Many athletes have been doing it for a long time without even knowing it is now a fitness trend. It’s called plogging, a combination of jogging and picking up. And what is being picked up is trash. The Swedes are credited with starting the trend and now it’s spreading in the United States.
A sunny and breezy day is perfect for plogging. Jeff Horowitz, a personal trainer at Vida Gym in Washington, is plogging with a couple of his friends. To him, nothing is new about this routine.
“This is just my personal ethics, where I would go for a run and if I happen to see a piece of garbage laying around and it’s within my reach,” he says. “It was a kind of a little test for me to see if I can grab it and throw it in a near trash can without stopping. That way I thought it gave me a little bit of exercise, a little focus for my run and helped clean up the neighborhood.”
Now, he knows he’s one of a growing number of people worldwide who are plogging. He often organizes plogging events.
Rules of Plogging
Getting ready to plog is similar to getting ready to jog. You have to warm up by doing weight squats, some calisthenics, some balance exercises. Then, grab a trash bag and you’re ready to go, but not before wearing a pair of gloves.
“Gloves are important,” Horowitz says. “You want to make sure this is going to be healthy for you. Even if you’ve good intentions, you never know what you’ll find. It might be broken glass, medical waste.”
Like any other fitness routine, plogging has rules. The first of these rules one shouldn’t suddenly bend over in front of someone else, which seems like common sense.
“You can’t do that.” Horowitz explains. “It becomes like a three stooges’ event and you’ll end up falling over.” So, when plogging with a group a runner usually calls it out, stops and bends, so other members of the group become aware of his move.
Ploggers also need to cover all different territory.
“People kind of naturally follow that rule,” Horowitz says. “So, if I’m a little bit more to the curb side, I’ll look toward the gutter and someone else a little bit closer to the hedges they’re going to pick up there. So, you get a rhythm going between people without sometimes agreeing to it.”
Running with Purpose
Sports event organizer Dana Allen finds plogging interesting. Like other runners who consider themselves environment custodians, she likes it when streets are trash-free and clean. That’s why she plogs, but admits she doesn’t do it all the time.
“When I’m running seriously, in training for a marathon, I probably wouldn’t be as inclined to stop regularly because I’m focusing on a certain goal,” she says. “But then there are other days, where I’m out and into sort of a more relaxed running that would be a situation where I might do it.”
On other occasions, a group of runners gets together early on a weekend morning, and goes plogging.
“We go for run, pick up some garbage, then we go for brunch. We kind of make a little bit of event of it.”
Plogger Azell Washington says participating in such events makes him feel better. “It would clear a lot of space for me. And I’m rewarded myself.”
Washington DC: Clean and Fit
Encouraging more people to plog helps raise awareness about Washington’s litter problem, says Julie Lawson, who works with the mayor’s Clean City Office.
“When the street looks bad and it’s dirty, you’re going to feel bad about the neighborhood, about the community. You may even feel less safe because of that,” she says. “So if we’re all doing our part and picking it up, it’s very easy to help beautify it, help build those social connection, you get to know your neighbors, you get to feel some social responsibility and community feel, when you do this.”
Plogging also helps advance a city-wide fitness initiative.
“FitDC is Mayor Muriel Bowser’s initiative to get DC back to number one in the country as the fittest city in the nation,” Lawson adds. “And as part of that our Department of Parks and Recreation put up a couple of plogging events combining fitness activities with beautifying the city. We look to continue to support that.”
Plogger Allen hopes one day there won’t be a need for plogging.
“I would just hope people around would think twice before dropping a garbage on the ground,” she says. “We have receptacles, seems like on every block. So, it’s easy to put your garbage in the trash can. So, I just think people should think about it a little bit more and be cognizant of keeping the city as beautiful as possible.”
PHOTOS COURTESY OF GEORGESOROS.COM; GAGE SKIDMORE | WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Update 10/24 — The U.S. Secret Service released a statement this morning stating that similar packages were intercepted in routine mail screenings en route to the Chappaqua address of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as the Washington, D.C. residence of Former President Barack Obama.
• “Suspicious packages” were identified as “potential explosive devices” during what the Secret Service says in its official statement were routine mail screenings, and “appropriately handled as such.”
• The package sent to Clinton was intercepted late on Tuesday, October 23. A second package addressed to President Obama was intercepted in Washington early Wednesday morning.
• Neither of the Secret Service’s protectees received the packages, “nor were they at risk of receiving them,” according to the statement.
