Tag Archives: Lewisboro Homes

Lewisboro Homes

Mortgage relief fails to provide as much promised aid | South Salem NY Real Estate

While the five giant mortgage firms signed a landmark $25 billion mortgage settlement last year, the real relief did not fulfill most borrowers expectations. Just 20% of the aid dished out under the settlement covered forgiveness of first-mortgage principal. Per the Los Angeles Times:

“We all wish there had been more principal reduction, which is what is most helpful in keeping people in homes,” said Kevin Stein, associate director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, a 300-member alliance that lobbies on behalf of low-income and minority neighborhoods.

Still, Stein said, the program set a good precedent, demonstrating that debt forgiveness can benefit lenders and borrowers alike without causing a wave of intentional defaults, as critics had warned.

                    Source: LA Times

NAR’s health insurance marketplace is worth a look | Katonah Realtor

Starting in January 2014, I will be getting my health insurance through an exchange.

For months, Minnesota’s health insurance exchange posted outrageously high sample rates on its site. I kept trying to look away, but could not. I’ve been carrying this fear in the pit of my stomach, because I know what it is like to spend more on health insurance each month than on housing.

It seems like the news media and politicians have done everything they can to keep me worried about the arrival of “Obamacare.”I have listened to scary news stories for months about how bad Obamacare is going to be for everyone. The state exchange has not helped alleviate those fears, publishing super-high and inaccurate sample numbers on the MNsure.org website.

Friends who work for insurance companies assured me that my current, somewhat affordable health insurance plan — which carries a large deductible and provides little actual health care — would go away at the end of the year, and be replaced with a much more expensive plan next year.


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Three Cents Worth: Manhattan’s Middle Market Shows Life | Cross River Real Estate

This week I thought I’d take a look at the breakdown of sales by price in the most recently completed quarter.  Last year I was using a donut analogy to describe the Manhattan apartment market—weak in middle and strong on the outside (bottom/top). I wanted to illustrate how the mix in 2013 could be showing signs of change rather than continuing to see a disproportionate amount of activity on the margins. For reference I provided an inset in the form of a pie (sorry) chart to show a simple breakdown of the market in the second quarter of 2013.  The column chart was a bit more involved.  It represents the difference between 2Q 2013 and 2Q 2012 as measured by percentage to illustrate any market shifts that may be occurring. For example, the market share of the $1K-$500K was 21.3 percent (in pie chart), 4.1 percent less (in column chart) than 25.4 percent in the year ago quarter.

· Sub $500k market lost share (4.1 percent) likely due to lack of supply and tight credit.  Too soon in the data to see rise in mortgage rates but expect more weakness. · $501k to $4M or middle, upper middle of market showed slight gains from a year ago—something we haven’t seen in quite a while.  This is nearly 3/4 of the entire market so “middle” is quite a broad description. · $4M+ showed mixed results but generally unchanged.

With rising mortgage rates and little gain in supply across much of the market, I suspect we will continue to see an erosion in market share at the entry level sales as more first time buyers get shut out.  I’d like to think the middle of the market would continue to improve in share—a market starting to see more trade-ups and lateral movement but perhaps not at the pace we’ve seen year to date.  The overhyped high end will probably muddle along in balance with no real change in supply.







Brokerages Step up to One-Stop Shopping | Katonah NY Real Estate

Despite six years of a depressed housing economy that reduced Realtor ranks by one-third, real estate brokerages are closer than ever to achieving the long-sought dream of becoming one-stop shops  providing their customers all the services they need to buy or sell a house.

A new survey Imprev, Inc. found that 75 percent of top real estate executives responding said their brokerage firms offer at least one major ancillary service and mortgages are the No. 1 additional offering.  Some 89 percent of the real estate firms that offer at least one ancillary service offer home loans.

Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) offer title services and nearly half (49 percent) offer home-warranty services.

“For decades, the National Association of REALTORS® has tracked growing consumer interest in a one-stop shop through its surveys,” said Renwick Congdon, chief executive officer of Imprev, a real estate marketing software firm that works with 150,000 agents and brokers nationwide.

“Clearly, the industry’s thought leaders are making it happen in their firms,” he added.

According to a 2011 NAR and Harris Interactive study, the number of consumers interested in using a service provider affiliated with a brokerage firm increased 34 percent from the first survey completed in 2008.

In the NAR/Harris study, 78 percent of homebuyers said that one-stop shopping would save them money; 75 percent said it would make the process more manageable and efficient; and 73 percent said that a one-stop real estate shop would prevent the details relevant to their transactions from “falling through the cracks” — as well as make the entire process “more convenient.”

