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Westchester NY

Alternatives to Putting 20% Down on a Home | Katonah Real Estate


It’s a mantra often repeated in the real estate industry: If you want to buy a house, you need a 20 percent down payment. But with the average house in the U.S. costing $311,400 as of December 2013, according to the Census Bureau, all one has to do is the math to get a coronary. Raising a 20 percent down payment isn’t an easy thing to do.

Fortunately, you don’t have to. “It’s a myth that all homebuyers must have a 20 percent down payment to buy a home,” says Nancy Herrera-Siples, a Riverside, Calif., branch manager at Primary Residential Mortgage.

“Putting less than 20 percent is OK with most banks,” agrees Christopher Pepe, president of Pepe Real Estate in Brooklyn, N.Y. So why do you constantly hear that you need to put 20 percent down? Because if you don’t, it usually means you’ll have to shell out money for either private mortgage insurance or government insurance, which is usually financed by the Federal Housing Administration. Mortgage insurance protects the lender in case you can’t make your payments and the house is foreclosed on. But PMI payments don’t last forever. When your loan-to-value ratio is 80 percent, you can ask the lender if you can stop paying PMI; at 78 percent, the lender is required to cancel it.

Still, PMI can easily cost a couple hundred dollars a month, assuming your house is valued in the neighborhood of $200,000. Pepe says the average he sees is $700 a month just for PMI. But keep in mind that he’s based in New York City, which boasts one of the highest costs of living in the country.

So if you really want a house and you’re looking for alternatives to putting 20 percent down, here’s what you need to know.

Figure out financing before looking for a house. There are numerous programs that will help you buy a home without 20 percent down, says Dan Smith, president of Private Mortgage Solutions, a mortgage bank in Atlanta.




Are falling new home sales in December a warning for 2014? | Bedford Corners NY Real Estate


New home sales decreased to an annualized pace of 414,000—down 6.9% from November (which was revised down from an initial estimate of 464,000 to 445,000) and up 5% from a year ago. Activity picked up in the Midwest while falling everywhere else. It’s important to understand that this number is an estimate, and these numbers are often revised several times. Investors should understand that these estimates can be volatile and should not read too much into any one specific number.


Restricted supply has been the theme of the U.S. housing market over the past year

At the end of December, there were 171,000 new homes for sale, representing a five-month supply. The median time a new home has been on the market has shrunk from nine months last summer to the current figure of five months. As professional investors have become major players in the real estate market, we’re seeing bidding wars for properties in the hardest-hit markets, like Phoenix, and even strong markets, like Washington, DC. For all the fears that a flood of properties would hit the market and drive down prices, the opposite problem has happened.

Prices are beginning to rise

The median sale price for a new home was $270,200, and the average price was $311,400. These numbers aren’t based on a repeat sales methodology, so you can’t project nationwide existing home prices from these figures. On balance, the jump in prices implies that more activity is happening at the high price points. That said, the report showed that the sweet spot for new home sales has been in the $200,000-to-$299,000 range.

Homebuilder earnings were strong

Homebuilders like PulteGroup (PHM) and DR Horton (DHI) will report fourth quarter and full year earnings this week. Reports noted particular strength in the West Coast, and also in the entry-level and first-time move-up sector. KB Home (KBH) and Lennar (LEN) recently announced fourth quarter numbers that showed that the increase in interest rates and home prices is keeping the first-time homebuyer on the sidelines. That said, homebuilder sentiment is at all-time highs, and the earnings reports we have seen so far from the builders don’t suggest activity is beginning to wane. If anything, the improving economy is driving more demand. The spring selling season is just around the corner.




Irish House Prices Rise for Eighth Month | Pound Ridge NY Real Estate

Irish home prices rose for the eighth successive month in November, led by increases in Dublin, according to official data released Monday, providing evidence that the country’s six-year housing slump is easing in the capital at least.

The government sees the rising prices as one more sign the country is recovering from the devastating economic crisis that erupted with the bursting of its housing bubble. The government exited its 2010 bailout this month and now relies on bond markets for funding.