• Also on Wednesday morning, CNN’s offices in Manhattan were evacuated after a similar device was sent there and made its way into their offices, a law enforcement official said.
|Jim Sciutto✔@jimsciuttoBreaking: CNN NY office evacuated. Police bomb squad is here. We’re told of explosive device received.|
• According to the Secret Service, the agency has “initiated a full scope criminal investigation that will leverage all available federal, state, and local resources to determine the source of the packages and identify those responsible.”
Westchester Magazine will continue coverage of this story as it develops. Original story below:
Monday afternoon, a small explosive device was discovered in the mailbox of billionaire philanthropist George Soros’ Katonah residence.
No one was injured and the investigation is still ongoing. Here’s everything you need to know as the story unfolds:
• Bedford Police received a call around 3:45 p.m. on Monday, October 22, from an employee of the residence.
• The 88-year-old Soros was not home at the time.
• The relatively small device was discovered when an employee opened a package, after which they carefully placed the device outside in a wooded area, according to the Bedford police.
• Federal and state law enforcement agents responded, and the bomb squad proceeded with a controlled detonation of the device.
• There was no clear motive behind the attempted bombing, though Soros has often been demonized by right-wing groups for his support of liberal social policies and campaign contributions to democrats.
• The New York Times reports that the investigation is open, and is now being handled by the New York offices of both the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
The numbers are stunning.
To buy a house in the once-elegant Miramar neighborhood of Havana, the average Cuban must have saved all of his salary since British troops captured the city in 1762.
That house would cost about 100,000 Cuban convertible pesos, or CUCs — the equivalent of $1.13 U.S. What isn’t even close to equivalent is the pay scale. The average Cuban earns 370 CUCs per year as a computer programmer, state shop administrator, policeman, postman or teacher.
That disparity alone isn’t startling. Almost every city in the world has elegant homes that only the elite can afford, while average residents live in moderately priced homes. But in Cuba, the price for even a modest home far outstrips local wages.
According to official figures, the 5,000 CUC asking price for a dilapidated residence in less-desirable Havana neighborhoods like Alamar Jesús María, Luyanó and Párraga equals 13.5 years of salary for an average worker. A modest 20,000 CUC apartment in Vedado amounts to 54 years of average earnings.
Successful business owners, medical personnel who have worked abroad, artists and others may be able to afford the high prices. But its people living abroad – some of them Cubans, some not – who are often buyers.
Making the situation more difficult for island-based Cubans is the financial structure. Cubans cannot access mortgages or bank loans. Real estate purchases in Cuba are generally made in cash — although sometimes the buyers throw in a car, another property, television sets, air conditioners, water pumps and even furniture.
The largest transactions are often discreetly sealed outside Cuba, many of them in Miami.
Since the Cuban government legalized the sale of private residences in 2011, thousands of houses and apartments have changed hands each year.
It was a time of change throughout the island, noted Emilio Morales, director of The Havana Consulting Group, a Miami company that monitors the Cuban economy. “The authorization for selling homes arrived at the same time as self-employment and the elimination of the ‘White Card’ permit to travel abroad. People started selling their homes to invest in a business or to finance their move abroad.”
Today more than 8,000 properties are available for sale in Cuba at any one time. Four out of five are in Havana, home to one in four Cubans.
The island’s complex real estate market is plagued by a lack of information, funding shortages and legislative gaps. Sellers don’t trust real estate agents, who are not officially organized. There are no independent inspectors or appraisers, no property insurance or transparent documents.
But perhaps the heaviest cloud over the real estate market is the well-founded fear that the laws allowing the sale of private homes can be recalled at any time.
“The current trend toward limiting the private sector, from restaurants to home rentals that were proving so successful, will soon bring with it a contraction of the real estate market,” said Morales. “That was the real aim, because the private sector was winning the competition against the inefficient state sector at all levels, from shoe manufacturing to hostels in private homes.”
In the first quarter of 2017, refinances fell 45% from the fourth quarter, however the second and third quarters could see a turnaround in refi activity, according to a first look at Black Knight’s soon to be released Mortgage Monitor.
This chart shows refinance activity each week from October through June as refinance candidates fell from 8.6 million to 4.4 million.
Click to Enlarge
(Source: Black Knight)
Since interest rates fell below 4%, the financeable population rose to its highest point for 2017. While the current 4.4 million borrowers is down significantly from October, it is an increase of 56% or 1.6 million borrowers from mid-March’s low.
Borrowers who refinanced in the first quarter of 2017 cut their monthly mortgage payments by an average of $109 per month, or a total aggregate savings of $36.5 million per month. This marks the lowest total monthly savings since 2008 and a decrease from the fourth quarter’s $59 million.
