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Tame the BAMBOO Trick 0 Comments Posted

Here's an attractive way to prevent invasive plants such as dwarf bamboo from overrunning your garden: Plant them in terra-cotta chimney flue tiles. Use a tile with a diameter that is at least 4 inches wider than the plant's root ball. Sink the tile into the soil so that the lip sticks up 1 inch; plant inside the tile.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Easy Organizing Tips – Martha Stewart

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, June 17, 2011  9:28:51 AM
TIPS to declutter the Shed 0 Comments Posted

Spring-cleaning means not only giving everything a good wipe-down but decluttering your space to welcome the warmer seasons ahead. Follow these tips and you'll breathe a sigh of spring relief.

For storing everyday garden and home tools, wood lattice is even handier than a basic trellis. Choose a heavy-duty variety, sold in sheets at hardware stores and lumberyards, and screw it onto a door using spacers. Then hang implements from S hooks, which fit snugly in the diamond framework. For items that can't be hung, attach broom clamps or suspend binder clips from hook.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Easy Organizing Tips – Martha Stewart

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, June 17, 2011  9:27:52 AM
Awesome Agent Sales Results for May 2011 0 Comments Posted

Lynn’s  TEAM ADVANTAGE  ranked # 5, Alissa Spears  # 10,  Jim Wills # 19 and The “M” TEAM MJ Olsen & Mack Sikorski ranked # 27 of 98 REALTORS reporting Closed Sales for the Rockport Area Association of REALTORS through May 31, 2011.
Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc. ranked # 6 out of 28 offices reporting Closed Transactions through May  31, 2011.

Special THANKS to Debbie Adams, Customer Service Manager and Jeffrey Johnson Media Manager for all your HELP!

Ready to BUY or SELL in Aransas County? Call Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker  of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 or locally 361.729.8263.

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, June 15, 2011  10:20:40 AM
Coordinating Mismatched Towels~Decorating on a budget 0 Comments Posted

Instead of spending money on new towels, easily unify an assortment of solid-colored towels by sewing on washable, decorative ribbon that complements all the hues.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Our Top Money-Saving Tips -- Martha Stewart

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, June 14, 2011  9:03:08 AM
Kitchen Towel Holders Decorating on a budget 0 Comments Posted

Beautify a corner of your kitchen by using vintage glass doorknobs (from flea markets and garage sales) as dish-towel hangers.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Our Top Money-Saving Tips -- Martha Stewart

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, June 14, 2011  9:02:10 AM
Ways to get involved with your Community 0 Comments Posted

With homeownership comes responsibility. As soon as you sign on the dotted line, repairs and maintenance are yours to attend to. How well you care for your home affects not only the appearance of your property, but also affects property values up and down your street.

It goes further than this, however. Homeownership means you are a permanent part of a community. You are the lifeblood of how your neighborhood and city function. A community relies on its members to help those in need and to make sure things get done.

There are hundreds of ways that you can volunteer your time in your own community. Here are few ideas to get you started.

  1. American Red Cross: Volunteers constitute 96 percent of their total work force to carry on their humanitarian work. If you like to help people you have come to the right place. Your local Red Cross unit could have just the opportunity – from training to be and ready to respond to disasters to supporting a blood drive from delivering messages to US service personnel to connecting families displaced by disasters or conflict. Visit redcross.org/en/volunteer.

  2. Goodwill/Salvation Army. From disasters to hard times, there are many families with less than they need. By donating your extra items to these local establishments, you are helping those less fortunate.


  3. Big Brothers/Big Sisters: Mentoring one-to-one has shown amazing benefits for children. Not every child has someone to be their role model. What if every child fulfilled his or her potential? Don't have the time needed for this type of commitment? Consider making a donation at bbbs.org.

  4. Relay for Life and local "walks": Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life raises funds to help find a cure for cancer. You can visit relayforlife.org for more information. Additionally, your community may have sponsored walks for local causes. So, get moving and make a difference!

  5. MADD: Mothers against drunk driving is a great cause that helps raise awareness about the dangers and risks of drunk driving. One in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lifetime. According to the organization, "Volunteers are the heart and soul of MADD. It is their compassion and determination that drives the organization and it is their tireless efforts that have accomplished so much. Join these ordinary citizens who have become extraordinary activists in saving lives."

  6. School fundraisers. Students need their community's help funding everything from sports leagues, drama clubs, and trips, to new equipment for the school. Do your part by taking advantage of bake drives, candy sales, and magazines drives. Or make a donation to their worthy cause.

  7. Stay current on taxes and registration: Your community benefits from state and local tax dollars. By staying current on property taxes and vehicle registration, you are doing your part to help fund community programs, road maintenance, and schools.

  8. Be Neighborly. Neighborhood watch meetings are a great way to show your support of your area and to do your part in keeping your homes safe.

  9. Local sporting events. Many high schools and local youth sports leagues rely heavily on ticket and concession sales to fund their teams and trips. Support your local team and have a night out on the town!

  10. HOA board: Your HOA may need volunteers to help balance finances, organize events, and help enforce HOA rules. As a board member you can help your neighborhood run smoothly and fairly.

  11. Run for city office: Are you looking to make a change on a larger scale? By taking part in city politics you can help influence change. If you don't hold an elected position, you can still attend meetings and vote on important matters.

These are just a few of the ways that you can get involved in your community. Pick one and inspire those around to get involved as well!

Published: June 10, 2011, RealtyTimes, Carla Hill

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, June 14, 2011  9:01:13 AM
Price for 210 Acre Lake Tahoe Estate slashed to $75 Million 0 Comments Posted
In the rarefied air of ultra-high-end real estate, a 25 percent price reduction can translate into a breathtaking sum: $25 million.

That's how much Tommy Hilfiger Corp. co-founder Joel Horowitz has decided to knock off the asking price for Tranquility, an eight-building, 210-acre estate overlooking Lake Tahoe that he and his wife Ann built in the late 1990s.

The nine-bedroom property -- which sits on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe and completely encircles a smaller lake -- went on the market for $100 million in 2006, even as the stage was being set for the U.S. housing crash and global recession.

"We've had some great showings," said Shari Chase, president and CEO of the brokerage representing the Horowitzes, Chase International.

Inman News, published 6/13/11, Matt Carter-article amended
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, June 14, 2011  9:00:29 AM
Don'[t ya want to be a landlord 0 Comments Posted
Everybody wants to be an entrepreneur, but no one wants to be a landlord. What’s up with that? As if tenants are some kind of outcasts who bring a chill to your spine with just the sound of their voice. “I don’t want to hear them complain when the toilet backs up!” “Being a landlord is a hassle!”

It’s really silly if you think about it.

Consider this: A fitness nut who has dreamt of being an entrepreneur finally takes the plunge and starts a personal training business on a part-time basis. But there’s a problem. In his words, “I hate people who are out of shape. They make me sick!”

Or a gardener who opens her own landscaping company and sees her customer sitting on a chair in the back yard taking a nap and thinks, “How lazy can you be!”

Or a blogger who gets a ton of comments and thinks, “I don’t have time to respond to all these people. What a hassle!”

It’s ridiculous, right? These are the customers. You are supposed to hug your customers. This is what we have all been taught.

So why are tenants not given the same reverence? If you own a simple investment property, your tenant isn’t just your customer—he might be your only customer. And when he calls because the dryer broke, or the roof leaked, or even the dreaded toilet backed up, shouldn’t any entrepreneur worth their salt jump at the chance to make it right?

Success in real estate investing, and in life in general, is all about perspective. If your approach to real estate is to make quick money with no risk and no landlord hassles, you have it all wrong. The correct perspective is to see this as a small business.

A small business, by definition, is not a short-term endeavor. By definition, it requires some of your time and effort if you expect to make money. By definition, if you get a customer, consider yourself lucky and treat them accordingly.

This is important because there are millions of people out there who believe in real estate as the best long-term investment, but too many people won’t ever do anything about it. At OwnAmerica, we did an informal survey to find out why. The top three answers were as follows:

1. I don’t know how. (Which is why OwnAmerica was formed).

2. I don’t have any money.

3. I don’t want to be a landlord.

I think it’s time for a little perspective. Making a single investment that can, by itself, secure a college education or comfortable retirement is worth a little hassle. Don’t you think?

Greg Rand is CEO of OwnAmerica.com and former managing partner of Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty. For more information, please visit www.ownamerica.com.

RISMedia published 4/19/11, Greg Rand-title amended
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, June 14, 2011  8:59:04 AM
3 Major Loan Servicers denied Incentives 0 Comments Posted

The Treasury Department is withholding financial incentives from three of the 10 major mortgage servicers participating in the Obama administration's Making Home Affordable loan modification program, the department announced today in its latest report.

For the first time, the administration's monthly "housing scorecard" contained compliance assessments of the 10 largest servicers in the program. Of the 10, four were deemed to need "substantial improvement" in several metrics in the first quarter: Bank of America, NA; J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.; Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC; and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

The Treasury Department will withhold incentive payments from all but Ocwen Loan Servicing, which acquired a large servicing portfolio during the quarter that negatively affected its compliance results.

Incentive payments include payments for every successful permanent loan modification instituted under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and for every completed short sale or deed-in-lieu under the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative Program (HAFA), the report said.

In April, more than 29,000 homeowners received a trial HAMP modification and nearly 29,000 additional homeowners received a permanent modification, bringing the total number of permanent modifications under the program to nearly 700,000. Since June 2010, 70 percent of the trial modifications started have been made permanent, the report said.

"While we continue to get tens of thousands of new homeowners into mortgage modifications each month, we need servicers to step up their performance to meet the needs of those still struggling," said Tim Massad, acting Treasury assistant secretary for financial stability, in a statement.

"These assessments set a new benchmark by providing an unprecedented level of disclosure around servicer performance and will serve to keep the pressure on servicers to more effectively assist struggling families."

Compliance testing includes three categories: identifying and contacting homeowners; homeowner evaluation and assistance; and program management, reporting and governance. If the three affected servicers fail to improve in subsequent quarters, financial incentives may be permanently withheld, the report said.

Six of the 10 servicers were deemed to need "moderate improvement," according to first-quarter results: American Home Mortgage Servicing Inc.; CitiMortgage Inc.; GMAC Mortgage LLC; Litton Loan Servicing LP; OneWest Bank; and Select Portfolio Servicing. None were deemed to need only "minor improvement." The Treasury Department will not withhold financial incentives from those six servicers at this time, but may in the future, the report said.

Inman News published, 6/13/11
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, June 14, 2011  8:58:06 AM
Making a Household Inventory can save time and money 0 Comments Posted

Did you know that the tax code allows you to claim tax deductions for household damage caused by thefts, vandalism, fires, floods, hurricanes and others kinds of casualties? But the law imposes several restrictions.

Relief is available only for uninsured losses. They must be reduced by any settlements you receive, or expect to receive, from your home owner's or renter's insurance. Nor do you get any write-off for the first $100 of each theft or casualty loss.

The major limitation is that total losses generally are allowable only to the extent they exceed ten percent of adjusted gross income, the amount listed on the last line of the first page of the 1040 form.

There are other problems for people with hefty deductions that surpass the ten-percent threshold. IRS sleuths learned long ago that most of them are unable to substantiate their losses because they neglect to keep adequate records. They have to rely on what, at best, are estimates. This is assuming they are even able to recall, for instance, all those valuable and not-so-valuable belongings stored in their closets. So the ritual response of the feds is to throw out or trim unsupported estimates, a strict approach that has been sustained by the courts in countless decisions. Take, for example, a case in which an unsympathetic United States Tax Court emphasized that it “bears heavily” against taxpayers who base their estimates mostly on recollections, not records.

Nevertheless, an understanding IRS wants to ease the burden for people who fall victim to thefts, casualties, or disasters. The agency offers a free guide, Publication 2194, Disaster Losses Kit For Individuals, available at irs.gov . Or you can call a toll-free number, 800-TAX-FORM (829-3676). (As long as you're making the call, also get Publication 910, Guide to Free Tax Services. It supplies a complete list of IRS booklets, summarizes what they cover, identifies the many materials and services available, and explains how, when, and where to get them. To order current and prior year publications or forms, use the toll-free number.

Publication 2194 includes a handy workbook with schedules for listing, among other things, clothing, jewelry and a residence's contents on a room-by-room basis. Schedules for rooms and other areas have separate worksheets for the entrance hall, living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, garage, and other sections. Each worksheet lists belongings generally found in a specific area.

As an example, the entrance-hall worksheet lists chairs, clocks, draperies, lamps, mirrors, pictures, rugs, tables, umbrella stands and wall fixtures, with plenty of space to enter additional items. Alongside each property item are seven columns in which to record the following details: the number of items; date acquired; cost; value before the loss; value after the loss; decrease in value; and amount deductible as a loss.

You may never need to calculate deductions for casualty or theft losses, but Publication 2194's workbook will help you inventory household goods and personal property. That list can prove indispensable when, for instance, you want to reconsider the adequacy of your insurance coverage, file insurance claims, plan to move—or even create a household inventory for heirs.

To be sure, it's a disheartening project to list all your possessions, their cost and other information. Still, creating a list in advance is incomparably easier than trying to remember all those details after property is stolen or destroyed. Whether the inventory is a first time task or an update, it's prudent to keep a copy outside your home in a safe deposit box or some other secure location.

Published: June 13, 2011, RealtyTimes, Julian Block

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, June 14, 2011  8:57:07 AM
Real Estate Outlook the American Dream 0 Comments Posted

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), owning your home still remains "essential to the American Dream." A recent survey backed by the NAHB found that Americans "see beyond the immediate housing market to the enduring value of homeownership." NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen reports that 75 percent of those polled said owning a home is worth the market fluctuations. Plus, a healthy 95 percent of homeowners say they are happy with their decision to own.

Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners says, "People believe overwhelmingly that owning a home is an anchor to the American Dream. It's an anchor to your retirement, and it's an anchor to your personal economic well-being." She noted that owning a home is more than just a commodity, it's a core value.

Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, had more somber news to report last week at the International Monetary Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Despite historically affordable home values, many buyers are unable to access financing due to tightened lending standards. Many feel reluctant to enter the market at all due to the uncertainty of the job market. Bernanke reports that nearly all segments of the construction industry remain "troubled."

Bernanke reports, "The housing sector typically plays an important role in economic recoveries; the depressed state of housing in the United States is a big reason that the current recovery is less vigorous than we would like."

Overall, economic growth in the U.S. is much slower than expected. Although there have been recent setbacks in the number of jobs added to the market, there has been marked progress from the low of the recession.

"The U.S. economy is recovering from both the worst financial crisis and the most severe housing bust since the Great Depression, and it faces additional headwinds ranging from the effects of the Japanese disaster to global pressures in commodity markets," Bernanke says. "In this context, monetary policy cannot be a panacea. Still, the Federal Reserve's actions in recent years have doubtless helped stabilize the financial system, ease credit and financial conditions, guard against deflation, and promote economic recovery. All of this has been accomplished ... at no net cost to the federal budget or to the U.S. taxpayer."

According to John Cassidy, a contributor to Fortune magazine, there are five key bright spots to the market, followed by their negative counterpart. First, corporate profits are surging, but no one is hiring. Second, homes are affordable even though few people are buying. Third, the stock market continues to rally, but few feel richer. Fourth, household wealth is up, while finances are fragile. And finally, manufacturing has recovered, but this may not last.

It's a mixed bag across all economic sectors. Housing is not the only market to be struggling to recover. Small improvements are being made across many areas, and hopefully this trend with spread to harder hit areas of the nation.

Published: June 13, 2011, REALTYTIMES, Carla Hill

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, June 14, 2011  8:56:26 AM
Mortgage Rates Move Lower Following Weak Job News 0 Comments Posted
Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC) recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), which showed weaker than expected job growth in May pushing both fixed and adjustable-rate mortgages to new lows for the year. The 30-year fixed averaged 4.49 percent and the 15-year averaged 3.68 percent, its lowest since November, 2010.

News Facts

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.49 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending June 9, 2011, down from last week when it averaged 4.55 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.72 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.68 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.74 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.17 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.28 percent this week, with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.41 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.92 percent.

• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.95 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.13 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.91 percent.

Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following links for Regional and National Mortgage Rate Details and Definitions.


Attributed to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac.

• “Long-term Treasury yields moved lower following a weak jobs report and mortgage rates followed suit. The economy added 54,000 jobs in May, the fewest in eight months, and factories cut payrolls for the first time in seven months. As a result, the unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent, representing the highest rate since December.”

• “The housing market continues to be fragile across the nation as well. In its latest regional economic review released June 8th, the Federal Reserve Board indicated that residential sales and home prices showed continued weakness in most Districts.”

Freddie Mac was established by Congress in 1970 to provide liquidity, stability and affordability to the nation’s residential mortgage markets. Freddie Mac supports communities across the nation by providing mortgage capital to lenders. Over the years, Freddie Mac has made home possible for one in six homebuyers and more than five million renters.

For more information please visit http://www.freddiemac.com.

RISMedia, published 6/13/11

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, June 14, 2011  8:55:10 AM
Negative Equity Ducks a Bullet 0 Comments Posted
Despite double dipping to their lowest levels since 2009, housing prices in the first quarter failed to drive up the percentage of homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages. In fact, modest reductions in the number of homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth in three of the states hit hardest by foreclosures helped to slightly improve the national negative equity picture in the first quarter, according to data released by CoreLogic.

Some 10.9 million, or 22.7 percent, of all residential properties with a mortgage were in negative equity at the end of the first quarter of 2011, down slightly from 11.1 million, or 23.1 percent, in the fourth quarter.

An additional 2.4 million borrowers had less than five percent equity, referred to as near-negative equity, in the first quarter. Together, negative equity and near-negative equity mortgages accounted for 27.7 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage nationwide. In the fourth quarter, these two categories stood at 27.9 percent.

Nevada had the highest negative equity percentage with 63 percent of all mortgaged properties underwater, followed by Arizona (50 percent), Florida (46 percent), Michigan (36 percent) and California (31 percent). The negative equity share in the top 5 states was 39 percent, down from 40 percent in the fourth quarter. Excluding the top 5 states, the negative equity share was 16 percent in the current and previous quarter.

These hardest hit states showed an improvement during the quarter which contributed to the slight decline in the national negative equity. Nevada’s negative equity percentage fell 2.7 percent, Arizona’s fell 1.3 percent and Florida declined 1.3 percent. The majority of states either remained unchanged or had minor increases.

Las Vegas led the nation with a 66 percent negative equity share, followed by Stockton (56percent), Phoenix (55 percent), Modesto (55 percent) and Reno (54 percent). Outside metropolitan areas in the top 5 negative equity states, the metropolitan markets with the highest negative equity shares include Greeley, CO (38 percent), Boise (36 percent), and Atlanta (35 percent).

“Many borrowers in negative equity are still able and willing to make their mortgage payments. Those in negative equity and impacted by an income shock of some kind, such as a job loss, divorce, or death, are much more likely to be at risk of foreclosure or a short sale. The current economic indicators point to slow yet positive economic growth, which will slowly reduce the risk of borrowers experiencing income shocks,” says Mark Fleming, chief economist with CoreLogic. “Yet the existence of negative equity for the foreseeable future will weigh on the housing market recovery by holding back sale and refinance activity.”

For more information please visit www.realestateeconomywatch.com.

RISMedia, Steve Cook, published 6/13/11
View Comments | Add Comment Monday, June 13, 2011  1:49:50 PM
Wallpapered Door Panels 0 Comments Posted

Mimic the look of expensive tapestry on door panels with a much more budget-friendly material -- wallpaper.


View Comments | Add Comment Friday, June 10, 2011  10:55:00 AM
Kitchen cuppards-Decorating on a Budget 0 Comments Posted
Inexpensive mass produced cabinets take on custom character with a few easy additions.

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, June 10, 2011  10:54:26 AM
Clever Box Spring Cover 0 Comments Posted

It's true: Adding flair and personality to your surroundings doesn't have to break the bank. Here are 21 ways to beautify your home on a budget.

Find dust ruffles a bit fussy -- and costly? Dress up your bed by slipping a fitted sheet over the box spring for a streamlined look. Use a sheet that matches those on the bed, or set off a coverlet or duvet by choosing one in a matching pattern or contrasting hue.


View Comments | Add Comment Friday, June 10, 2011  10:53:46 AM
Fix a sagging ceiling 0 Comments Posted

Q: We have a large living room that needs all the ceiling drywall replaced because it is sagging. We believe it is sagging because there was not an adequate number of drywall screws put in, plus there was insufficient insulation with no vapor barrier installed when the house was first built. About five years ago, additional insulation was put in correctly, with the Kraft paper touching the top of the drywall plus more insulation on top.

Our question is: When this new drywall is installed, what is the best way to remove the old drywall, without having all the insulation fall into our living space? --

A: Since you have batt insulation between the joists with additional blown-in material on top, removing the old drywall without creating a horrendous mess is going to be pretty difficult. Once the supporting drywall is removed, the weight of the blown material is going to cause the batts to sag into the room. Even if it doesn't come crashing down into the room, as you install the new drywall, you'll have a very tough time pushing all that material back up into the attic. The result could sags and irregularities in the new drywall.

You have a couple of options. Working in small sections, you can rake the blown-in material out of the way, remove the batts in that section, remove and replace the drywall, then reinstall the batts, rake the blown-in material back into place, and proceed to the next section. This would obviously be a pretty tedious operation.

A better suggestion is to just leave the old drywall in place, and install a new layer over it. You can work your way around the room and re-screw the old drywall to stabilize it, then install new 5/8-inch material with longer screws that will penetrate through both layers.

If the ceiling is currently too uneven to get a smooth finish by installing directly over it, then you might want to install wood furring strips over the old drywall, then install the new drywall directly to the furring. Install the wood furring perpendicular to the way the joists run, and use shims as necessary to get the furring even.

With either method, since the old drywall is already taped to the walls in the corner, there would be no need to tape the new drywall to the walls. Instead, cover the wall/ceiling joint with crown molding, which will enhance the look of the room and save you the time and labor needed to tape the corner joints.

By Paul Bianchina
Inman News™, published 6/7/11

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, June 08, 2011  7:50:56 AM
TIPS & IDEAS to Transform a Room-Look at these Rockport Texas Homes 0 Comments Posted
Updating a living room or family room doesn’t have to mean giving it a complete makeover. A few simple changes can transform a tired room into a fresh space in no time.

Give your windows better treatment
• Replace heavy draperies, which can look outdated, with a more contemporary alternative. Faux wood, honeycomb blinds, roman or vertical shades—there are a lot of options to dress up your windows. Many online companies will send you samples so you can see how the different options will look in your particular space.

• Lighten things up with sheers. The soft folds of billowy sheers allow more light to come into the room, but still offer some privacy. Sheers in lighter colors also make the room appear larger and serve as a color-coordinated highlight at the same time.

Use mirrors to add visual interest
• Instead of the hanging a large mirror in a traditional space, such as above a couch or fireplace, modernize by hanging several smaller mirrors. Create a grouping of mirrors with frames that have the same color, but different sizes, shapes and textures.

• Hang a large mirror between two windows to give the illusion of having more windows in the room.

Replace an outdated furniture item

• Update your coffee table or entertainment center. These larger pieces are often the focal point of the room, so changing them out can put the entire room in a whole new light.

• Look for items that are both functional and easy to assemble. For example, Z-Line Designs furniture includes an instructional DVD with each item, so you can easily assemble pieces that are traditionally complicated to put together. Their ready-to-assemble mounts and stands for flat panel TVs can update any room in a flash. For more information, visit www.z-linedesigns.com.

Freshen up accessories
• There’s no need to re-upholster a sofa or its matching chairs. Swap the current accent pillows out for some new ones. Try a new, complementary color or add a pattern or fun texture to a solid background.

• Switch out your centerpieces. Replace a silk flower arrangement for a tray with pillar candles on it. Update the framed photos with new pictures and new frames. Look around the house for a few interesting pieces that can be put to new use—what can you do with a stack of interesting books or a grouping of pretty bowls?

Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to VIEW some of the most updated & staged homes for sale in Aransas County. Especially:

106 Ling featuring 2 bedrooms upstairs +

guest area downstairs. POOL, oversized 2-

car garage, luscious landscaping & never

ending bay breezes & VIEWS $189,000

130 Cedar Ridge overlooking the fairway AND

lake in the heart of the Rockport Country

Club. 3 bedrooms, formal dining, study,

island kitchen + custom amenities GALORE


Source:  RISMedia, published 03/23/11 article

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, June 08, 2011  7:49:56 AM
ReTHINK the way you cut your grass 0 Comments Posted
Thomas Christopher is a lawn and garden expert calling for a radical revamp of how we approach yard care. “Lawns. I keep struggling with them,” says Christopher, editor of the just-published The New American Landscape: Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening (Timber Press, $34.95). “I try to persuade people to do it in an easier, more environmental way, but people are stuck back in the Eisenhower years.

“It’s got to stop,” he adds. “People have to get a grip and break the habit.”

Here are some ways to break turf’s hold on your life, resulting in a greener and “greener” lawn that takes far less time to maintain.

Make sure the mower blade is very sharp. “A dull blade leaves grass looking ragged and encourages disease or lawn problems,” Christopher says.

Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc, Broker of Rockport/Fulton, TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to view tri-level 474 Augusta Dr in the Rockport Country Club boasting luscious landscaping and custom amenities GALORE. 3900+ sq. feet of extraordinary features NOW ONLY $569,724

Set the mower level higher. “Most people set their lawn mowers way too short,” he says, noting too close a cut damages the grass, encourages weed growth and calls for too-frequent mowing. It’s never about how short the grass is but how neat and trim the lawn looks when finished. Grass varieties grown in cooler climes should be 3 inches long or longer; warm-climate grasses, such as Bermuda and centipede grasses, can be cut a bit shorter, to around 1 1/2 inches.

Let your mower “design” the yard. Once you start the mower rolling, do not back up or make, in Christopher’s words, “turns so tight they require slowing down.” When you finish, look around for any areas of uncut grass. “The trick is to eliminate the little corners, peninsulas and island of grass,” says Christopher. “Those patches are time-waster areas.” What to do then? Don’t mow those patches; replace with ground covers or mulch.

Start mowing in the most visible area of the property, like the front lawn. Christopher says the most efficient way to mow is to choose a specific area and mow in a circular motion from the edges toward the center. Mowing back and forth in rows is also acceptable.

Let no single bush or tree be an island in your yard. If there’s something planted in the middle of the lawn that makes mowing hard, like a large bush with overarching branches, Christopher recommends ripping out the grass under the bush. Create a garden bed or plant some more bushes. Use mulch to create a large, even shape that’s easy to mow around. “Don’t drop plants into your yard,” he warns.

Be aware of your terrain, especially any steep slopes. Christopher had a friend who was mowing downhill, slipped, and his feet went under the mower. “He lost a couple of toes,” Christopher recalls. Where the ground goes downhill, mow back and forth across the grade.

Don’t be overeager about mowing. Christopher has encountered a number of guys who can’t cut back on their grass-cutting routine even when their yards really don’t need it. Be honest about whether or not you can give up the mower.

For more information visit http://www.chicagotribune.com/.

Bill Daley, RISMedia, published 5/26/11-article only/title amendended.
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, June 07, 2011  10:04:50 AM
TIPS & IDEAS to Reform a House! 0 Comments Posted
Updating a living room or family room doesn’t have to mean giving it a complete makeover. A few simple changes can transform a tired room into a fresh space in no time.

Give your windows better treatment
• Replace heavy draperies, which can look outdated, with a more contemporary alternative. Faux wood, honeycomb blinds, roman or vertical shades—there are a lot of options to dress up your windows. Many online companies will send you samples so you can see how the different options will look in your particular space.

• Lighten things up with sheers. The soft folds of billowy sheers allow more light to come into the room, but still offer some privacy. Sheers in lighter colors also make the room appear larger and serve as a color-coordinated highlight at the same time.

Use mirrors to add visual interest
• Instead of the hanging a large mirror in a traditional space, such as above a couch or fireplace, modernize by hanging several smaller mirrors. Create a grouping of mirrors with frames that have the same color, but different sizes, shapes and textures.

• Hang a large mirror between two windows to give the illusion of having more windows in the room.

Replace an outdated furniture item

• Update your coffee table or entertainment center. These larger pieces are often the focal point of the room, so changing them out can put the entire room in a whole new light.

• Look for items that are both functional and easy to assemble. For example, Z-Line Designs furniture includes an instructional DVD with each item, so you can easily assemble pieces that are traditionally complicated to put together. Their ready-to-assemble mounts and stands for flat panel TVs can update any room in a flash. For more information, visit www.z-linedesigns.com.

Freshen up accessories
• There’s no need to re-upholster a sofa or its matching chairs. Swap the current accent pillows out for some new ones. Try a new, complementary color or add a pattern or fun texture to a solid background.

• Switch out your centerpieces. Replace a silk flower arrangement for a tray with pillar candles on it. Update the framed photos with new pictures and new frames. Look around the house for a few interesting pieces that can be put to new use—what can you do with a stack of interesting books or a grouping of pretty bowls?

Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to VIEW some of the most updated & staged homes for sale in Aransas County. Especially:

106 Ling featuring 2 bedrooms upstairs +

guest area downstairs. POOL, oversized 2-

car garage, luscious landscaping & never

ending bay breezes & VIEWS $189,000

130 Cedar Ridge overlooking the fairway AND

lake in the heart of the Rockport Country

Club. 3 bedrooms, formal dining, study,

island kitchen + custom amenities GALORE


Source:  RISMedia, published 03/23/11 article

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, June 07, 2011  10:03:37 AM
Is that house ORANGE? 0 Comments Posted

Abandoned homes can be an unpleasant sight. Overgrown lawns, boarded windows, sagging gutters, and unsightly mold—not to mention, a higher risk of fires, vandalism, rodents, and mosquitos.

Properties are often left to deteriorate while in foreclosure limbo; the owner is already gone but the bank can’t take possession until the foreclosure process is finalized.

So what happens when you have to sell the property next door? According to research by the Center for Responsible Lending, foreclosures will affect 91.5 million nearby homes by 2012 and reduce property values of these homes by $20,300 per household.

Steps you can take:

Notify the homeowners’ association. Most HOAs will pay to have the grass mowed and take care of maintenance issues, and then tack the expense on to the HOA bill, which will have to be cleared by the bank before the property sells.

Investigate local and state laws. Some states, such as California, will fine owners for not maintaining properties. New Jersey passed a law that puts banks in charge of maintaining the property from the beginning of the foreclosure process. Whom should you contact with your gripe? Start with your city’s building division; it’s often in charge of making sure a vacant property is boarded and secured. The bylaw department can check for building code vio­lations, the fire department can inspect for fire hazards, and the police can help if there’s vandalism.

Make property boundaries clear. "We are called on to handle this situation frequently, " says Margaret Innis, owner of home staging company Decorate To Sell in Andover, Mass. "On the outside, fences make good neighbors; so does landscaping with arborvitae shrubs—a fast fix worth the investment. Inside, use plantation blinds turned down so the light comes in but the view does not. "

Help with cleanup. Stepping in to help with the maintenance can be tricky. Regardless of your good intentions, your actions could be considered trespassing. First figure out who owns the property, which can be a challenge in itself, and then offer your assistance. Some cities and counties have started a vacant property registration that makes it easier to locate the owner. When Andy Hood, with Weichert, REALTORS®–Covington Group in Madison, Miss., struggled to sell a condo that overlooked the patio of a foreclosed property, he called the neighbor and asked if he could clean. "The woman was grateful and accepted my offer, " he says. "I hauled away a truckload of junk, pressure-washed the exterior, washed the patio furniture, and weeded and pruned her flower beds and shrubs. " Hood’s listing sold immediately after. 