When real estate executives were asked to select the top benefits from offering ancillary services, 79 percent said “higher profits”; 70 percent said “one-stop marketing opportunities”; 62 percent said “increased customer satisfaction”; and 60 percent said “better quality control.”

The survey was conducted in late May. Poll respondents included top executives at leading franchises and independent brokerage firms responsible for more than one-third of all U.S. residential real estate transactions last year.



Construction spending grows in July | Cross River Real Estate

Construction spending in the U.S. grew in July to its highest level in four years, due to gains in residential real estate, Bloomberg News reports.

Outlays climbed 0.6% to a $900.8 billion annual rate, the most since June 2009, after being little changed in June, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. 

“We’re going to continue to post growth,” Mike Englund, chief economist at Action Economics LLC in Boulder, Colorado, said before the report. “It’s growing a little faster than the broader economy, obviously getting help from residential construction.”

Construction spending grows in July | 2013-09-03 | HousingWire.

Report: Neil Patrick Harris Buys Harlem Brownstone for $3.6 Million | Katonah Real Estate

When Neil Patrick Harris started his real estate search, the actor wasn’t shy about it and went straight to Twitter, asking his more than 6.5 million followers if they knew of a brownstone in Harlem for sale.

neil patrick harris tweet

Someone from Twitter — or perhaps a real estate agent — helped him out. The New York Post reports that Harris recently found his new brownstone, an 8,000-square-foot one backing up to Marcus Garvey Park in Central Harlem, for $3.6 million.

Five bedrooms and 5 baths are spread over the 5-story residence, which includes 2 terraces, a backyard, chef’s kitchen and plenty of space for Harris, his fiance and their twins, Harper and Gideon.

Harris got his start playing a teenage physician on “Doogie Howser, M.D.” He currently stars on the long-running sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” and is one of the highest paid actors on television. He will be hosting the upcoming Emmy Awards on Sept. 22.

Harris also owns a home in Studio City, CA and previously lived in another apartment in Harlem.





Fixed mortgage rates retreat from a 2-year high | South Salem Real Estate

Fixed mortgage rates eased up from a two-year high this past week as lenders offered a 30-year mortgage at an average rate of 4.51%, up from 4.58% a week earlier, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The newspaper gave a rundown of all the changes this past week:

“The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.54%, down from 3.6%, according to Freddie Mac. Starting interest rates for popular types of variable-rate loans were up slightly, the McLean, Va., housing finance giant said.”

Freddie’s chief economist, Frank Nothaft, said the market is being driven by speculation about when the Federal Reserve will cut back on its stimulus program, which involves buying $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bonds.

                    Source: The Los Angeles Times

Housing communities suffer from influx of renters | Cross River Real Estate

There are a growing number of people renting houses instead of buying since they cannot obtain a mortgage under today’s tougher standards. But due to the influx of renters, housing communities are facing the adverse effects of renter’s disconnect, according to CNBC:

“When there are fewer homeowners, there is less ‘self-help,’ like park and neighborhood cleanup, neighborhood watch,” said William M. Rohe, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has just completed a review of current research on homeownership’s effects.

Even conscientious landlords and tenants invest less in their property than owner-occupants, he said. “Who’s going to paint the outside of a rental house? You’d almost have to be crazy.”

                    Source: CNBC

Living Off the Grid and Thriving! | Katonah NY Homes

Michelle and Cam are living off the grid entirely at Sunflower Farm, their homestead in Eastern Ontario.



More than a decade ago, my wife, Michelle, and I moved from a busy suburban street to 150 acres in the Ontario bush, where our nearest neighbors are three miles away. Ditto for the nearest utility pole. We’d transitioned to living off the grid with little knowledge about renewable energy — or electricity, for that matter — and had to quickly put into practice our home-schooling mantra of “lifelong learning.”

To say that the learning curve was steep is an understatement. Back then, there were no good books on the subject of renewable energy for homes, and the information you could find was pieced together by pioneers who were learning as they went along. Consulting with any local electrician was a waste of time, so we learned by the seat of our pants. Luckily, we developed a network of helpful and skilled friends along the way. We came to realize that the more things we learned to do ourselves, the more independent we would become, which is the theme of the book I’ve just written, Thriving During Challenging Times: The Energy, Food and Financial Independence Handbook.

As we begin to experience the converging challenges of resource depletion, climate change, and the ongoing financial crisis, we need to make ourselves more resilient to shocks to the system.

