVE), which operates Realtor.com for the National Association of Realtors, and Zillow (Z) have been involved in what looks to be a particularly nasty legal battle over the hiring of Errol Samuelson.
Samuelson is currently the chief industry development officer for Zillow. He was hired away from Move and Realtor.com in early March. Later in March, Move and NAR sued Zillow for breach of contract, alleging that Samuelson stole trade secrets and intellectual property from Move and brought it with him to Zillow.
In early July, Move and NAR won the opening battle in the suit, when Washington State Superior Court Judge Barbara Linde issued a preliminary injunction in the case, finding that Samuelson misappropriated trade secret information by acquiring it using improper means, and by copying it without authorization.
The American “farmhouse bathroom” is a bit of an oxymoron. Most original farmhouses were built at a time when the only bathroom was an outhouse. And when farmhouse owners did eventually bring plumbing inside, they didn’t actually build a bathroom; they took over a spare bedroom or other room and put a toilet, sink and stand alone tub in the space. This focus on practicality and function continues to drive the style’s popularity today.
Here are eight elements of a modern-day bath with farmhouse style.
1. Make it look like a spare room. Again, think back to the time when farmhouse owners switched from an outhouse to an indoor bathroom: Most people ran their new plumbing into a spare bedroom or an attic space. So the new bathrooms were generally spacious and had odd ceiling angles. Plus, it meant that the orientation of the bathtub, sink and toilet didn’t always line up like you see today. Following this approach is a good first step to nailing the style.
Architect James Dixon used the spare-room concept with this New York bathroom, which is actually part of a newly built home. He intentionally made the ceiling pitch down at odd angles to make it feel like the bathtub, sink and toilet were plunked down in an old attic space or extra bedroom. “I live in an 18th-century farmhouse that was once a lot of small bedrooms. Some were converted to bathrooms,” he says. “They tend to be very quirky, so making a new bathroom look this way makes them look more believable.”
Painted antique wood flooring helps convey the style as well.
2. Minimal accessories. “To me a farmhouse is kind of the simplest early house built for practical reasons,” says interior designer Alison Kandler. “You built a porch because sitting outside in Oklahoma was hot. You picked hexagon tile because it was cheap and practical. You built a pitched roof so rain would fall off and you wouldn’t get leaks. There was always a practical side to everything. It’s not ornate. It’s not overdecorated.”
Indeed, most of the people who built farmhouses were interested only in providing four walls and a roof over their head. They didn’t have the time, interest or cash to focus on ornament or details in the wood or construction, so they just kept it simple. Make sure your farmhouse bathroom champions function and repurposing, rather than ornament.
3. Stand-alone bathtub. A claw-foot tub is almost a requirement in a farmhouse bathroom. It’s what you would have seen in original farmhouses when built-ins weren’t around or practical.
Of course, when we talk about farmhouse style, we’re actually talking about modern farmhouse style. “And that’s a good thing,” says interior designer Kelly Mittleman, who channeled farmhouse style in the bathroom seen here. “You don’t want to replicate the rusticity of yesteryear and have it look clunky or silly like a set piece.”
And farmhouses differ around the world and even regionally in the United States. A New England farmhouse from the 18th century looks and feels different than something in the Midwest, for example. But the general spirit is universal. “When most people think of a farmhouse, they think of simple, no-nonsense details and sturdy construction,” says Dixon.
Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) released today its U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook for June providing a mid-year assessment as well as how for-sale inventory and vacancy rates will affect the near-term outlook. The complete June 2014 U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook and forecast table are available here.
Low for-sale inventory will help to sustain house price and rent gains but at the expense of affordability in the short term.
While the total number of vacant units has decreased by 4.2 percent from the first quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2014, the number of vacant units for sale has declined by 24.2 percent (485,000 units).
Home purchase applications have picked up a bit recently with the traditional homebuying season underway, yet they’re still currently 13 percent below last year. For this reason, we’re lowering our overall homes sales forecast from 5.5 million to 5.4 million.
We expect fixed rates to rise gradually during the second half of the year in part as a result of the Federal Reserve’s “tapering” of net mortgage-backed securities acquisitions. Expect the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to gradually rise higher, ending the year around 4.4 percent.
Quote Attributed to Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist.
“We’re nearly half way through the year and single-family housing remains weaker than we projected six months ago, while multifamily appears to be right on track. With vacancy rates moving back in line with historical averages, even falling below historical averages in some markets, and for-sale inventories remaining tight, U.S. home price indexes are likely to continue their above-inflation growth for the remainder of the year, as will rent gains, albeit much slower than in 2013. The important question is how much further will prices and rents have to rise to give incentives for more existing owners to list their property for sale and developers bring more supply to the market. Construction has rebounded over the past two years but is still significantly below the levels one would expect to see given projections of household formations.”
Joseph and Neidin Henard thought they had finally fixed the mortgage that was crushing them.
In January, the couple reached a settlement with every company that had a stake in the mortgage on their house in Santa Cruz, California, a deal that would have slashed their monthly payment by almost 40 percent to $3,337. It was the end of a process that started with their defaulting in 2009.