Nationwide, residential prices rose 0.6% in November and were 5.6% higher than a year earlier, the Central Statistics Office said. In Dublin, residential prices increased by 1.3% in November and were 13.8% higher than a year ago.

Outside the capital, prices were flat on the month and 0.6% lower than in November 2012.

On average, home prices are 46.5% lower than at their 2007 peak, and prices won’t match those of the boom years any time soon. At best, property price gains will help damaged banks cut some of their huge losses.

The European Union plans to carry out scenario-specific bank audits next year, known as stress tests, to determine whether lenders in countries including Ireland have enough funds.





Pending Sales of U.S. Existing Homes Drop for Fifth Month | North Salem Real Estate

The number of contracts Americans signed to buy previously-owned homes unexpectedly fell in October for a fifth consecutive month amid higher borrowing costs that are denting the real-estate recovery.

The gauge of pending home sales decreased 0.6 percent after a 4.6 percent drop in September, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 1 percent gain in the index from the month before.

Higher mortgage rates and price increases driven by a tighter supply of homes for sale may be keeping some prospective buyers out of the real-estate arena. Further gains in hiring and confidence would help boost the housing-market recovery as well as the U.S. economic expansion.

“When mortgage rates went up, people got spooked and rushed into the market to seal deals,” Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, said before the report. “The numbers that we’re seeing for pending home sales are payback for the stronger numbers earlier this year.”

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey of 39 economists for pending home sales ranged from a decline of 2.5 percent to an advance of 3.5 percent.

The NAR’s report showed purchases decreased 2.2 percent from the year prior on an unadjusted basis.

The pending sales index was 102.1 on a seasonally-adjusted basis, the lowest this year. A reading of 100 corresponds to the average level of contract activity in 2001, or “historically healthy” home-buying traffic, according to the NAR.

Facing Headwinds

“We could rebound a bit from this level, but still face the headwinds of limited inventory and falling affordability conditions,” the group’s chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement. “Job creation and a slight dialing down from current stringent mortgage underwriting standards going into 2014 can help offset the headwind factors.”

Two of four regions showed a decrease from the September figures, led by a 4.1 percent slump in the West. Pending sales also declined in the South and rose in the Northeast and Midwest.

Existing-home sales are expected to reach about 5.1 million this year and be little changed in 2014, the group said. Purchases weakened in October to a 5.12 million annual rate, the fewest since June, the NAR reported last week. About 4.7 million previously-owned homes were sold in 2012.





Waste Not, Want Not: Conserve Energy by Upgrading Your Hot Water Heater | Katonah Real Estate

Right after heating and cooling, hot water is a typical home’s biggest energy  expense. The EPA reports that the average household spends $400 to $600 a year  on it. And for all that money spent, you won’t get a lot of well-used energy in  return. That old tank buried behind boxes in your basement is most likely losing  a ton: only 43 percent of a water heater’s energy goes toward heating the water  you actually use; 31 percent is lost to standby heating (keeping the water in  the tank hot). I’m talking about a clunky, more-than-a-decade-old hot water  heater, the kind many of us — 27 million households — own. Seeing as a water  heater only lasts about 10 to 15 years, we’ll have no choice but to upgrade  soon. Here’s an opportunity to start thinking about energy-efficient options  now, before that hot water runs out.

Conserve Energy First

Before we get to the new showroom models, let’s return to our mantra of  conservation. Maybe your budget won’t allow for a big piece of new hardware, or  maybe your landlord won’t pony up for the building. There’s still a lot you and  your fellow tenants can do. If you’re hardcore, shorten your showers. Or if you  don’t have the self-control, reduce your use automatically, and thus your  heater’s workload, by installing a low-flow showerhead.

