Sunday, January 30, 2011

2011: The Year a House Again Becomes a Home

2011: The Year a House Again Becomes a Home

For almost a decade now, every time we talked about real estate we immediately discussed money. We didn’t talk about the value of a home but instead about the price of the house. We didn’t worry about a roof over our heads but instead the ceiling on our interest rate. We didn’t care as much about where we raised our family as we cared about how much we increased our family’s net worth.
That will change in 2011. The KCM Crew believes very strongly that real estate will return to what it has been for the 200+ year history of this country: a place for us and our families to live comfortably. It will also prove to be a great long term investment as it always has been.
Our parents and our grandparents didn’t buy their homes as a short term financial investment. They bought it so they had a place of their own to come home to at the end of the day; a place to raise their family; a place they could feel safe.
Sure they dreamed of a ‘mortgage-burning’ party. They realized it was a form of forced savings. They were taught that, if they paid their mortgage every month, they would wind up with a little retirement account decades later.
And, they realized that wouldn’t happen if they rented.
However, in the last decade, we somehow forgot that the financial aspect was the serendipity not the major reason to buy. We believe that 2011 will be the year that people return to the historic reasons families purchased a home. This is the year when we again remember that homeownership is a major part of the American Dream.
What about the challenges to a housing recovery? Let’s look at them.

The Economy

Most reports are showing that the economy is doing better than expected. This shopping season provided additional proof of this point. As the economy recovers, so will consumer confidence. This will be great news for housing.


There is much talk about a ‘jobless recovery’. We agree that unemployment will continue to be a challenge. However, when you talk about housing, it is not the unemployment rate that is all telling. Instead, it is the change in the rate. As unemployment skyrocketed, people started to worry about their own job. Any change creates concern. Unabated concern turns to fear. Fear causes paralysis. The spike in unemployment has plateaued. People no longer have the feeling that ‘they are next’. The fear will diminish and people will start moving on with their lives. This too will be great news for housing.

Interest Rates

It seems the bottomless pit in which rates have been falling does have a floor after all. And it seems we have found it. Those purchasers who had been waiting for the best interest rate may have already missed it.


Economists are projecting that prices will not see any appreciation in 2011. Sellers who had been waiting for 2006 to return will come to the realization that waiting any longer makes little sense. They will instead decide to get on with their lives and sell this year.
Prices probably will soften further. However, the possible savings to potential buyers will be minimized by a rise in interest rates.

Bottom Line

This is the year that normalcy returns to real estate. People will buy and sell based on the desire for a better life for themselves and their families. They will realize that is the true value of homeownership and they will be willing to pay for that value.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Otteau Valuation Group: tracking mortgage rate trends from August 2010 till January 2011

After reaching a 6-month high on December 30th (4.86%), the average commitment rate for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage remained steady throughout the month of January with commitment rates operating in a narrow range from 4.71% - 4.77%.
Mtg Rates.Jan 11 
To continue reading sign in to your MarketTRAC account.

Otteau Valuation Group: "Home Sales Begin to Stabilize Heading Into Spring"

Home Sales Begin to Stabilize Heading Into Spring
The slow pace of economic recovery has continued to take a toll on the housing market in recent months.  The most recent evidence comes from home purchase contracts in New Jersey during December which registered their 8th consecutive year-on-year decline since the deadline for qualifying for federal homebuyer tax credits expired last April 30th.  Despite the continuing slump however, the last 2 months have seen the smallest drop in purchase activity over that 8 month period with a 10% drop in November and December compared to an average 27% decline for the period from May through October.  Also noteworthy is that those recent modest declines are based upon a comparison to year ago levels when the tax credits were still in play.  These trends suggest that the combined effects of lower home prices and cheap mortgage rates have rebalanced housing affordability to the point where meaningful job creation is the only missing ingredient for market stabilization. 
Contract Sales.yr on yr.Jan 11 
To continue reading sign in to your MarketTRAC account.

Columbia High School Maplewood/South Orange NJ

When you are thinking about where to buy your homes, the school system is definitely an item you need to consider.  Ironically, Maplewood and South Orange share Columbia High School, which is all of 3 miles away from Millburn's High School, rated #1 in the State, by NJ Monthly Magazine for the third straight year.  