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine, published 5/20/11-amended

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, June 07, 2011  10:02:40 AM
Does my NEW Roof need a windstorm certificate in Aransas County? 0 Comments Posted


The following items do not require an inspection for compliance for the purposes of windstorm and hail insurance coverage through the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association provided that any repairs, replacements or procedures are made with like kind and quality materials, fasteners and craftsmanship as compared to the structure before the repairs, replacements or procedures are made, and as compared to the parts of the building which are not repaired. In addition, if no structural change is made, the initial installation or replacement of the listed items may be made without requiring an inspection. The:

Repairs to roofs less than 100 square feet (one square),

Repairs to replacement of gutters,

Replacement of decorative shutters

Repairs to breakaway walls

Fascia repairs

Repairs to porch and balcony railings

Repairs to stairways/steps and wheelchair ramps

Protective measures before a storm

Temporary repairs after a storm

Leveling and repairs to an existing slab on grade foundations, unless wall and/or foundation anchorage is altered or repaired,

Fence repair,

Painting, carpeting and refinishing

Plumbing and electrical repairs

Repairs to slabs poured on the ground for patios (including slabs under homes on pilings),

Repairs or replacement of soffits less than 24 inches in width,

Repairs or replacement of non-structural interior fixtures, cabinets, partitions (non-load bearing), surfaces, trims or equipment,

Replacement of glass in windows or glass doors or replacement of exterior doors not involving the frames provided that the area is less than 10% of the surface area of the affected side (elevation) of the structure, and

Replacement of exterior siding provided that the area is less than 10% of the surface area of the affected side (elevation) of the structure

Source: Allstate Insurance, Rockport, Joshua Crow, Texas Department of Insurance


View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, June 07, 2011  10:01:39 AM
How to Fix a "Sticky" exterior door on a Coastal Home 0 Comments Posted
: We've had a problem with our front door or the doorframe swelling. When this occurs, it's difficult to turn the key in the lock and open the door. It's worst when it's very hot, but also occurs when it's cold.

The temperature where we live ranges from the 50s in the evenings to the mid-90s during the day. Our house is wood-framed, and we live near the ocean. The front door faces south and gets lots of sun.

What can I do to solve this problem? I'm somewhat handy, but was wondering if this is a project that I should tackle or whether I should call in a pro. If a specialist is recommended, what questions should I ask to be sure this is the right person for the job?

A: Just about any carpenter can handle this job, but loosening your sticky door is something you can and should do yourself. It should be an easy fix and, best of all, it will cost you only a little time and elbow grease.

You don't complain that the door itself sticks once the key is turned and the latch disengages from the strike plate. This leads us to believe that the problem lies with the alignment of the latch and the strike plate.

You're right about the cause. Expansion and contraction of the wood frame, coupled with moisture inherent with your seaside location, is causing the door to move ever so slightly. The solution is to give the door's lockset a little attitude adjustment.

Assuming we're on the same page, let's start with some basic lock nomenclature. The latch is the portion of the lock that extends into the doorframe. It passes into and through the strike plate, a metal piece mortised into the frame to receive the latch.

Exterior door latches have a small tubular piece attached to the latch. The proper name for this part of the latch is a deadlocking plunger. The purpose of the deadlock is to prevent the latch from being forced or pushed back with a knife or card to open the locked door. You can try this by taking your thumb and holding the deadlock pushed back, now take your other hand and try and push the latch back. You can't.

Kevin had a similar problem with both his front and rear exterior doors. He lives in a high-desert climate where the winters can be cold and wet, while summer temperatures often exceed 100 degrees. Both his doors move in the frames. He solved the sticking problem by taking a round metal file and enlarging the interior of the strike plate. This allows the latch to move freely into the hole.

The next time your lock gets stubborn, you should check where the lockset is binding. To determine this, check where the latch is in relation to the strike plate. Is it high or low? Either way, if the latch is in contact with the edge of the strike plate, turning the key to lock or unlock the door is restricted.

Coat the latch with a chalky substance. Flour will do in a pinch. Close the door, open it back up and look at the outline of the latch on the strike plate. Use the file to enlarge the strike plate hole so that the latch moves freely.

Often, exterior locksets have a metal insert fitted into the hole drilled into the doorframe to receive the latch. You'll need to remove this to enlarge the hole in the strike plate.

This is also a good time to lubricate the latch. A couple of squirts of WD-40 or lubricating oil on the latch when turning the doorknob will ensure smooth operation.

A final tip: When doors are first installed, all edges should be painted to retard moisture penetration. This important step is sometimes neglected. Check the top and bottom edges of the door to make sure it's sealed. If not, either paint it or seal it with a clear sealer. This will help inhibit expansion and contraction.

View Comments | Add Comment Monday, June 06, 2011  11:10:20 AM
The ultimate Feng Shui Real Estate Guide 0 Comments Posted
Buyer beware—what appears to be your dream home or a bargain investment may not be the case. Learn why some homes have a propensity for loss of jobs, money or divorce of the occupants. In this convenient guide, readers will learn how to spot and avoid potential property “deal breakers” before making a costly decision they might end up regretting. Readers will find practical and tactical advice to help ensure they buy a home or office that promotes harmony, happiness, heath and abundance. This quick reference guide makes it easy for REALTORS®, investors and homebuyers to choose the most appropriate home, apartment, office or business property!

Feng Shui Keys is a helpful read before looking for a place to live or work. Filled with valuable and practical information, it will guide you to choose the best possible space for you and your loved ones,” says Ariel Ford, Author of The Soulmate Secret: Manifest the Love of Your Life with the Law of Attraction.

Feng Shui Keys: Selecting the Perfect Home & Office is written by nationally recognized Feng Shui Consultant Louis Audet. With over 20 years experience, Louis has been featured on Inside Edition and the soon to be released movie Sacred Space. Louis’ expertise and reputation for commercial and residential property evaluations are known across the United States.

Feng Shui is a 3000-year-old science that considers more than just interior design. Other critical factors must also be evaluated, such as building structure, location, roads and communities. This helps individuals strategically select living and work environments that will maximize their relationships, health, wealth and vitality. Louis delivers all of this and more in Feng Shui Keys: Selecting the Perfect Home & Office.

For more information about this exciting new book, please visit http://www.fengshuikeys.com.

RISMedia, published 5/28/11
View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, June 02, 2011  1:42:57 PM
10 Reasons to Sell 0 Comments Posted

When does a homeowner consider selling? From money problems to the need to downsize, the reasons vary by owner. Here are ten common reasons an owner takes to the market.

1. Risk of Foreclosure. This is listed as number one because around one-third of all sales in today’s current market are distressed properties. Many homeowners find themselves in mortgages they cannot afford, whether due to job loss or to rising monthly payments. It is far better for their credit score to sell or short sale before they are foreclosed upon.

2. Job Loss. This goes hand in hand with number one. If you have lost your job, but are still not behind on your payments, now could be a good time to take a pre-emptive strike to avoid foreclosure.

3. Relocation. Sometimes it’s necessary to follow a job or to move for a better job. These homeowners, including members of the military, sometimes find themselves needing to sell in a hurry.

4. Healthy Seller's Market. You won’t find this trend in most of the nation. In fact, most areas of the nation are still experiencing lukewarm sales and depressed home values. There are, however, spots that are hot beds of activity. These homeowners may wish to sell to make a profit or to avoid the risk of attempting to sell later in a down market.

5. Downsizing. Baby Boomers are now entering retirement. As they are faced with empty nests and changes of pace, many will decide to sell in order to downsize to smaller, more manageable homes.

6. Dream House. It is a great time to buy. Home values are affordable and interest rates are at historic lows. If a homeowner has a solid amount of equity in their current home, it may be a good time to sell and move up to their dream home.

7. Changing Locations. A downtown loft may have been a perfect choice for a young bachelor, but as a family evolves and children enter the story, a move may be needed to get to the best school district.

8. Need Money. Your home can be one of your biggest assets. If you are in need of some liquid money, selling can free up cash.

9. Investors. There are investors that may sell to avoid taking further losses on already depreciated values. They may also sell flipped houses in order to make a quick profit.

10. Family Needs. Sometimes a move is necessary in order to deal with family matters. An ailing parent or grandchildren

RealtyTimes, published 5/31/11, Carla Hill

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, June 02, 2011  1:42:08 PM
Tax Breaks for Property Losses 0 Comments Posted

We've all seen on the news that large portions of the country have been devastated by tornados and floods. Unfortunately, homeowners are not always fully insured -- or insured at all -- against losses due to such events. Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Service can help because uninsured casualty losses are tax deductible.

What is a casualty?

A "casualty" is damage, destruction, or loss of property due to an event that is sudden, unexpected, or unusual. Deductible casualty losses can result from many different causes, including, but not limited to:

  • Earthquakes,
  • Fires,
  • Floods,
  • Government-ordered demolition or relocation of a building that is unsafe to use because of a disaster,
  • Landslides,
  • Sonic booms,
  • Storms, including hurricanes and tornadoes,
  • Terrorist attacks,
  • Vandalism, including vandalism to rental property by tenants, and
  • Volcanic eruptions.

One thing all the events in the list above have in common is that they are sudden -- they happen quickly. Suddenness is the hallmark of a casualty loss. Thus, loss of property due to slow, progressive deterioration is not deductible as a casualty loss.

For example, the steady weakening or deterioration of a building due to normal wind and weather conditions is not a deductible casualty loss.

When casualty losses are deductible

In the case of a home used solely for personal purposes, a casualty loss may be deducted only if:

  • You itemize deductions,
  • Each casualty loss exceeds $100, and
  • The total of all casualties suffered during the year exceeds 10 percent of your adjusted gross income after subtracting $100 from each loss suffered.

Losses to business property are not subject to the above limitations.

Amount of casualty loss deduction

How much you may deduct depends on whether the property involved is completely destroyed or partially destroyed, and whether the loss was covered by insurance. If more than one item is damaged or destroyed, you must figure your deduction separately for each.

If your property is personal-use property or is not completely destroyed, the amount of your casualty or theft loss is the lesser of:

  • Your property's adjusted basis (usually its cost, increased or decreased by improvements and/or depreciation), or
  • The decrease in fair market value of your property due to the casualty.

If your property is business or income-producing property, such as rental property, and is completely destroyed, and the fair market value of the property before the casualty is less than the adjusted basis of the property, then the amount of your loss is your adjusted basis.

The role of insurance

You may take a deduction for casualty losses to your property only if -- and only to the extent that -- the loss is not covered by insurance. If the loss is fully covered, you get no deduction. You can't avoid this rule by not filing an insurance claim.

If you have insurance coverage, you must timely file a claim, even if it will result in cancellation of your policy or an increase in your premiums. If you don't file an insurance claim, you cannot obtain a casualty loss deduction.

You must reduce the amount of your claimed casualty loss by any insurance recovery you receive or reasonably expect to receive, even if it hasn't yet been paid. If it later turns out that you receive less insurance than you expected, you can deduct the amount the following year.

If you receive more than you expected and claimed as a casualty loss, the extra amount is included as income for the year it is received.

Disaster areas

Casualty losses are generally deductible in the year the casualty occurs. However, if you suffer a deductible casualty loss in an area that is declared a federal disaster by the president, you may elect to deduct the loss for your taxes for the previous year.

This will provide you with a quick tax refund since you'll get back part of the tax you paid for the prior year. If you have already filed your return for the prior year, you can claim a disaster loss against that year's income by filing an amended return.

You can determine if an area has been declared a disaster area by checking the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) website at http://www.fema.gov/news/disasters.fema.

A great deal more useful information about deducting casualty losses may be found at the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

Stephen Fishman is a tax expert, attorney and author who has published 18 books, including "Working for Yourself: Law & Taxes for Contractors, Freelancers and Consultants," "Deduct It," "Working as an Independent Contractor," and "Working with Independent Contractors." He welcomes your questions for this weekly column.

Inman News, published 6/1/11

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, June 02, 2011  1:41:33 PM
Flower Basket Entry 0 Comments Posted

Colorful wooden chairs and a handmade quilt make this front porch casual and inviting. The painted floors and stairs accent the white railing just enough to call out the tulip-shaped cutouts.

Tip: Perfectly matching the decor in a space (even an outdoor room) is a thing of the past. Give the space depth by showcasing flea-market finds, souvenirs from trips, and antiques passed down through the generations.

Sunset Books

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, June 02, 2011  1:40:47 PM
A Cribbean Blue Entry 0 Comments Posted

"A Caribbean blue louvered door opens onto a loggia that serves as an outdoor foyer/stair hall. Giving an outside space an inside function is smart because the area doesn't need to be heated or cooled."
-- Todd Childs, Assistant Home Editor, Southern Living

Tip: Add container gardens to your entry for an instant makeover.

Lightweight pieces allow you to move the plants to different areas when the mood strikes

Van Chaplin/Southern Living

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, June 02, 2011  1:40:07 PM
Barbie's next dream house under Design 0 Comments Posted

Proof positive that there just aren’t enough real homes to be designed in this economy: The American Institute of Architects has partnered with Mattel Inc. to sponsor a contest for AIA members: Design Barbie’s next Dream House.

She has rather specific requests for her toy home, according to design guidelines put out by the AIA that are written in Barbie’s “voice." Here’s what Barbie wants: “A sleek, smart home office is important for any doll. The kitchen should be functional and fabulous with top-of-the-line appliances. As the original 'fashionista,' you can imagine how large my closet needs to be! I have unlimited fashions and accessories, so I need lots of shelving, shoe racks and a closet that can be easily organized."

Oh, and one more thing, Barbie noted: “I love animals and I have as many as five pets (including a giraffe). A big backyard is very important so they can roam and play."

Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX  toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to preview homes for sale in Aransas and San Patricio counties PERFECT for the Barbie and Barbie doll house in your life!

The public will be invited to vote on the winning design; the winner will be announced in August.

by Mary Umberger, Inman News, published 6/1/11

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, June 02, 2011  1:39:18 PM
Survey: Next two years prime for Investors! 0 Comments Posted

Real estate investors are likely to be three times more active than other types of homebuyers in their local markets within the next two years, according to a nationwide survey from Realtor.com operator Move Inc.

Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.728.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to preview the UPDATED 109 Myrtle Ln in Peninsula Oaks. 3 bedroom MOVE-IN READY for Renters! Only $84,901 

Market research firm GfK Custom Research North America conducted the survey on behalf of Move from April 11-15, 2011. The survey included telephone interviews of 1,200 U.S. adults, of which about 200 were identified as real estate investors. Data was weighted by age, sex, education, race and geographic region.

A third of real estate investors are planning to buy in the next 24 months, compared to 8.6 percent of typical homebuyers -- those planning to purchase a primary residence, vacation home or retirement property. Another 9.1 percent of typical homebuyers, and 28 percent of investors, plan to purchase between two and five years from now.

Among the investors, half plan to hold their properties for five or more years while 11 percent expect to sell within a year of purchase, according to the survey.

Some 56.5 percent of investors said the repair and maintenance of their property has not been difficult, and 42 percent plan to spend their own time and energy for that upkeep going forward.

Among the rest, 29.5 percent said they would hire a contractor for repairs and 28 percent said they would purchase move-in-ready properties. About 65.7 percent don't expect repair costs to surpass 20 percent of the property's purchase price, the survey said.

"This data suggests today's climate is hot for investing and is attracting a lot of new people that don't fit the stereotypical deal-driven flippers who buy and sell properties quickly," said Steve Berkowitz, Move CEO, in a statement.

"They're mostly entrepreneurial individuals who will make vital contributions to local communities by investing their own money and sweat equity to improve and maintain properties. These personal sacrifices made over the long run will help improve housing stocks, home values, property tax bases, and thousands of local communities."

More than half of investors, 53.5 percent, expect home prices to remain the same in the next six to 12 months. Of the rest, 23 percent expect prices to fall. About 69 percent expect it would be easier to find properties in the next six months, though 43.5 percent expect it would be harder to find bargains.

Some 41.5 percent of investors expect it would be easier to sell their properties in the next six months, the survey said.

Only 18.5 percent of investors said they will engage in an all-cash purchase, while 75.5 percent plan to combine cash and credit to purchase a property. More than half (59.5 percent) plan to put down cash but finance more than half of the purchase.

Sixteen percent plan to put down more than 50 percent in cash and finance the rest. Of the cash-only buyers, eight out of 10 expect discounts from sellers.

About 65.5 percent of investor respondents expect the financing difficulties first-time buyers are having will make it easier for them to compete for properties, according to the survey.

"The fact that most real estate investors plan on combing cash and credit for their purchases goes against the conventional wisdom that investor transactions today are mostly cash-only sales," Berkowitz said.

"This suggests they're seeing tremendous or once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and may be tapping into credit or taking out second trusts on existing properties. The data also shows they're expecting high returns to match the level of investment they're making in an arena that is new to many investors."

Most, 59 percent, of investors said they were new to investing; only 36.5 percent had experience with more than one property transaction. Nearly half (48 percent) said they expected a profit of 20 percent or more from their property investments, equal to a 4 percent annual rate of return over five years, the survey said. Another 40 percent expected a profit of 10 percent.

Inman News, published 5/31/11

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, June 02, 2011  1:38:40 PM
Oh Ben was RIGHT! 0 Comments Posted

One of the earliest advocates of preventive maintenance was Ben Franklin. He wisely wrote: "A little neglect may breed mischief...for want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost..." Old Ben nailed what happens when relatively small repairs. Little things have major impact on homeowner association assets. For example, a small lack of flashing can lead to major dryrot, structural problems and major expense. Ka-CHING!

Preventive maintenance is critical to managing an HOA's assets. When executed properly, it extends the useful life of buildings, grounds and equipment. Stretching out useful lives means stretching member contributions and reducing downtime from component failures. Preventive maintenance involves fixing something before it breaks. Here are five objectives for a every preventive maintenance program:

  1. To perform maintenance that keeps the property safe and functioning.
  2. To promote the most effective and efficient use of resources.
  3. To estimate the human resources needed for proper operation and maintenance.
  4. To determine long range funding requirements and project scheduling.
  5. To evaluate the effectiveness of the maintenance effort.

Preventive maintenance programs are common with elevators, HVAC and pool equipment, usually because there is a service contract. Other components, like paving, roofing, decks and paint require monitoring and planning.

Functional obsolescence is also a legitimate concern. Lack of parts, improvements in efficiency, computerization and changes in fire and building code can make equipment obsolete even though it's working just as designed. This is particularly applicable to elevators, boilers, pumps and HVAC. Buying new equipment is often a great investment in reduced operating costs. For example, by replacing all common area lighting with compact fluorescent bulbs, the light level will be significantly increased, the energy consumption reduced by 70% and the useful life of each bulb extended by 10-15 times thereby saving an enormous amount of labor costs. Within 12-18 months, the cost will be recouped in energy savings and then, it's money in the bank.

So, what is the best way to address major preventive maintenance? Two words: Reserve Study. A Reserve Study identifies all the significant components that the HOA is responsible to maintain, assesses current condition, cost of repair and replacement and charts a 30 year maintenance plan to keep the components in their best condition.

The Reserve Study can provide for cyclical preventive maintenance so components achieve their optimal lives. For example If cracks, minor repairs and sealcoating are performed at least every five years on asphalt paving, major repairs will not be required for 20-30 years. If this relatively inexpensive preventive maintenance is not done, significant and costly major repairs will be required much sooner. Pay a little to save a lot.

A Reserve Study will also guide the board how to systematically accumulate funds without special assessments. A full funding plan will have all owners contribute a fair share relating to the benefits received. A fair contribution plan means no one will get a better deal than anyone else and the money will be there when needed. The Reserve Study is absolutely the best way to prepare for a future which will certainly come to pass.

Remember Old Ben's nail analogy. Little things have a way of causing great things to happen. But rather than fail in the little things, plan for them and hit this nail right on the head.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see Regenesis.net.

by Richard Thompson, RealtyTimes, Published: June 1, 2011

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, June 02, 2011  1:37:27 PM
Low Mortgage Rates Remain in Holding Pattern 0 Comments Posted

For yet another week, low mortgage rates have remained in a holding pattern that has become the trend this year. FreeRateUpdate.com's daily survey of wholesale and direct lenders show that mortgage rates have had little to no movement over the past week. The only fluctuation occurred with jumbo 30 year fixed mortgage rates which jumped back and forth .125% before settling at 5.000% on Wednesday. Current conforming 30 year fixed mortgage rates are at 4.375%, 15 year fixed mortgage rates are at 3.750% and 5/1 adjustable mortgage rates are at 3.000%. These are the lowest conforming mortgage rates available with 0.7 to 1% origination fee to well qualified borrowers who must also be able to produce the required documentation necessary for approval by lenders.

FHA mortgage rates have also remained steady this week. Borrowers with little available cash turn to FHA which has a down payment requirement as low as 3.5%. FHA mortgage loans can also be combined with gifts and other grant programs making home ownership more affordable. Current FHA 30 year fixed mortgage rates are at 4.250%, FHA 15 year fixed mortgage rates are at 4.000% and FHA 5/1 adjustable mortgage rates are at 3.375%. FHA mortgage loans have gained in popularity even though FHA closing costs (APR) tend to be higher due to various FHA fees and the upfront mortgage insurance premium.

The conforming loan limit is still $417,000 to $729,750, depending on location. Anything above these limits requires a jumbo mortgage loan. Current jumbo 30 year fixed mortgage rates are at 5.000% after rising to 5.125% earlier last week. Jumbo 15 year fixed mortgage rates are at 4.500% and jumbo 5/1 adjustable mortgage rates are at 3.625%. Borrowers must have excellent credit to obtain these low jumbo mortgage rates with 0.7 to 1% origination point.

MBS prices (mortgage backed securities) usually fluctuate daily along with other markets. Mortgage rates move in the opposite direction of MBS price changes. This past week data showed that new home sales and median home price rose as well as mortgage applications which is obviously a result of consistent low mortgage rates. Durable goods orders dropped, household purchase rose less than expected and there was an increase in jobless claims for the week ending May 21st. Most investor moves have been in reaction to the European debt crisis and the fluctuating price of crude. All of this further indicates a weak economic recovery, but consumers are jumping on low mortgage rates to save some money while they are still around.

FreeRateUpdate.com surveys more than two dozen wholesale and direct lenders' rate sheets to determine the most accurate mortgage rates available to well qualified consumers at a standard .07 to 1% point origination fee.

by Ed Ferrara
RealltyTimes, published 6/1/11
View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, June 02, 2011  1:36:51 PM
Green Living 0 Comments Posted

Households all across the nation use an arsenal of cleaning products to keep their homes in good working order.

With the prevalence of food-borne illness on the rise, such as E. coli and Salmonella, a clean home is more important than ever.

The question is posed then as to whether or not there are green options for cleaning supplies. Do they carry the same punch?

Many of today's most popular brands are full of harmful chemicals. On our own the contribution may seem minimal. Yet, as each household sends these chemicals down the drain, the impact on the environment increases exponentially. This harsh impact has many green activists searching for ways to use earth-friendly cleaners.

Here are ways that you can take your cleaning "green".

First, be sure to only buy products that fully disclose their ingredients. Some brands list exactly what is in their products right on the package. Choose these over brands with lists of chemicals no one can pronounce.

Next, buy products that are free of dyes and perfumes. You may be tempted to buy fabric softener or laundry detergent that is scented like the “lavender fields of France,” but dyes and perfumes are polluting our waters every day. Clean laundry smells just as good as perfumed laundry.

The next consideration is botanical disinfecting agents. Essential oils, the inner workings of plants and flowers, have been proving their worth.

Take thymol, for example. It is produced by the thyme plant and works wonders for disinfecting.

The Seventh Generation brand is popular and easily found in stores across the nation. They have found that their natural disinfecting cleaner, “Kills over 99.99% of household germs, specifically: Influenza A viruses including H1N1, Rhinovirus (type 37, the Common Cold virus), Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enterica, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa on hard, nonporous surfaces.”

And finally, think about using homemade cleaners. Vinegar is a tried and true cleaning favorite. It is great for cleaning windows, spills on carpets, working on home odors, removing toilet stains, and the list goes on and on.

That's why some people call it the “miracle cleaner”.

No, natural cleaners are not the ultimate substitute for bleach and other tough cleaners. There are times when it is necessary to use these. However, there are plenty more times in our daily lives that gentler, more natural cleaners are the perfect fit.

Published: May 24, 2011, Realty Times
Carla Hill

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, May 25, 2011  8:02:09 AM
The MAGIC of Blue 0 Comments Posted

Looking for a spicey shade? Try RED. Consider using your boldest hue on an accent wall. When you’re working with several shades, the brightest color will showcase the wall with the most interesting features.

Want to look at some spicey kitchens? Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to view some spicey kitchen's in Aransas County! 

James Salomon
Coastal Living
View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, May 25, 2011  8:01:32 AM
Coastal Exterior Red~White~Blue 0 Comments Posted

Jazz up a home’s exterior by painting the front door a rich sea blue. Frame it with fresh, white trim and add red porch furniture for a look that’s all-American.

Make porch ceilings appear higher with a hint of ocean blue. Remember, a little color goes a long way. The effect is not meant to be dramatic, so choose a delicate tint.

Elizabeth Glasgow
View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, May 25, 2011  8:01:05 AM
Don't be Bashful 0 Comments Posted
 Go ahead and mix stripes with patterns. Remember: Reds will dominate and blues will recede, so be judicious when placing reds throughout your home. Use them as vibrant accents, and let blue tell the story.

Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn  
Coastal Living
View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, May 25, 2011  8:00:22 AM
Hue knew? Decrease your blood pressure with Color 0 Comments Posted

Red is an intense and aggressive color, so it works best as an accent. Studies have shown that when used in large quantities, it can increase blood pressure.  If your blood pressure is HIGH think twice before painting your walls RED.

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, May 25, 2011  7:59:35 AM
Home Sales May Grow thanks to Affordable Housing 0 Comments Posted

Even without a homebuyer tax credit, home sales are on track to outperform last year's rate. Being credited are the improving job market, sustained economic growth, and, of course, superior housing affordability conditions. Experts are predicting home sales to reach higher than 5 million for this year–up about 7-10 percent over last year.

Currently unemployment stands at about 9 percent, but more than 100,000 jobs are created monthly and nationally that could mean 1.5 million new jobs in 2011, according to the National Association of Realtor's (NAR) Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun.

Painting an even more optimistic picture, Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for Freddie Mac (secondary mortgage market company), expects more job growth–nearing the 2-million mark. However this will only make a dent in the unemployment rate.

Approximately 2 million jobs were lost in the recession (2008-2009) and an expected 2-million new incoming job entrants from college, etc. will continue the unemployment gap. However, experts say the unemployment rate should fall to 8.8 percent in 2011, 8.6 percent the following year, and then drop to 6 percent, a more normal level, around 2015. Yun also expects the Gross Domestic Product to grow 2.5 percent in 2011 and in 2012, 2.7 percent.

Still, housing prices are the most affordable ever which means that, based on NAR's Affordability Index, those who earn the national median income have 170 percent of the income needed to purchase a home priced at the national median. Marking four solid years of little price change, Yun expects the median existing-home price to stay at approximately $170,000 for the next couple of years.

What are helping make these homes so affordable are the low interest rates. Couple that with the surplus of inventory of distressed homes where homeowners are "under water" (owing more than the value of the home) and it's understandable why the market is so affordable.

But despite the low rates and affordable housing, experts say, the lending conditions are not quite ripe for increasing home sales even though lenders are now in a position (with plenty of cash) to make loans to qualified buyers. What some call the new "overly" strict lending standards are being blamed for the present lack of more robust housing sales.

So what's the best position for a homebuyer? Cash, of course, works great in any market conditions. All-cash buyers represent 40 percent of the market. This type of buyer typically isn't a first-time buyer. Instead these are usually investors who either believe they'll get a better return on their money by investing in real estate or they can't get mortgage financing. And a recent NAR study found that 59 percent of investors paid all cash. According to past surveys, that figure is significantly higher than the 32 percent and 17 percent in 2006 and 2004, respectively. Hot cash markets included Florida, California, and Arizona. Meanwhile, experts say refinancing may only produce half the activity it did last year which could create reason for banks to be more willing to lend to home buyers again.

Published: May 20, 2011, RealtyTimes

by Phoebe Chongchua
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 24, 2011  8:57:13 AM
Prepare the Home for the 2011 Hurricane Season 0 Comments Posted
Batten down the hatches—plus the windows, doors and roof. Hurricane Season 2011 starts on June 1 and—based on expert predictions—it could be a whopper.

At Colorado State University, forecasters believe the number of named storms will reach 16, and they predict there’s a 72 percent chance that the entire United States coastline will be affected by at least one major hurricane landfall in 2011. The Weather Research Center in Houston has forecast at least 10 named storms in 2011 with six of them projected to intensify into hurricanes. And, they’re predicting that coastal areas in west Florida, Louisiana and Alabama have a 90 percent chance that they’ll be in the line.

“Homeowners all along the East Coast and throughout the Gulf of Mexico should prepare for potentially severe weather this year,” says Jill F. Hasling, president of the Weather Research Center. “Now is the time to evaluate your home’s exterior and determine how well it is prepared to withstand hurricane-force winds, torrential rain and flying debris.”

Hasling speaks from experience. In 2008, Hurricane Ike reached into the Houston area doing significant damage to structures near the Weather Research Center. “We had impact-resistant Simonton StormBreaker Plus® windows installed on our facility more than five years ago and they made all the difference in keeping our building safe during that storm,” says Hasling. “We strongly advise people to make it a priority during Hurricane Preparedness Week, which is May 22 to 28, to completely evaluate the four most vulnerable areas of the home—windows, entry doors, the roof and the garage door. If any of these are compromised, the wind and rain that enters the home can cause extensive damage.”

According to home improvement expert Tom Kraeutler, selecting the right door for a home is also a critical decision. “Hurricane-force weather conditions can be extreme for hundreds of miles inland, so it’s important that homeowners seriously consider upgrading with impact-resistant building products,” says Kraeutler, host of the nationally syndicated radio show The Money Pit. “The Tru-Defense Door System found on Therma-Tru® fiberglass entry doors maximizes the seal between the door and the frame to help keep out the damaging effects of wind and rain. This system is engineered to work together and meets building codes across the country, including in severe weather zones. One of the great things about this type of energy-efficient door construction is that it can be requested on both entry doors and patio doors.”

A home’s roof is another vulnerable area during high winds and driving rain. Roofs should be examined yearly to determine if there are missing shingles, curling or splitting shingles, lifting shingles or loss of granules. Both straight line winds and pressurized winds can cause different damage—from uplifting the shingles off the roof to pushing intense wind-driven rain and flying debris onto the roof.

“Once air pressure moves through a hole in a roof and into the home during a hurricane, it can literally blow out the walls and windows of the house,” says Kraeutler. “It’s vital for homeowners in potential hurricane areas to have well-installed, solid roofs overhead to protect their homes and prized possessions.”

“Homeowners should make sure they have proper bracing, such as galvanized metal hurricane straps, to connect the roof to the walls of the home,” says Kraeutler. “This can help prevent uplift during hurricane-force winds. For a second step, consider impact-resistant polymer roofing tiles that have been formulated and tested to withstand hurricane strength winds and severe impact. That’s a winning combination for a roof.”

Kraeutler stresses that homeowners should always follow direction of local authorities regarding evacuations and emergency procedures during severe weather. “More than likely in extreme weather situations, you’ll have to evacuate,” says Kraeutler. “But when you invest in impact-resistant building products that are always ‘on guard’ you can leave knowing that your family’s home and cherished possessions are secure. That can bring incredible peace-of-mind during a highly stressful time.”

Source: Published 5/17/11, RISMedia welcomes your questions and comments. Send your e-mail to: realestatemagazinefeedback@rismedia.com.

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, May 20, 2011  8:03:54 AM
US Top Spot for Foreign Buyers 0 Comments Posted

Despite tightened credit for many domestic buyers, the United States is still a top spot for foreign purchases. The National Association of Realtors reports that "international purchases surged by $16 billion this year, one of the highest increases in recent years."

"The U.S. has always been a desirable place to own property and a profitable investment,” said NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. "In recent years we have seen more and more foreign buyers coming here to take advantage of low prices and plentiful inventory. In addition to the advantageous market conditions, Realtors in this country have a global perspective and experience in working with clients from different cultures and real estate practices, helping them bring value to their international clients.”

Why the draw to U.S. properties? In general, homes here are less expensive than foreign comps, the government and economy have historically seen stability and good levels of security, and today homes are more affordable than ever.

Domestic investors are getting in on the action as well. Depreciating prices and distressed properties have been a draw for all-cash purchasers, which now make up about one-third of all sales.

Sixty-two percent of international purchases were all cash. According to the NAR, "This percentage is significantly higher than all-cash purchases for domestic buyers, mostly due to the differences in international credit reporting standards. Financing challenges continue to be a major hurdle for international buyers, with 32 percent reporting these as their reason for not buying a home."

"Besides the strength of the dollar and the general economic trends in the U.S., international buyers are also recognizing the benefits of home ownership in this country, especially in the case of recent immigrants,” said Phipps. "Many foreigners perceive owning a home here as an important accomplishment in their efforts to become established in this country.”

In the recent National Association of Realtors®’ 2011 Profile of International Home Buying Activity survey, Realtors have noticed new factors influencing foreign purchases. Both foreign executives working in the U.S. temporarily and international students have shown a preference for buying over renting. Similar to last year, 28 percent of Realtors® in 2011 reported working with an international client. Fifty-five percent served at least one foreign client, while the bulk of international transactions were handled by a small percentage of Realtors®.