Next, try turning down the temperature. This isn’t as scary as it sounds — you won’t be left with dirty dishes or suffer through washing your hair in  lukewarm water. Many hot water heaters are preset to 140 degrees Fahrenheit,  which is too hot for most domestic uses. Ever have to mix your hot water with  cold to get just the right temperature? You’re wasting the electricity that was  used to heat the hot water in the first place. You probably won’t even notice  the difference if you turn down the thermostat to 120 degrees (115 degrees may  feel just fine), and you’ll also save roughly 10 percent of the energy it takes  to heat your water. Or to look at it from a financial perspective, for every 10  degrees you lower the temperature, you’ll save 3 to 5 percent on your  water-heating costs. Don’t forget to turn your thermostat to the lowest possible  setting when you’re away on vacation. There’s no sense in heating water for  nobody to use.

Insulating your older water heater in a blanket (most newer heaters are  already well clothed) is perhaps one of the easiest do-it-yourself energy saving  actions you can perform. It’s cheap too: A home-improvement store will likely  have one on the shelf for around $25. Swaddling your pipes in conjunction with  the tank will save you roughly another 10 percent. This is easier said than  done, because of the nature of pipes winding this way and that and disappearing  into walls and crawl spaces, but at the very least you should insulate exposed  pipes—they sell pipe-sleeve insulation, the thicker the better, just for this  purpose.

About to Run Out of Hot Water?

Let’s say you’ve been conserving and insulating for a few years, but recently  your water heater started giving signs that it’s heading for the grave. Now’s  your chance (or your landlord’s chance if you can convert her) to purchase a  modern energy-efficient model. Energy Star recently gave its coveted blessing to  five different types of water heaters; some only came on the market in 2009.  There seems to be a model for everyone, in every situation. Four of the options  are described below, and solar water heaters are also an option.

High-Efficiency Gas Water Heater

First, a slight but significant shift up from the status quo. Do you or your  landlord have a gas water heater? Are you pretty much satisfied with it, in  terms of delivery of hot water and maintenance? Do you have a little extra cash  to spend but not much? Then Energy Star recommends a high-efficiency gas storage  water heater. You’ll trade a little money spent up front (recouped in about two  and a half years) for an approximately 7.5 percent increase in efficiency and a  7 percent reduction in your water-heating bills — about $30 a year or $360 over  the course of its 13 years of life. What’s more, the planet gets a break  too.

If everyone who planned on purchasing a gas water heater in 2009 opted for a  high-efficiency model, about 1 billion pounds of CO2 would be kept out of the  atmosphere. All of this results from some simple improvements in the basic water  heater design: better insulation, heat traps, and burners.

Gas Condensing Water Heater

If you have a couple teenagers in the house and/or for other reasons often  run out of hot water — and want to take advantage of newer technology — think  about a gas condensing water heater. Yes, you’ll pay more up front, but you’ll  decrease the money spent on hot water by about 30 percent, saving roughly $100  each year. That savings is compounded by regular federal tax credits (30 percent  of the cost up to $1500 in 2010) as well as potential local rebates. Energy Star  boasts that if only 5 percent of prospective gas water heater buyers purchased  one of its qualified gas condensing models, consumers would save $25 million  every year, and the effect would be equivalent to taking 17,000 cars off the  road.

Plus you get lots and lots and lots of hot water — you won’t have to worry  about running out in the morning if you’re the last person in the shower line.  New technological design helps the tank heat up almost as quickly as it’s filled  up. Like regular gas water heaters, condensing models produce waste combustion  gasses. Unlike their conventional counterparts, they don’t vent them directly  outside but capture them and use them to heat the water more before finally  releasing them.

Electric Heat Pump Water Heater

Many a homeowner or utility-paying renter has suffered through the high cost  of running an electric hot water heater. Though a good electric tank is more  efficient than a good gas tank (90 percent versus 60 percent; the remaining  percentages are what’s wasted in the process of heating the water), electricity  is much more expensive in most parts of the country and, more importantly when  considering your energy budget, is a much less efficient form of energy because  energy is lost when electricity is transmitted through the grid. So who among  the electric water-heating crew wouldn’t jump at the chance to cut his or her  bill by about 50 percent? Or to save roughly $300 a year?

Takers should consider an electric heat pump water heater. If all who were  planning on buying a new electric water heater did, the planetary savings would  be significant: Energy Star says that in 2009 buyers could have kept 19.6  billion pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere by choosing an electric heat pump  over a conventional tank — a feat equivalent to taking 1.6 million cars off the  road.