But since the first quarter, savings have increased once again to a total of $1.1 billion or $260 per borrower each month.
This chart shows the total monthly savings borrowers saw each month.
It is cooler than the air in the summer and warmer in the winter. The earth’s subsurface is an enormous heat sink — a solar battery — and it takes a large amount of energy to keep it in equilibrium. This heat energy comes in great part from the sun, a renewable and inexhaustible source of energy. In lesser amounts, it also comes from the center of the earth that we now know is a heat generator. The inner core of the earth is primarily made of a solid sphere of iron within a larger sphere of molten iron. Calculations show that the earth, originating from a molten state many billions of years ago, would have cooled and become completely solid without an energy input. It is now believed that the ultimate source of this energy is radioactive decay within the earth that continues to this day; the decay produces gradually diminishing temperatures from the earth’s center to the surface. This does not mean that dangerous radioactivity is a hazard to us. We can tap into all of this heat energy, transfer it into our home for heating and return that energy back to the earth during cooling: thus we are really borrowing heat from the earth.
Geothermal units use the same 100-year-old technology found in your refrigerator. They are both devices that move heat energy. It is worth noting that the refrigerator is the most reliable, longest-life appliance in your home. As the diagram in the slideshow explains, a refrigerator removes heat energy from food and moves it into your kitchen. A geothermal system removes heat energy from the earth to heat your home and in the summer removes heat energy from inside your home back to the earth.
Heat naturally flows “downhill” from the warmest medium to the coolest medium. A heat pump is a machine that causes heat energy to flow in the direction opposite from its natural tendency, or “uphill” in terms of temperature. Because work must be done (energy must be applied) to accomplish this, the name heat “pump” is used to describe the device.
A refrigerator and a heat pump are about the same physical size, are quiet appliances usually contained within a single enclosure, have similar components (compressor, evaporator, etc.), and both transfer heat energy. And they each require a refrigerant, a material used in a refrigeration cycle which undergoes a phase change from a gas to a liquid, and back again.
NAHB analysis of the most recent Quarterly Sales by Price and Financing published by the Census Bureau reveals that just 4.7% of new home sales in the first quarter of 2017 were purchased with cash—down from the most recent peak of 9.5% in the fourth quarter of 2014. In contrast, the share of new home sales financed with conventional mortgages rose to 72.0%, its second-highest share since the fourth quarter of 2014. Meanwhile, FHA loan market share continued its upward trend, rising from14.4% to 14.7%.
Census data and NAHB calculations show that new home sales backed by VA products rose to 22,000 (+4,000) in the first quarter of 2017, though market share fell from 8.8% to 8.1%. The market share of VA loans averaged just 2.9% between the 2001 recession and the Great Recession, but has averaged 9.3% since the U.S. economy came out of recession in 2009.
It is worth adopting some caution associated with the Census market share estimates. In particular, the statistical error associated with the FHA, cash, and VA sales estimates from this data set are relatively high. This reduces the reliability of measures of short-term market changes.
Mindful of this limitation, over the long run the current FHA share is roughly one-half the 28% share determined for the first quarter of 2010 but still elevated compared to the 2002-2003 average of 10%.
Although cash sales make up a small portion of new home sales, they constitute a considerably larger share of existing home sales. In February 27% of existing home transactions were all-cash sales—the highest share since November 2015—according to estimates from the National Association of Realtors.
It is also worth noting that a different measure from CoreLogic shows a higher market share for cash sales for new construction: 17.7% in January.
FHA-backed loans were responsible for 14.7% of new home sales during the first quarter of 2017. Although the share has increased in two consecutive quarters, it remains more than twice its pre-recession average of 6.4%.
Conventional financing has expanded as the housing recovery has grown. The market share of new home sales with conventional financing was 62.2% in 2009 and 72.0% in the first quarter of 2017. This share has remained between 68% and 75% over the past four years.
The National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI) dropped 4 points to 53 from the previous quarter, but remained above the breakeven point of 50, which indicates that more remodelers report activity is higher (compared to the prior quarter) than report activity is lower. Although the RMI declined, it is consistent with levels seen in the first half of 2016. The RMI has been at or above 50 for 15 consecutive quarters (Figure 1).
The overall RMI is an average of two main sub-indices, one that tracks current market conditions and another tracking future market conditions. In the fourth quarter, the current market conditions index dropped 3 points to 53, but is still consistent with readings from earlier this year (Figure 2). Among its components, major additions and alterations dropped one point to 53, demand for smaller remodeling projects decreased four points to 52, and the home maintenance and repair component declined by five points to 54.