Where are these international buyers coming from? Canada was in first place for the fourth year in a row. China came in second, with 9 percent of total international sales.

And while foreign buyers mostly purchased in areas close to home, close to air transportation, and in favorable climates and location, nearly every state had at least one international transaction in 2010. Leading the pack was Florida with 31 percent, California at 12 percent, Texas with nine, and Arizona, with 6 percent of total international transactions.

Published: May 19, 2011, Realty Times
by Carla Hill

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, May 20, 2011  8:03:07 AM
Seven Deadly Credit Score Sins 0 Comments Posted
7 Sins to KILL your credit score. And speaking of "seven," that's how many years these black marks can stay on your credit report.

• Deadbeat behavior. Frequent, significant and late payments 30 days, 60 days, 90 days late. Don't believe a 30-day-late payment won't hurt. It may not ruin your credit but it's not helpful and can remain on your report for years.

• Collection activity. When the lender gets tired of your deadbeat behavior it will call out the dogs -- a third-party collection agency. The collection agency will report collection activity to the credit bureaus and again, seven years of bad luck.

• Charge offs. If the lender gives up on your collection case, acknowledging you'll never pay the bill, it charges off the debt and puts your credit report on notice for seven years.

• Public recordings. Bankruptcy, tax liens, judgments and the like are killers for your credit rating. Judgments are good (or, from your viewpoint, bad) for seven years, even if you pay them off. Bankruptcies can dog your credit report for 10 years and unpaid tax liens never go away.

• Settlements. If you pay a portion of a debt to your lender in a settlement, say a some of the mortgage in a short sale, you can get a settlement notice on your credit report card for seven years. Credit cards and other debts, likewise can be settled, with negative impact to your credit report.

Foreclosures. If you can't or won't pay your mortgage the lender will eventually foreclose and relieve you of your home. Another seven year negative notification will drag down your score. The same applies when you give the home to the lender in a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.

• Repossession – When you don't pay your vehicle loans a bounty hunter will be coming your way. He or she is not coming after you, but your vehicle, and that's often without notice, after you've been dunned for a while. It's all legal. The repo man can take your property down and your credit score will follow.

Published: May 19, 2011, Realty Times

by Broderick Perkins

Condensed from: John Ulzheimer, president of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft.

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, May 20, 2011  8:02:23 AM
Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc, Broker introduces QR codes 0 Comments Posted
Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker
of Rockport/Fulton TX
introduces QR Codes.

Take a mobile Visual Tour of properties listed by MJ Olsen & Mack Skiorski
with this QR code

Property details and photos of residential listings by Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE are available
with this QR code

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, May 20, 2011  8:00:04 AM
Agent Sales Stats for Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker 0 Comments Posted

Lynn’s  TEAM ADVANTAGE  ranked # 1, Alissa Spears  # 7,  Jim Wills # 13 and The “M” TEAM MJ Olsen & Mack Sikorski ranked # 23 of 92 REALTORS reporting Closed Sales for the Rockport Area Association of REALTORS.   
Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc. ranked # 5 out of 27 offices reporting Closed Transactions through April 30, 2011.

Special THANKS to Debbie Adams, Customer Service Manager and Jeffrey Johnson Media Manager for all your HELP!

Ready to BUY or SELL in Aransas County? Call Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker  of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 or locally 361.729.8263.

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, May 20, 2011  7:55:39 AM
Fix up Entry with Container Garden 0 Comments Posted

Placement is key: Low saucers on each side of the steps define this area as the entrance without being bulky and in the way. The large pot on the corner anchors the area between the front door and the front walk.

Southern Living
Van Chaplin
View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, May 18, 2011  10:56:27 AM
Shutters add Character + Improve Curb Appeal 0 Comments Posted

You may be tempted to buy those colored plastic versions and nail them to your home, but don't. Sure, it may take a little more effort to prime, paint, and install real wood shutters, but it's worth it.

Carefully measure your windows prior to ordering shutters. Measure from the top of the sill to the top of the window; subtract 1/2 inch to allow room for the shutter to close inside the window opening.

Southern Living
Van Chaplin

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, May 18, 2011  10:55:48 AM
Keep Handtools at Hand 0 Comments Posted

Other than your trusty pruners, no garden goods get more of a summer workout that your handtools. First, give them a thorough cleaning, removing all the build-up crud over the past few months. Dry well. (Yes, you should go through these steps after every use, but don't beat yourself up over it -- we're all guilty.)

In a covered container (a toolbox or a 5-gallon paint bucket), mix a bag of play sand with one bottle of any motor oil, and then plunge in cleaned tools. Stored out of the elements in this gritty, lubricated mix, your tools should stay rust free until spring.

Cottage Living
Tim Street Porter

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, May 18, 2011  10:54:59 AM
Organize Garden Shed with Peg Board 0 Comments Posted

Organize garden supplies on a pegboard. Just as your kitchen and office are happier places to be when they're organized, your garden workspace, too, needs to be clutter-free and at the ready. Take two sheets of pegboard, cover them with graphite-colored spray paint, and add hooks. Make a bulletin board with a sheet of acoustic ceiling tile covered in burlap.

Source:  myroomideas.com
Cottage Living
Tim Street-Porter

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, May 18, 2011  10:54:29 AM
Fannie Maes National Housing Survey Show Uptick in Consumer Attitudes 0 Comments Posted
Fannie Mae’s latest national housing survey finds that Americans expressed more cautious optimism during the first quarter of 2011 than in the fourth quarter of 2010, but they continue to lack confidence in the overall strength of the housing market and economic recovery. The First-Quarter 2011 Fannie Mae National Housing Survey polled homeowners and renters between January 2011 and March 2011. Findings were compared to similar surveys conducted throughout 2010 and December 2003.

Survey results show that Americans’ newfound optimism about home prices, the economy, and personal finances is balanced by concerns about rising household expenses, which may require Americans to remain cautions about the recovery. Despite consumer caution, 57 percent of Americans still believe that buying a home has a lot of potential as an investment— ranking higher than other investments, such as buying stocks and putting money into and IRA or 401(k) plan.

“Despite moderate signs of improvement in the housing market and the overall economy, consumer attitudes continue to be shaped by ongoing concerns about the recovery and their own financial situations,” says Doug Duncan, Vice President and Chief Economist of Fannie Mae. “Uncertainty regarding the improving labor market, expectations of little home price and interest rate movement, and rising household expenses has left consumers feeling less financially secure and translates into weak mortgage demand. While we have seen indications of improving economic activity in recent months—especially the strengthening of private sector employment—consumers’ attitudes improved only marginally, and in some areas not at all, from a year ago, reflecting the continued unevenness and uncertainty of this recovery.”

• Only 33 percent of Americans said they believe the economy is on the right track, up 4 percentage points from the fourth quarter of 2010, but virtually unchanged from January 2010 (31 percent).

• Forty-two percent of respondents said they expect their personal finances to improve over the next year (up by 2 percentage points from the fourth quarter of 2010), compared with 44 percent in January 2010.

• Forty percent say that their current monthly household expenses are significantly higher than twelve months ago, up from 34 percent in the previous quarter and 31 percent in January 2010.

• While the number of Americans who perceive homeownership as a safe investment has been declining (from 83 percent in 2003 to 66 percent in first quarter of 2011), 57 percent still believe that buying a home has a lot of potential as an investment, more than any other investment tested.

• Nearly twice as many Underwater Borrowers (27 percent) think it is okay to walk away from a mortgage if they face financial distress than in January 2010.

The Fannie Mae First-Quarter 2011 National Housing Survey polled homeowners and renters to assess their attitudes toward owning and renting a home, confidence in homeownership as an investment, the current state of their household finances, views on the U.S. housing finance system, and overall confidence in the economy.

Other Survey Highlights

Forty-four percent of homeowners believe that the value of their home today is worth 20 percent or more than what they originally paid for it, declining from 46 percent in June 2010 and 51 percent in January 2010.

One in three Americans (30 percent) expect home prices to strengthen over the next year, up four percentage points from the fourth quarter of 2010, but virtually unchanged from a year ago.

Fifty-nine percent of Generation Y Americans (ages 18-34) expect their personal financial situation to improve over the next year, compared to 49 percent among Generation X (ages 35-44) and 37 percent among Baby Boomers (ages 45-64).

Fewer African-Americans think the economy is on the right track (44 percent in the first quarter of 2011 versus 51 percent in the previous quarter), and they are less optimistic about their personal finances (61 percent expect their finances to get better over the next year compared to 67 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010).

Only 13 percent of Pre-Baby Boomers (age 65+) think it will be easier for the next generation to purchase a home than it was for them, compared with 28 percent of Generation Y Americans.

Nearly one in four (23 percent) Mortgage Borrowers say they are underwater, compared with 30 percent in January 2010.

Only 31 percent of Underwater Borrowers think they have sufficient savings (compared to 42% in June 2010, and 43% of all Mortgage Borrowers).

Forty-six percent of Underwater Borrowers say they are stressed about their ability to make payments on their debt (versus 35 percent in June 2010, and 33 percent of all Mortgage Borrowers).

For more information visit www.fanniemae.com.

RISMedia, published 5/13/11
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 17, 2011  10:18:31 AM
Housing Market Reform Must Ensure Market Affordability 0 Comments Posted
Reforms to America’s housing finance market must ensure a reliable source of affordable mortgage lending for creditworthy consumers. That’s according to REALTORS® and other industry insiders who examined the federal government’s future role in the secondary mortgage market at the “Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac: Obama Options and Beyond” session during the National Association of REALTORS® 2011 Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.

Panelist Steve Brown, 2011 NAR first vice-president nominee, outlines NAR’s position for reforming the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs). Brown states that reform is required, taxpayers must be protected from losses, and the federal government must continue to play a role in the secondary mortgage market to ensure a steady flow of mortgage liquidity in all markets under all economic conditions.

“As the leading advocate for home owners, NAR is concerned that eliminating the GSEs without a viable replacement is not a reasonable option and will severely restrict mortgage capital and result in higher fees and costs for qualified borrowers,” says Brown. “Reform of the secondary mortgage market needs to be comprehensive and undertaken methodically.”

James Parrot, senior advisor for housing at the National Economic Council in Washington, D.C., overviewed the Obama administration’s recommendations for reforming the GSEs in the wake of the financial crisis, which included varying levels of government backing. He notes the primary objective of the proposals is twofold—first, to lay out an immediate near-term path for reform, with steps that could be taken the next few years to reduce taxpayer risk and move the housing market to more stable footing, and second, to frame the discussion regarding the government’s long-term role in housing finance.

“The government’s large presence in the housing finance is unhealthy and needs to be scaled back; however, the steps we take over next few years to reduce the government’s role and increase private capital will have a tremendous impact on the housing market and economy as well as the availability and affordability of mortgages,” says Parrot. “The objective isn’t to turn away from housing, but to make the housing finance market stronger so that families and their most important asset are better protected.”

Panelist Susan Wachter, a professor at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, agrees that private capital needs to return to the housing finance market, but that most likely won’t happen until the market has stabilized.

“There needs to be more accountability and transparency in the secondary mortgage market so that private investors can best assess their risk and safely get back into the market,” she says.

Mark Calabria, director of Financial Regulation Studies at the Cato Institute, argues for a very limited government role in the secondary mortgage market, saying that the private capital market has the funds and capacity to absorb Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s market share. He says that increased government support in the past few decades have only slightly increased America’s home ownership rate and that rates in other countries are higher despite their government’s limited involvement. Despite his opposing viewpoint to the level of involvement, Calabria acknowledges that some government backstop was essential in the future, since the housing and finance markets are sensitive to booms and busts.

David Katkov, executive vice president and chief business officer at The PMI Group, counters that it would be naïve to move to a purely private market because it’s been successful in other countries, adding that the U.S.’s housing finance system dwarfs that of other countries and is far more complex.

Ann Grochala, vice president at the Independent Community Bankers of America, also shares concerns for small lenders and community bankers in a purely private market, where competition from large lenders would be great.

The National Association of REALTORS®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

For more information, please visit www.realtor.org.

RISMedia, published 5/13/11
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 17, 2011  10:12:43 AM
Do your Part: Slash your grocery bill 0 Comments Posted
We’re all looking for ways to cut down on our bills. Grocery shopping is a necessity, but there are ways to lower your costs each week while also lowering your eco-footprint. Here are my top five ways to do your part for both the planet and your pocketbook.

No. 1: Stock Up On Green Cleaners
When you create a green cleaning kit with baking soda, white vinegar, Borax, and hydrogen peroxide, you have all you need to clean everything in your home. Plus, this cleaning kit is just a fraction of the cost of store-bought household cleaners. For instance, a 76-ounce box of Borax can produce 19 gallons of mold and mildew cleaner. You would need to buy more than a 150 16-ounce bottles of store bought cleaners to produce the same amount.

No. 2: Do The Prep Work Yourself
A few extra minutes in the kitchen really can save you a few bucks each week. If your family eats a lot chicken, buying the chicken whole or with the skin on will bring immediate savings. Boneless and skinless chicken breasts cost about $4.99 a pound; compare that to chicken sold with bone and skin that’s priced around $1.99 a pound, and you can clearly see the amount you will be saving. You could use the saved money to buy organic chicken, and feel good about serving your family a healthier piece of poultry. Also, instead of buying fruits and veggies that have been cut and peeled for you, do the work yourself and pay half the price.

No. 3: Buy in Bulk
You know those individually packaged crackers, cookies and snacks? You’ll probably want to ban them from your home after learning the true cost of convenience. Plus, the packaging on those small items is usually tough to recycle. Your best bet is to go big when it makes sense. My family loves those popular cheese crackers. A big box of them costs $3.79, or $0.28 an ounce. If you get them in the individual size, it costs $0.40 per ounce! That’s a $0.12 savings on every ounce. Instead, put the crackers from the large box into a small reusable container that your child can bring to school.

No. 4: Shop in Season
Shopping in season for produce is smart for you, your pocketbook, and the planet. When you buy foods at their peak, they aren’t being shipped around the world to arrive at your grocery store. That means they’re usually much more affordable than at other times of the year.

No. 5: Do What Grandma Did
When you spot organic fruits and veggies on sale—buy up! Then, you can do what our grandmothers did by preserving them. Whether you freeze, can, or dehydrate your foods—you’ll have the next best thing to fresh, organic produce for a time when you’ll want them and they are no longer in season.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, syndicated columnist, and host of DoYourPart.com.

For more information visit www.doyourpart.com.

(c) 2011, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

Terri Bennett, RISMedia, published 3/31/11
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 17, 2011  10:11:37 AM
5 Questions with a Master Gardener 0 Comments Posted
The sun is shining a bit brighter, the days are getting longer and after a long snowy winter, many people are eager to work in their yards. To help guide you, we talked with Sandra Goeddeke-Richards, the Master Gardener Program coordinator for the Michigan State University Extension-Macomb in Clinton Township, Mich.

Q: What tips do you have for prepping a yard for spring planting?
A: Never work in wet, heavy soil. Now is a good time to start taking off some of the debris that we may have left over the winter to make way for the spring bulbs and spring growth to come through; but not necessarily raking. Leave a good layer of winter mulch for these surprise wintry days that still come. When I say debris, you can start cutting back the top parts of the mums or perhaps the coneflowers, as well as your grass.

Now is a really good time to look at the structure of your trees. Keep your eye out for branches that might be crossing or blocking sunlight. The rule of thumb is if it’s a spring-flowering tree, let it do its spring bloom and do your pruning after the bloom.

Q: Should gardeners get their soil tested?
A: If you’ve never done it before, it is a good place to understand the nutrients of your plants, whether it is a vegetable garden or flowers or turf. Take 6 to 10 random samples from the site about 4-6 inches deep and mix those samples in a bucket. We need two cups of mix dried out and put in a plastic bag. For minimal charge, we send (it) to Michigan State University’s soil testing lab. The results come back in about 10 days to two weeks, customized and interpreted for your use. It would tell you if your soil is too acidic and how to offset that appropriately for your current crop—be it vegetables, turf or perennials.

Q: When is it safe to plant annuals and perennials?
A: You want to watch that soil moisture. In the vegetable department, they’re planting the seeds of peas but only because they’re so tolerant of cold, wet soil. Pansies are often the first things you can plant because they are cold- tolerant and will even tolerate some snow on them.

Depending on the annual—frost and cold hardiness is something you want to watch out for—generally the safest time (to plant) is mid- to late May. Most of us start planting around Mother’s Day. But even then we’re taking a risk. So just be ready with some sheets of newspaper if we have a sudden low that happens at night.

Q: When is the best time to fertilize?
A: When the plant is actively growing and can actively take it up. That is going to vary with temperature. The only bad time to fertilize a plant is if it is really dry or if it is (dormant) or just recently transplanted. For grass, (the best time is) late May early June.

Q: Vegetable gardening is popular. What are some common mistakes?
A: Strangely enough, doing too much. A new gardener should start small and just grow things they really love to eat. And then as we start to expand upon it and learn, maybe try one experiment. Most of the time I see a vegetable garden being unsuccessful because somebody just bit off more than they could chew. They didn’t realize they would have to put some work into it throughout the season. Then they end up with a zillion zucchini and they’re overwhelmed and let them rot. So just understanding what their family will want to eat and start with that. Another one is vegetables need a lot of sun. If it’s shaded most of the day, it won’t be a place to grow vegetables.

For more information, please visit http://www.freep.com.

Nancy Chipman Powers Print Article Print Article
RISMedia, published 5/14/11
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 17, 2011  10:09:53 AM
Around the House: Dispose of Hazardous Waste Properly 0 Comments Posted
We all have one—that shelf or cabinet with leftover paints, old bug killers and unwanted cleaners. You don’t want that toxic stuff near your kids or pets so you keep it out of reach.

It’s equally as important to keep those dangerous chemicals out of the environment. So when it’s time to get rid of hazardous household items, make sure you do your part and dispose of them the right way.

It’s estimated that every American home has an average of 100 pounds of hazardous household waste. This includes everything from paint and thinners to used motor oil, pesticides, bleach, cleaners and even batteries. Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) are also considered hazardous waste due to the small amount of mercury they contain.

Let’s start with what not to do when getting rid of all this stuff. Pouring hazardous household waste down any drain sends the toxins directly into our water supply.

Drains include the ones inside your home and the storm drains outside. Pollution flowing into storm drains is called storm water pollution and it’s the leading cause of fresh water pollution in America.

You should also never put hazardous household waste in the trash. Whether it’s sending it to a landfill or burning it in a trash pile, both can release toxins directly into the air, land and water. Hazardous household waste needs to be disposed of properly. This means taking it to a qualified recycling center. You can also contact your county waste collection office for recycling information. Many communities hold hazardous household waste collection events throughout the year so be looking for those too.

Another way to reduce the amount of hazardous household waste in your home is to start buying less of it. Many times there are natural alternatives that work just as well. Eco-friendly cleaners and pesticides are more widely available on store shelves and while they may cost more to purchase, keep in mind the true cost of an item is always more than just the money you spend.

Just because the hazardous household waste may be out of sight in your home, it shouldn’t be out of mind. Identifying it, disposing of it and reducing the amount in your home are all easy ways to do your part for everyday green living.

(c) 2010, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
RISMedia, published 4/15/11 Terri Bennet

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 17, 2011  10:09:05 AM
Diggin in: Plan, Prepare, Then Plant a Tree 0 Comments Posted
Before planting a tree make sure you know how to do it properly, advise tree experts. The way you plant a tree governs how it grows or dies. For example, girdling roots strangle a tree, and roots planted too deeply suffocate a tree.

Here’s how to correctly plant a tree, courtesy the International Society of Arboriculture and the website TreesAreGood.com:

Prepare the Perfect Hole

Dig the hole two to three times the width of the root ball. Do not dig deeper than root ball depth. Make the sides of the hole slant gradually outward.

• For bare root trees, neatly cut away any broken or damaged roots. Soak the roots for a few hours prior to planting to allow them to absorb water.

• Container-grown trees should have the plastic or metal containers completely removed. Carefully cut through any circling roots. Remove the top half of pressed peat/paper containers.

• Balled and Burlapped (“B&B”) trees should have all of the ropes cut. Pull the burlap at least one third of the way down. Slit remaining burlap to encourage root growth. If in a wire basket, cut away the top of the basket.

Plant the Tree

Gently place the tree in the hole. Partially backfill with the soil from the hole, water to settle the soil, then finish back-filling the hole. Tamp the soil gently, but do not step on the root ball.

Planting Pointers

• Remove tags and labels.
• Do not stake unless the tree has a large crown or the planting is situated on a site where wind or people may push the tree over. Stake for a maximum of one year.
• Prune only the damaged branches.
• Soak the soil well, making sure no air pockets form between roots. Wait until next year to fertilize.
• Spread two inches of mulch over the planting area, but do not place it up against the trunk.
• Be sure the root ball has plenty of water throughout the year.

For additional information on planting and other tree care topics, or to find a local ISA Certified Arborist, visit www.treesaregood.com.

By Kathy Van Mullekom, published 5/16/11, RISMedia
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 17, 2011  10:08:16 AM
Turnaround: Four months and counting? 0 Comments Posted
Price declines will end and average U.S. home prices will stabilize by Labor Day. Prices in even the hardest-hit markets will level out by the end of 2012.

That’s the latest prediction from the authoritative Moody’s Analytics and Fiserv, Inc, after an analysis of home price trends in 375 markets tracked by the Fiserv Case-Schiller Indexes.

Fiserv reports that home prices have fallen so far that they are at pre-bubble levels, creating affordable housing relative to income which, coupled with a slowly improving economy, will finally end price declines.

The slide in home prices has greatly improved home affordability. Relative to household income, affordability is at or close to pre-bubble levels in nearly every metro area across the U.S. This dynamic, combined with growing economic strength, leads Fiserv and Moody’s Analytics to project that average U.S. home prices will stabilize in the third quarter of this year. By the end of 2012, home prices in even the hardest-hit housing markets will level out.

However, while Fiserv and Moody’s project the national U.S. home price average will stabilize in the third quarter of 2011, a 3 percent decline is expected in the first half of this year.

“The first step toward restoring confidence in housing markets is an improvement in consumer sentiment, which we expect will increase slowly through 2011 due to stronger job gains and a falling unemployment rate,” says David Stiff, chief economist, Fiserv. “As confidence rises, the decline in home sales that started in 2006 will, finally, come to an end.”

Even as balance returns to the housing market, Fiserv Case-Shiller data forecasts the pace of recovery will be uneven across U.S. metro areas.

“Many metro areas have vast inventories of vacant homes, a consequence of both over-building during the bubble and high rates of foreclosure,” says Stiff. “New data from the 2010 U.S. Census provide estimates of the depth of the overhang of vacant homes in some markets. Between the 2000 and 2010 Censuses, the overall U.S. housing vacancy rate increased by 2.4 percentage points. In metro areas with the largest price bubbles and crashes, housing vacancy rates have jumped by 3 to 7 percentage points.”

The most stressed U.S. housing markets are characterized by unemployment rates that exceed the national average and high housing vacancy rates. Examples include Detroit, Las Vegas and Orlando, where unemployment tops 10 percent and vacancy rates are above 15 percent. Stiff noted the feedback loop that continues to exert downward pressure on home prices in these markets:

“Economic growth in these markets was highly dependent on residential real estate from 2002 to 2006, with many new jobs tied directly or indirectly to booming housing markets. When the bubble popped, these markets suffered the largest job losses. Rapidly falling employment undercut housing demand, causing home price depreciation to accelerate, leading to more job losses in residential real estate.”

The markets that escaped this dynamic are better positioned for more robust recoveries. Examples include Dallas, Milwaukee, Houston, New York, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Stiff notes that while many of these metro areas did experience double-digit home price declines, their economic growth was more balanced during the boom years, relying less on residential construction. Today, these markets benefit from relatively lower housing vacancy and unemployment rates.

RISMedia, Steve Cook, published 5/16/11
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 17, 2011  10:07:24 AM
Tips for Tricky Bathroom Installations 0 Comments Posted

We all understand the old adage of what rolls downhill, right? Plumbers have certainly known that basic premise since the first toilet was invented, and that's why drain lines need to slope from the toilet down to the sewer or septic tank.

Simple enough -- until you're remodeling a basement or other below-grade area and want to install a toilet that's below the level of the main sewer line. If you have a project like that in your future, then you'll have to consider a different strategy.

Sewage ejector pumps and toilets

One option to consider when it's impossible to get the necessary natural slope for a standard gravity flow toilet is to use a sewage ejector pump. These powerful electric pumps are capable of handling solid waste as well as liquids, and most can process solids up to 2 inches in diameter.

As with any type of electric pump, sewage pumps are rated in horsepower, ranging from less than one-half to more than one horsepower. The size you need depends on the volume of material being handled and, most importantly, how far the waste material will need to be moved vertically.

This vertical pumping distance from the fixture to the main sewer line -- called "head" -- is crucial to sizing the pump, and will typically be limited to about 10 feet of head for solids and 15 feet for liquids.

For the typical sewage ejector pump installation, the pump and the float mechanism that activates it sit inside a polyethylene basin that's approximately 30 gallons in size. There's a 3-inch or 4-inch diameter intake line that brings waste into the basin, a 2-inch diameter discharge line with a backflow-prevention check valve, and a vent pipe. Most pumps are 115 volts, but some of the larger units are dual 115/230-volt models.

Another option is a specialized fixture called a sewage ejector toilet, which is designed for below-grade installations.

The typical sewage ejector toilet consists of a pedestal made of polyethylene, which acts as a base for mounting the toilet. The pedestal, which is about 5 to 6 inches high, can sit directly on the floor or can be recessed so that the toilet itself ends up level with the floor. Inside the unit is a set of impellers and a sewage ejector pump, which processes the waste and pushes it up to discharge into the main sewer line.

Some models of sewage ejector toilets are designed with the pump and related vent and discharge lines located far enough behind the toilet that it's possible to construct a wall between the toilet and the pump equipment. This allows for a cleaner installation, and makes the pipes and equipment much less obtrusive.

Composting toilets

Another possibility to consider, especially if you're thinking green, is the composting toilet. Composting toilets eliminate the need for a discharge pump altogether, and give a boost to the environment as well. The toilet is fully self-contained, requires no water inlet, no connection to a sewer, and no chemicals, but does require an electrical connection and a vent to the outside.

Composting toilets work similar to a septic tank. Approximately 90 percent of the waste material entering a toilet is actually water, so the composting toilet utilizes a small electric heating grid and fan inside the unit to evaporate the liquids through the vent pipe. The remaining 10 percent of the waste material breaks down through normal bacterial action, and is converted naturally into a soil-type residue. This residue filters down through a grid into a collection tray located in the bottom of the toilet. In normal use, the tray requires emptying only about once a year.

Composting toilets are not only good for below-grade applications, but also work great in cabins, shops, warehouses, and other locations where the installation of the waste and water lines necessary for a standard toilet is impractical.

Sewage ejector toilets and composting toilets, as well as sewage ejector pumps and related fittings, are typically available by special order through plumbing fixture retailers and some home centers, or through your plumber.

By Paul Bianchina
Inman News™, published 5/16/11 Lowes

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 17, 2011  10:06:04 AM
Annual Hurricane Breakfast on May 25th 0 Comments Posted
>>> Annual Hurricane Breakfast <<< May 25th 7:30 am - 9:00 am

Know your vulnerability & what actions to take to reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.
By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.
Listen to first hand information:
  • Operations Center Updates.
  • Local Tx. Parks & Wildlife Game Warden, Marty Martin, sent to assist with search and rescue.
  • Attorney, Andrew Slania, of the Law Firm Doyle & Raizner in Galveston tells businesses what they wished their clients would have; could have; and should have done before, during and after a Hurricane.

Emergency Operations Center ~ Public Safety Center
714 E. Conch ~ Rockport, TX

For more information contact: Shelly 361.729.6445 or

EmergencyEmergency O Public Safety Center
(714 E. Concho)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011
7:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.

For more information contact Shelly at 729-6445 or by email at
officemanager@1rockport.org Operations Center - Public Safety Center
(714 E. Concho) 
Wednesday, May 25, 2011  
7:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.

For more information contact Shelly at 729-6445 or by email at

View Comments | Add Comment Monday, May 16, 2011  11:12:00 AM
Velvety Wall Color creates intimate feeling Bedroom 0 Comments Posted

This guest bedroom is treated with a deep, matte chocolate creating a velvety and intimate feeling. Accent colors like the pale greens and oranges of the antique crewelwork bedspread keep the darkness from becoming overwhelming. The overall effect makes it a very restful spot.

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, May 13, 2011  7:39:51 AM
Young Buyers say "Let's Play" Goodbye Living Room 0 Comments Posted
With new-home sales down drastically the last few years, builders are scrambling to re-evaluate what buyers today want in new homes. Changing demographics and tighter lending standards are influencing buyers’ purchasing decisions when home-shopping and changing their priorities, industry experts say.

“There is a lot of pressure today to retool,” says Steve Brooks, CEO of Grand Homes. “We have to redesign houses and figure out what kind of product people would want to buy.”

For example, more younger buyers are bypassing the typical suburban tract of homes and showing a stronger preference for urban-style homes closer to the city.

“Trying to keep doing the same cookie-cutter houses is going to be increasingly difficult,” says James Gaines, an economist at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. “Home builders worry that the demand pool for the suburban home with the quarter-acre lot and the fenced back yard will be shrinking.”

Younger buyers also are saying they don’t need a ton of extra space in a home and that they want spaces configured differently in homes, builders say.

For example, the living room is on it’s way “out,” builders say, as more home owners instead show a preference toward a game room or media room. Plus, more home owners are finding they don’t need a fourth bedroom, which was once in high demand.

However, not all builders believe the “buying small” trend will last.

“With our typical single-family buyers, we’re not seeing them willing to give up much room,” says Bill Darling, a builder in Plano, Texas. “We have seen them willing to put fewer bells and whistles in the homes.”

Some builders are focusing on ways to cut maintenance costs of home ownership too by setting out to build more homes that are more energy efficient.

Source: “Stumped Builders Adjust Their Designs,” RISMedia (May 9, 2011)
NAR, RealtorMag online-amended title

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, May 13, 2011  7:38:04 AM
$$$Waterfront SALE$$$$ 0 Comments Posted
Seller of 403 Captain's Cove in Bahia Bay of Rockport TX will <<<<< ACCEPT 1st offer of $385,577.00 >>>>> with June 2011 Closing .

***$385,577*** will clear mortgage & Seller is 'outta' here *** HURRY *** Negotiations DONE *** BUY IT!
2nd floor MAIN living area overlooks deck & canal + see BAY too! Kitchen accented by eating bar & pass-thru-window to dining area surrounded by Custom Plantation Shutters opening to waterviews GALORE. Bamboo slider leads to master suite + private bath. Downstairs media/bar/game area designed for <^FUN^> Can be bedroom OR lounge leading to deck OR GUEST AREA with adjoining bedroom & bath = you decide = Fenced backyard. Fish from concrete Bulkhead or JUMP into your boat ~~YES~~ Private BOAT LIFT + BOAT SLIP.

Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 or locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to take advantage of this incredible offer.
View Comments | Add Comment Friday, May 13, 2011  7:35:16 AM
Go GREEN to save GREEN this Summer 0 Comments Posted

Summer heat is a mastermind at emptying our wallets. In today's economy, many families cannot afford large rises in their monthly bills. How can you keep energy costs low this Summer?

Implement these simple tips into your daily routine and you'll find big savings

First, substitute traditional incandescent bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs). The initial cost may be higher, but CFLs use less energy and last 1,000's of times longer.

The next consideration can save you money now and later. There are numerous tax credits available for energy upgrades, such as insulated windows. You can visit energystar.gov to get the specifics. Insulated windows and doors are a great way to keep cool air in and hot air out. If you are replacing windows, consider using an insulating window wrap around the new install. This will help reduce energy loss from around the window.

Now is also a good time to do a quick home inspection. Check for leaky duct work. There's no reason to pay to cool your attic! Be sure that attic vents are open and have good circulation.

If you live in an old house, you may find that your attic insulation is non-existent or in need of upgrading. Do a thorough inspection of your home to see where it needs some TLC.

Next, embrace fans. They can circulate and move air, requiring less need for air conditioning.

Speaking of air conditioning, there is now a new alternative to traditional window units. Window units are eyesores that lack energy efficiency. For around $300 to $500 you can buy portable AC units. These portable units mean you can move them from room to room as needed. They use a no-drip technology that saves money by using an eco-friendly refrigerant gas. They also come with an adjustable thermostat and 24-hour countdown timer -- two more energy-efficient upgrades.