Heat pumps operate using a technology that Energy Star describes as a “refrigerator working in reverse.” While your fridge expels hot air from its  chilly interior to the outside, a heat pump takes warm air from outside the  water tank and brings it inside to heat the water — essentially moving heat  around instead of wasting more energy creating it. There are drawbacks to this  more efficient method: heat pumps need to be housed indoors at a temperature  between 40 degrees and 90 degrees (they don’t operate as well in the cold);  they’re claustrophobic (requiring about 1,000 cubic feet of air space around  them); and they’re a bit frigid themselves (they actually cool the air around  them). Energy Star recommends putting them in a space with extra heat, like a  furnace room — this seems like a good option for an apartment building. Electric  heat pump water heaters are also more expensive up front, but their payback time  is better than most — about three years — and they qualify for tax credits and  rebates at all levels.

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Real estate market humming back to life | Bedford Corners Real Estate

The commercial real estate market is sputtering back to life in the Portland metropolitan area. A number of high-profile projects that stalled during the “Great Recession” have suddenly restarted, and several other large construction projects are also just getting under way. But according to commercial real estate experts, new construction is only half the story — vacant office space in the region is rapidly filling up, foreshadowing even more construction in coming years.

Work is underway at Hassalo on Eighth Avenue, the large mixed-use project on the superblock in the Lloyd District.

“Coming out of the Great Recession, it wasn’t a pretty picture,” said Scott Weigel of CBRE, which is regarded as the world’s largest commercial real estate services firm. “There were a lot of empty office buildings. Vacancy rates were as high as 30 percent. But we’ve returned to just about normal in the last 36 months, and now it’s getting hard to find a lot of empty [office] space in many areas.”

According to Weigel, office parks that have experienced turnarounds include Kruse Way in Lake Oswego and Lincoln Center in Tigard. Before the economy collapsed, they housed many financial firms involved in the real estate business. Now they are refilling with a more diverse mix of businesses, including some from out of state.

Weigel personally brokered the deal that moved Salesforce.com into a long-vacant office tower in the Synopsys Technology Park in Hillsboro. That single deal took 115,000 square feet of office space off the market.

The biggest exception, said Weigel, is downtown Portland, which currently has about 56 floors of empty office space. Much of that occurred when numerous federal agencies moved back into the renovated Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building. But Weigel predicts the vacant downtown space will begin filling up soon. Already, he pointed out, several technology companies from San Francisco and the Silicon Valley are looking to relocate or expand in Portland.

Check out SC Real Estate of Austin, Texas for some excellent properties.


Ten of the Tiniest Apartments For Sale in New York City | Armonk Real Estate

While we all wait with baited breath for the city-sanctioned micro units to hit the market some time in 2015, there are already plenty of apartments throughout the city worth noting for their extreme smallness. We’ve looked at a number of them before, some impressive, some less so. Just for kicks, let’s take a peek at ten of the smallest apartments for sale in the city right now (based off apartments on Streeteasy that list square footage), starting with this 275-square-foot studio on Macon Street in Bed-Stuy, asking $143,850. All cash required.

This For Sale By Owner in Soho, also 275-square-feet, is asking $295,000, or just over $1,000 per square foot. Good news: it has a bathroom. Bad news: the wall separating the bathroom from the kitchen is about three feet high.

On the Upper East Side, this 300-square-footer has been on the market for almost three years and just upped its price to $750,000 ($2,500 per square foot). The shower appears to basically be a walled-off corner.


Originally listed for $199,000 in October of 2011, this 300-square-foot studio in Murray Hill is down to $145,000, less because of the size than because it comes with a rent-stabilized tenant in place.

This 300-square-foot studio in Yorkville is essentially a short hallway with a bathroom and a kitchen, but props to the brokers for the excellent and un-deceptive photography. It’s asking $279,000.

Someone paid $329,000 for this 300-square-foot pad in Lincoln Square in 2011, and decided they wanted out less than two years later. The price was chopped for the second time last month, down to $324,700.