However, a High School isn't solely about test scores, its about the opportunities it affords it students.  


I love the following, written by a Maplewood resident about Columbia High School:  "If you consider a HS that has one of the largest offerings of AP classes in the state, along with most students getting 4's and 5's in the AP tests, amazing arts, including two jazz ensembles, orchestras, wind ensemble, two choruses, musical, drama, film, tv production, a Grammy Award (yes, that Grammy organization), nationally award winning newspaper, and on and on, well, you...are looking at Columbia High School in Maplewood, and my husband and I (with 4 ivy degrees between us, so we think we can assess the quality of the education there) have been delighted with it. Our kids and their friends are in TTLA/ivy colleges/universities."


Enough Said!

6 Reasons You Should Google Your Address

6 Reasons You Should Google Your Address (or Search it on Trulia!)

It seems almost negligent these days to go meet with a prospective employer, set your kid up on a sleep-over or even add an old friend on Facebook without first running the company's name, your kid's pal's parents or your old college chum through Google -- just to see. But it's nowhere near as common (yet) to Google or otherwise do an internet search for your home's address.

There are at least six compelling reasons it makes sense to do so, though -- especially if it's an address you're thinking of renting, buying or selling. Smart homeowners would do well to search for their addresses, too, and here's why:

#1. To See If Megan's Law Registrants Live Nearby
Safety first, folks. Megan's law requires law-enforcement authorities to make information available to the public regarding registered sex offenders in their neighborhoods. Nearly every state that has a Megan's law-type sex offender registry has an online version that serves up the names, addresses, sex-offense history, and even photos in many cases, of convicted sex offenders who are registered as living at a certain address. Googling your address and "Megan's law" -- or even your city or zip code and "Megan's law" -- will turn up a quick list of nearby registrants. Alarmism is not a good look -- ever, but many homebuyers with young children highly value this information, especially while they are still in their contingency or objection period, before their home purchase is finalized.
#2. To Find Crime Reports and Data for Your Home and Environs

Cities, counties and state law enforcement agencies all post crime data online, but a Google search for your address or city and "crime reports" is most likely to turn up your local police or sheriff's office's crime map. Or, you can check out the crime stats around a specific property on Trulia’s Map & Nearby tab on the detailed page for your home's address. In my town, for example, you can see a crime map of recent incident reports for the whole city, by zip code, by neighborhood or by address. You can zoom in and out, and the map is in color and letter-coded with little icons representing different types of crimes: red is for violent, blue is for drug crimes, green is for property crimes; and the most common specific offenses reported get their own two-letter code. Whether you own or rent your home, if you hear a siren and wonder what happened, Google might be a good place to look.

This is also a good strategy for home buyers to leverage. In fact, when new homeowners Robert Quigley and Jennifer Friberg started developing headaches and other strange physical symptoms after moving into their first home, a neighbor dropped the informational bomb that the home's previous resident had been cooking methamphetamine in the home. In a panicky effort to suss out the truth, they Googled their address and - yikes! - found it listed on the Drug Enforcement Administration's database of meth labs! If you're considering buying a home, or moving to a neighborhood with which you are not completely familiar, doing a quick address search on Trulia or Google holds the potential to reveal some disturbing or comforting crime activity information.

#3. To Detect Scammers Trying to Rent or Sell Your House. In one of those if-only-they-would-use-their-powers-for-good-not-evil scenarios, Internet scammers have taken to ripping off home information and putting together fake listings offering other people's homes for rent or, often, lease-to-own. They often list the home on extremely cheap and easy terms, then ask the would-be-buyer or tenant to please wire or send the deposit money overseas, where the faux-seller can get it while they're traveling in -- you guessed it -- Nigeria. (And, BTW, I have friends from Nigeria who even distrust emails they get purporting to be from Nigeria!)

These scams come to light, most often, only after the homeowner or current resident notices all the bargain-hunting wanna-be tenants start peering in the windows and tramping through the backyard, checking the place out. If you are getting an inordinate amount of street or foot traffic to your home, or someone knocks on the door asking if they can see the place, you may want to Google your address. If you find a fraudulent listing, contact us, identify yourself as the home's rightful resident and ask us to take the scam posting down - stat!