If you have central air, be sure to keep the temperature turned up during the day when you are away from the house. Don't turn the unit off completely, since then it has to work overtime to cool the house when you arrive home. If you can, program your thermostat to turn down 30 to 45 minutes before you return home each day.

To keep your unit working at optimum efficiency, replace your air filter regularly and have it serviced when needed.

Next on the list of ways to reduce your energy bill is keeping appliances unplugged when not in use. Even if an appliance is off, but still plugged in, it will be drawing power. Keep appliances unplugged, or go for a clean-line look and store them whenever they aren't in use.

These are just a few tips that can help you reduce your energy bill. Good luck saving this Summer!

Published: May 12, 2011 RealtyTimes-title amended

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, May 13, 2011  7:34:19 AM
Do you have Tornado Insurance 0 Comments Posted

If you have a homeowners insurance policy, yes, you have "tornado insurance."

Homeowners insurance policies cover your home and its contents for wind damage, including damage caused by tornadoes, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

You've just got to be sure your coverage limits are enough to fully cover the cost of rebuilding and replacing your stuff.

April 27, 2011 was the deadliest day for tornadoes since a 1925 tornado outbreak killed more than 700 people in seven states according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Recent tornadoes killed more than 300 people, largely in Alabama but also in five other southern states, leaving thousands homeless and without power.

III says homeowners policies also cover the cost of additional living expenses (ALE), the cost of living elsewhere when you can't inhabit your home due to damage from an insured disaster. ALE covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while your home is being repaired or rebuilt.

To get your home fully rebuilt after total destruction you need "guaranteed replacement cost coverage."

Avoid home value-based coverage (the value of your home on the open market), unless you can afford to pay the difference after a disaster. Replacement cost coverage will fully rebuild your home and replace its contents at current market costs. The coverage can be tough to get in some high hazard risk areas, but if you live in areas with a high risk for tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters, you need all the protection you can get.

Home-based business equipment and supplies, home improvements and upgrades adding extra square footage, antiques, collections, hobby materials and other valuables should be adequately insured and may require special coverage.

The III offers the following advice to speed your insurance claim settlement after a tornado.

Much of the documents you may need should have been kept either in a disaster proof safe or away from the home, say in a safety deposit box

• Be prepared to give your agent or insurance company representative a detailed description of the damage to your property. Your agent will report the loss to your insurance company or to a qualified adjuster who will arrange an inspection of the site.

• If it is safe to access the area, take photographs or videos of the damaged property. Visual documentation helps speed the claims process and assists the adjuster in his or her investigation.

• Prepare a detailed inventory of all damaged or destroyed personal property. Make one copy for yourself and another for the adjuster or insurance agent. The list should be as complete as possible, including a description of the items, dates of purchase or approximate age, cost at time of purchase and estimated replacement cost. Again, you should always keep an inventory of your personal property, just for this reason. After a disaster, your emotions will play havoc on your memory and make it difficult to detail all that you owned.

• When possible, collect canceled checks, invoices, receipts or other papers that will assist the adjuster in obtaining the value of the destroyed property. Again you need a disaster-proof safe at home or a safety deposit box at a bank to protect your valuable papers.

• Make what temporary repairs you can. Cover broken windows and damaged roofs and walls to prevent additional damage and protect you from liability. Save receipts for any supplies and materials you buy. Your insurance company will reimburse you for reasonable expenses for temporary repairs.

• Secure a detailed estimate for permanent repairs to your home from a licensed contractor and give it to the adjuster. The estimate should contain the proposed repairs, repair costs and replacement prices with great detail.

• If your home is uninhabitable, keep a record of all expenses including those from a hotel or motel and restaurants.

Published: May 12, 2011 RealtyTimes
Broderick Perkins

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, May 13, 2011  7:32:59 AM
Better to GET OFF the fence...Prices are scooting up 0 Comments Posted
A seasonal uptick in both median prices and inventory has appeared in most metropolitan areas across the country, contradicting earlier price reports, according to Altos Research’s 20-city Composite trends data in April. Price increases are apparent in 24 of the 26 tracked markets, and inventory increases are apparent in 23 of the 26 tracked markets.

The week-over-week median prices have been increasing for a few months now, and the 90-day rolling average is now reflecting the same trend.

“The historical view tells us a seasonal increase in activity is expected at this time of year. Regardless of what’s happening in the economy as a whole, we see a seasonal spike in both median prices and inventory when the country starts to thaw from the winter months,” says the Altos report.

Altos’ national index median price rose to $440,194 in April, up 1.82 percent from $432,307 in March. The leaders in the price increase category were in “Sunshine States”—San Francisco (4.87 percent), San Jose (4.32 percent), Phoenix (3.30 percent), Denver (3.23 percent), and DC (3.04 percent).

Austin, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. all showed double-digit inventory increases and Boston posted the biggest inventory increase at 19.18 percent. The 7-day and 90-day averages are both trending upwards for median prices and inventory. The 7-day trends are always the first indication of a shifting market and should be watched closely.

Prices were flat in New York, Philadelphia, Portland, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Tampa. Las Vegas and New York were the only markets showing a decrease in inventory, and the decreases were modest (-1.05 percent and -0.26 percent, respectively). Compared to the big price drops over the past six months, this is welcome news for sellers.

The Altos Research Real-Time Housing Report provides up-to-the-minute data relative to housing market conditions in major markets around the nation. The Altos report uses metrics associated with active residential property listings to deliver real-time information.

For more information, please visit www.realestateeconomywatch.com.
Source:  RISMedia, published 5/12/11-title amended

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, May 13, 2011  7:32:20 AM
Sales are going UP UP UP in most states ~~Better Buy Now 0 Comments Posted
Existing-home sales continued to recover in the first quarter with gains recorded in 49 states and the District of Columbia, while 22 percent of the available metropolitan areas saw prices rise from a year ago, according to the latest survey by the National Association of REALTORS®.

Total state existing-home sales—including single-family and condo—rose 8.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.14 million in the first quarter from 4.75 million in the fourth quarter, and are only 0.8 percent below a 5.18 million pace during the same period in 2010.

Also in the first quarter, the median existing single-family home price rose in 34 out of 153 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) from the first quarter of 2010, including four with double-digit increases; one was unchanged and 118 areas showed price declines.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says home prices are all over the map.

“The reading of quarterly price data can be volatile because they are based on the types of homes that are sold during the quarter. When buyers principally purchase distressed properties in a given market, the recorded prices will be very low, which is what we’re seeing now in much of the country,” he says. “Annual price data provides a better guide about the direction of the market in those areas.”

The national median existing single-family home price was $158,700 in the first quarter, down 4.6 percent from $166,400 in the first quarter of 2010.The median is where half sold for more and half sold for less. Distressed homes, typically sold at a discount of about 20 percent, accounted for 39 percent of first quarter sales, up from 36 percent a year earlier.

To clarify, Yun says lower priced homes have seen the best sales performance. “The biggest sales increase has been in the lower price ranges, which are popular with investors and cash buyers,” he says. “The preponderance of sales activity at the lower end is bringing down the median price, so what we’re seeing is the result of a change in the composition of home sales.”

Although sales are slightly below a year ago, the volume of homes sold for $100,000 or less in the first quarter was 8.9 percent higher than the first quarter of 2010, creating a downward skew on the overall median price. The share of all-cash home purchases rose to 33 percent in the first quarter from 27 percent in the first quarter of 2010.

Investors accounted for 21 percent of first quarter transactions, up from 18 percent a year ago, while first-time buyers purchased 32 percent of homes, down from 42 percent in the first quarter of 2010 when a tax credit was in place. Repeat buyers accounted for a 47 percent market share in the first quarter, up from 40 percent a year earlier.

“The rising sales trend in nearly all states is a part of the healing process to clear off inventory. Sales need to rise before prices can firm up,” Yun adds.

NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., says strong sales of distressed homes are exactly what the market needs. “The good news is foreclosures, which account for two-thirds of all distressed homes sold, are selling very quickly,” he says. “Short sales still take far too long to get lender approval, but it appears the inventory of distressed property is peaking and will be gradually declining next year. This means the market should slowly return to balance. We are encouraged that recent home buyers are having exceptionally low default rates.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.85 percent in the first quarter, up from a record low 4.41 percent in the fourth quarter, but below the 5.00 percent average in the first quarter of 2010.

In the condo sector, metro area condominium and cooperative prices—covering changes in 53 metro areas—showed the national median existing-condo price was $152,900 in the first quarter, down 10.4 percent from the first quarter of 2010. Eleven metros showed increases in the median condo price from a year ago, one was unchanged and 41 areas had declines.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast increased 0.8 percent in the first quarter to a level of 800,000 but are 7.3 percent below the first quarter of 2010. The median existing single-family home price in the Northeast declined 5.0 percent to $234,100 in the first quarter from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 7.9 percent in the first quarter to a pace of 1.09 million but are 5.0 percent below a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Midwest fell 5.3 percent to $124,400 in the first quarter from the same period in 2010.

In the South, existing-home sales increased 8.5 percent in the first quarter to an annual rate of 1.96 million and are 2.8 percent higher than the first quarter of 2010. The median existing single-family home price in the South slipped 0.6 percent to $141,800 in the first quarter from a year earlier.

Existing-home sales in the West jumped 13.5 percent in the first quarter to a level of 1.29 million and are 2.1 percent above a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the West fell 4.7 percent to $197,400 in the first quarter from the first quarter of 2010.

The National Association of REALTORS®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

For more information visit www.realtor.org.
Source:  RISMedia, 5/12/11, published-title amended

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, May 13, 2011  7:31:09 AM
French Quarter inspires romantic courtyard ideas 0 Comments Posted
The patio was inspired by the intimate, romantic courtyards in the French Quarter. "It's totally hidden from street view, so it creates a sense of privacy and mystery," says designer Ty Larkins. The Carmel armchairs are by Restoration Hardware. Source:  housebeautiful.com
Photo: Thomas Loof
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 10, 2011  8:47:10 AM
Recycle & Repaint an Outdoor Kitchen 0 Comments Posted
Moises Esquenazi created a series of living areas in this Los Angeles backyard. Cabana with daybed echoes c-o-l-o-r me BRITE!  The natural fiber pillows and the blue squares are from RL Home; striped and print pillows are by Trina Turk. Source: housebeautiful.com
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 10, 2011  8:45:35 AM
Beach House Patio design ideas 0 Comments Posted
You've found the perfect Beach House, now what do you do with the patio? Check out these inspired ideas by designer Kristen Ewart
Source: housebeautiful.com
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 10, 2011  8:44:53 AM
Add exterior maintenance to the HONEY DO List 0 Comments Posted
According to DIY shopping and support website Trades Supermarket, the improved spring weather means more than giving the lawn a trim for homeowners; it signifies the time to undertake necessary repair and maintenance checks, not only to make sure the house and garden look good and are safe for summer but also to save expenditure on major improvements in the long run.

The strong winds over the winter months may have impacted the safety of areas in and around the home, notes Tommy Walsh, TV favorite and member of the Trades Supermarket team. These impacted areas can include roofs, guttering and fences. Walsh suggests that homeowners ensure wooden fence posts are still intact and embedded properly in the ground, and consider treating them by applying a new coat of preservative. Checking guttering, fascias and roof tiles for damage and movement, as well as clearing out any leaves and debris that have built-up over the winter, are must-do jobs. Walsh adds that ladder work is always a two person job, and that people who are not confident should consult professionals.

According to Walsh, checking for the onset of rot in wood is another important safety check, especially on sheds and decking, which could cause serious injury to people if they collapsed. With decking, Walsh suggests looking at the condition of the posts and making sure the planking is nailed or screwed firmly in place. Shed owners should not only inspect the wood but also make sure the roofing felt has not shrunk or ripped—replacing it if necessary to prevent leaks—therefore avoiding further damage to the wood or the shed’s contents. If decking or sheds are due for a fresh coat of a preservative treatment, Walsh advises making sure the timber is washed down using a stiff brush and lightly sanding before application.

“Doing maintenance checks around the home are jobs that are often put off until ‘next weekend’ but many of these checks are for safety reasons,” says Walsh. “You don’t want to risk any accidents or end up spending more money having to replace things, like your fascias or decking, in the long run.”

For more information visit http://www.tradessupermarket.com.

RISMedia, published 3/31/11-title amended
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 10, 2011  8:44:11 AM
Mortgage Rates for 3rd Week~~Better Buy NOW 0 Comments Posted

Mortgage rates dropped for the third week in a row to their lowest point this year on signs of economic weakness, Freddie Mac said in releasing the results of its latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.71 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending May 5, down from 4.78 percent last week and 5 percent a year ago.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit an all-time low in Freddie Mac records dating to 1971 of 4.17 percent during the week ending Nov. 11, 2010, and so far this year has ranged from 4.71 percent in early January to a high of 5.05 percent in February.

Rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.89 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from 3.97 percent last week and 4.36 percent a year ago. That's a new low for 2011, but well above the all-time low in records dating back to 1991 of 3.57 percent, set in November.

Rates on 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans averaged 3.47 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 3.51 percent last week and 3.97 percent a year ago. The 5-year ARM hit a low in records dating to 2005 of 3.25 percent in November.

Rates on 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 3.14 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from 3.15 percent last week and 4.07 percent a year ago.

Looking back a week, a separate survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed demand for purchase loans remained well below last year's levels.

The MBA's Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey showed demand for purchase loans was up a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent during the week ending April 29 compared to a week ago, and down 36.9 percent from the same time a year ago. Requests for refinancing accounted for 62.7 percent of all applications.

In an April 14 forecast, MBA economists said they expect rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans will climb to an average of 5.6 percent during the final three months of the year, and average 6 percent in the final quarter of 2012.

Source:  Inman News, published 5/9/11
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 10, 2011  8:43:26 AM
Our home was vandalized---What do we DO? 0 Comments Posted

The following TIPS guide you through the dos and don’ts of a Vandalism home emergency.
• Hose or wash egg damage from building exterior as soon as possible
• Blot freshly spilled food from carpets and fabrics with a dampened cloth or sponge; scrape and blot—don’t rub.
• Vacuum glass particles from carpets and upholstery
• Save containers, which reveal the composition of spilled inks, cosmetics and paints

• Attempt to remove ink, paint or cosmetic stains
• Operate damaged lamps or appliances
• Discard wood chips, broken pieces from furniture, porcelain or other art objects

Source:  East Coast Public Adjusters, Inc
RISMedia, published 5/9/11
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 10, 2011  8:42:18 AM
Fire Damage Guides DOES and DON'TS 0 Comments Posted

The following TIPS guide you through the dos and don’ts of a FIRE DAMAGE home emergency.

Fire Damage:

• Limit movement in the home to prevent soot particles from being embedded into upholstery and carpets
• Keep hands clean; soot on hands can further soil upholstery, walls and woodwork
• Blow, brush or vacuum loose soot particles from upholstery, drapes and carpets
• Place clean towels or old linens on rugs, upholstery and carpet traffic areas
• Clean and protect chrome on kitchen and bathroom faucets, trim and appliances with light coating of Vaseline or oil
• Wash house plants on both sides of leaves
• Change HVAC filter

• Attempt to wash any walls or painted surfaces without first contacting a professional
• Attempt to shampoo carpet or upholstered furniture without first consulting a professional
• Attempt to clean any electrical appliances that may have been close to the fire, heat or water without first consulting an authorized repair service
• Turn on ceiling fixtures if ceiling is wet—wiring may be wet or damaged

Source:  East Coast Public Adjusters, Inc.,
RISMedia, publised 5/9/11
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 10, 2011  8:41:38 AM
Help! my CUP R~U~N~N~E~T~H over! What do I do? 0 Comments Posted
The following TIP guides you through the dos and don’ts of a WATER DAMAGE home emergency.

Water Damage:

• Remove as much excess water as possible by mopping and blotting
• Wipe excess water from wood furniture after removal of lamps and table top items
• Remove and prop wet upholstery and pillow cushions for even drying
• Place aluminum foil or wood blocks between furniture legs and wet carpeting
• Turn air conditioning on for maximum drying in summer
• Remove Oriental rugs or other colored rugs from wet wall-to-wall carpeting
• Remove valuable paintings and art objects to a safe, dry place
• Open and place luggage in sunlight to dry, if possible
• Gather loose items, toys, etc. from floors

• Leave wet fabrics in place; dry as soon as possible. Hang furs and leather goods to dry separately at room temperature
• Leave books, magazines or other colored items on wet carpets or floors
• Use your household vacuum to remove water
• Use TVs or other household appliances while standing on wet carpets or floors–especially wet concrete

Source:  East Coast Public Adjusters, Inc.,
RISMedia, published 5/9/11

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 10, 2011  8:40:48 AM
Simple Tips to Prevent Fires 0 Comments Posted
Every year home electrical problems cause more than 28,000 house fires and massive property damage. Electrical wiring is the root cause of many of these fires, of which countless could have been prevented. May is Electrical Safety Month. MXenergy, an independent energy provider, is encouraging everyone to review key electrical safety tips.

“Quite frankly, electrical safety is a key home safety component that is often overlooked,” says Marjorie Kass, MXenergy Managing Director. “Yet the truth is, it is an essential element of any home safety plan. Proper education, awareness and action can go a long way in preventing tragedy.”

Faulty or fixed wiring or improper use of electrical cords and other electrical items cause most home fires.

MXenergy Electrical Safety Tips

• Pay Attention: Flickering lights, buzzing noises, and faceplates that are warm to the touch are all signs that a circuit may be overloaded or wiring may be wearing thin. Each one of those signs is cause for immediate attention from a licensed professional electrician.

• Listen to Your Breaker: If you are continually tripping a switch and having to reset your breaker box, your house is trying to tell you something. There may be a fixture with faulty wiring or too high an electrical load on the breaker. Again, seek professional help.

• Review and Replace: Frayed electrical cords, wobbly ceiling fans, and loose faceplates are more than mere annoyances. You should routinely inspect your home and replace or repair items in need of attention.

• Safety First: Even the best preparation and newest equipment is not a guaranteed protection against fire. Working smoke detectors on all levels of your home is an absolute must. Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher and you know the proper way to use it.

“The good news is many of these fires are avoidable,” continues Kass. “In the case of electrical safety just a little awareness and preparation can make an enormous difference.”

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) sponsors Electrical Safety Month each May. More information and safety tips, including a home safety calendar, can be found at www.esfi.org.

For more information MXenergy please visit www.mxenergy.com.

Source:  RISMedia, publised 5/9/11
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 10, 2011  8:39:50 AM
4 Tips to SELLING in today's market! 0 Comments Posted
Home sales and prices are still dropping around the country as huge inventories of foreclosures and short sales continue to weigh on many markets. So how can traditional sellers stand out in a crowded real estate marketplace? CNNMoney.com recently highlighted several keys to getting a home sold in a tough real estate market.

1. Cut your price by a lot. Buyers nowadays want to feel they are getting a “steal,” real estate experts say. But some sellers may be tempted to list a property above fair market value just to test out the market and see if they can get a taker. In the past year, about 25 percent of sellers who initially listed their homes too high ended up having to reduce the price, according to Trulia.com.

"The first 30 days on the market are the most important," says Elizabeth Kamar, a real estate professional in Norwalk, Conn. That crucial time is when the home gets the most attention and showings. For sellers who aren’t realistic about the price from the get-go, they often end up with less than they would have if they priced it right initially, Kamar says.

Experts also note that if after 30 days on the market there are still no buyers, sellers may need to make a big move.

"When a property sits, people start thinking it must be listed too high," says Ellen Klein, a real estate professional in Rockaway, N.J. She suggests making a giant price cut--as much as 10 percent of the asking price--which may be extra motivation for buyers to take a second look or attract a new pool of potential buyers seeking a lower price range.

2. Play hardball in negotiations. Sellers shouldn’t feel they have to accept any lowball offer that comes their way. However, if a buyer is willing to negotiate, that’s when sellers need to try to set aside feelings of anger or insult and start to counteroffer, says Mabel Guzman, president of the Chicago Association of REALTORS®. Guzman says the ideal is that you’ll be able to negotiate within $10,000 to $20,000 of an acceptable offer. Using incentives--such as agreeing to leave the appliances--may get buyers to budge in agreeing to a higher price.

3. Stage it. Staging is becoming popular in trying to sell mid-range homes. Professional stagers will help home owners highlight key areas of a home and often rearranges furniture or bring new furniture in, repaint, and get the home looking like it’s ripped from a catalog. Real estate brokers say that proper staging can actually speed up a sale and increase the final sales price too.

4. Get the home in front of as many buyers as possible. The real estate professional needs to get creative in the marketing to make sure the home gets a lot of attention from buyers. "The more eyeballs that get on the listing, the better," says Katie Curnutte of the real estate information web site Zillow.com.

One key: Boosting the home’s online presence. Having 20 instead of five photos will nearly double the number of hits the property gets on the Web, according to Zillow.com. Incentives can also draw out buyers, such as with offers to cover a buyer’s closing costs, pay the first year’s property taxes, or even a $1,000 gift card (and maybe one for the buyer's agent too). (Note: You must disclose any such gifts or payments when the offer is agreed on.)

Check out more tips.

Source: “Your Home: How to Sell in Tough Times,” CNNMoney.com (May 2, 2011)
REALTORMag, published 5/3/11

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, May 05, 2011  10:50:19 AM
Make room for the NEW baby! 0 Comments Posted

Expanding the familiy? Think NOW about how you plan to decorate the baby's room BEFORE the big MOVE!  

Crib from Storkland Baby

Fleece Organic Baby Blanket on glider by Robbie Adrian

Chocolate rug: Posh Collection from Shaw Floors

Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to view properties For Sale in Aransas County for your expanding family!

Photo: Brian Francis
Source: myrooomideas.com

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, May 04, 2011  10:07:32 AM
Remodeling Highest Level in Four Years! See special Rockport discounts 0 Comments Posted
According to the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI), the remodeling market is heading into recovery with an increase to 46.5 in the first quarter of 2011 from 41.5 in the fourth quarter of 2010. This marks the highest level for the RMI since the fourth quarter of 2006. An RMI below 50, however, indicates that still more remodelers report market activity is lower (compared to the prior quarter) than report it is higher.

The overall RMI combines ratings of current remodeling activity with indicators of future activity like calls for bids. Current market conditions for the first quarter of 2011 rose to 46.1 from 43.3 in the previous quarter. Future market indicators climbed to 46.8 from 39.7 in the previous quarter.

“Remodelers report a jump in activity so far this year and have been receiving more calls for work and appointments,” says NAHB Remodelers Chairman Bob Peterson, CGR, CAPS, CGP, a remodeler from Ft. Collins, Colo. “However, many home owners are still slow to commit to remodeling due to feeling uncertain about the economic recovery and difficulty obtaining loans.”

Regional break downs for current remodeling market conditions showed growth in all but one area: Northeast 46.1 (from 38.8 in the fourth quarter), South 46.1 (from 45.8), and West 46.1 (from 39.7). Only the Midwest experienced a decline to 47.1 (from 54.3).

All current remodeling market indicators increased: major additions to 50.3 (from 48.6 in the fourth quarter), minor additions to 48.0 (from 43.9), and maintenance and repair to 39.5 (from 37.0). Future market indicators also improved across the board: calls for bids rose to 53.1 (from 47.2), appointments for proposals to 52.4 (from 43.1), backlog of remodeling jobs to 49.7 (from 42.6), and amount of work committed for the next three months to 32.1 (from 25.9).

In an additional special question remodelers reported the top reasons prospective customers are holding back from remodeling their homes:

Customers think it is hard to get financing (90 percent of remodeler respondents); Customers have lost equity in their homes (81 percent); Customers are uncertain about their future economic situation (74 percent); Reluctance to invest in home when not sure home will hold its value (67 percent); Negative media stories making customers more cautious (62 percent) and Inaccurate appraisals are making financing more difficult (54 percent).

Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton, TX (VVIP) Very Very Important Persons (VVIP) Clients receive 10% OFF from these local Aransas County vendors. Call toll free 1.800.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 to view properties for sale in Rockport/Fulton TX.

"Home remodeling continues to slowly increase and continued growth through the year is expected.” says NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “The fact that some indicators are breaking 50 means remodelers are seeing improving activity in their markets. While credit scarcity and economic uncertainty continue to weigh down remodeling, signs of increasing consumer interest are promising.”

For more information about remodeling, visit www.nahb.org/remodel.

Source:  RISMedia, published 5/2/11-article/title adapted

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, May 03, 2011  11:12:21 AM
Reclycle Old Items for Texana's Art Program 0 Comments Posted
Texana Center is focused on helping people with behavioral healthcare issues or intellectual & development disability challenges to make a positive difference in their lives.  The two centers in need of supplies are located in Missouri City, TX and Rosenberg, TX on the southwest side of Houston. 

If you are in the Houston area supplies may be taken to Rosenberg.  If you are located south in the Coastal Bend area of TX (Rockport and surrounds), contact Barbara Gurtner to drop off any items or to have items picked up.  361-790-7952 or beg@rockportsearch.com

If you live in other parts of Texas or the country and would like to help, the website found below will have information on who you might contact.

Texana Wish List

Texana Center | Behavioral Healthcare & Developmental Disabilities Services

4910 Airport Avenue, Bldg. B | Rosenberg, TX 77471


View Comments | Add Comment Monday, May 02, 2011  10:58:12 AM
Looking for a Home? Be like Santa~Make a List and Check it Twice 0 Comments Posted
Lookin' for a home?  Be SANTA.  Make a list.  Check it twice & give it to your REALTOR!

What 3 things are a MUST?

What 3 things would you LIKE?

What 3 features EXCITE you?

Rarely do you find a home that HAS IT ALL!  If you find a home to meet more than 1/2 of your WISH list, BUY IT! If the home has an added feature that EXCITES you, PAY FULL PRICE---don't take the chance of it slipping away. When lookin' for a home, remember YOU can CUSTOMIZE it to EXCITE you later! Think about what you'd do:

If you LOVE the kitchen but HATE the bedroom, would you buy it?

If the master bath has a shower BUT you want a tub, would you buy it?

If the home has a carport BUT you want a garage, would you buy it?

If the neighbor's yard is junky BUT the home EXCITES you, would you buy it?

Share your MUST, LIKE & EXCITE lists with your REALTOR before you begin shopping for a new home. Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to preview properties for sale in Aransas County
View Comments | Add Comment Monday, May 02, 2011  10:56:35 AM
Pending Home Sales rise Especially in South Texas 0 Comments Posted
March saw another increase in pending home sales, with contract activity rising unevenly in six of the past nine months, according to the National Association of Realtors®. The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 5.1 percent to 94.1 in March from a downwardly revised 89.5 in February. The index is 11.4 percent below 106.2 in March 2010; however, activity was at elevated levels in March and April of 2010 to meet the contract deadline for the home buyer tax credit.

The data reflects contracts but not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says home sales activity has shown an uneven but notable improvement. “Since reaching a cyclical bottom last June, pending home sales have posted an overall gain of 24 percent and demonstrate the market is recovering on its own,” he notes. “The index means modest near-term gains in existing-home sales are likely, which would be even stronger if tight mortgage lending criteria returned to normal, safe standards.”

The PHSI in the Northeast fell 3.2 percent to 63.4 in March and is 18.4 percent below March 2010. In the Midwest the index rose 3.0 percent in March to 83.5 but is 16.6 percent below where it was a year ago. Pending home sales in the South jumped 10.3 percent to an index of 110.2, but are 10.5 percent below March 2010. In the West, the index increased 3.1 percent to 103.7 but is 4.1 percent
below a year ago.

TOTAL Properties UNDER CONTRACT as report to Rockport Area Association of REALTORS
March 2009 compared to March 2011
03/31/09    45 $  6,242,849
44 $  6,783,440
03/31/11   102 $16,397,777

 “Based on the current uptrend with very favorable affordability conditions, rising apartment rents and ongoing job creation, existing-home sales should rise around 5 to 10 percent this year with sales growth of lower priced homes likely to outperform high-end homes. That means the price trend will reflect more homes sold in the lower price ranges,” Yun says.

“The good news is that recent home buyers are staying well within budget, leading to exceptionally low loan default rates among home buyers over the past two years,” Yun adds.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to view properties for sale in Aransas County

For more information visit www.Realtor.org.

Source:  RISMedia, published 4/29/11
Rockport Area Association of REALTORS
View Comments | Add Comment Friday, April 29, 2011  10:13:53 AM
Will first-time homebuyers reform the mortgage market? Can they? 0 Comments Posted

As federal regulators have proposed a 20 percent down payment requirement for many borrowers to secure a home loan, let me be positive. This is a great idea -- in fact it might be low -- for speculators and investors purchasing residential real estate. Those in this market segment are sophisticated, willing and able to take risks. They can weather the unexpected.

Even at 20 percent down, speculators may consider walking if they purchase preconstruction homes or condominiums and cannot close before interest rates climb so high they cannot cover their monthly cash flow. The difference between them and everybody else is that they can handle the losses. They are the first in to purchase presales in a good market, and the first out when the market goes south.

But the first-time homebuyer is the bread and butter, the base, the market segment that needs the help. Nothing down is not the answer. Neither is 20 percent. And for too long they have been set to fail if things did not go as planned. Mortgage to the max, then refinance to the max, so the lender keeps making money on those fees and points.

Regulatory proposals aside, what is truly needed is an understanding of the market -- especially the first-time homebuyer. First-time homebuyers, as they start moving back into the market, need a program that makes sense. They will not be able to depend on refinancing every few years. They need a sound program now.

Forget thinking out of the box. The box is too deep. Let's focus on understanding the times, and knowing what to do. These are times that require fresh, market-sensitive thinking.

First of all, let's make some assumptions:

1. If buyers cannot settle down with a monthly payment they can depend on (fixed mortgage), and cannot afford a high down payment, they will rent. This, in turn, will drive rents higher and higher, forcing many families to move down in their lifestyle as life's financial, health, and family issues create their own problems. Homeownership is important.

2. In the past, lenders pushed mortgages to the qualifying limit based on two incomes. This is a formula for disaster (or refinancing, depending on how you look at it and who is looking at it).

3. Relatives need to be able to help first-time homebuyers without having to get legally involved with the home.

4. Bankers need to get back to encouraging savings, not borrowing. Borrowing will take care of itself.

5. Investors and speculators ruin the market for almost everybody, and can take risks without lifelong consequences.

6. Lenders can greatly simplify the mortgage process and can therefore reduce closing costs significantly.

7. A mortgage should be based on performance and fundamentals, not potential equity and refinancing possibilities.

Whatever the mortgage industry does, it must replace some of its muscle with heart, and offer first-time homebuyers a product that gives them a fair starting point, not one that dares them to live a mishap-free life.

The basic goal must be to develop a formula that helps both the buyer and lender stay out of trouble down the road. Buying the home is the fun part. Keeping it gets a little difficult at times. Here's a plan that targets homebuyers, but is available to all buyers.

All buyers deserve a chance to establish a strong foothold with their finances. Assume there will be emergencies that can affect timely mortgage payments.

Here's my own proposal for a better mortgage market:

Proposed mortgage model

1. Mortgage down payments should be set at 4 percent for all first-time buyers.

2. For couples, base the mortgage payment on their combined ability to repay, but give the second income only a 50 percent credit, if that.

3. The first-time homebuyer must place in an interest-bearing escrow an amount equal to three months of monthly payments, including taxes and insurance (or more, depending on credit score).

4. Escrow funds can be used to pay missed mortgage payments, giving the family time to recover from unemployment or emergency issues without affecting their credit or putting them or their lender under undue strain.

5. Escrow funds can come from third parties with no legal liabilities to repay the mortgage.

6. The mortgage should have a fixed rate for at least five years, with the future interest rate protection based on payment history. This gives the family time and incentive to get established.

7. At the end of the five years, the buyer has had some time to build equity, and to establish a credit history.

Example: A first-time buyer purchases a $100,000 home, with a $4,000 deposit. Let's say the monthly payment on a $96,000 mortgage is $500 a month -- $1,500 must be escrowed in an interest-bearing account, to be returned with interest at end of five years, less any funds drawn down to cover mortgage payments. In effect, the lender is asking for a $5,500 commitment.

An incentive in interest rate or down payment could be made available based on the buyer's payment performance at the end of five years. But the first-time homebuyer has the assurance that his credit, home, and family are protected for six months should an emergency situation arise.