But when they saw the final paperwork for their settlement, they found that Ocwen Financial Corp, the company that collected and processed their mortgage payments, had added an extra clause: they could not say or print or post anything negative about Ocwen, ever.
The Henards’ experience was not unusual. Mortgage payment collectors at companies including Ocwen, Bank of America Corp and PNC Financial Services Group are agreeing to ease the terms of borrowers’ underwater mortgages, but they are increasingly demanding that homeowners promise not to insult them publicly, consumer lawyers say. In many cases, they are demanding that homeowners’ lawyers agree to the same terms. Sometimes, they even require borrowers to agree not to sue them again.
These clauses can hurt borrowers who later have problems with their mortgage collector by preventing them from complaining publicly about their difficulties or suing, lawyers said. If a collector, known as a servicer, makes an error, getting everything fixed can be a nightmare without litigation or public outcry.
Realtors, lenders and community associations are up in arms about forthcoming Federal Housing Administration rules they believe could make mortgage financing more expensive — maybe even impossible — for large numbers of buyers and sellers around the country.
The concerns are not about condo certifications this time around — an issue that has caused hundreds of condo developments to drop their eligibility for FHA mortgages on individual units. The new problem is even broader, affecting potentially tens of thousands of homeowner associations that routinely impose transfer fees whenever units are sold.
The fees, which range from $100 to $500 in most cases, frequently are used by HOAs to replenish capital reserves, make improvements to infrastructure or even fund environmental conservation activities.
Unlike the controversial investor-driven private transfer fees marketed by Wall Street’s Freehold Capital Partners in 2010 and 2011, most HOA transfer fees are used to benefit the community.
Here’s the problem: In response to the widely criticized private transfer fee programs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac adopted guidelines in 2012 that banned private-purpose, investor-benefit transfer fees from eligibility for conventional financing. Their rule carefully distinguished between the Freehold Capitol type of fees — which generated income streams for bond investors for up to 99 years — and the typical HOA transfer fees designed to benefit the community’s residents.
More recently, lawyers in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s office of general counsel have warned FHA that under existing “free assumability” regulations, the agency is not permitted to insure mortgages on properties that come with “restrictions on conveyance” — encumbrances on the title that could hamper transfers. That includes fees required to be paid at the sale of units in communities governed by homeowner associations.
The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, fell 5.9% on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier.
The Refinance Index decreased 7% from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 4% from one week earlier.
“Both purchase and refinance application activity fell last week, and the market composite index is at its lowest level since December 2000,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist. “Purchase applications decreased 4% over the week, and were 21% lower than a year ago. Refinance activity also continued to slide despite a 30-year fixed rate that was unchanged from the previous week. The refinance index dropped 7% to the lowest level since 2008, continuing the declining trend that we have seen since May 2013.”
Mother’s Day Weekend: May 10th & 11thWe’re getting ready to open four farmers markets over Mother’s Day Weekend: Larchmont, Rye, Croton-on-Hudson, and Piermont. These openings are earlier than in years past, and to celebrate the timing with Mother’s Day, we’re hosting “Make Mom a Card!” events at the markets. We’ll have great music, too. Visit the Down to Earth Markets Calendar for full details. See you there.Stay tuned to all market happenings via our Down to Earth Markets Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @DowntoEarthMkts.
Welcome Back, Wild Ramps. Sure is Nice to See You.
Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”
– Robin Williams
And our first guest has arrived. This week, Tom Warren of Stone & Thistle Farm wrote in with the news that he’ll have ramps at our farmers markets this weekend. It will be the first time in 2014.
After a long, frigid winter, the Earth is opening back up.
Ramps are a part of the onion plant family and are also known as “wild leeks”. According to Deborah Madison in Vegetable Literacy, “they like moist, sandy soils, preferably near a stream.”
Lucky for us in the Northeast, we’ve got quite a bit of this landscape. Ramps usher in our spring. As they set the table, shortly the other guests will arrive: asparagus, nettles, fiddleheads, and garlic scapes. In most cases, these are foods from the wild. Our farmers markets are stocked by Mother Nature, as local growers and foragers bring what is available from around here, at this time.
When we eat seasonally, we get to connect with nature’s rhythm — to cherish its limited editions. We say this not in an overly precious way, but rather to celebrate what we are all given by nature. The first foods of spring are full of vibrant colors and tastes that will only be here for a short while. And that’s reason to party.
by Stone & Thistle Farm
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 egg yolk from pastured hens
1/2 cup olive oil
6 ramps, whites only (reserve greens for another use – perhaps diced into scrambled eggs)
Minced Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Whisk together the juice, cayenne pepper, and yolk in a mixing bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup oil until sauce is emulsified; stir in ramps. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside. Enjoy.
Note: The wild foods, such as ramps, offered at Down to Earth Farmers Markets are thoughtfully foraged. In the name of a good thing, the foods are collected in a way that ensures future harvests. If you have any questions about the process, ask your favorite vendor.
Day Vendors This Week Mamaroneck
Flourish Baking Company
Pie Lady & Son