The future market indicators decreased six points to 52, which also marks a return to levels seen earlier this year (Figure 3). Among its four components, calls for bids and appointments for proposals fell to 49 and 54, respectively, the backlog of remodeling jobs dropped three points to 55, and the amount of work committed declined five points to 50.
The RMI level is in line with the NAHB’s remodeling forecast, which predicts that remodeling activity will grow at a moderate pace of 1 to 2% annually over the next two years. For more information about remodeling, including detail tables of this quarter’s results, visit nahb.org/rmi.
The common questions many first-time buyers ask are now answered.
Purchasing a home and conquering financial responsibility is a goal for many people. But making this leap to homeownership is a big step, and it’s one that should be taken with careful consideration. Let’s face it, finding a home and securing a mortgage isn’t a walk in the park — and certainly nothing like signing a simple rental agreement. You’ve probably encountered confusing jargon such as “points,” “preapproval,” and “prequalification,” and funny names like Fannie Mae. Making sense of everything can leave you on the verge of frustration, but don’t worry — this is a completely normal feeling.
To help you demystify the process and get the most out of your first mortgage, we’ve asked some finance experts about things to consider before applying, some common points of confusion, and a few handy tips to help you understand the basics of mortgages.
“Be prepared; do your homework. Check out reputable lenders in your area. Get prequalified so that you know the price range in which you should be shopping.” — Cathy Blocker, EVP, Production Operations of Guild Mortgage Company
“Talk to a local mortgage banker that you’re comfortable with! There are some great mortgage bankers willing to help, so you shouldn’t waste your time with someone who doesn’t make you feel comfortable with the process. Explain what you’re looking to do and what your ideal home-buying situation is. The right mortgage banker will customize your home loan to your specific scenario. Make sure they explain all the costs ahead of time, so that you know exactly what to expect once you get a purchase contract and start the mortgage process.” — Nick Magiera of Magiera Team of LeaderOne Financial
“Every mortgage situation is different, so there’s really not a one-size-fits-all list of requirements. I recommend that you contact a mortgage banker that you know, like, and trust. If you don’t know any mortgage bankers, then I recommend that you choose a mortgage banker that your real estate agent suggests you work with. Your real estate agent wants you to have a smooth transaction, so they will only send you to mortgage bankers that they trust. A great mortgage banker will then walk you through the process and customize the mortgage around your specific scenario.” — Nick Magiera of Magiera Team of LeaderOne Financial
“There are a few things to get squared away before applying for a loan: 1. Cash for a down payment. Save money/acquire money for a down payment and closing costs. 2. A good working knowledge of your personal finances. Create a budget of your future expenses, as if you own the house, and make sure you can afford it. A good rule of thumb is that your mortgage should not exceed 30% of your take-home income. 3. A general idea of the price range of homes you are interested in. Research potential homes through a local Realtor or at Trulia.com. Compare by looking at real estate taxes, neighborhood statistics, and other criteria. Take your time! Your house may be the largest purchase in your life.” — Scott Bilker of DebtSmart
“It gives homebuyers an edge against competing offers. If a seller sees two offers and one has already been approved, then that is often the one that they go with, as there is less risk for them.” — Tracie Fobes, Penny Pinchin’ Mom
“First off, there is a difference between preapproved and prequalified. Prequalifying means you have done an initial lender screening. However, preapproval is the next step in the process. You have to give the bank many more documents like you’re applying for the mortgage. It’s worth doing because you will get a preapproval letter from the bank, and this will show sellers and real estate agents that you’re a serious buyer. It will also give you a better idea of which homes you can afford. Additionally, you will be able to act quickly once you find that perfect place without having to then seek out financing.” — Scott Bilker of DebtSmart
“On a conventional loan (Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac), the difference in price between a poor credit score (620) and a strong credit score (740-plus) could be as much as 3.0 points in fees, or 0.75 to 1.25% in interest rate. On an FHA or VA loan, the price difference may be up to 0.75 in points in fees or 0.125 to 0.250% in interest rate.” — Cathy Blocker, EVP, Production Operations of Guild Mortgage Company
“There is not a single universal standard. Lenders determine what kind of risk premium it will add to a loan based on your credit history and other information presented in a loan application. You can’t take a lender’s advertised interest rate for its best-qualified borrowers and tack on a set premium because you’re a C credit instead of an A credit (A credit being the least amount of risk).” — Nick Magiera of Magiera Team of LeaderOne Financial