Can you imagine how many young families would feel more secure, how many parents and relatives could and would help, without unwanted ownership participation or co-signing? How the escrow funds are paid back would be up to the buyer and relatives.

For speculators and investors: Double down on deposits and resale restrictions for speculators.

Foreclosures would be greatly reduced, and lenders would be doing what they set out to do so many long years ago: truly service their local community in a way that doesn't dare their mortgage customers to stay in their home when they are hit with unexpected or unavoidable circumstances.

First time buyers CALL Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to preview homes for sale in Aransas County. We'll help ya!

By David Fletcher, published 4/28/11-title amended
Inman News™

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, April 29, 2011  10:12:37 AM
FHA backing efficiency Power Saver Loans up to $25,000 0 Comments Posted

The Federal Housing Administration has signed up 18 lenders to participate in a pilot program that offers homeowners "PowerSaver" loans of up to $25,000 to make their homes more energy efficient.

About 30,000 homeowners are expected to qualify for the loans by installing insulation, duct sealing, replacement doors and windows, HVAC systems, water heaters, solar panels, and geothermal systems.

Homeowners must have good credit, manageable debt, and at least some equity in their home. FHA mortgage insurance will cover up to 90 percent of the loan amount, with lenders retaining the remaining risk to encourage responsible underwriting and lending standards.

Lenders currently participating in the PowerSaver are Admirals Bank; AFC First Financial Corp.; Bank of Colorado; the City of Boise, Idaho; Energy Finance Solutions; Enterprise Cascadia; HomeStreet Bank; Neighbor's Financial Corp.; Paramount Equity Mortgage Inc.; Quicken Loans; SOFCU Community Credit Union; Stonegate Mortgage Corp.; Sun West Mortgage Co. Inc.; The Bank at Broadmoor; University of Virginia Community Credit Union Inc.; Viewtech Financial Services Inc.; WinTrust Mortgage; and W. J. Bradley Mortgage Capital Corp.

By Inman News, published 4/27/11

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, April 27, 2011  12:34:06 PM
Fannie, Freddie, FHA under FIRE 0 Comments Posted

Commentary: The uncertain future of mortgage lending

It has been a quiet week in the markets, shortened by Good Friday. Oh, Standard & Poor's created a tempest with its threat to the AAA rating of Treasurys, but as the week wore on, more and more people asked, "How would they know?"

Stocks regained all losses, but Treasury bond yields stayed low, the 10-year at 3.39 percent and mortgages under 5 percent.

Bill Gross, famously dumping all of PIMCO's Treasurys last month, has lost money on the trade. A federal budget deal is now likely; Europe is in trouble (again, Greek 2-year bonds paying 22 percent), and domestic data is weakening.

Sales of new and existing homes are flat, but distressed inventory is rising. The Federal Housing Finance Agency found that home prices fell 1 percent in January and another 1.6 percent in February.

The fascinating thing about housing, now: it's no longer news. It's so yesterday, boring. For seven months, media attention has focused on "Foreclosure Gate," the so-called robo-signing scandal in which some loan servicers allegedly foreclosed on some innocent homeowners.

The reality is clear now, as then: Some servicers have mistreated borrowers by inattention, finding a work-around for the antiquated local-level foreclosure procedures. Servicers will be fined and newly regulated.

Media have found a handful of wrongly foreclosed families, but that preoccupation has missed this wisdom, attributed to Joseph Stalin: "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic" (if Stalin didn't say it, he should have -- the origins of this saying are cloudy).

The search for human interest has abandoned the real victims: Another 2 million households end up in foreclosure this year, 11 million underwater -- and government help is going ... gone.

Imagine if in 1937 Franklin Delano Roosevelt had said, "I see one-third of a nation ill-clothed, ill-housed, and ill-fed ... but if we wait long enough, they'll get over it."

Everybody understands the basics: more houses for sale than buyers. However, even those in pain often don't believe me when I say that credit is too tight and too scarce.

Today, two examples:

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration are the only remaining significant sources of mortgages, and they are frantically trying never to make another bad loan. One cause of default is fraudulent borrower documents.

Early in the 1990s, minutes after the invention of desktop publishing, the first borrower fabricated tax returns showing more income than the ones filed at the Internal Revenue Service. Minutes after that, Fannie, Freddie and the FHA required Form 4506-T in order to pull transcripts from the IRS.

For a while we actually checked, but so few fraudulent returns were found that the signed 4506-T became a threat but not an immediate act.

Since 2009 -- as never before -- every borrower must bring tax returns (not just the self-employed), and we must run a 4506-T every time. May a merciful Almighty save us this time of year, when the IRS could not find its back end with the help of a medical professional. Transcript delays have run six, even eight weeks.

How many fraudulent returns and defaulted loans are we really preventing? In a billion dollars of loans through here, I know of one case of fraud (a certified public accountant applicant), hundreds of innocent but odd 1040s questioned with red-hot tongs, and thousands of delays. Think Fannie, Freddie and the FHA are tracking cost/benefit? Uh-uh. Just tighten, baby, tighten.

A second example: the Dodd-Frank bill's Qualified Residential Mortgage, qualifying for capital exemption in securitization. QRMs will require 20 percent down to buy, 25 percent equity to refi, forbid second mortgages ... a belt tightened right through the backbone.

An FHFA study (released April 14, at www.fhfa.gov) found annual rates of 90-day delinquency pre-bubble (1997-2003) clustered between 2.5 percent and 3 percent for all loans -- which is why Fannie, Freddie and the FHA charge to securitize loans, or require mortgage insurance. QRM-equivalent defaults ranged 0.31 percent to 0.55 percent, but were barely 20 percent of all loans.

By 2009, standards had so greatly tightened that all new purchase loans had a 0.3 percent default rate, and the QRM fraction 0.07 percent. No one need fear the wind-down of government-supported lending: it's already done -- although the 80 percent of supply, non-QRM loans are going to be expensive and scarce.

This self-defeating political backlash against Fannie, Freddie and the FHA has turned them into insurance companies offering hurricane coverage, but only for homes 200 miles from any ocean.

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

By Lou Barnes

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, April 27, 2011  12:33:00 PM
What to expect when selling a home for a Loss 0 Comments Posted
IRS imposes strict rules on real estate tax breaks

Four years ago, the Internal Revenue Service changed the law that required consumers to pay tax on mortgages forgiven by a lender. Those amounts used to be considered taxable income on a homeowner's tax return.

There is no relief or tax deduction, however, for selling your home at a loss.

Most homeowners are now clear on the ability to pocket up to $500,000 of tax-free capital gain ($250,000 for single people) on the sale of a primary residence. The huge benefit, which can be used every two years, was made possible by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997.

However, the tax law that provided the capital help did nothing for capital losses. There still is no benefit for folks who bought at the peak or made expensive remodels, then had to sell in a hurry and actually got less for their home than the cash they have invested in it. Long-term capital expenditures usually pay off over time, but changes for the short term are difficult to recover.

If you were hoping for some help on your 2010 return before April 18, (pushed back from the usual April 15), don't count on chalking up a capital loss as a big tax deduction. There still is no deduction for a capital loss on the sale of your primary residence. This often causes confusion and provokes questions from consumers, but Uncle Sam will not let you show a loss if you sell for an amount less than the purchase price.

Why? The principal residence has always been viewed as a personal asset. The gain on the sale of a principal residence has been taxable as a capital gain but losses have never been allowed. Although the capital gain thresholds have been increased, proposals to address capital losses have been defeated.

The capital loss proposals first surfaced in the 1990s when complaints from homeowners in the Sun Belt states and New England said they were left with huge losses and no federal tax help when home values plunged -- especially when the declining oil industry in Texas really shook the housing market around Houston.

Another hotly debated issue is the deductibility of loan fees. You can deduct the loan fees ("points") paid to buy or improve your main home in the year of purchase. You cannot deduct these fees in the year you refinanced if you refinanced only to obtain a lower interest rate on your loan.

The term "points," once used to describe only prepaid interest on government loans, now is used to describe charges paid by an owner to secure any mortgage. These points can be loan origination fees or prepaid interest to "buy down" an interest rate. To be deductible, these charges -- or points -- must represent interest paid for the use of money and must be paid "before the time for which it represents a charge for the use of the money."

According to the Internal Revenue Service, most points paid when you are refinancing an existing mortgage must be written off over the life of the new loan. For guidance on closing costs, the best source may be the settlement sheet from the original loan.

And finally, if you manage your second home and investment rentals from your home office, make sure the office space you claim as a deduction is a dedicated room. Simply bringing a laptop into the family den in the evenings to respond to renters would not qualify the room as a home office under IRS guidelines. Accountants say some home-office deductions have raised red flags with federal auditors.

The home-office space can be depreciated. When the home is sold, however, the deprecation must be "recaptured" and subject to tax. The Internal Revenue Service's Publication 587 "Business Use of Your Home" is accessible on the Internet at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p587.pdf.

By Tom Kelly
Inman News™
published 4/26/11

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, April 27, 2011  12:32:14 PM
Comitt to go GREEN Here is how you start! 0 Comments Posted
Given the pressing environmental challenges facing the world, one day just doesn’t seem like enough to celebrate the earth and make long-term environmental changes. Why not use this month as inspiration and make a commitment to do environmentally friendly activities throughout the year?

Here are just 10 ideas, along with some online resources, that you could try.

Green your office–Establish a green team with colleagues to address ways to reduce your office’s impact. A recycling program is obvious. Other strategies could entail ridding the kitchen of disposable goods, replacing equipment that hogs energy, improving lighting and HVAC systems, installing a bike rack, and replacing grass around the office with a vegetable garden or native plants. For more information, visit www.greenyour.com/office.

Shop locally–Swear off buying stuff from faraway places, even if it saves some pennies. Just consider the impact that packaging and shipping your goods has on the environment. Instead, shop locally. Walking to shops saves energy and you also help neighborhood businesses thrive.

Make mini moves–Build new habits that will have an ongoing impact. Those could include the basics, such as switching to CFL bulbs, fixing water leaks (www.epa.gov/WaterSense), or cutting the phantom power at home.

Do an energy audit–Invest in an energy audit to figure out exactly how your house wastes energy. Even if you’re on a tight budget, commit yourself to making some of the changes the auditor suggests, and start setting aside money for costlier upgrades. Find an auditor at RESNET, www.resnet.us/trade/find-raters-auditors.

Go car-free–Reorganize your schedule so you can take public transit or walk to work and errands at least a day a week.

Become a locavore–Rely on local providers for your weekly produce by shopping at a farmers’ market or joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. And when it’s time for gift giving, consider buying CSA memberships for friends and clients. www.localharvest.org

Share your knowledge–Offer to make a presentation to colleagues at a weekly sales meeting about green changes they can make. Or pass the torch to the next generation by organizing an environmental event at a school or with a Girl Scout troop.

Raise your profile–Whether it’s a community garden, a rails-to-trails group, or a transit improvement committee, get involved in your community. Your participation raises your profile and connects you with new prospective clients, and your efforts have a direct impact on improving your community.

Learn something new–Still fuzzy on the details of programs like LEED or Energy Star? Wondering about new rebates and incentives? Spend two hours each week getting up to speed on industry programs and trends. One resource for such education is the Green REsource Council’s Webinars, one of the many great benefits available to NAR Green Designees. All the Webinars are archived at http://greenresourcecouncil.org/webinars.cfm for deisngees, and they include sessions on Energy Star, EPA’s WaterSense, USGBC’s REGREEN , LEED for Homes, and NAHB’s Green Building Program.

Refer a colleague—Find out how much colleagues have benefitted by earning NAR’s GREEN Designation and urge others to get green education. Discuss the greater knowledge you have to advise clients and how the designation has allowed you to best prepare your business for a changing world in which consumers increasingly value an efficient, sustainable housing stock. Right now, the Green REsource Council is offering a discount on the online Core Course and Residential elective. Registrants can save nearly $100 off the original price of the online courses.

For more information, see http://GreenREsourceCouncil.org/Courses.cfm.

Source:  RISMedia, published 4/26/11

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, April 27, 2011  12:31:22 PM
Plant a garden in every Container Possible! 0 Comments Posted

Container gardening isn't just about which plants will look great in a given pot. Thoughtful placement of a container can play an equally significant role in the look of your yard. Robert Welsch, owner of Westover Landscape Design,in Tarrytown, New York, suggests thinking about pots as visual punctuation. "You can place one at the end of a path to lead your eye through the garden or to signal a change in direction on a walkway," he says.

Keep in mind that containers are elevated and plants dry out more quickly than those in the ground. Here's how to get them the water and nutrients they need:

• Place pots near a hose or water source so that you don't have to lug around watering cans, or place them near an automatic watering system.

• Pots should be placed where they'll thrive. Put moisture-loving ones in shadier spots and drought-tolerant species in hot, sunny places.

• Supplement nutrients with a time-release pellet fertilizer, or douse pots with diluted fish emulsion once or twice before midsummer.

By: Stephen Orr, This Old House magazine
Photo: myroom
View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, April 27, 2011  12:30:54 PM
Feelin' BLUE? Bloom where you planted! 0 Comments Posted

Blue Nostalgia

The pale shingled wall of an old-fashioned porch forms the perfect backdrop for a pair of blue ceramic pots filled with equally old-fashioned blooms. Given basic care, these trouble free performers will strut their stuff all summer long. The cast includes geraniums, petunias, sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), common heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens), and daisies.

Photo:  Norm Plate
Sunset Books

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, April 27, 2011  12:30:07 PM
Galvanized Tub Container Garden 0 Comments Posted

Inexpensive household objects can often double as cute containers.

At left, perennials play beautifully in a galvanized tub. Their easygoing look fits the container's casual nature, with flowers in bloom throughout the summer. It takes maintenance to keep color constant throughout the growing season, however. Feed your flowers with a liquid blossom-boosting fertilizer, such as 15-30-15, every other week. At the same time, remove all flowers past their peak to encourage new bud formation.

Source:  Southern Living

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, April 27, 2011  12:29:30 PM
Tell me, IT'S NOT TRUE~Rates on the Rise 0 Comments Posted

Mortgage rates eased this week for the first time in a month, as signs of inflation remained subdued, Freddie Mac said in releasing the results of its weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.8 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending April 21, down from 4.91 percent last week and 5.07 percent a year ago.

This year, rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans have ranged from 4.71 percent in early January to a high of 5.05 percent in February. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit an all-time low in Freddie Mac records dating to 1971 of 4.17 percent during the week ending Nov. 11.

"Low inflation is keeping mortgage rates at bay," said Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft in a statement. "The core consumer price index rose just 0.1 percent in March, below the market consensus forecast. The 12-month growth rate in core prices was 1.2 percent, which is also rather low by historical standards."

Freddie Mac's survey showed rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaging 4.02 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from 4.13 percent last week and 4.39 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage hit a low in records dating back to 1991 of 3.57 percent in November.

Rates on 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans averaged 3.61 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 3.78 percent last week and 4.03 percent a year ago. The 5-year ARM hit a low in records dating to 2005 of 3.25 percent in November.

Rates on 1-year Treasury-indexed ARMs averaged 3.16 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 3.25 percent last week and 4.22 percent a year ago.

Looking back a week, a separate survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed demand for purchase loans was up a seasonally adjusted 10 percent during the week ending April 15 compared to the week before.

The increase in purchase loan applications to the highest level since Dec. 3 was largely due to a 17.6 percent increase in applications for government-backed loans, the MBA said. Borrowers were likely motivated by a scheduled increase in FHA insurance premiums, the group said.

Despite the surge in demand, purchase loan applications remained 11.4 percent below the level seen at the same time a year ago, the MBA said.

Requests for refinancings were up 2.7 percent from the week before, but accounted for 58.5 percent of mortgage applications, the lowest share since May, 2010.

MBA economists expect rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans will average 5.1 percent during April, May and June, and climb to an average of 5.6 percent during the final three months of the year.

In an April 14 forecast, MBA economists predicted that rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans will rise more gradually next year, to an average of 6 percent in the final three months of 2012.

Source:  RISMedia, published 4/25/11

By Inman News
Inman News™

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 26, 2011  9:04:20 AM
Home Selling Tax Tips for Accidental Landlords 0 Comments Posted

Due to the precipitous decline in the housing market over the past few years, many homeowners who would otherwise sell their homes are renting them out. This may be because prices are too low, or because they have to move before they can sell due to a job change.

Such accidental landlords should understand that if they rent out their homes too long before they sell them, they could lose the biggest tax break available for most people: the home sale exclusion.

Homeowners who qualify for the home sale exclusion don't have to pay any income tax on up to $250,000 of the gain from the sale if they're single, or up to $500,000 if they're married and file a joint return. Of course, this exclusion is useful only for homeowners who have equity in their homes, not the millions who are "under water" and will receive no profit if they sell their homes.

To qualify for the exclusion, a homeowner must satisfy the ownership and use tests. This means that during the 5-year period ending on the date of the sale, the homeowner must have:

  • owned the home for at least 2 years (the ownership test), and
  • lived in the home as a primary residence for at least 2 years (the use test).

However, the homeowner need not be living in the house at the time it is sold. The two years of ownership and use may occur anytime during the five years before the date of the sale.

This means that a homeowner can move out of the house for up to three years and still qualify for the exclusion. Moreover, a homeowner can rent out a home and count that time as ownership time.

This rule has a very practical application: A homeowner may rent out a home for up to three years prior to the sale and still qualify for the exclusion. However, the exclusion works a bit different for homeowners who have rented out their homes.

They cannot exclude from their income the part of their gain equal to the depreciation they claimed (or could have claimed) while renting the home. Moreover, if the home is rental property at the time of the sale, the sale must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service on Form 4797:  Sales of Business Property.

Example: Connie purchases a house on Feb. 1, 2007, and lives in it for two full years. She then moves to another state to take a new job. Rather than sell the house in a down market, she elects to rent it out.

If she sells the house by Feb. 1, 2012, she'll qualify for the $250,000 home sale exclusion because she owned and used the house as her principal home for two years during the five-year period before the sale. If she waits even one more day to sell, she will get no exclusion at all.

Thus, accidental landlords who have equity in their homes need to sell them before the three-year rental period expires, or they'll lose the home sale exclusion. If they can't or don't want to sell, they would have to move back into the home to preserve the exclusion.

Homeowners who don't qualify for the exclusion will have to pay a 15 percent capital gains tax on their gain from the sale (assuming the home was owned for at least one year).

Stephen Fishman is a tax expert, attorney and author who has published 18 books, including "Working for Yourself: Law & Taxes for Contractors, Freelancers and Consultants," "Deduct It," "Working as an Independent Contractor," and "Working with Independent Contractors." He welcomes your questions for this weekly column.

Source:  RISMedia, published 4/25/11

By Stephen Fishman
Inman News™

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 26, 2011  9:03:31 AM
Grants Offered by Aransas County Master Gardeners 0 Comments Posted

The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners will award two types of education grants annually - Teacher Training Grants and Project Grants related to horticulture and natural resource education.

Applicant must be from a school district or non-profit organization within Aransas or San Patricio county.

Teacher Training Grants can fund continuing education for teachers including registration fees to attend conferences, workshops, classes and seminars and there is no deadline for applying for this type of grant. It is recommended that applications be submitted as soon as possible to insure inclusion in the desired program.

Project Grants will include project descriptions together with planned instructional procedures and evaluation techniques. Funds may be used to buy equipment or supplies to accomplish stated goals. Project Grant applications must be postmarked no later than June 3, 2011. Award recipients notified in June 2011.

Those who receive grants will be asked to fill out a one page evaluation at the end of the project/school year.

Applications can be obtained by contacting Texas AgriLife Extension Service - Aransas County Office at 361 790-0103, by email to aransas-tx@tamu.edu on-line on the Master Gardener site, www.aspmastergardeners.org (under Community Services) or in person at 611 E. Mimosa, Rockport, TX 78382. Mail applications to "Master Gardener Grant Committee, 301 N. Live Oak, Rockport, TX 78382.

AgriLife Extension

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 26, 2011  9:02:47 AM
Strategies for finding a HOME in Rockport Fulton after a foreclosure 0 Comments Posted
If you’ve been through a foreclosure, you may wonder if there is hope for you to become a homeowner again. The answer is yes, but it will take a while. “It doesn’t mean you’ll never be a homeowner again,” said Linda Davis-Demas, director of housing at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas.

But you’ll need to examine what caused you to fall behind on your mortgage and take steps to fix the problem. “You have to look at what were the reasons you didn’t make the payment,” said Davis-Demas. “Was it budgeting? You can modify that type of behavior.”

A foreclosure is a major hit to your credit history and stays on your credit report for seven years.

“Foreclosure is one of the FICO seven deadlies,” said credit expert John Ulzheimer, referring to the dominant FICO credit score. “It’s considered a major derogatory item, regardless of the back story”— whether it’s a job loss, rate reset, underemployment or other reasons.

Your credit score will also suffer “the minute the foreclosure process begins,” said Ulzheimer, founder of 2StepCredit.com, a credit education website. “It doesn’t have to be completed for it to be very damaging,” he said. “The damage will vary based on your scores, but it can damage the score as much as 200 points, especially if your scores are very strong to begin with.”

So, after a foreclosure, your priority has to be rebuilding your credit. You’ll have some time to do so, because mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac impose strict rules on how long it will take before you’re eligible for another mortgage.

For example, borrowers with a prior foreclosure and extenuating circumstances—such as a job loss, divorce or medical issues—must wait three years before they can qualify for a Fannie Mae-backed loan, said spokeswoman Amy Bonitatibus. For all other borrowers, the waiting period is seven years.

At Freddie Mac, those who can prove extenuating circumstances must wait three years before applying for a new mortgage; everyone else must wait five years. But that will change in February, when the waiting period for those whose foreclosure was caused by their own financial mismanagement will increase to seven years.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also have strict rules on the credit score and the size of the down payment required of borrowers with a prior foreclosure.

Here’s what you need to do to rebuild your credit to qualify again for a mortgage:

Pay your bills on time: The FICO score, the dominant credit score used by lenders, gives the greatest weight to payment history, so make sure you consistently pay your bills on time. “Stability is the key,” said Craig Jarrell, president of the Dallas region of IberiaBank Mortgage Co. “Have you demonstrated that you are now capable of owning a home and paying the bills, and have recovered from whatever circumstance caused the original foreclosure?”

Review your credit report: You’re entitled to a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three national credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You should get a copy and check it for any inaccuracies.

To get your free credit report, go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com. “Make sure it is about you and only you,” said Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “If you find errors, dispute them. If you discover old debts, it will weigh in your favor to satisfy them. Paid late looks better than not paid at all. Make sure that debts older than seven years have rotated off your report, as these could be dragging your score down unnecessarily.”

Check your mortgage: You want to be sure that you don’t still owe anything on your old mortgage. Sometimes proceeds from a foreclosure sale aren’t enough to cover what’s owed on the mortgage, which would leave you owing the difference.

“Make sure there is a zero balance reflected, and if you are responsible for a shortfall, make arrangements to repay the remaining balance,” Cunningham said.

Many lenders are willing to settle that “deficiency judgment” for less than what’s owed because “it’s better than getting no money at all,” Jarrell said.

Apply for credit: In particular, apply for different varieties of credit. “Credit scoring models value having different types of credit,” Cunningham said. “Having some revolving accounts, typically credit cards, and some installment fixed-payment loans, such as a car payment, can improve your score.” But don’t apply for too much credit at once. “This can appear as though you’re desperate for credit and perhaps make lenders less inclined to extend credit to you,” Cunningham said. “Further, too many credit inquiries can have a negative impact on your credit score.”

Don’t fall prey: Watch out for credit repair companies that promise to clean up your credit report so you can get a car loan, a home mortgage, insurance, or even a job—after paying a fee for the service. “The truth is, that no one can remove accurate, negative information from your credit report,” according to the Federal Trade Commission. “It’s illegal.” Only the passage of time can assure that negative, but accurate, information on your credit report will be removed.

When it comes to repairing your credit, there are no quick fixes, the experts say. What lenders want to see is responsible financial behavior over time.

“Know that time is your friend, as the farther you move away from the financial distress, the less negative impact it has,” Cunningham said. “Follow with responsible behavior with your new credit, and you’ll soon have a solid credit file.”

Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to preview properties for sale perfect for  foreclosure recovery.

(c) 2010, The Dallas Morning News.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

RISMedia, published 4/22/11-Pamela Yip
View Comments | Add Comment Monday, April 25, 2011  11:35:52 AM
QR Codes & Social Networking on the rise! Now offered in Rockport 0 Comments Posted
Mobile adoption of e-mail and social networking use is on the rise, according to a new whitepaper from Merkle, titled View from the Digital Inbox 2011. The report surveyed nearly 3,500 online adults, and found that consumer adoption of digital media and mobile technology is accelerating the rate of digital convergence.

E-mail is the preferred method of commercial communication with a brand for 74% of respondents. In fact, it’s the favored method over direct mail campaigns by a margin of five to one. E-mail is checked quite frequently via smartphones, with 55% of respondents saying they use the mobile Web to check their e-mail, up from 44% last year.

The most effective mobile marketing method is the fast-growing arena of digital coupons. Fifty-six percent of mobile coupon recipients have redeemed coupons sent to their phones.

Facebook leads the way for social media platforms, with nearly two-thirds of respondents checking the site weekly. Even 44% of the respondents over the age of 65 said they use Facebook. Seventy-three percent have liked or become a fan of a brand on Facebook, with the average number of brands being liked by a user standing at 12. Thirty-four percent of those that like certain brands or companies do so because they genuinely like the brand, and 24% do so in order to gain access to exclusive deals and offerings.

The only mobile feature that seems to be lagging behind is location-based sites, which are used by just 9% of the smartphone users surveyed. This percentage is expected to increase in the future, along with mobile shopping, as only 13% of respondents said they’ve made a purchase via their mobile device.

Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX is the 1st Realtor/TEAM in the Rockport/Fulton marketplace to introduce QR Code & TEXT marketing.

Point the Smartphone camera at the QR code & take a photo OR Insert 47366 like a phone number. TEXT the message:  Sell2u

The QR Code & TEXT functions direct consumers to a mobile web site especially designed with lower resolution for a phone's smaller screens.

Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to preview the homes you find for sale in Aransas, San Patricio or Nueces counties.

Source:  Article-amended, RISMedia, published 4/22/11

View Comments | Add Comment Monday, April 25, 2011  11:34:09 AM
Let the Dust Settle --Go GREEN--& Vacuum Last 0 Comments Posted

Let gravity work for you. Dust from top to bottom, and save the vacuuming for last. If you dust at the end of your cleaning routine, dirt particles will linger in the air and eventually land back on your surfaces. To stretch out time between dustings, first wipe surfaces using a damp cloth or a microfiber cloth, then vacuum to help remove any remaining dirt.

Source:  Real Simple

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, April 21, 2011  8:58:18 AM
Pet Hair Cleaning TIPS 0 Comments Posted

To pick up pet hair, put on a wet rubber dishwashing glove and wipe your hand over surfaces. The hair will stick right to it.

Photo:  Lynn Caison Johnson, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockort/Fulton TX

Kitties:  Dudley & Miss Fortunate

Source:  Real Simple
View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, April 21, 2011  8:56:26 AM
Move...OUT...Doors 0 Comments Posted


The 1920s pavilion is "full Florida style." Vintage seating — white faux bamboo and an armchair covered in Fig Leaf by Peter Dunham — are breezily mixed with a red Coleen & Company console that has carved elephant heads and trunks for legs and holds shell lamps from the Breakers in Palm Beach

photo: Victoria Pearson
designer: Ruthie Sommers

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 19, 2011  8:53:44 AM
Imagine your ceiling Gold 0 Comments Posted

To make the Tony Duquette chandelier feel more at home, Diesigner Ruthie Sommers had decorative painter Peter Bolton create an elaborate tree design in gold leaf on the dining room ceiling. Jacaranda and plum trees inspired the vibrant pink Penny Morrison fabric on the front of the chairs and the Clare­mont floral on the back.
 Rug from Melrose Carpet.

Photo: Victoria Pearson
Designer:  Ruthie Sommers

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 19, 2011  8:52:40 AM
Muted Kitchen I don't think so 0 Comments Posted
 the "California beachy" kitchen, vintage stools at the Calacatta marble island are covered in laminated Pintura Studio linen.

photo: Victoria Pearson
Ruthie Sommers, designer
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 19, 2011  8:52:10 AM
Go Green this Earth Day 0 Comments Posted
Considered the birth of the modern environmental movement, the first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970 and had 20 million American participants. More than 40 years later, over one billion people now participate in Earth Day on April 22 each year, making it one of the largest civic observances in the world. Enviro-Log, Inc. an eco-friendly consumer products and recycling company which has diverted over 140 million pounds of waxed cardboard from landfills to create its earth-friendly firelogs, offers the following tips for anyone looking to get involved in Earth Day.

“One of the easiest ways you can get involved in Earth Day is to make a conscious effort to reduce, reuse and recycle,” said Ross McRoy, president of Enviro-Log. “The great thing about Earth Day is that anyone can get involved. It can start with small steps such as reducing the amount of water and electricity you use on a daily basis to making significant financial investments in converting your home to solar and wind power. Regardless of your level of commitment, the more people that get involved, the greater the environmental impact will be.”

McRoy offers the following tips to get involved in Earth Day and everyday thereafter:

-Instead of driving, consider walking, biking or taking public transportation. If it is necessary to drive, consider carpooling with friends or colleagues.

-Shop local and make less frequent trips to the store. Less trips to the store means less emissions from your vehicle.

-Turn off your lights and electronics when you leave a room. Open the blinds during the day and take advantage of the sunlight. Turn off and unplug power strips and surge protectors when not in use, especially overnight.

-Reduce your water usage. Install low-flow shower heads, faucets and toilets in your home. Also consider shortening your shower. Every minute you cut from your shower equals roughly five gallons of water.

-Switch from disposable to reusable. Instead of buying bottled water, invest in a reusable water bottle. Bring your own reusable bag when shopping.

-Put your trash in the recycle bin. Contact your local waste management provider about getting involved in their recycling program.

-Purchase products that use recyclable materials. This will help divert unused materials from going into landfills.

-Replace your light bulbs with energy efficient ones, such as compact fluorescent or LEDs.

For more information, visit www.enviro-log.net.

Source:  RISMedia, 4/18/11, published

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 19, 2011  8:51:35 AM
How to compete Home Renovations on a Budget 0 Comments Posted

The following tips from the April 2011 Issue of HOLMES: The Magazine To Make It Right provides useful information to keep homeowners from going over budget as they take on renovation projects.

1. Work in off-season. Jobs like pouring concrete and applying stucco, are best done in good weather, but if your job doesn’t require it, postpone until the off-season to save on labor costs.

2. Avoid structural changes. Moving walls and adding foundations raise the bill. If you must have more space, steal it instead of adding on; grab it from an adjoining closet or room, or even the hollow between studs.

3. Work with what you’ve got. Unless you’re dealing with structural issues or water damage, it’s likely that not everything needs to be replaced. If you’ve got a good set of cabinets, why trash the boxes when just replacing the cabinet doors will do?

4. Leave appliances, fixtures and outlets in the same locations. Running new lines drives up costs. Only when you’ve planned for such changes is it the right time to go to the trouble of rewiring and plumbing so that a range can sit where the fridge once stood.

5. Value-engineer. Your architect and contractor are trained to know all types of materials. Ask them to make recommendations for thrifty alternatives.

6. Buy all appliances or fixtures at one time and on sale, if you have a place to store them. Purchasing items in bulk can often garner you a discount from the retailer.

7. Stick with normal colors. By that we mean choose standard color wheel options or neutrals, which are manufactured in the greatest numbers, and the efficiency is passed on in the price.

8. Opt for factory finishing. Cabinets, floors and even entire houses are now available factory finished, allowing for faster installation.

9. Make decisions based on quality, not just price. It’s still cheaper to have the same item over a longer period than to replace it a few years later—and pay for labor again, too.

10. Plan for energy efficiency. This can be as simple as buying Energy Star appliances that draw less energy over their operating lifetime, or installing a Solatube that uses reflective materials to capture and amplify natural light, negating the need for an electric light in a windowless room. Investigate these options before you complete a contract.

11. Prioritize and don’t budge. Once you have your list, refine it by dividing it between what you want and what you need. Ask yourself again why you are doing this project. Do you crave a more efficient space? An attractive and up-to-date room? Are you doing it for yourself or for resale? If the latter is the case, consult with your designer and a REALTOR® to see where your money will count the most.