If you do decide to go off the grid, generating your own electricity from the sun and wind provides an incredible sense of well-being — not only from a sense of independence, but also from the realization that you aren’t using any electricity that comes from coal. Powering your home with renewable energy is a huge step toward reducing your carbon footprint. We started with a fairly small solar-electric system that the previous owners of our home had installed, and we’ve steadily added more panels. As we learned more about peak oil, we were determined to reduce our use of nonrenewable fossil fuels for both cooking and powering our gasoline generator; there are times when there isn’t enough sunlight or wind to charge our off-grid batteries, so we use a fossil fuel-powered generator as a backup.

Wonderful Wind, Super Solar

When we moved in, there was an old wind turbine on a 60-foot tower on our property, but several years ago we decided to replace it with a new Bergey 1-kilowatt turbine on a 100-foot tower. We are surrounded by forests (not optimal for wind generation), so putting up a 100-foot tower set the turbine about 30 feet above the trees to capture some of the stronger winds. We decided to film the installation process and sell a video of it via our publishing company, Aztext. I’m a visual learner, and if I could have watched a video of the process of putting all the pieces of our off-the-grid system together, it would have made our efforts go more smoothly.

The new turbine required us to upgrade our battery bank from a 12-volt to a 24-volt system, so we also upgraded our inverter and added more solar panels. In the previous year, we ran our backup generator about 15 times. In the year after we put up the turbine and added solar panels, we ran the generator just twice. This means that, on many days, we now have extra electricity to use for cooking, offsetting our propane use.

Most people who move off grid just move onto propane, substituting propane for all their major heat loads, such as cooking and heating water. We already heat with wood cut sustainably from our property, so using the electric stove helps reduce our propane use as well.

The biggest drop in our propane consumption came when we installed our solar hot water system. It uses solar energy to heat water we use for washing and bathing, and should offset about 60 percent of water heating costs. For most people, this should be the first solar panel they put on their roof, because the payback is much faster than that of photovoltaics. There’s nothing nicer on a cold winter evening than soaking in a bath with water that was heated all day by the sun. After the system is paid for, there are no additional costs, and there are no carbon dioxide emissions created by the energy that heats the water. It’s an incredible, guilt-free luxury.

Many utilities now offer incentives to integrate renewable energy technologies, and with faster paybacks on your investment, you can take the savings from these systems and pay down debt. This was one of our keys to being able to move where we did. We scrimped, saved, and paid off our old mortgage before we left the city. Financial independence allows you to capitalize on the opportunities that will present themselves in the future.

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/print.aspx?id={47AF2418-0348-4C83-A164-280F2EF9170C}#ixzz2eKFnTFTK



Living Off the Grid and Thriving! – Homesteading and Livestock – MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Rising Rates and Falling Standards Raise Default Risk | South Salem Real Estate

Mortgages currently being originated stand a 14 percent higher risk of default due solely to current economic conditions, especially rising mortgage interest rates and falling underwriting standards.

Under current economic conditions, investors and lenders should expect defaults on loans currently being originated to be 14% higher than the average of similar loans originated in the 1990s, due solely to the local and national economic environment.

Investors and lenders should expect defaults to rise on new loans according to the latest UFA Mortgage Report by University Financial Associates of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The UFA Default Risk Index for the third quarter of 2013 rose to 114 from last quarter’s revised 96 in our baseline scenario.

“Most of the increased risk this quarter can be attributed to the hefty increase in mortgage rates – 100bps in just three months! Borrowers initiating mortgages at these higher rates will have higher payment ratios and will be more likely to default if the household is stressed,” said Dennis Capozza, Professor of Business Administration in the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and a founding principal of UFA.

“At the same time, borrowers at the lower rates of earlier vintages become less likely to default. This is because their existing mortgage at the earlier favorable rate becomes a more valuable contract, since the market value of the mortgage liability falls when valued at current higher rates,” Capozza said.

Capozza also cited changes in underwriting standards as factors contributing to higher rates of risk in new mortgages. Last week Jonathan Corr, president and CEO of Ellie Mae, said credit standards continued to ease in July. “The average FICO score fell to 737, from 742 in June 2013, and it is now at the lowest level since we began our tracking in August 2011. Similarly we saw slight increases in both loan-to-value and debt-to-income ratios last month-signs that lenders are willing to accept slightly more risk to maintain volume,” he said.

The UFA Default Risk Index measures the risk of default on newly originated prime and nonprime mortgages. UFA’s analysis is based on a “constant-quality” loan, that is, a loan with the same borrower, loan and collateral characteristics. The Index reflects only the changes in current and expected future economic conditions, which are much less favorable currently than in prior years.



Rising Rates and Falling Standards Raise Default Risk | RealEstateEconomyWatch.com.