# 4. To See What Your Neighbor's Place Sold for and Possibly Lower Your Property Taxes.   In real estate, the value of your home is largely driven by what similar, nearby homes have recently sold for ("comparable sales," or "comps" for short). That gives every homeowner a valid reason for wanting to know what the neighbor's place sold for (on top of your purely voyeuristic need to know). If you search your address, Trulia will first surface some sort of image of your home, a map, the basic property details from the public records (see No. 5, below), and recent sales data for your own home before listing out the comps -- homes with similar numbers of bedrooms, bathrooms and square feet as yours, near yours, and what they recently sold for. Googling your address, in this instance, does double duty -- letting you satisfy your cat-killing curiosity to know what your new neighbor paid for their place, and track the value of your own home at the same time!

And as an added bonus, if you see a pattern of homes selling for lower than your home's assessed value, you can use those comps to petition your County to lower your own property taxes!

Three birds, one stone - you get the picture.

#5. To See Your Home's Property Records. It's a story as old as homes -- well, at least as old as websites that display home records and listings. Your home's records online are populated from the public records about your home, which are either so old they don't include the upgrades and additions that have been done over time, or they're just flat out wrong for a number of reasons. My last home, while large, certainly did not have the 25 bedrooms one site listed it as having. On the other hand, it also was not a boarding house, which is what that site listed as the property's County-designated use. If you Google your address, or search for it on Trulia, and find that your home's description is riddled with errors, contact us or your County public record agency to correct them; this is particularly important if you're planning to sell your home anytime soon.

#6. To See Your Home's Google Street Views. When you're selling your home, it's especially critical to see everything that prospective home buyers will see. That means checking out how your home's listing looks on all the online real estate sites (yes, even on Trulia), checking out the flier - even stopping by to check out any staging your broker or agent did if you've already moved out. One thing even most savvy sellers don't check out is the way Google Maps Street Views depicts your home. If you're unfamiliar, Google actually hitches up cameras to cars and sends them up and down public streets worldwide, so that Google Maps users can go from an overhead view of a street via satellite to seeing panoramic pics from the street from curb level with one click.

Trust me, home buyers know this, and do this. They often use Street Views as a shortcut for seeing whether a home's photos are just fuzzy, or whether it's next door to the local hoarder's house. Here's the problem: Sometimes, the street views can be outdated. I did a major remodel on my home a few years ago, and the photo was clearly taken mid-construction: with dumpster in front, unpainted siding and all. If you're about to sell your home, and you notice that the street view is outdated, mention it to your agent, and ask them to make a note of that fact in the listing information.

The Fed’s Statement And What It Means For Mortgage Rates (January 26, 2011)

The Fed’s Statement And What It Means For Mortgage Rates (January 26, 2011)

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishToday, the Federal Open Market Committee voted 10-to-0 to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

Economic Growth Continuing

In its press release, the FOMC noted that since December's meeting, economic growth is ongoing, but at a pace deemed "insufficient" to make a material impact on the jobs market.
In addition, the Fed said household spending "picked up" late last year, although it continues to be held back by joblessness, tight credit and lower housing wealth.
This is similar to the language used in the FOMC's November and December 2010 statements.
Also like its last two statements, the Fed used this month's press release to re-affirm its plan to keep the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent "for an extended period", and to keep its $600 billion bond market support package in place.

Fed Says: We Need More Inflation + More Jobs

And finally, of particular interest to home buyers and mortgage rate shoppers, for the second straight month, the Federal Open Market Committee's statement contained an entire paragraph detailing the Federal Reserve's dual mandate of managing inflation levels, while fostering maximum employment.
The Fed acknowledges progress toward this goal, but calls that progress "disappointingly slow". Inflation is too low right now, and joblessness too high. Over time, the Fed expects both measurements to improve.
Mortgage market reaction to the FOMC has been positive since the statement's release. Mortgage rates are unchanged right now, but poised to improve.
The FOMC's next scheduled meeting is a 1-day event, March 15, 2011.

Very Last Chance To Refinance?