12. Go with the standard model whenever possible. There are low-cost alternatives to just about everything, and you don’t have to compromise quality. This means weighing standard appliances versus commercial grade, stock versus custom cabinetry. Labor-intensive tile and woodwork can dramatically bump up cost. Talk to your builder about how to achieve a custom look for less. 

13. Rule out thoughtless change orders. Nothing busts a budget faster than changing a floor plan or materials after work is underway. The time you invest in planning now will pay off as work gets underway. If you do run into any changes, minimize them. At this point, it will not only cost you money, it could also temporarily disband your construction team while you wait for new materials to arrive. And don’t forget to request a copy of the change order from your contractor, detailing the new timeline and payment due date.

14. Use an architect, your paid advocate in directing the contractor and subs. And when you can’t be on-site to stop waste and overspending or curb unauthorized changes, he or she can. The peace of mind is worth the money.

15. Have the architect itemize everything. Sounds tedious, but that’s the thoroughness you are paying for. You’ll want to see a detailed work scope document with sketches outlining the following: demolition, construction, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, tile and stone work and finished.  That includes specifications, which list every material thing going into the project, right down to the doorknobs. Don’t forget to ask for a floor plan and elevations. Be sure you and your contractor completely understand the finished project. Detailed, comprehensive drawings give your contractor the tools to understand exactly what he needs to build for you.” These drawings become the basis of your contract and the construction documents.

16. Seek multiple bids. Once you have the architect, pursue the best possible bids for the job. Have more than three licensed and insured contractors provide a detailed bid, including labor and materials, so you can really compare and analyze each.

17. Itemize within the contract. Once you’ve picked your general contractor, he’ll create a contract that includes a progress payment schedule. This is based on certain milestones of completed work, such as cabinet installation. It tells you how much money you have to pay and when, and what should happen when. Plus, realistically, snags do come up, no matter how well you organize and plan. Make sure the contractor includes at least a 10% cushion for the unexpected. Of course, review the contract in person with your architect and contractor, item by item, to make sure all are in agreement before singing.

18. Memorize the change order policy. Then try your hardest to avoid the need for any. You don’t want them. But even we acknowledge they sometimes happen for legitimate reasons. In case you must make a change, make sure in advance that the contractor has a policy whereby he advises you of the cost and writes a change order immediately, which you then sign. Be informed of the procedure. Anything out of step with the contract at this point puts the project at risk.

19. Ask for pricing. You thought you did this when you went over specifications, right? But when you build anything, you have a minimum of 16 categories of pricing. “There’s masonry work, millwork, cabinetry, framing, drywall, doors, windows, plaster, stone and tile, electrical audio and video,” says Steve LeBlanc, president of Tranquility Homes in Nova Scotia. “The more information the contractor gives you in terms of what something costs—and individual breakdown, item by item—the more likely you are to stay on budget.”

20. You can benefit by purchasing materials through a professional. Architects and contractors have relationships with suppliers who offer purchasing efficiencies that save time. A big upside in using this service is that whoever orders the products also assumes responsibility if something goes wrong or is damaged or missing—not you. Any upcharge in materials takes into account the contractor’s time, responsibility and experience; it’s worth it.

21. Have all materials on-site before they’re required. It’s called the “preconstruction period” when everything gets ordered. This way no time is wasted—on your dime—while workers wait or miss a day because the materials they’re working with have not arrived. The architect or contractor’s project manager should be designated to monitor delivery times.

22. Hold pre-construction meetings. The people on your construction teams need to thoroughly understand the job prior to starting. Your contractor can see to this, possibly with a project or field manager, at this special meeting. You as the client won’t attend; talks will be mostly technical. Prior to demolition, though, you should meet the crew. “Get together with your contractor’s construction team to go over all aspects of the job, from introductions to phone numbers to a brief recap of the whole job,” says Tom Sertich, president of Kirk Development Co. in Phoenix. “You, the client, may have further questions, such as scheduling, and they can all be addressed in person then by the team on-site.”

23. Check materials as they arrive. Sounds obvious, but you must see everything out of the boxes to ensure things arrive undamaged and intact. Your contractor should review all materials as they arrive so the subcontractors aren’t waiting for an indispensable item. This helps maintain productivity, too.

24. Let the pros do their jobs to avoid confusion. Ask questions if something concerns you, but don’t get involved in the day-to-day management and give conflicting directions to subcontractors. This risks creating miscommunication. “The architect is your representative to the contractor and can walk through the site with you, get notes and then take that direction back to the contractor,” says Dan D’Amelio of D’Amelio Porter in New York City. Since each knows the technical aspects of construction, they will speak the same language fluently. The architect can also approve the completion of each stage.

25. Prepare a punch list, or post-job list of to-do items you feel may still need attention. When the job appears done, it’s customary to do a walk-through with the contractor or project manager and your architect. “Before the walk-through,” says Jason Yowell, “get some Post-its and use them to write notes for anything that concerns you, and then attach it to that item.” Bring the punch list to the meeting.

26. Space out the payments. You should have been doing this throughout the project with the help of your written contract that includes an incremental pay schedule worked up beforehand. Now is the time to be ready with the final payment. This schedule is your insurance that the contractor will be with you until the end. Only when the project is completed—and any lien period has expired—and you are happily surveying a job well done, shake hands and hand over that check.

Source:  RISMedia, 4/16/11 published
Article amended
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 19, 2011  8:51:06 AM
Around the House: Dispose of Waste Properly 0 Comments Posted
We all have one—that shelf or cabinet with leftover paints, old bug killers and unwanted cleaners. You don’t want that toxic stuff near your kids or pets so you keep it out of reach.

It’s equally as important to keep those dangerous chemicals out of the environment. So when it’s time to get rid of hazardous household items, make sure you do your part and dispose of them the right way.

It’s estimated that every American home has an average of 100 pounds of hazardous household waste. This includes everything from paint and thinners to used motor oil, pesticides, bleach, cleaners and even batteries. Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) are also considered hazardous waste due to the small amount of mercury they contain.

Let’s start with what not to do when getting rid of all this stuff. Pouring hazardous household waste down any drain sends the toxins directly into our water supply.

Drains include the ones inside your home and the storm drains outside. Pollution flowing into storm drains is called storm water pollution and it’s the leading cause of fresh water pollution in America.

You should also never put hazardous household waste in the trash. Whether it’s sending it to a landfill or burning it in a trash pile, both can release toxins directly into the air, land and water. Hazardous household waste needs to be disposed of properly. This means taking it to a qualified recycling center. You can also contact your county waste collection office for recycling information. Many communities hold hazardous household waste collection events throughout the year so be looking for those too.

Another way to reduce the amount of hazardous household waste in your home is to start buying less of it. Many times there are natural alternatives that work just as well. Eco-friendly cleaners and pesticides are more widely available on store shelves and while they may cost more to purchase, keep in mind the true cost of an item is always more than just the money you spend.

Just because the hazardous household waste may be out of sight in your home, it shouldn’t be out of mind. Identifying it, disposing of it and reducing the amount in your home are all easy ways to do your part for everyday green living.

(c) 2010, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

By Terri Bennett, RISMedia, published 4/16/11 
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 19, 2011  8:50:20 AM
Rip, Roar and learn to Reuse Materials 0 Comments Posted
Renovating? You could just rip up the old room and sweep everything into the trash bin. But a growing number of homeowners, architects and builders are trying to reuse or recycle construction materials whenever possible—for reasons both environmental and aesthetic.

Architect Anthony Garrett went this route with the gut renovation of a Hoboken, N.J., building. Its wooden floor joists, more than a century old, were reclaimed and trucked to Montville Township, N.J., to be reused as flooring and exposed beams in a planned mixed-use development.

“It’s dismantling, as opposed to demolition,” said Garrett, of the Bilow Garrett Group in Ridgefield Park, N.J. “I can’t think of anything more sustainable than that; there’s an embedded energy in that material that we salvage, and we don’t have to cut any more trees down.”

With construction waste making up as much as 25-50% of the junk in landfills, the push to salvage building materials is “gaining a huge amount of momentum,” said Anne Nicklin, executive director of the Building Materials Reuse Association, an Oregon-based trade group. Reused materials are not just better for the environment; they also can be higher quality, she said. “You can’t buy old-growth timber at home improvement stores, but you can find it in a building that’s coming down,” Nicklin said.

Municipalities, worried about scarce landfill space, are offering cheaper or faster permits for deconstruction, rather than demolition, Nicklin said. And federal agencies offer training to workers on how to salvage building materials. She estimates that 75% or more of most buildings can be reused or recycled.

A number of nonprofit retail outlets offer a marketplace for old building materials. They include Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Mine Hill, N.J., Build It Green NYC’s store in Queens, and Connecticut-based Green Demolitions, which has a store in Riverdale occupying space donated by Bograd’s Fine Furniture. Green Demolitions targets affluent homeowners who decide that their kitchens aren’t quite right, but who feel guilty about dumping cabinets and appliances that are sometimes only a few years old.

It might be hard to believe that homeowners would replace kitchens that are in good shape, but “they want the kitchen they want,” said Green Demolitions founder Steve Feldman. His pitch: By donating the old kitchen to his company, homeowners can save the disposal costs, plus get a tax deduction because Green Demolitions’ profits go to support addiction treatment programs.

“Why throw out something that’s perfectly good and totally usable?” said Alan Asarnow, sales manager at Ulrich Inc. in Ridgewood, N.J., a home renovation company that encourages clients to recycle their old kitchens. Many of the kitchens his clients donate are only about 10 years old, he said.

Green Demolitions sold 600 kitchens last year in its three stores; most were donated by homeowners, but about 100 were store displays donated by kitchen remodeling contractors.

“When you think about something being thrown out, sometimes that’s where the opportunity is,” Feldman said. He estimates his company keeps two million pounds of debris out of landfills each year.

Those who buy the old kitchens and other materials at Green Demolitions or the ReStores find discounts of 50-80%.

Reusing or recycling materials can help builders get the environmental stamp of approval known as LEED, for Leadership in Energy and Environmental design. The LEED certification is awarded by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council, which gives builders credit for keeping materials out of landfills.

A decade ago, “the marketplace was unsophisticated in its ability to effectively divert a large amount of materials from the landfill,” said Daniel Topping, an architect with NK Architects in Morristown, N.J. But it’s a lot easier these days to find a new home for old materials. “It’s just a little more legwork,” Topping said.

Because reusing materials requires careful deconstruction of a room or building, it is usually more time-consuming and can be more expensive than simple demolition. But it also doesn’t create the clouds of dust—potentially laden with asbestos or lead paint—created by demolition, Nicklin pointed out.

“There’s a steep learning curve for a lot of contractors,” said Petia Morozov of the architecture firm MADLAB in Montclair, N.J., who takes a “surgical” approach to deconstructing a house.

(c) 2011, North Jersey Media Group Inc.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

By Kathleen Lynn, RisMedia, published March 18,2011
Title amended, article revised. 

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 19, 2011  8:49:46 AM
Regulators, Bank reach Deal to correct Foreclosure Flaws 0 Comments Posted
Federal banking regulators have reached agreements with the nation’s biggest mortgage lenders to address longstanding complaints that the foreclosure process is unfair to delinquent borrowers trying to stay in their homes.

The settlements with the nation’s largest banks are aimed at correcting what consumers and consumer groups say are fundamental flaws in the repossession process.

The agreements are the result of a review of bank practices begun last year by the nation’s biggest bank enforcers—the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. “The review uncovered unsafe and unsound practices, violations of law and foreclosure processes geared toward speed and quantity, instead of quality and accuracy,” the OTS said in a statement.

John Walsh, acting comptroller of the currency, said in a separate statement that the enforcement actions announced by the agencies would go far in correcting foreclosure errors.

“These comprehensive enforcement actions, coordinated among the federal banking regulators, require major reforms in mortgage servicing operations,” Walsh said. “These reforms will not only fix the problems we found in foreclosure processing, but will also correct failures in governance and the loan-modification process and address financial harm to borrowers.”

The nation’s big regulators were widely criticized and accused of failing to prevent the unsafe lending practices that led to the housing bubble over the past decade. Now, many consumer advocates feel these regulators have not gone far enough to correct errors found in foreclosure practices.

As details of the plan began to leak out, these groups criticized the proposed agreements as being watered down. A fundamental complaint was that regulators were allowing banks to draw up their own plans for correcting their problems, giving the banks 60 days to do so.

A separate group of bank enforcers—a coalition of attorneys general from all 50 states as well as the Department of Justice and other federal agencies—are also seeking to settle with lenders. The group, led by the state attorneys general have issued their own demands in a detailed, 27-page term sheet and negotiations between them and the banks remain ongoing.

Consumer groups recently urged the federal regulators to join with the attorneys general. “While homeowners and communities continue to face breached contracts, obstruction and misrepresentations from servicers, the proposed consent orders provide no new directions or standards to the financial institutions subject to your supervision,” a coalition of advocates, including the National Consumer Law Center and the Center for Responsible Lending, wrote in a letter to the federal regulators. “Rather, the proposal permits the perpetrators of these abuses to design a plan to comply with existing laws and contracts. This is insufficient to halt the abuses.”

The agreements announced by the federal regulators required the mortgage servicers to improve their communications with borrowers and to limit the extent to which they can pursue foreclosure during the loan-modification process.

The agreements require lenders to ensure foreclosures are not pursued once a mortgage has been approved for modification, and it establishes a single point of contact for borrowers throughout the loan-modification and foreclosure processes.

The settlements also require lenders to establish systems to oversee their outside companies that conduct foreclosures and related services for the banks, including outside law firms. The big banks will be required to hire an independent company to conduct a review of all foreclosures conducted between Jan. 1, 2009, and December 31, 2010.

The banks also will be required to establish a process for homeowners who believe they have been improperly foreclosed on by the banks and a way for them to get financial remedy from these institutions.

(c) 2011, Los Angeles Times.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

By Alejandro Lazo and E. Scott Reckard, RISMedia, published 4/16/11 
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 19, 2011  8:48:40 AM
Fannie Mae Talks $$ Turkey$$ 0 Comments Posted

Fannie Mae is once again offering closing-cost assistance for buyers who close on a home in the mortgage giant's real-estate owned (REO) inventory, but in most states will not bring back cash bonuses it previously paid to buyers' agents.

Buyers who put in initial offers on or after April 11, and close on the sale of a Fannie Mae HomePath property by June 30, will be eligible to receive up to 3.5 percent in closing-cost assistance.

The offer is only good for buyers who intend to occupy the home they are purchasing as their primary residence -- second homes and investor properties are not eligible.

Offers submitted before May 15 have the best chance of qualifying, Fannie Mae said, as offers submitted after that "are particularly questionable for closing" by the June 30 deadline.

It's essentially the same deal Fannie Mae offered to buyers last year. In the last three months of the year, Fannie Mae was also offering a $1,500 cash bonus to buyer's agents on each sale of a HomePath property.

In announcing that it's restoring its closing-cost assistance for HomePath buyers, Fannie Mae said it will offer a $1,000 bonus to buyers' agents in California and Washington whose clients close on a HomePath property by June 30.

Fannie Mae pays listing agents representing its REO properties a standard commission of 2.5 percent, with a guaranteed minimum of $1,000. Buyer's agents are paid commissions equal to 3 percent of the sales price.

In its most recent annual report to investors, Fannie Mae said it acquired 262,078 homes in 2010, up 80 percent from 2009. REO sales picked up 51 percent, to 185,744, leaving Fannie Mae with REO inventory of 162,489 homes valued at $14.9 billion at the end of the year. The company also said $212.8 billion in mortgages guaranteed by the company were delinquent by 60 days or more.

"Given the large number of seriously delinquent loans in our single-family guaranty book of business and the large current and anticipated supply of single-family homes in the market, we expect it will take years before our REO inventory approaches pre-2008 levels," Fannie Mae warned.

Source:  By Inman News, Lowe's, published 4/18/11, Amended title
Inman News™
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 19, 2011  8:47:38 AM
10 TIps for Cleaner Safer Kitchens 0 Comments Posted
The first day of spring has come and gone. To get the cleaning season started right, we looked for the best advice on cleaning the busiest—and maybe dirtiest—room in the house: the kitchen.

For a list of what we should clean, how and when, we asked a bunch of germ experts.

The biggest surprise? People with pets are six times more likely to get salmonella-based infections. The culprit is pet bowls, particularly the water bowl. We often dump it in the sink before we start handling food.

Want to sanitize?
Professional kitchens use a sanitizing solution made with one teaspoon household bleach in four cups of water. It’s sprayed on counters and cutting boards. Experts disagree on the need to use it at home, but if you do, do it correctly: Let sprayed surfaces air-dry—drying with dish towels may recontaminate the surface. Always clean before you sanitize. If chlorine comes in contact with dirt or soil, it can no longer sanitize. Don’t use more than one teaspoon chlorine—stronger isn’t better. And change it about every five days. Chlorine dissipates quickly.

1. Microwave
Fill a bowl with two cups water and a whole lemon, cut into slices. Place it inside and microwave for two minutes, then wipe it out with paper towels. The hot water softens food spills and the lemon cuts grease and keeps the microwave smelling fresh

2. Stove and oven
Spray stove spills with an all-purpose cleaner and let stand 10 minutes for easier cleaning. Oven spills aren’t a food hazard if you regularly heat the oven to 400. Cover a fresh spill with salt until you have time to clean it.

3. Counters
Clean regularly with an all-purpose cleaner. Spray with a weak bleach solution and air-dry if needed.

4. Dishes and dishwashers
If you hand-wash dishes, be sure to air-dry them in a rack as dirty or wet dish towels can recontaminate clean dishes. To reduce soap buildup in a dishwasher, occasionally fill the soap dispenser with baking soda or place a small cup of vinegar on the top shelf, then run the dishwater empty.

5. Sink, drain and faucet handle
Clean regularly with household cleanser, especially after washing or rinsing raw meat. Don’t forget to clean the faucet handle.

6. Refrigerator
Every day, wipe down the handles, including the underside. Every week, throw out anything that’s past its date or shows age. Every three to six months, empty shelves and clean the inside with 1/4 cup baking soda in one quart warm water, then spray with a bleach solution and air-dry. Remove drawers and clean under them. Before you return the food, wipe jars to remove drips. Clean the rubber gasket inside the door to ensure a tight seal. Vacuum the coils in the back and empty and clean the drip pan if necessary.

7. Pet bowls
Find a place besides the kitchen to clean turtle or frog habitats and empty pet bowls, or clean and sanitize the sink before you start washing fresh food.

8. Cutting boards
Most scientists believe wooden cutting boards are safest, as long as they are kept clean, sanitized and dry. Studies have shown wood hampers bacteria growth, while bacteria thrive in scars on plastic. Either way, keep them clean by running them through the dishwasher, or sanitize by spritzing with a weak bleach solution. Always change boards or clean with soapy water after preparing raw food—even vegetables. They grow in dirt, after all.

9. Sponges and dish towels
Change dish towels daily, or more often if they’re wet or dirty. You can microwave a wet sponge for two minutes, but the time varies depending on the power of the microwave (and if the sponge is dry, it could catch fire). Instead, put sponges on the top rack of the dishwasher at the end of every day.

10. Cross-contamination
You know you’re not supposed to put cooked food on the same surface you used for raw food. But it’s not just a problem with cutting boards. You touch all kinds of things while you’re handling raw food: Salt and pepper shakers, cabinet handles, etc. Pay attention to what you touch so you can wipe things down. Tip: It’s not necessary to rinse raw meat and chicken—it just spreads bacteria.

Thanks to our sources: Benjamin Chapman, the extension food-safety specialist for N.C. State; David Sweat, foodborne-disease epidemiologist with the North Carolina Division of Public Health; Douglas Powell, professor of food safety at Kansas State University; and Dean Cliver and Linda Harris with the University of California-Davis.

RISMedia, published 4/15/11, Kathleen Purvis

(c) 2011, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

View Comments | Add Comment Monday, April 18, 2011  10:58:10 AM
Easy Lawn Tips featuring 130 Cedar Ridge 0 Comments Posted
 soft, green lawn is a wonderful thing. Here’s some simple advice for growing terrific turf.

Prevent weeds before they come up.
You can stop weeds from gaining a roothold in your lawn before they even germinate by using a pre-emergent herbicide. This type of product controls the dreaded crabgrass, as well as other hard-to-eliminate weeds, by stopping their seeds from sprouting in your lawn. Use a pre-emergent early in the spring.

130 Cedar Ridge Dr. overlooks the Rockport Country Club and is a prime example of a terrific lawn. The flexible floorplan of this 3 bedroom is showcased by an abundance of custom appointments. Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX to preview this 2496 sq.ft.Golf Course home boasting lake views. Asking $449,927

Eliminate broadleaf weeds once they’ve sprouted.
Broadleaf weeds are the big weeds that are immediately obvious in your lawn: the bright-yellow faces of dandelions (and their scatter-in-the-wind seeds), white-flowering clover and big-leaf plantain are all pretty visible. To treat, apply granular weed-control products. If there are just a few offenders, you can remove them by hand.

Mow high and frequently.
Mowing your lawn too short may seem like a time-saver, but this can damage your grass as well as allow weeds to set root. Keeping your lawn a bit taller results in healthier grass. The general rule of thumb is: Never cut off more than a third of the grass blade.

Water in the morning.
The best time to water your lawn is the early morning because the sun will help dry the grass. Nighttime watering can result in prolonged moisture on the blades, which can open the door for some diseases. It’s better to water less often but for prolonged periods. Just wetting down the grass isn’t watering the grass. You need to soak the lawn so the soil moisture goes down several inches.

Feed your lawn.
What do lawns like to consume? Nitrogen is the most important nutrient—look for a mix of fast- and slow-release fertilizers that will green up your lawn quickly, then feed it over time. In the north, feed in fall and spring. In the south, feed in spring and summer. Don’t feed dormant grass (drought can cause grass to go dormant in summer) because it can’t take in nutrients.

Reseed sparse lawns.
If your lawn is a little thin in areas, you can seed over the area to help lush it up. Fall is the ideal time to reseed cool-season grasses. Plant warm-season grasses in late spring.

This article is excerpted from Lowe’s Creative Ideas magazine. For more information, visit www.lowes.com.

RISMedia, published 4/5/11

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 12, 2011  1:51:30 PM
HUD addresses "National Origin" Housing Discrimination 0 Comments Posted
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it will launch an effort to better address national origin-based housing discrimination during Fair Housing Month in April. HUD will initiate a national media campaign and a series of community discussions on topics ranging from rental practices to mortgage lending. HUD’s first Immigrant Housing Conference, which will educate the public and housing providers about their fair housing rights and responsibilities, will be conducted in Omaha, Nebraska, April 14.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in rental, sales or home lending transactions based on a person’s national origin. This includes discrimination based on a person’s ancestry, country of birth outside the United States, and the language they speak. National origin discrimination often involves immigrants or non-English speaking individuals, but can also involve native-born U. S. citizens based on their family ancestry. This type of discrimination may also occur in conjunction with the other protections of the Fair Housing Act against race, color, religion, gender, disability, and family status discrimination.

One part of HUD’s “Live Free” national media campaign is a print advertisement featuring a Latino worker looking into the horizon, with a caption in Spanish reading: “You have the right to live where you choose. Report housing discrimination.”

HUD also recently awarded nearly $41 million to 108 fair housing organizations and non-profit agencies across the country to educate the public and combat housing and lending discrimination. Many of the groups will use the grants to address discrimination against immigrants, Latinos, non-native English speakers and minority communities. See this selected list of grantees and their work.

Some examples of how the grants will be used to combat national origin discrimination include:

- The Fair Housing Council of Riverside County, California, will test for discrimination in the sale and rental of housing units in the area of national origin;

- The Equal Rights Center in Washington, DC, will investigate 240 new complaints of housing discrimination alleging violation of federal fair housing laws with an emphasis on national origin;

- The Idaho Legal Aid Services will broadcast public service announcements in Spanish about FHA lending information; and

-Prairie State Legal Services in Rockford, Illinois, will focus on educational outreach to Spanish-speaking residents, a group recognized statewide as at-risk.

More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.

Source:  RISMedia published 4/12/11

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 12, 2011  1:49:33 PM
5 Landlord Investment TIPS 0 Comments Posted
  1. Have a property management firm screen your tenants
  2. Require that your tenants have renter's insurance
  3. Make sure your property is protected for vandalism due to the tenant not taking care of the rental
  4. Make sure you have insurance that covers you for fair rental loss
  5. Make sure you have adequate limits of liability

Source: Landlord Beware: Advice to Protect You and Your Investment, (Realty Times, July 18, 2005).

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 12, 2011  1:47:51 PM
Building HOMES gives MUSCLE to the Economy 0 Comments Posted
While the housing industry celebrates “New Homes Month” in April, home builders want Americans to know just how much of a positive, direct impact residential construction has on the U.S. economy throughout the entire year.

“Home building is a key driver of the American economy,” said NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev. “By generating economic activity, including new income and jobs, purchases of goods and services, and revenue for local governments, housing—which has historically accounted for around 17 percent of the GDP—can put America back to work.”

Economists at the National Association of Home Builders estimate that the one-year local impacts of building 100 single-family homes in a typical metro area include $21.1 million in local income, $2.2 million in taxes and other local government revenue, and 324 local jobs.

The employment effects extend beyond the home-building industry. About half of the jobs are in construction, with the other 50 percent creating employment opportunities in industries ranging from production and sales of home furnishings to service providers such as real estate attorneys and landscapers.

Those 100 new homes also provide the community with additional, annually-recurring impacts of $3.1 million in local income, $743,000 in taxes and other revenue for local governments, and 53 local jobs.

The income earned from construction activity is spent and recycled in the local economy, and the new homes that are built become occupied by residents who pay taxes and buy locally produced goods and services. Those tax revenues help pay for a wide range of government services, including local school teachers, police departments and road repairs.

In order to accommodate population growth and necessary replacement of older homes, however, a long-run trend of approximately 1.7 million new homes a year is needed. Yet as of February 2011, the annual projection for housing starts stood at less than 500,000.

“The gap between actual home starts and what is required to fulfill America’s future housing needs represents more than 3 million jobs,” said Nielsen. “Restoring the health of the housing industry is a crucial first step in stabilizing our country’s path to economic recovery.”

During New Homes Month, home builders also bring attention to the advantages of newly built homes, including safety, amenities, energy efficiency and floor plans to fit a wide variety of modern lifestyles. Combined with today’s near record-low interest rates and competitive prices, the current market offers new home buyers unprecedented opportunities.

Home buyers can access resources to help guide them through the home-buying process on NAHB’s website at www.nahb.org/forconsumers.

Source:  RISMedia published 4/7/11

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 12, 2011  1:47:25 PM
Know when to HOLD, FOLD or FLIP foreclosed properties 0 Comments Posted
The economy is improving overall and, as a result, some bright spots are showing up in the real-estate market. However, the foreclosure spike, which began around the same time the recession did, isn’t a distant memory just yet. In many areas, foreclosures are still happening; in some areas, those numbers have increased. Surprisingly, foreclosures have even encroached into some key cities that were formerly thought to be unshakable real-estate markets — like San Francisco, where foreclosures actually rose in 2010 (including in luxury neighborhoods like Pacific Heights, where a condo that sold in 2007 for $2.3 million recently sold for $1.44 million as a foreclosure).

This “second wave” of foreclosures – combined with the fact that many people’s 401(k)s have bounced back with the stock market, and most economists agree that the bottom of the recession has hit – means that competition for these foreclosed homes is, in many cases, fierce. There’s a renewed, final dash to get in on what some perceive as the best real-estate deals they’ll get in awhile. But how do you know which foreclosure is a good buy, and which to walk by? Here are some tips to help guide your clients:

Get it checked out by a pro. Perhaps the most essential point: Never go by looks alone as an indicator of whether a foreclosure is a good buy. A $2 million mansion may look gorgeous on the surface but might have toxic mold hiding beneath, which will require extremely pricey, lengthy repairs. On the other hand, a Mission fixer may look dilapidated but may have excellent bones and can be repaired at reasonable cost. Stipulate to your client that a certified professional home inspector must be contracted to check out a property before making a deal on it, to determine what repairs need to be done — so they can truly assess whether it’s worth it for them. Don’t rely solely on previous inspections, even if relatively recent – a vacant home can deteriorate quite a bit in a short time, especially in an area with climate extremes.

Don’t abandon common real-estate logic. Too many people, when shopping for a foreclosure, abandon their real-estate sense and focus on price alone. Remember, things like a sub-par location, poor light, terrible view, below-average school district, high local crime rate and other negatives might be part of the reason why a home went into foreclosure in the first place. Don’t assume that financial problems of the previous owner are the main reason for every foreclosure. The last owner may have bought the home ignoring some of the aforementioned problems, and seen value sink because of them. Don’t ignore those problems, especially if your client is considering selling in the next 5 to 10 years. Let your client know how long the home has been empty; the longer it has, the more of a chance this isn’t a good deal. Also, if there are plenty of other foreclosures nearby, that’s also a bad sign.

Skip – or, at least, very strongly rethink – the flip. “House-flipping,” i.e., buying at bargain-basement pricing, updating, then selling for much higher – is very 2006… and hasn’t exactly been hot since. Even if a house looks like an incredible flipping opportunity, beware of this temptation unless your client is a pro, with incredible contractor connections. Tell them to automatically triple the amount they think they’ll be spending to fix up the home. Clients should avoid the temptation to make fast money unless they think it through and talk to their real-estate professional, a home inspector, contractors – and possibly even a therapist!

Go over the budget. A fixer-upper means nothing if you can’t afford to fix it up – and that’s especially true for foreclosures, where those fixes can cost a pretty penny. Before buying, make sure your client has an ample budget to do all the repairs needed, after truly taking stock (with the help of a home inspector) of what those needs are. Make sure they have at least half of that money in cash, and preferably all of it. They don’t want to take more loans than needed, especially private loans, which shouldn’t be taking at all – the interest on them will, little by little, chip away at the initial foreclosure bargain.

Do your homework on lenders. Fewer people are getting financing for home-buying than they did before the recession, but good financing is luckily still available to many qualified buyers. Just make sure, as with regular home buying, that you enlist a reputable lender. A good lender will take the time to do a review of your client’s financial life and long- and short-term goals, to truly pick the best solution for them, rather than just spitting out options. Also ask about hidden costs, rate locks, prepayment penalties, origination fees and whether underwriting is done in-house. Make sure everything is explained to them clearly, and recommend that they review all of the answers with a real-estate attorney, who will also be able to check out the lender’s overall reputation. These are things that many people do during the standard home-buying process, but might gloss over when lured by a low foreclosure price tag.

See it in person. Finally, advise buyers never to buy a house without going in person to see it. Ever. Foreclosure or otherwise.

Source:  RISMedia, Dan Steward, published 4/7/11

Dan Steward is president of, Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspections. For more information, visit www.pillartopost.com.

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 12, 2011  1:46:09 PM
Hey Bidder, Bidder, Bidder-Survey says AUCTIONS on Rise 0 Comments Posted
PropertyAuction.com, a niche marketing website dedicated exclusively to real estate auctions, has announced its completed report of their survey on the 2010 Real Estate Auction Industry. The marked response from participants in the business has resulted in significant findings that are sure to be of interest to all real estate professionals and auctioneers, the company stated.

This past February, PropertyAuction.com presented its clients with a survey to assess industry activity in 2010 via a host of questions on various areas, including type of auction sale, popularity of auctions by area, percentage of buyers represented by brokers at a real estate auction, and advertising allocation. With a client list that includes top auction and real estate companies such as Williams & Williams, Tranzon, Hudson & Marshall, and United Country, the data reported from respondents is both authoritative and enlightening.

“Our goal with this survey is to provide our colleagues with an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses in the real estate auction industry,” says company President Ori Klein, “thus serving as a guide on how to make the upcoming year the industry’s most successful to date.”

Real estate auctions have greatly increased in popularity since the U.S. housing bubble burst in 2008. The auction mode of sale is regarded as providing sellers with a promising option to liquidate properties they can no longer afford or simply just want to sell; and buyers with a lucrative and timely opportunity to capitalize on today’s real estate market.

For more information and specific results on the survey, visit: http://bit.ly/gMk45I

Promoting thousands of national real estate auctions by top auctioneers since 1997, PropertyAuction.com remains a leader in real estate auction marketing and advertising with traffic comprised of thousands of real estate investors, brokers and bidders on a daily basis.

Source:  RISMedia, published 4/8/11
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 12, 2011  1:45:04 PM
Less than 4% of Single Family Loans are Deliquent 0 Comments Posted

Freddie Mac Chief Executive Officer Ed Haldeman said less than 4% of the government-sponsored enterprise's single-family home loans are at least three payments behind or heading into foreclosure.