“There are only two ways to pay off your mortgage fast: 1. Refinance at a lower rate. 2. Pay more toward the mortgage. That’s it. Don’t be fooled by biweekly mortgages because all they do is make you pay more. If you are not in a position to get a lower rate, then simply increase your monthly mortgage payment to an amount that is comfortable, keeping in mind that this is money you cannot easily get back. Conversely, if you pay more on your credit cards, you can always use the card again for cash or to buy things you need.” — Scott Bilker of DebtSmart
“[The] Federal Reserve sets the interest rate that banks pay to borrow overnight funds from other banks holding deposits with the Federal Reserve. If the cost of overnight borrowing to a bank increases, this typically causes banks to increase the interest rates they charge on all other loans they make, to continue to earn their targeted return on assets. As banks increase their interest rates, other lenders or financial firms also tend to increase their rates. An increase in the federal funds rate does not directly correlate to a direct increase in mortgage rates but is viewed as a general signal to the market that the Federal Reserve views that the economy is growing and that interest rates will be increasing in the future.” — Cathy Blocker, EVP, Production Operations of Guild Mortgage Company
“Points are fees the borrower pays the lender at the time the loan is closed, expressed as a percent of the loan. On a $200,000 loan, 2 points means a payment of $4,000 to the lender. Points are part of the cost of credit to the borrower, and in turn are part of the investment return to the lender. That said, points are not always required to obtain a home loan, but a ‘no point’ loan may have a higher interest rate.” — Nick Magiera of Magiera Team of LeaderOne Financial
“‘Discount points’ refers to a fee, usually expressed as a percentage of the loan amount, paid by the buyer or seller to lower the buyer’s interest rate.” — Cathy Blocker, EVP, Production Operations of Guild Mortgage Company
First-time buyers may be entering the U.S. home market in greater numbers than industry watchers had assumed.
Nearly half of sales in the past year went to people who were buying their first home, according to a survey released Tuesday by the real estate firm Zillow. That’s a much higher proportion of the market than some other industry estimates had indicated.
Zillow’s survey results suggest that this year’s growth in home sales has come largely from a wave of couples in their 30s, who are the most common first-time buyers. If that trend were to hold, it could raise hopes that today’s vast generation of 18-to-34-year-old millennials will help support the housing market as more of them move into their 30s.
That’s among the findings in a 168-page report by Seattle-based Zillow. Its survey also found that home ownership is increasingly the domain of the college-educated. And it indicated that older Americans who are seeking to downsize are paying premiums for smaller houses.
Here’s a breakdown of Zillow’s findings:
— First-time buyers make up a larger chunk of the housing market than the real estate industry has generally thought. Forty-seven percent of purchases in the past year went to first-time buyers. Their median age was 33. By contrast, surveys from the National Association of Realtors have indicated that first-timers account for only about 30 percent of all buyers.
The difference between the two surveys may stem from their methodologies. The NAR has used a mail-based survey for its annual figures, while Zillow used an online survey that might have generated more responses from younger buyers.
— No college? Dwindling chance of homeownership
It’s become harder to realize the dream of home ownership without a college degree. Sixty-two percent of buyers have at least a four-year college degree. Census figures show that just 33 percent of the U.S. adults graduated from college. The gap between the education levels of homebuyers and the broader U.S. population indicates that workers with only a high school degree are becoming less likely to own a home.
This is a major shift for the middle class. Just 12 percent of homeowners in 1986 were college graduates, according to government figures. The trend is driven in part by falling incomes for people with only a high school degree.
— Millennial home buyers are increasingly Hispanic
Out of the 74 million U.S. households that own their homes, a sizable majority — 77 percent — are white. But these demographics are changing fast. Only 66 percent of millennial homeowners are white. The big gains have come from Latinos, who make up 17 percent of millennial homeowners but just 9 percent of all homeowners.
Asians also make up a greater share of millennials. This means that as today’s millennial generation ages, the housing market may look considerably more diverse than it does now.
— Older Americans aren’t just downsizing; they’re also upgrading.
The so-called “silent generation” — those ages 65 to 75— bought homes in the past year with a median size of just 1,800 square feet, about 220 square feet smaller than the homes they sold. But that smaller new home still cost more. These retirement-age buyers paid a median of $250,000, nearly $30,000 more than the home they sold. In some cases, the higher purchase price likely reflects the profits from the sale of their previous home, in other cases a desire by upscale buyers for luxury finishes and amenities.
— Starter homes are no longer popular.
When millennials buy, they’re leapfrogging past the traditional, smaller starter home. This younger generation paid a median of $217,000 for a 1,800-square-foot house. That median is nearly identical to what older generations buy.