Since the Fed's last meeting in December, mortgage rates are up 0.875% and will likely rise in the months ahead. Regardless of how long you've owned your home, you may be eligible for a refinance.
Talk to your loan officer about a rate quote, or just send me an email with some bullet points on your situation. I'll get your pricing right away.

One of the many reasons I Love Maplewood So Much!

Last night, while Maplewood's 6,000 plus students were wishing for a snow day and the younger one's were putting on their PJ's inside/out and backwards to convince the snow day gods to pull the trigger, a group of dads ventured out to the Paddle Tennis Courts at the corner of Oakland and Valley, across from Memorial Park, to partake in some fun in the sun, i mean snow, platform tennis.  This sport combines the court like style and appearance of traditional Tennis, albeit in a reduced size, with the "off the wall" play from sports like Racquetball.  This sport is played all year round and uses blowers underneath to eliminate ice and snow, a little extra shoveling is required from time to time; and, last night was one of those times.  Maplewood has two teams that participate in the New Jersey State League where official play is usually held on Saturday AM.  Wednesday and Thursday the teams each come out and play round robin style for fun and practice.  While I wish i would have been able to join the boys last night, I had a prior work obligation.
So, next time you are thinking of what you can do on a snowy evening, why not head over to the paddle courts.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Today's Average Mortgage Rates-for excellent credit scores

30 Yr FRM
15 Yr FRM
FHA 30 Year
Jumbo 30 Year
5/1 Yr ARM

Solar Panels in Maplewood

There's a TON of Pole Glancing Going on on Oakland

Solar panels suddenly popped up on utility poles yesterday. Why?
A residential stretch of street, right across from Maplecrest Park underwent a bit of a makeover yesterday morning. Oakland Street residents awoke to a somewhat electrifying sight: solar panels adorning the utility poles running from Courter Avenue through the length of street bordering the park.
"I've never noticed them before," remarked Linda, who lives on Elmwood. Her walking companion, Sarah, shook her head, too, adding, "No, I haven't seen them until today, either." (Linda's dog, Tonks, had no comment.)
When a snow-shoveling resident also said she had no idea when or why the panels popped up, I resolved to solve this solar mystery. After a phone call to a friend who lives on the block confirmed that residents were in the dark about the installation, I set out for more illumination.
I called to get an official answer from the town; my questions prompted a lot of head scratching and call forwarding. Finally, I wound up on the line with the office of Maplewood's Town Engineer, Tom Malavasi, and while he didn't have a ready answer either, Mr. Malavasi said he'd head over personally to check it out and get back to me.
True to his word he called back to say that this was part of PSE&G's 'Solar 4 All' initiative and directed me to the company's site. Apparently, the panels are part of PSEG's 'pole-attached solar project', which is part of their goal to "own and operate 80 megawatts of solar power, to be installed by the end of 2013"....
Need further enlightening? As per PSE&G's website:
"In July 2009, PSE&G received regulatory approval to install small solar energy units on 200,000 utility poles and street lights in the towns we service in the next two years. The solar power will flow to the electric grid, which serves all customers.
PSE&G’s investment is the largest pole-attached solar installation in the world. Thanks to this and other programs, New Jersey has more installed solar capacity than any state except California."
Okay, but interestingly enough in the topic's  'Frequently Asked Questions' PSEG also states that they are "informing municipal officials when we are working in their towns." (Um, methinks they need to exert a little more energy on THAT effort...)
And just what are residents who don't take a shine to the aesthetics of the new panels to do? Judging from the below information from PSE&G's site, just look on the bright side, 'cause the panels are staying put:

"Will PSE&G move a solar unit if residents don’t like where it is installed?

PSE&G understands that residents may have concerns about the placement of the solar energy units in their neighborhoods. Because of many factors that must be considered, we regret that we are not able to move a particular unit to another location. Clean, renewable solar energy benefits everyone by reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
Well, then! Not to seem dim, but since PSE&G states 'ownership' of the panels so frequently on their site, I should assume/hope that the town we pay taxes to is receiving some sort of compensation for panels installed on our streets that flow into that grid that we, as PSE&G customers, are already paying (a premium) for? Right?
What do you think about solar panels popping up on your street?! Let us know!