Haldeman made that statement in an article he authored, "Three little-known facts about Freddie Mac delinquencies."

Haldeman said less than 1% of the firm's multifamily portfolio is classified as delinquent.

"It's among the lowest. The seriously delinquent rate for the industry as a whole was about 9% at the end of 2010," Haldeman wrote. "And the rate for subprime mortgages was approximately 27% – seven times higher than Freddie Mac's. On the multifamily side, the delinquency rate for banks and thrifts was slightly more than 4% – about 16 times higher."

Haldeman said the GSE saved 275,000 distressed loans last year, adding that the firm primarily operates as a buyer of 30- and 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages.

Source:  NewsGenius, published by KERRI PANCHUK 4/4/11

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 12, 2011  1:44:08 PM
Mortgage Rates Change Little Amid Positive Employment News 0 Comments Posted
Friday,  Freddie Mac released results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), which shows the 30-year fixed-rate inching upward for the third consecutive week to 4.87 percent but well below its average of 5.21 percent a year ago, the highest it had been since August 13, 2009.

30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.87 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending April 7, 2011, up from last week when it averaged 4.86 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 5.21 percent.  

15-year FRM this week averaged 4.10 percent with an average 0.7 point, up from last week when it averaged 4.09 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.52 percent.  

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.72 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.70 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 4.25 percent.

1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 3.22 percent this week with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.26 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 4.14 percent.  

Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist at Freddie Mac, reports, "Mortgage rates were little changed after an encouraging employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The economy added 216,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate fell for the fifth consecutive month to 8.8 percent marking the lowest rate in two years. Additionally, the private sector has gained 560,000 workers in the first quarter of this year, which represents the largest quarterly increase since the first quarter of 2006."

Source:  RealtyTimes, published 4/8/11

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 12, 2011  1:41:36 PM
A tale of Fannie, Freddie, & Failure 0 Comments Posted

Book Review
Title: "Guaranteed to Fail: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Debacle of Mortgage Finance"
Authors: Viral V. Acharya, Matthew Richardson, Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, Lawrence J. Wright
Publisher: Princeton University Press, 2011; 232 pages

I love a double entendre. The team of authors who wrote "Guaranteed to Fail: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Debacle of Mortgage Finance" apparently do, too. The book's title is not only descriptive, but a pithy primer for those who are unclear on the nature of the debacle to which it refers.

The federal government has now spent over $150 billion in taxpayer funds -- and counting -- to bailout these agencies. Those guarantees, the authors argue, do nothing to prevent the inevitable failure of both entities.

Funny enough, the way Fannie and Freddie got in trouble in the first place was by guaranteeing billions in subprime loans that were also set up from the beginning for failure, resulting in them collectively holding a bag full of over 150,000 foreclosed homes.

Fannie and Freddie are, or I should probably say were Government Sponsored Enterprises: privately owned companies created by Congress to further the ultimate aim of making homeownership more affordable and available to a wider group of Americans than it would otherwise have been.

When the subprime mortgage market melted down, Fannie and Freddie were bailed out and taken over by the federal government, which now essentially owns the terminally ill behemoths. "Guaranteed to Fail" calls attention to Fannie and Freddie's ongoing multi-billion-dollar life-support system, and calls for massive reforms to the agencies.

And presciently so; in the time between its writing and its publication, the Treasury Department itself sounded a nearly identical alarm. In February, the Obama Administration issued a white paper proposing to wean Fannie and Freddie off their reliance on taxpayer funds, gradually reduce the entire mortgage market's reliance on Fannie and Freddie funds and guarantees, and dissolve the two agencies entirely over five to seven years.

The Treasury proposal, the opinions of many economists, and even members of the Wall Street elite like Chase CEO Jamie Dimon (who recently labeled Fannie and Freddie "the biggest disasters of all time") validated the premise of "Guaranteed to Fail," as recent (unsuccessful) calls for the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction have echoed some of the book'sreform suggestions.

All these reform proposals have left many "Main Streeters" in a state of panic and confusion, not understanding why anything that reduces the numbers who can become homeowners could possibly be construed as good for society -- especially considering that making mortgages harder to get makes their own homes harder to buy and sell.

If you are wrestling with this confusion, "Guaranteed to Fail" will demystify things for you. It not only provides a clear, complete history of how we as a nation got into this mortgage mess and how Fannie, Freddie and other government subsidies of homeownership (and not for renting) have actually set low- and moderate-income Americans up for failure, created incentives for all Americans to overextend themselves on their home loans, and even created a home-value-impairing surplus of housing across the country (this last point has also recently been validated by last week's Census data-backed revelation that many foreclosure hot spot states have between 10-20 percent vacancy rates in their housing stock).

The authors of "Guaranteed to Fail," all professors, weave together historical facts, dive deeply into the economic dynamics and motivations of all entities and players involved in our national mortgage markets, and present nuanced reform proposals (moot or not), with an impeccable level of research and logical rigor, in language laypeople will still understand and appreciate.

If you're an armchair real estate economist, or just a homebuyer or owner trying to understand the various, massive impending changes in American mortgage finance this bookwill satisfy your curiousity and maybe even shift your thinking.

Source: Inman News, published, Lowe's 4/11/11, Tara-Nicholle Nelson

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman's Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com. 

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 12, 2011  1:40:28 PM
Budget impasse threatens FHA Lending 0 Comments Posted

The budget deadlock and looming shutdown of the federal government wouldn't affect Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but it could put the brakes on FHA and other government-backed loan guarantee programs.

The Obama administration has proposed $33 billion in spending cuts, while Republicans are reportedly pushing for $40 billion or more. House Republicans Thursday passed a bill to push back a shutdown by one week. But that bill includes spending cuts opposed by Democrats, and President Obama has threatened a veto if it's approved by the Senate.

In the event of a government shutdown, the Federal Housing Administration "will not be able to endorse any single-family loans, and staff will not be available to underwrite and approve new loans," a HUD spokeswoman told Inman News.

Although so-called "full eagle" lenders vetted by FHA have direct endorsement authority, in the event of a government shutdown FHA would power down its automated systems for processing those loans, in effect suspending all lender insurance approvals.

"Technically, the banks can close on a loan that's been FHA-approved if they want to, but they will be taking the risk on their own books," the HUD spokeswoman said. "Some may choose to do so, but (in the event of a government shutdown), they will not receive FHA insurance until FHA is up and running."

FHA insured mortgages on about 19 percent of home sales in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010, and just under 16 percent of sales in October, according to the latest figures from HUD.

USDA and VA loan guarantee programs, although smaller, could be affected in similar ways. Those agencies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

According to a bulletin issued by the National Association of REALTORS®, lenders may continue to process and guaranty mortgages through the VA Loan Guaranty program.

For U.S. Department of Agriculture rural housing programs, staff who typically issue conditional commitments, loan note guarantees, and modification approvals are not classified as "essential personnel," and lenders would not receive approvals in the event of a shutdown, NAR said. Lenders who have received conditional commitments may close those loans.

As the Obama administration and Republican lawmakers continue negotiations over proposed budget cuts, the President has pointed to the potential impacts to FHA lending as one example of how a shutdown "could have real effects on everyday Americans."

"It may turn out that somebody who was trying to get a mortgage can't have their paperwork processed by the FHA and now the person who was going to sell the house -- what they were counting on, they can't get it," President Obama said Wednesday, speaking at a town hall discussion in Pennsylvania on energy policy.

Testifying before Senate lawmakers today, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said he is "very concerned that a significant number of lenders would not choose to close" on pending FHA loans, Dow Jones reported.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the government placed under conservatorship in 2008, would not be affected by a shutdown because the Treasury Department's preferred stock purchase agreements with the companies are not subject to the annual appropriations process, said a spokeswoman for their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).

FHFA itself is not subject to a shutdown because it is funded by assessments on Fannie, Freddie and the Federal Home Loan Banks.

Source:  Inman News, Lowe's published 4/11/11
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 12, 2011  1:39:37 PM
New Loan Officer Compensation Rules Take Effect 0 Comments Posted

New rules for loan officer compensation are in full effect today after a federal appeals court lifted an order staying their implementation.

The rules -- aimed at eliminating incentives for loan originators to steer borrowers into higher-cost loans -- are likely to remain in place pending the outcome of a legal challenge mounted by two groups representing mortgage brokers.

The National Association of Independent Housing Professionals (NAIHP) and the National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB) filed legal challenges of the rules last month in U.S. District Court, claiming the Federal Reserve Board lacked the authority to regulate mortgage brokers and that the rules were "arbitrary and capricious."

Mortgage brokers -- who work independently from banks, brokering loans through multiple lenders -- maintain that the rules favor loan officers employed by banks, and will drive many of them out of business.

The trial court last week denied NAIHP's and NAMB's requests for temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions blocking implementation of the rules, saying the groups hadn't demonstrated they were likely to succeed in their challenge.

Both groups appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which issued an administrative stay of the rules on March 31 -- the day before they were scheduled to take effect.

In agreeing to stay implementation of the rules, the appeals court said it was not ruling on the legal merits of the emergency motions filed by mortgage brokers. The appeals court gave attorneys for the Federal Reserve until Monday to respond.

Arguing that the administrative stay should be lifted and a motion for an emergency stay denied, attorneys for the Federal Reserve said in a filing Monday that the trial court "properly concluded that the appellants had not shown that they were likely to prevail" in their arguments.

Claims by mortgage brokers that they will suffer "irreparable harm" must be weighed against the likelihood that delaying implementation of the rules would harm consumers by leaving in place a system that rewards mortgage brokers for putting borrowers in higher-cost loans, Fed attorneys said.

"Each day that the rule's effective date is postponed is another day consumers will suffer this harm, and their injury, too, is irreparable," attorneys for the government said.

The appeals court on Tuesday ruled that NAIHP and NAMB had not "satisfied the stringent standards required for a stay pending appeal," and dissolved its administrative stay of the rule.

The three-judge appeals court panel also denied an emergency motion to stay implementation of the rule pending appeal, and denied a motion for expedited relief that sought to fast-track the appeal process.

NAMB President Michael D'Alonzo declared the group will continue to argue its case in appeals court, vowing on the group's Facebook page that "This fight is far from over."

The new rules -- an amendment to the Federal Reserve Board's Regulation Z, which implements the Truth in Lending Act -- were published in the Federal Register on Sept. 24.

The rules prohibit loan originators from receiving compensation that's based on any of a loan's terms or conditions, except for the amount of the loan.

But mortgage brokers say that one aspect of the rules -- governing rebates paid by lenders on higher-interest-rate loans -- is targeted specifically at them.

The rebates, known as yield spread premiums, can help borrowers cover closing costs including loan origination fees. But Fed policymakers maintain that yield-spread premiums can also serve as an incentive for mortgage brokers to steer borrowers into high-interest loans.

Mortgage brokers say they are already required to disclose yield-spread premiums to consumers, and that banks earn similar "service release premiums" when they sell higher-interest-rate loans in secondary markets.

But the Fed maintains that consumers are often oblivious of the fact that mortgage brokers receive payments from lenders; they tend to think of mortgage brokers as working on their behalf -- a "trusted adviser" who will have their best interest in mind when shopping for the best deal among various lender.

Consumers therefore don't necessarily understand that mortgage brokers may steer them into a loan that provides the broker with the best compensation, instead of the loan that's the best deal for the consumer, attorneys for the Fed said in defending the new rules.

That's especially the case when consumers are also paying loan origination fees themselves, the Fed maintains.

When the consumer is making a direct payment to a loan originator, "the consumer could reasonably expect that making that direct payment would reduce or eliminate the need for the creditor to compensate the originator through a higher interest rate," the Fed maintains.

The solution devised by the Fed in the new loan officer compensation rules is to require mortgage brokers to choose one form of compensation or the other. Mortgage brokers must decide whether they will be paid by lenders (through yield-spread premiums) or by consumers, but cannot receive compensation from both.

Groups representing mortgage brokers say that the rule will give bank loan officers an unfair advantage.

"The Board's decision to regulate mortgage brokers, while effectively exempting creditors that control 90 percent of the mortgage origination market, was arbitrary and capricious," attorneys for NAIHP and NAMB said in arguing for an emergency stay of the rules.

Mortgage brokers, the groups said Tuesday in an appeals court filing, "provide consumers with disclosures that make clear that they are independent contractors, are not the consumers' agents, and cannot guarantee the lowest price or best terms available in the market."

Historically, when borrowers are seeking the lowest rate on a loan, mortgage brokers have collected both origination fees paid by consumers and yield-spread premiums from lenders, attorneys for NAMB said in their original March 9 complaint.

Banks' loan officers offer loans with reduced or no upfront settlement costs in exchange for a higher rate on the borrower's mortgage, and banks recoup those costs by adding a "service release premium" when they sell mortgages with higher interest rates in the secondary market, NAIHP said in a March 7 complaint.

Attorneys for the Fed acknowledged that while loan officers are also in a position of trust, consumers understand that banks' loan officers work on behalf of a single lender, and will not help borrowers look for better deals from other lenders.

The rule's intent was "to prevent a loan originator who works with a variety of lenders from steering a consumer to the lender that will pay the loan originator a higher fee," attorneys for the Fed said.

The fact that a bank lender may charge a high rate for a loan to earn a service release premium "does not present the same problem of a hidden conflict of interest," the Fed maintains. Consumers "would naturally expect that the (bank lender) is not his or her 'trusted adviser' in the transaction but is representing its own interest."

According to a report in American Banker, major lenders like Bank of America and Wells Fargo are revamping loan officer compensation to eliminate incentives tied to loan terms, including the interest rate. Banks plan to shift to volume-based incentives that reward loan officers for making more, and bigger loans, American Banker said, citing confidential documents.

The Federal Reserve has suggested that mortgage brokers could make similar changes in the way employees are compensated.

Source: Inman News, published 4/11/11 Lowe's

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 12, 2011  1:38:41 PM
The Complete Work of William Shakespeare 'abridged' in Aransas Pass 0 Comments Posted
See ***Jeffrey Johnson *** Media Manager of
Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX
in this community play.

The Rialto Theater Proudly Presents 

Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer & Jess Winfield

Directed by Jon Montgomery 

Produced through special arrangement with Broadway Play Publishing, Inc.   

 Friday & Saturday Nights

 April 15th, 16th, 22nd & 23rd at 7:30 p.m.
 Sunday Matinee

 April 24th at 2:00 p.m.

 Special Marquee Members Preview ~ ~ ~ April 14th at 7:30 p.m. 

Tickets $12.00 

Limited seating!  Purchase tickets online now at 


  Witness for Yourself the World Record-Breaking Shortest-ever Performance of Hamlet  

- Both Forwards & Backwards!!!


"If you like Shakespeare, you'll like this show.  If you  hate Shakespeare, you'll love this show!" - The Today Show

 The script to this play may be purchased from B P P I at BroadwayPlayPubl.com.

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 12, 2011  1:37:42 PM
Groups Respond to Proposed Rule Changes for Qualified Residential Mortgages 0 Comments Posted
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) hosted a media teleconference recently, along with other industry and consumer groups and finance experts, to discuss the negative impact that overly restrictive lending rules recently proposed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. would have on the housing market and larger economic recovery.

The plan unveiled by the FDIC would require a minimum 20 percent down payment for “qualified residential mortgages,” or QRMs, that would exempt lenders from forthcoming risk retention rules under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law passed last year.

Below are statements from the panelists outlining their position on the proposed rule:

Barry Rutenberg, First Vice Chairman, National Association of Home Builders: “Requiring a high down payment would disproportionately harm first-time home buyers, who have limited wealth and, on average, account for 40 percent of home-buying activity. It would take an average family 12 years to scrape together a 20 percent down payment. Borrowers who can’t afford to put 20 percent down on a home and who are unable to obtain FHA financing will be expected to pay a premium of two percentage points for a loan in the private market to offset the increased risk to lenders, according to NAHB economists. This would disqualify about 5 million potential home buyers, resulting in 250,000 fewer home sales and 50,000 fewer new homes being built per year.

“Basically, the government is telling Mr. and Mrs. America, ‘thanks for paying your mortgage during these tough times, and thanks for building your wealth around housing, as we have encouraged you to do, but we are now changing the rules. We are going to reduce the value of your retirement nest egg even more than the recession already has. And as an extra thank you, your kids are going to find homeownership that much more difficult to obtain.’”

Lew Ranieri, the “father of securitization,” and former vice chairman of Salomon Brothers: “The proposed very narrow QRM definition will allow very few potential homeowners to qualify. As a result, it will complicate the withdrawal of the Government’s guarantee of the mortgage market. I fear it will also delay the establishment of broad investor confidence necessary for the re-establishment of the RMBS market.”

Barry Zigas, Director of Housing Policy, Consumer Federation of America: “The proposed rule establishes a standard for ‘safe and sound’ mortgages that would take the industry back to the 1980s, when low wealth and moderate income borrowers, and particularly communities of color, were routinely barred from conventional, affordable credit. The proposed standard seems to ignore all the positive lessons lenders learned over many years of experimentation in how to offer sustainable mortgage credit. We are very concerned that when combined with other recommendations from the Administration’s White Paper on housing finance, including 10 percent down payment minimums for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages, and possibly higher down payments for FHA borrowers, this proposal will move the lending industry’s goalposts unacceptably far from the reach of low, moderate and middle income homebuyers.

“We are pleased that the proposals include at least a minimal set of servicing guidelines that would apply to all mortgage securitizations. We look forward to working with the regulators to improve and strengthen them. But there can be no doubt after the foreclosure debacle consumers have endured that clear standards are necessary.”

Mike Calhoun, President, Center for Responsible Lending: “Securitization provides financing for most of our credit- mortgages, car loans, credit cards, even financing for the buildings we work in. The collapse of this market led to the broad economic recession, and CRL supports reform of the securitization markets. The goal is to make the system safer, while still making credit available and affordable. The recent risk retention rules are an important part of this reform process. However, the proposed Qualified Residential Mortgage standards would unnecessarily over restrict credit and shut off homeownership to most working families. In particular, the down payment requirements of 20 percent would create an insurmountable barrier for most families, even though low down payment loans that are fully underwritten have performed well, even through the recent crisis.”

For more information visit www.nahb.org.

RISMedia, published 4/8/11
View Comments | Add Comment Friday, April 08, 2011  11:35:29 AM
Don't just walk away from Mortgage~Survey says 0 Comments Posted
Some Americans who owe more than what their house is currently worth are opting to walk away from their mortgage. But a new survey finds Americans don’t agree with home owners who make that choice.

Sixty-percent of Americans say it is “never OK” for home owners to stop making payments on their mortgage, according to a new survey of 1,000 American adults by FindLaw.com, a legal information Web site. However, 34 percent say it’s OK for home owners to walk away from their mortgage if they are no longer able to make their monthly payments.

Only 3 percent of those surveyed said home owners should be able to walk away from their mortgage anytime they want.

"Many home owners are currently facing very difficult and complicated situations involving their home mortgage, in some cases even including the threat of foreclosure," says Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney and editor for FindLaw.com. "But before making any major decisions, home owners should consult with financial and legal professionals, including accountants, real estate attorneys and financial advisers. Any major change to a mortgage situation could lead to serious and unanticipated consequences involving taxes, contract law, credit scores, ability to borrow in the future, potential for lawsuits, and much more.”

Source: “Most Americans Opposed to Homeowners Walking Away From Mortgages, Says New FindLaw.com Survey,” FindLaw.com (April 5, 2011)

NAR, Realtor Magazine Daily News

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, April 07, 2011  9:16:17 AM
Pets can reduce Stress, Obesity, & Cholesterol 0 Comments Posted
Looking for a holistic way to reduce stress, cholesterol and obesity? Get a pet. Statistics show that 62% of American households own a pet. According to a national survey, most pet owners say companionship, love, company and affection are the No. 1 benefits to owning a pet.

We know that pets make good companions and decrease loneliness, but numerous studies have shown other profound health benefits of owning a pet:

1. Pets help recovery from heart attacks. A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study of 421 adults found that dog owners had a better one-year survival after a heart attack, compared to those who did not own dogs.

2. Pets help us calm down. A study of 240 married couples showed that pet owners had lower heart rates and blood pressure as compared to those without pets.

3. Pets help reduce stress better than our human companions. Pet owners had less stress and quicker recovery from stress when they were with their pets as compared to when they were with their spouse or friend.

4. Pet owners have less obesity. A study looking at 2,000 adults found that pet owners who walked their dogs had less rates of obesity and were more physically active than those without pets.

5. Pet owners have better mobility in their golden years. Another NIH study looking at 2,500 adults aged 71-82 showed that adults who regularly walked their dogs had more mobility inside the house than non-pet owners.

6. Pets increase opportunities for socialization. Many studies have shown that walking a dog leads to more conversations and socialization.

7. Pets can help your cholesterol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that owning a pet can decrease cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure.

8. Pets can help comfort children. Child psychologists have found that pets can be very comforting to children and help them develop empathy. They have also been found to help autistic children with socialization.

So for those of you with pets, continue to enjoy the hidden health benefits of your furry friends. And for those of you thinking of getting one—do so. Pet ownership may be a path to your good health.

By Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden

(c) 2011, The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.).

RISMedia, published 4/6/11, Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Photo: Lynn Caison Johnson

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, April 07, 2011  9:15:36 AM
ACISD implements new ALERT system for Rockport/Futon Schools 0 Comments Posted

Parents, students, and staff of Aransas County ISD are receiving important information in a new way.  The district has implemented “Skylert,” a module of the Skyward School Management System that works in conjunction with the School Messenger program to allow district officials to quickly send mass notifications to parents, students, and employees.   The system pulls information from employee and student databases and integrates with the district’s Family Access program to provide a comprehensive communication system. 

Skylert/School Messenger allows district officials to contact every parent, employee, and student in only a few minutes utilizing phone calls, email messages, and text messages.  Some of the many uses of Skylert/School Messenger include notifying parents of student absences, sending out emergency alerts on school closings, and distributing important district and campus announcements.  The system can even inform a parent when their child’s school lunch account balance is running low.

For emergency announcements, the system calls the first three phone numbers listed in the emergency contact area of the database and will make four attempts to connect.  It will also send a message to the first e-mail address listed.  For general announcements, the system will call the first phone number up to four times and contact the e-mail address listed.   If multiple students have the same contact number, Skylert will send the district notification only once per household.  

Skylert/School Messenger also generates activity reports helpful to school administrators such as phone numbers called, how many calls were answered, how many went to a machine, how many phone numbers have been disconnected, percentage of successful contacts, list of e-mails sent, and status of student lunch account balances.  

For more information on the Skylert/School Messenger system, contact Pam Gillis, District PEIMS Coordinator, at 790-2045.

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, April 07, 2011  9:13:45 AM
Celebrate Earth Day with these 20 Tips 0 Comments Posted
Choose Reusable shopping bags instead of paper or plastic

Replace pricey plastic water bottles with a reusable one filled with filtered tap water and you’ll save money and free up landfill space. Home water filters replace as many as 300 standard 16.9-ounce bottles

A leaky toilet can waste 3–7 gallons of water per flush. That can add up to as much as $400 a year in water bills. To check for leaks, add a couple drops of food coloring to the tank. If you have a leak, color will appear in the bowl within 15 miminutes.  Fix the leak. (faulty flappers, floats, and handles are the usual suspects).

Conserve water with a high-efficiency showerhead without sacrificing performance. That means less work for your water heater, too.

Dimmers let you control light, set the mood, and save on electricity. How do you top that?  With a designer-style dimmer for dimmable CFL and LED bulbs. It also works with halogen and incandescent bulbs.  

Walking, biking, or riding the bus to work just one day a week lowers your carbon footprint and is good for your health. Go to kiplinger.com/tools/bike to calculate how much you can save by biking. 

Eliminate paper waste by paying bills online. 

Change air filters regularly for optimim furnace performance. Source: United State EPA. 

Audit the energy use of your appliances with an inexpensive energy monitor
Add beauty to your home—and save money—by planting a tree. Shade trees can keep buildings up to 20 degrees cooler in the summer and help lower your air-conditioning bill. Source: United States EPA. 

Compost nourishes gardens by improving the quality of soil and its water-holding capacity. Good soil means less watering. Added bonus: less garbage in the landfill. 

Reduce your water usage by collecting rain and using it to water your lawn and garden (check local regulations)  

Native plants use less water, require less maintenance, and attract wildlife

Help the environment and your budget with ENERGY STAR®-qualified appliances. You’ll use 10–50 percent less energy than standard models. Ask your utility company if rebates are available or check out our rebate finder at lowes.com/rebatefinder. Source: United States EPA. 

LEDs last longer than compact fluorescents and standard incandescent bulbs reaping long-term savings. LEDs contain no mercury, use only 2–10 watts of electricity, and are cool to the touch. Source: eartheasy.com. 

Replace single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR-qualified models, such as Pella’s ThermaStar, and you can save up to $500 a year in energy costs. Source: United States EPA. 

Volunteer to pick up trash in your neighborhood 

Heating and cooling costs account for nearly half of most households’ energy bills. Try a programmable thermostat. When used correctly, it can save you up to $180 per year. Source: United States EPA. 

Cleaning products made with plant- and mineral-based ingredients have a rep for being wimpy. No more. Green is mean thanks to brands such as Green Works and Greenology.  

Most of the energy that goes into food production is used in transporting the food to its final location. Locally grown produce, eggs, and meat have a dramatically lower impact on the environment. For farmers’ markets in your area, go to localharvest.org.

Source:  Lowe's-amended

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, April 06, 2011  10:21:35 AM
Lookin' for charm & personality~alone or in groups~ Try Pots 0 Comments Posted

Whether combined in a group or standing alone, containers add charm and personality to any garden especially when SELLING your home.

When your garden needs some punch, containers can be the answer. Place them in strategic locations to draw attention to a specific area, such as the front entrance.

At the home shown at left, we set a large concrete pot in the middle of the flower border. When you stand directly in front of the house, the pot is centered on the door. Containers placed on both sides of the landing frame the steps.

In spring, red geraniums look great with yellow pansies and daffodils. Variegated ivy is trained to grow up a metal obelisk set on axis with the front door. As the summer's landscape changes, so does the look of the containers. The ivy has filled out, and ferns surround the base.

Southern Living

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, April 06, 2011  10:20:55 AM
Wanna make a good 1st Impression? on the cheap? 0 Comments Posted

New finishes on the door and the floor give this entrance a welcoming new look without costly renovation.

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, April 06, 2011  10:20:01 AM
Cute ugle mailbox syndrom 0 Comments Posted

Mailbox Make-Over

Oddly enough, it is the humble mailbox that often creates that first impression of a suburban home. It can extend guests a welcoming visual invitation or give them the cold shoulder. Even the mail carrier was tempted to drive by the nondescript mailbox at left without stopping. It was time for a makeover.

To spruce up a plain mailbox, begin by clearing out any surrounding weeds. Ornamental grass makes a nice backdrop, and we like the maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus') in particular.

Some type of small evergreen, stepping down in height, stands out in front of the grasses and gives the planting an accent during the winter. For added punch, place evergreens in terra-cotta pots.

Next, consider adding a copper post cap, brass house numbers, copper tubing, and decorative elements like this copper vase and firefly. Copper tubing is sold in prepackaged coils, so we merely had to unwrap it, stretch it out, and wind it around the post.

Source: Southern Living

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, April 06, 2011  10:19:20 AM
Spruce up the Sidewalk Entry 0 Comments Posted

"(Garden designer) Bill Nance came up with an idea that draws a visitor's eye toward the door and breaks up the hard lines of the front walk. He created a rhythm with plants that provide variations in color, texture, and height."
-- Edwin Marty, contributor, Southern Living

Tip:To achieve this look, junipers, lamb's ears, and daylilies were planted along the path. Check with your local nursery or garden center for similar selections.

Source:  myroomideas.com

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 05, 2011  10:06:44 AM
Set the Mood with Warm Hues 0 Comments Posted

Let your bold personality shine through like this room with one of these striking shades. All colors are available at Lowe's OR shop your local paint or hardware store for similar colors.

•Turkish Coffee, #6003-2C
•Roasted Pumpkin, #2005-3A
•Laura Ashley Home, Tulip #LA814
•Montpelier Red Velvet, #1009-6

Tiffany Burgess, Lowe's Creative Ideas

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 05, 2011  10:06:10 AM
Make a Statement with these Colors 0 Comments Posted

BROWN AND BLACK: Browns allow bright colors -- think whites and chartreuse -- to stand out. Shades of black coat walls in brilliant depth.

YELLOW: Fresh yellows revitalize a room and make it a cheery escape. Deeper tones bring warm energy to a room but allow for a richer color scheme.

RED: Ignite excitement in a room! These intrepid colors give off energy that can inspire you to cook a five-course meal and encourage your guests to let lively conversation flow while they dine.

ORANGE: Known to stimulate appetite as well as energy, fresh shades of orange enliven your walls with brilliant color that excites the senses.

Lowe's Creative Ideas, Laurey W. Glenn and Thomas J. Story
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 05, 2011  10:05:43 AM
Clean the slate with WHITE kitchen Ideas 0 Comments Posted

Use these bright whites to freshen any room. All tints are available at Lowe's OR similar tints at your local paint or hardware store.

•Du Jour, #7002-6
•Divine Cream, #7006-8
•Comet Dust, #5006-1A
•Bistro White, #7006-4
•City Steam, #7006-5

Southern Accents, Tria Giovan
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 05, 2011  10:05:09 AM
Colors to CALM........ 0 Comments Posted

For a calming effect try one of these cool and calming shades (clockwise from top left). These exact colors are available at Lowe's OR shop a local vendor for similar colors.

•Meadow Wind, #6005-7B
•Cincinnatian Hotel Olivia Blue, #4003-7B
•Frosty, #5006-9B
•Coconut Milk, #2007-10C

Coastal Living, Jean Allsopp
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 05, 2011  10:04:21 AM
What COLOR says about YOU 0 Comments Posted

What YOUR color craving says 'bout YOU ! Decorate with COLORS you LOVE !

GREEN: Shades of light green can be healing colors for your mood. A bedroom, reading room, or office can be transformed into a sanctuary by incorporating pale, calming colors.

BLUE: Shades of blue can also bring peace and serenity to a room. If you typically gravitate toward blue, choose a soft shade to give the space a clean, natural feel.

PURPLE: Lavender can create a truly relaxing retreat with its blend of warm red and cool blue.

BEIGE: A shade of this color can make your room appear more open and inviting thanks to the appeal of light neutral tones.

Lowe's Creative Ideas, Laurey W. Glenn and Thomas J. Story

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 05, 2011  10:02:54 AM
A 'lil Color Therepy with Slip Covers 0 Comments Posted

New slip covers & paint scheme can revitalize your spirit. Find a dream color that will create exactly the type of enviornment you want to call home.

Jean Allsop, Coastal Living

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 05, 2011  10:02:05 AM
Lets Talk: The Top Reasons to Master the Lost Art Of Conversation 0 Comments Posted
LOL and BRB might be key communication elements in a texting, emailing, social-media-obsessed world, but they don’t make for high quality communication or conversation. Sometimes you might not even know what your communicating counterpart is even saying to you. With communication becoming more and more diluted by technology, Maribeth Kuzmeski, , author of The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life, stresses the importance of once again valuing great conversation—an essential element in building strong, mutually beneficial, and even profitable relationships.

“Conversations are the building blocks of relationships,” says Kuzmeski. “Without it, we form relationships that are devoid of substance,” she adds. “Unfortunately, we live in a world where the modern MO seems to be less talking and more texting. People either think they don’t have the time or don’t think it’s necessary to take the time to have real conversations with each other. But for anyone who wants to create truly beneficial relationships, you have to stop texting, walk away from the computer, and connect with someone one-on-one through a great conversation.”

An expert on the art of connecting, Kuzmeski teaches her clients how to connect with their customers in order to win business and build loyalty, and believes that mastering the art of conversation goes a long way when you’re trying to connect with another person, whether in business or your social life.

“The goal of any conversation should be to build a mutually beneficial relationship with that other person,” says Kuzmeski. “By having a conversation with someone, you’re committing to connecting with him or her for the next 10, 15, 30 minutes or more. Follow that conversation to its conclusion, and you never know what you will find out. The point is you have to be willing to have it in the first place, and that is something that too few of us value these days.”

Kuzmeski’s top reasons why now is the time to re-master the art of conversation:

It puts quality ahead of speed. Today, you can find out almost anything you’d ever want to know in seconds. You can rattle off a text faster than you can dial someone’s number. You can send an email out to multiple contacts in a couple of minutes. But with this speed of communication, notes Kuzmeski, you often sacrifice quality; and, ultimately, this sacrifice leaves you with paper-thin relationships.

“Texting, IMing, and emailing provide great ways to communicate, but there is a one-sidedness to the kind of communication they allow,” says Kuzmeski. “There is a delay in the actual exchange of ideas that doesn’t exist when you are speaking with someone. With these methods, the chances are also higher that you will be misunderstood or you will misunderstand the other person because there’s no way to capture tone and feeling in a way that ensures it won’t be confused. To truly express yourself and allow others to express themselves, conversation provides the highest quality of communication.”

It’s the glue of great relationships. You can email or text someone regularly, but according to Kuzmeski, it is only during a real conversation that a bond with him or her actually begins to strengthen.

“Think about this in terms of your professional life,” suggests Kuzmeski. “Who do you trust more? The vendor who always calls you or the one who only communicates via email? Sure, you might enjoy doing business with both of them, but when it comes right down to it, your relationship with the vendor you regularly speak to is probably stronger. Conversation is essential in all relationships. If you can’t hold a conversation with another person, your relationship will quickly break down.”

It’s the only way to see what someone is saying. Kuzmeski believes that face-to-face conversation is the only way to take in the total message someone is sending. It allows you to take his or her inflection, emotion, and physical gestures into account along with what is actually being said. It also allows you to show that person that you are listening and truly value what he or she has to say.

“Your face, eyes, and body language allow you to give a range of emotions that indicate whether you are following what the speaker is saying,” says Kuzmeski. “Your face actively captures information. A simple nod of the head or a simple ‘uh-huh’ helps you acknowledge that you are really listening to what he or she has to say. Doing so helps you show you’re interested in the person and also helps you encourage him or her to keep speaking, so that the conversation keeps flowing.”

It’s an opportunity-making skill. Being a great conversationalist can lead to great opportunities, both in your professional and social lives, says Kuzmeski. For example, to get your dream job, you’ll have to back up your meticulously written resume with a great interview. The most comfortable interviews are those that feel like normal conversations—a give and take between two (or more) people who genuinely want to learn about one another. Once you get the job, your conversations with your new colleagues will help you gain their trust and build a rapport that helps you (and them) succeed.

“In your social life, if you want to ask someone on a date or even just make a new friend, you’re going to have to be able to talk to that person,” notes Kuzmeski. “These are all situations where technology is only going to get you so far. Life’s opportunities are sealed with conversation, not texting or emailing.”

It’s a great way to invest in others. Kuzmeski believes that the act of listening—the other half of a great conversation—shows people you care. “When you speak with someone and listen to what he or she has to say, you are showing that person you value him or her,” explains Kuzmeski. “And the wonderful thing is that in the flow of a great conversation, he or she is giving that courtesy right back to you. “

It is not a requirement to be the most outgoing person in the room. If you’ve been using your shy personality as an excuse for relying on technology for all of your communication, now’s the time to stop, stresses Kuzmeski. “Being outgoing is not a requirement for participating in or initiating a great conversation. The only requirements are that you are authentic and show that you value what the other person has to say,” she explains. “You don’t have to say anything profound. You don’t have to impress people with your every word. You simply have to participate, actively listen, and be open and honest in what you say.”

It’s the best way to mend a broken relationship. There are some situations in business, and in life, that should only be handled via a conversation. The bottom line is that sometimes an email or a text just won’t cut it. According to Kuzmeski, mending a broken relationship is one of those situations.

“When you’re in trouble with a client or you’ve hurt a friend’s feelings, you have to get up and go see the person or, at the very least, pick up the phone and call, even when the conversation might be uncomfortable for you,” says Kuzmeski. “Your client will appreciate that you’ve shown up during tough times, and you’ll be showing your friend that you value him or her enough to make the time. This is how you begin to rebuild trust, something that will be very difficult to achieve if all you’re doing is pushing the ‘Send’ button.”

Kuzmeski believes that conversation lies behind strong relationships, an advancement of opportunities and a more satisfying way of living overall. “When you focus your efforts on having great conversations every day, you’ll see that great things start to fall into place.”

For more information, please visit www.RedZoneMarketing.com.

RISMedia, published 3/31/11

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 05, 2011  10:00:34 AM
Federal Housing Financing Agency Reports Mortgage Interest Rates 0 Comments Posted
The Federal Housing Finance Agency has reported that the National Average Contract Mortgage Rate for the Purchase of Previously Occupied Homes by Combined Lenders, used as an index in some ARM contracts, was 4.79 percent based on loans closed in February. This is an increase of 0.08 percent from the previous month. This Contract Rate series can be found at http://www.fhfa.gov/Default.aspx?Page=251.

The average interest rate on conventional, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loans of $417,000 or less increased 12 basis points to 4.97 percent in February. These rates are calculated from the FHFA’s Monthly Interest Rate Survey of purchase-money mortgages (see technical note). These results reflect loans closed during the Feb. 22-28 period. Typically, the interest rate is determined 30 to 45 days before the loan is closed. Thus, the reported rates depict market conditions prevailing in mid- to late-January.

The contract rate on the composite of all mortgage loans (fixed- and adjustable-rate) was 4.80 percent in February, up 10 basis points from 4.70 percent in January. The effective interest rate, which reflects the amortization of initial fees and charges, was 4.92 percent in February, up 11 basis points from 4.81 percent in January.

This report contains no data on adjustable-rate mortgages due to insufficient sample size.

Initial fees and charges were 0.80 percent of the loan balance in February, unchanged from January. Thirty percent of the purchase-money mortgage loans originated in February were “no-point” mortgages, down from 34 percent in January. The average term was 27.2 years in February, down 0.1 years from 27.3 years in January. The average loan-to-price ratio in February was 74.7 percent, up 1.3 percent from 73.4 percent in January. The average loan amount was $216,900 in February, up $14,500 from $202,400 in January.

Technical note: The data is based on a small monthly survey of mortgage lenders which may not be representative. Survey respondents are asked to report the terms and conditions on all conventional, single-family, fully amortized, purchase-money loans closed during the last five working days of the month. The sample is not a statistical sample but is rather a convenience sample. The data exclude FHA-insured and VA-guaranteed mortgages, refinancing loans, and balloon loans. This month’s data are based on 4,379 reported loans from 34 lenders, which may include savings associations, mortgage companies, commercial banks, and mutual savings banks.

The effective interest rate includes the amortization of initial fees and charges over a 10-year period, which is the historical assumption of the average life of a mortgage loan. The data is weighted to reflect the shares of mortgage lending by lender size and lender type, as reported in the latest release of the Federal Reserve Board’s Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data.

For more information visit www.fhfa.gov.

RISMedia, published 3/31/11

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, April 05, 2011  9:59:29 AM
Reforming America's Housing Financial Market 0 Comments Posted
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) recognizes the need for an orderly transition from the current form of the secondary mortgage market to a new structure that removes some of the pitfalls under the old GSE structure. The Obama Administration recently released a white paper with many options for changing the mortgage market. NAR appreciates the Administration’s desire to engage stakeholders in any final plan and is seeking to serve on any advisory panel that will study the consolidation of federal incentives for housing. REALTORS® want to help design a secondary mortgage model that will serve homeowners today, and in the future, and ensure a strong housing market and full economic recovery.

A pillar of NAR’s recommendations is that there can be no restoration of the former secondary mortgage market with entities that take private profits and push losses onto the taxpayer. The new system must involve some government presence, outside of FHA, USDA, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, to ensure a continued flow of capital to housing markets during economic downturns when large lenders flee the housing market.

There are areas within the Administration’s plan that do not coincide with the recommendations set forth by NAR and its members:

Proposed Secondary Market Changes
Ultimately winding down the GSEs—REALTORS® believe that government participation is required in the secondary mortgage market to ensure the continual flow of mortgage capital to all markets in all economic conditions. Shuttering the GSEs without a mechanism for seamless government participation in the secondary market during economic downturns will increase the likelihood of a future housing finance system failure.

Proposed increase in down payment amount—A 10 perecent down payment will be problematic for many first-time buyers and even repeat buyers. This change, coupled with the proposed drop in FHA loan limits and other changes to FHA, will mean that home buyers in higher cost metro markets will have to pay significantly higher private capital costs or delay their purchases despite having the incomes necessary to carry the costs of a home purchase with a lower down payment FHA or conventional loan with mortgage insurance.

Proposed decrease in loan limits—High cost areas will be negatively impacted as the cost of capital to the consumer will increase significantly. Though experts have stated that the receding of government involvement in loans up to $729,500 will spur private capital to the market place, evidence to that effect is very limited.

Increased guarantee fees (g-fees) for the GSEs—Increasing g-fees will become an additional burden for potential home buyers. We understand that prudent underwriting is required; however, this over-correction has become more costly and is prohibiting consumers who can afford home payments from participating in the market.

Winding down the GSEs portfolio—NAR has advocated for reduced portfolios of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; however, full eradication should not be the goal for a new secondary market entity. Shuttering this important tool completely will rid the secondary market of an important tool for innovation and transaction management.

Proposed FHA Changes
Reduced FHA loan limits—Allowing the current loan limits to decrease will have an immediate negative impact on mortgage liquidity for numerous markets in the nation.

Increases to MIP will eventually price out of the market many low-mod families. Even if changes to loan limits go out the window, steadily increasing fees, looking to increase the down payment, etc. will make FHA less affordable to those whom it is meant to serve.

Congress and the Administration must be very careful and deliberative in their work to reform the secondary mortgage market. For the sake of homeowners, home buyers, the housing economy, and the overall economic recovery, it is more important that this gets done right than that it get done soon.

Ken Trepeta is the director of Real Estate Services for the National Association of Realtors®.

RISMedia, published 4/2/11 

View Comments | Add Comment Monday, April 04, 2011  12:23:45 PM
Staging your home to SELL is like getting a DATE 0 Comments Posted

Staging your home to SELL is like getting a date. You want to look GOOD but not spend a ton of money...but, lets face it apearance is everything. Homeowners can take matters into your own hands to Stage on the Cheap.

** PACK PACK PACK - you're moving anyway, boxing up personal items is one of the simplest and cheapest things you can do to Stage on the Cheap.

** De-PHOTO - photos are distracting. Buyers often LOOK at photos to see if they know anyone in them.

** De-CHAPEL - religion is personal - remove religious items from plain view.

** De-CLUTTER - your home is not a museum. REMOVE clutter & collections so buyers will focus on the bones of the house, not the titles of your movie collection.

** De-COUNTER - reduce the # of items from kitchen & bathroom countertops. 

** De-SEASON CLOSETS - Closets should store the current season's clothes + be neat and organized. Pack & Store the winter coat & boots if you're selling in the spring/summer. "Weeding" out the seasonal clothes will also create a 'larger-closet' feeling.  

** CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN - Clean everything spotless -- windows, sliding glass door tracks, garage, ceiling fans, baseboards, etc. Powerwash exterior, driveway & sidewalk.

** MOW - MULCH & TRIM - Mow lawn. Add a few plants/flowers to bed & MULCH...making everything look NEAT 'n CLEAN. Trim dead branches & dead plants. 

Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.8656.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 for other Staging Tips for selling your home in Aransas & San Patricio counties.

View Comments | Add Comment Monday, April 04, 2011  12:22:00 PM
Decorate with Plates 0 Comments Posted

Plates of all sizes & shapes are GREAT for decorating.
Group your favorite collection on & in your favorite furniture
pieces or on the wall. These unusual FISH plates
are perfect
for a lake or coastal home.

See more
ideas at


View Comments | Add Comment Monday, April 04, 2011  12:20:52 PM
Seating area Staging & Decorating Ideas 0 Comments Posted

Chinese tables separate Jean-Michel Frank chairs and a modern sofa (not shown), both upholstered in Belgian linen. A wooden lamp brings a sense of nature indoors, and Buddhist Quan Yin figurines gather on an Indonesian table.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: 35 Home Tours
View Comments | Add Comment Monday, April 04, 2011  12:20:35 PM
Treasury to wind down its $142 Billion Mortgage Backed Securities Portfolio 0 Comments Posted
Recently, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that it will begin the orderly wind down of its remaining portfolio of $142 billion in agency-guaranteed mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Starting this month, the Treasury plans to sell up to $10 billion in agency-guaranteed MBS per month, subject to market conditions.

“We’re continuing to wind down the emergency programs that were put in place in 2008 and 2009 to help restore market stability, and the sale of these securities is consistent with that effort,” says Mary J. Miller, Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets. “We will exit this investment at a gradual and orderly pace to maximize the recovery of taxpayer dollars and help protect the process of repair of the housing finance market.”

The Treasury acquired its portfolio of agency-guaranteed MBS under authority provided to it by Congress under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. These purchases of agency-guaranteed MBS helped preserve access to mortgage credit and promote economic stability during a period of unprecedented market stress and volatility.

The market for agency-guaranteed MBS has notably improved since the time the Treasury purchased these securities in 2008 and 2009. Based on current market prices, the Treasury expects to make a profit for taxpayers on this investment. The sale of these securities will not alter our previously stated debt management objectives, nor change the path on which we intend to achieve those objectives.

In 2008, the Treasury retained State Street Global Advisors to acquire, manage, and dispose of its agency-guaranteed MBS portfolio. That firm will manage the wind down of this investment. At the end of each month, the Treasury will post on its website the total agency-guaranteed MBS sales it has made, broken down by coupon and agency.

The sale of these securities is part of the Treasury’s continued efforts to wind down emergency programs that were put in place in 2008 and 2009 to promote financial stability and restore economic growth. On Oct. 3, 2010, new Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) purchasing authority expired, and the Treasury is moving to exit its remaining TARP investments in private companies. In December 2010, the Treasury sold its final share of Citigroup common stock, locking in a profit of more than $12 billion on that TARP investment. General Motors’ (GM) recent initial public offering cut the Treasury’s common stock stake in that company nearly in half and brought in a total of $13.5 billion for taxpayers. Additionally, the Treasury recently received $9.6 billion in TARP repayments through the sale of its Ally Financial trust preferred securities holdings and AIG’s sale of its MetLife equity stake.

For more information visit www.treasury.gov.

RISMedia, published 3/25/11

View Comments | Add Comment Monday, March 28, 2011  11:58:11 AM
TIPS to keep your Children Safe on the Playground 0 Comments Posted
Each year more than 200,000 children are taken to the emergency room as a result of an accident or fall on the playground. International Mulch Company, a maker of safe playground surfacing for more than a decade, recently announced some helpful tips and hints for parents to keep kids safe while at play during the spring and summer months.

All of us with little ones enjoy walking to the local playground, getting some exercise and enjoying our time with family. Our children’s safety is paramount, and as time moves on more and more requirements are placed on how they play now as opposed to in the past. Thirty years ago there were no bike helmets or car seats, seat belts were optional, and padding was not made for any and every conceivable play option before us. Time and statistics have shown us that we need to be more diligent as to how our children play and how we view safety.

Nearly 70 percent of playground injuries are the result of falls, rather than equipment-related. In addition, recent studies have indicated that approximately 80 percent of all playgrounds have unsafe surfacing or ground cover and only 9 percent of home playgrounds have the proper surfacing.

“Installing a proper groundcover is an important step and precaution that parents and caregivers should take to ensure children’s playground safety—it has to do more than just look good, it must be safe,” says Mike Miller, IMC president. “By doing something as simple as replacing gravel or wood chips with rubber mulch products like Rubberific Mulch, NuPlay, or Re-Play we could help prevent or reduce the severity of injuries for thousands of children each year.”

The numbers tell the truth—there is no safer playground surface than loose-fill rubber mulch.

“Rubber mulch offers twice the fall height rating of its closest competitor. In addition to its outstanding rating, there are also fewer bruises, scrapes and cuts when rubber mulch is the surface as there are no sharp edges and rubber mulch will not compact over time—lessening its safety rating,” concludes Miller.

In addition to installing recycled rubber as your ground cover of choice for safety, here are a few additional tips for playground safety:

• When you first get to a playground, look down and then up. If you do not feel that the surface is safe, or see that the material is old or compacted, it may be best to find another area to play.

• Taking a child to a playground should be seen as active, for both the child and the adult. Some parents like to spend the time reading a book or sitting on a bench, but as we know, many children channel their inner daredevil when they reach the play equipment. Many playground injuries are the result of a lack of supervision.

• Find age appropriate equipment for your child to play on. Less than 10 percent of playgrounds have signs noting the recommended age for play. If you think it may be dangerous, it probably will be for your child.

• Remove hood and neck drawstrings from all children’s outerwear. Never allow children to wear helmets, necklaces, purses, scarves or clothing with drawstrings while on playgrounds, as it increases the risk of strangulation.

• Report any playground safety hazards to the organization responsible for the site.

• Find a park that offers the little ones some shade, as children can become dehydrated very quickly as the temperature rises.

For more information visit http://www.internationalmulch.com.

RisMedia, published 3/26/11
View Comments | Add Comment Monday, March 28, 2011  11:57:04 AM
Update on First Time Homebuyer TAX CREDIT & Tax Refunds 0 Comments Posted
The IRS recently released information on processing issues that are impacting a small percentage of tax returns involving repayment of the First Time Homebuyer Credit (FTHB), primarily involving 2008 home purchases. While most of these returns are processing normally, the IRS recognizes the hardship caused by delayed refunds, and it has assigned additional staff and resources to address the issues promptly.

It is important to note that taxpayer returns claiming a home purchase in 2010 are not affected, and those returns are being processed as are the vast majority of other homebuyer returns.

Here’s an update on the source of the processing issues:

1. Married Filing Joint taxpayers who received the FTHB credit on a 2008 purchase

There seems to be an identified processing issue primarily impacting refunds for married couples filing joint returns this year who received the First Time Homebuyer credit on their 2008 tax return. This credit was an interest-free loan, and must be paid back beginning this year under the provisions of the law.

This issue, related to Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit, primarily impacts Married Filing Jointly taxpayers who filed their tax returns this year before Feb. 22. The IRS is working aggressively to manually process tax returns for this group of taxpayers. It expects most, if not all, of these refunds to be available by April 5, and others the following week. (The date assumes that there are no other issues with their return, and that their refunds are not subject to any offsets for unpaid federal taxes or other debts.)

2. Taxpayers who received the FTHB credit and are now reporting the sale or disposition of their home

3. Taxpayers who received the FTHB credit and are attempting to pay back more than the amount required (typically $500)

These two issues require changes to IRS’ core tax processing systems. The IRS is actively working on the development and testing of the required changes that will allow these impacted tax returns to be processed and appropriate refunds issued. The IRS does not currently have a definitive date for when these changes will be complete, although it will be in April.

What should taxpayers do?

The IRS understands that taxpayers affected by this issue are anxious to get the status of their refund. For those who have already filed, no action is necessary. They can check “Where’s My Refund” at www.IRS.gov for updates. Because the IRS is already aware of this issue and is taking corrective action, there is no need to call.

For those who have not yet filed and are making a repayment of a First Time Homebuyer Credit this year, there is a simple step taxpayers can take to help speed processing. Couples filing a joint return for tax year 2010 who received the credit on their jointly filed 2008 tax return should file two 5405 forms, one for each taxpayer. For couples filing a joint return for 2010 but who had a different filing status in 2008 and only one spouse received the credit, the IRS recommends filing one Form 5405 for the taxpayer who received the credit.

For more information visit www.IRS.gov.

Source:  RisMedia, pubished 3/26/11

View Comments | Add Comment Monday, March 28, 2011  11:56:07 AM
Bayfront##Beach##Pier##Waterfront## 0 Comments Posted

2.865 ranch-like acres overlooking Copano Bay. Mature live oaks, palm trees & carpet grass embrace the WATERFRONT & private beach once inside the electronic gate.280' PIER leads to Boat lift/dock on Copano Bay. A 1945 church originally, NOW distinguished, elegant & relaxing retreat. MAIN house refurbished in 2008 with church's aesthic architecture + metal roof, hardy siding, wood laminate floors, saltillo counters, designer plumbing & lighting fixtures, custom cabinetry, media center & more. 2 living areas overlook covered porch & boast panoramic BAY VIEWS. Arbor connects GUEST house featuring sleeping closets, OPEN living/dining & game table areas + FULL BATH. Air-conditioned storage + garage.

Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to view 620 Egery Island Rd in the heart of Aransas County. Offered at $989,827
View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 24, 2011  2:12:16 PM
Gen "Xers" Becoming #1 Buyer~See 97 Sherwood and 2109 Harbor Court 0 Comments Posted
Generation X—young families and adults ages 31 to 45—are likely to lead the home-buying recovery as it gets underway, according to real estate experts who spoke at an educational webinar produced by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in partnership with Builder magazine.

These potential home buyers are most likely to think it’s a good time to get off the fence—and have strong opinions about the design features their new homes will include.

At 32% of the population of home-buying age—generally defined as those who are at least 30 years old, the Gen X population cohort isn’t the largest, but it’s the most mobile, said presenter Mollie Carmichael, principal of John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif. “They are in full force with their careers and they need to accommodate growing families,” she said.

In sharp contrast, even though they constitute 41% of prospective home buyers, Baby Boomers continue to wait for the market to improve, and their decisions to delay retirement also delay their decisions to downsize into a smaller home, Carmichael said.

Most of the 10,000 buyers and potential buyers in 27 metro areas that the consulting company surveyed were optimistic about a new home purchase, with between 85% and 89% saying that it was a good time to buy a home. Only 13% said they thought home prices would continue to fall, further evidence that it’s “not all about price,” she said. “They want something compelling, from a design or personalization standpoint,” said Carmichael.

2109 Harbor Court offers a contemporary design featuring an OPEN living/dining/kitchen area + loft! Plantation Shutters frame windows overlooking the fenced backyard. This Rockport TX 3-bedroom is agressively priced at Only $214,325

In addition, though the average home size is shrinking, a majority of prospective buyers said they would like a bigger home than the one they have. “These are first-time buyers or younger families looking for more room to grow,” she said.

Seventy percent said that they were willing to pay $5,000 more for a green home, but those responding to the survey said that they expected new homes to already have many green technology features. They also said they would pay a premium for dark wood cabinets, a separate tub and shower and a fireplace in the living room, and more preferred a great room over formal spaces.

And while community amenities are important to Gen X buyers, 46% said they prefer a home in a large-lot, suburban development, versus the 21% looking for a traditional or “walkable” neighborhood.

97 Sherwood in the heart of Holiday Beach is a prime example of an affordable 2-bedroom home boasting hardwood floors~ALL on a tree-shaded lot 'bout 250' wide x 100' deep creating ample room for expansion. This Aransas County beauty is only $84,603

Webinar panelist Heather McCune, director of marketing at Bassenian/Lagoni Architects in Newport Beach, Calif., also emphasized that design will be important in generating sales in the emerging marketplace. “The notion of ‘build it and they will come’ no longer works. Design matters,” she said.

McCune said buyers are looking for homes with a connection between indoor and outdoor spaces, even in colder climates, to create the perception of greater home size, even if the space is only usable for part of the year. They also want more storage, an open floor plan and flexibility in the garage.

“While Gen X numbers are smaller than the birth cohorts before and after them, their numbers have been enlarged by steady immigration,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “Gen X may wait longer than their predecessors to establish their own household or buy a home because of the recent recession impacts, but the trends are still likely to occur as they have for past generations.”

This webinar was one in a four part series entitled New Horizons: Setting a Course for Success in the New Market. The series was sponsored by Simonton Windows and ThermaTru.

Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker toll free 1.866.232.1876, locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to view these Rockport Texas homes.

For more information, visit www.nahb.org.

RISMEDIA, Published, March 21, 2011
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 22, 2011  11:55:22 AM
Vacant Dwellings Require Different Kind of Insurance Policy 0 Comments Posted
More and more houses sit unoccupied these days, left behind by their owners in this still-tough economic climate. In 2010′s fourth quarter, the Census Bureau reports 12.1% of all U.S. residences, or 18,394,000 homes, were vacant. Record foreclosures are a big reason: After repossessing houses at sheriff’s sale, many lenders leave them empty for months.

But even properties that aren’t distressed may take a long time to sell after the owners move on. In the Philadelphia region in January, time on market averaged 103 days, according to Prudential Fox & Roach’s HomExpert Market Report. All of which makes a difference in the kind of insurance coverage such unattended houses require—coverage that isn’t offered in the standard homeowners’ policy.

Vacant Home Insurance Now, which offers policies in several states, says up to 80% of homeowners do not know that “the provisions of their existing homeowners’ insurance policy would essentially end coverage, exposing them to catastrophic loss.”

Said associate broker Mark Wade, of Prudential Fox & Roach in Philadelphia: “Few sellers are aware of the fine print in their insurance binders.”

Loretta Worters, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute in New York, said, “Insurers discontinue coverage on a home if it becomes unoccupied for over 30 days and no new residents have moved in.” Some insurers will grant a policyholder a vacancy permit, Worters said, providing it is requested before the 30 days expire. “This permit continues to provide coverage against some of the standard homeowners’ perils, such as fire and wind, but does not protect the house against perils such as theft, glass breakage, or water damage,” she said.

Coverage provided by a vacancy permit varies from insurance company to insurance company, so policyholders should check with their agent or the firm’s representative, Worters said. Insurers view a vacant property as a higher liability because often no one is regularly checking it, Wade said.

If there is a serious problem—for instance, the furnace dies, pipes freeze and burst, and water fills the basement—”the resulting damage is likely to be worse because no one is around to report it or stop it,” Worters said.

A vacant condo is another story, said Wade, who specializes in them. “Since the master insurance policy covers such a large part of the condo, including the wall, exterior and roof, I would have to guess that a vacant condo is going to put a homeowner at significantly less risk,” he said.

The premium on vacant-home insurance can be 50-60% more than that of a regular homeowners’ policy, Worters said. “The price depends on a lot of factors, such as whether a home has a central alarm system, deadbolt locks, and/or smoke detectors,” she said. “Insurers may also assess whether a policyholder has winterized their home to protect plumbing fixtures from freezing temperatures, and how long the house will be vacant,” Worters added.

Allen Heavens, published March 19, 2011, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Adapted.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 22, 2011  11:54:12 AM
Community Garden for Rockport, Texas! 0 Comments Posted
The plan for a community garden where people can plant and grow produce has found a home in Rockport, TX.   "The Gardens of Mathis Park" in South Rockport has been designated as the first community garden.  

The website for more information is www.aransascountycommunitygarden.org
View Comments | Add Comment Monday, March 21, 2011  12:08:33 PM
The truth behind second home Slowdown 0 Comments Posted

While sales activity in the second-home market has been dinged by the loss of home equity in primary residences, leaders involved in second-home finance say the real problem lies elsewhere.

Bob Waun, managing director of Americor Mortgage/Vacation Finance and a board member of the Condo Coalition, an advocacy group for homeowners associations, said financing -- not demand -- is the reason vacation property sales are in the doldrums.

"Absorption has been exasperated by the lack of financing for echo boomers and baby boomers who wish to (buy) but cannot without significant cash outlays," Waun said. "If we can fix the condo rules, we can fix the entire market. And it will cost taxpayers absolutely nothing. All we need is some air cover."

Lenders have increased their guidelines regarding second-home loans. Many now require a minimum down payment of 35 percent of the purchase price and are discounting the portion of rental income produced by potential renters. In addition, most lenders require that at least 70 percent of a condominium's units be owner-occupied.

One of the biggest gripes voiced by salespersons at the National Association of REALTORS®' annual convention was the additional restriction involving condo association dues. In order to get a Fedeal Housing Administration-insured loan in a specific building, no more than 15 percent of the owners in the complex can be behind on their dues.

"Stricter FHA and GSE underwriting rules eliminate many buyers with credit scores as high as 750, and lenders are imposing credit overlays of their own, restricting the availability of credit," said Vicki Cox Golder, NAR's past president.

The GSEs, or government-sponsored entities, include Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Analysts believe the investors who buy Fannie and Freddie loans have increased their restrictions, or "overlays," to a point where they shoulder no risk in making a loan.

The result? Mortgage money that was once too easy to get is now far too difficult.

"There is a lot of money out there," said John Tuccillo, former NAR chief economist and now a national housing consultant. "The Fed has put $1 trillion into liquid reserves in banks. But for some reason, the money is not getting out. It is hard to get financing for real estate. The banks are uncertain about regulations and what is a good loan and a bad loan. There is a lot of disconnect in the liquidity of the system and interest rates, and the level of financing."

Stephen Roulac, chief executive of Roulac Global Places, a San Rafael, Calif.-based consulting firm that advises senior management and investors in real estate affairs, said there is still a small group of individuals who are not swayed by the availability of mortgage money.

"There's really no direct correlation at all," Roulac said. "Most of the people who can afford a second home outside the United States are either going to be paying cash or have a variety of places they can get funding. The financing situation is not a factor for these people."

Most housing officials are quick to point out that the cash buyer is an insulated segment of all housing -- especially second homes.

"There's an enormous link between home equity in a person's primary residence and the second-home market," said Adam McAbee, senior manager and a second-home specialist for Irvine, Calif.-based John Burns Real Estate Consulting. "If a person's home was worth $300,000 and the market value is now $200,000, there's no equity left to even consider a second home."

David Collins, chairman of Active Living International, a company specializing in the research and development of active-adult communities, is an expert in predicting where snowbirds prefer to land. He once said that an attractive development in the sun near the water, with great access to an airport and priced at $400,000 would sell easily.

"Airlift is critical," McAbee said. "But if the benchmark in 2007 was $400,000, it's probably in the $200,000s now. I think it's safe to say things have changed that much."

Tuccillo said that overseas economies and housing appreciation -- especially in China -- are bringing more foreign buyers to American markets, even though length of stay is an issue.

"Domestically, I think we are saving more," Tuccillo said. "Spending habits have changed from spending and consuming, to saving. That could mean a reduction in the demand for second homes. I am not saying it is fact. It is a theory. But there is evidence that it is happening."

By Tom Kelly
Inman News™

Published, March 16, 2011, Lowe's

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 17, 2011  9:26:26 AM
The color you NEED Now ~Spring Green 0 Comments Posted

The subtlety of green tones makes them easy to incorporate into interiors, and they are a timely update for the arrival of warm weather. But the hallmark of spring greens is their ability to harmonize with a range of styles.

Mix greens just as you would in your garden, and then add complementary colors. Cool pastels, such as aqua, pink, and even white, work particularly well. A simple clear vase filled with a cluster of fresh blossoms (we like calla lilies and bells-of-Ireland) lends a jolt of green that effortlessly updates any living space.


View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, March 16, 2011  11:52:33 AM
The color you NEED Now~Lemon Yellow 0 Comments Posted

For people who love the color but can't wear it, and that's most of us, bright yellow works well as part of your décor. It can be toned down and classic, but when it's bold, yellow wakes up a room.

Lemon yellow creates the illusion of light in rooms with few windows, but it also looks great when natural light makes it appear paler. It's great as an accent on pillows, in upholstery, or in tableware. We love vivid yellows paired with green, black, blue, white, and tobacco brown. We often see this sunny shade in kitchens, dining rooms, bathrooms, and bedrooms.

Southern Accents
photo:  Pieter Estersohn

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, March 16, 2011  11:51:50 AM
The color you Need NOW~Tangerine 0 Comments Posted

Tangerine, along with avocado green and mustard yellow, may have gotten a bad rap from overuse in the '70s, but that shouldn't discourage you from using it today. Orange tones have a rare quality that only a few warm colors can match -- everyone looks good in the light they reflect.

One no-fail trick is to pair tangerine with colors found beside it in nature. In spring, orange meshes with fuchsia, persimmon, and lime green. In the fall, it's teamed with red, brown, and gold. Unexpected pairings, such as tangerine with baby blue or jade green, can be equally appealing. If allover orange seems extreme, consider accents -- cushions trimmed with orange piping, or a grouping of citrus-colored vases on a mantel.

Southern Accents

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, March 16, 2011  11:51:12 AM
The Color you need NOW Turquoise 0 Comments Posted

Turquoise has a cooling effect, figuratively lowering a room's temperature. Fashionable and stylish throughout the year, this smart and flexible color can promote subtle drama or tropical zest.

Add a shot of hot pink, lemon, or chartreuse, and the look is tropical-chic. In velvet or paired with brown or ocher, it's dramatic. Turquoise has recently influenced interior designers with its opaque quality and ability to create impact. Plus, turquoise has good karma -- Native Americans have long praised its spiritual and healing properties.

Sourthern Accents
photo: Tria Giovan

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, March 16, 2011  11:50:33 AM
The Color you need NOW for Decorating~RED 0 Comments Posted

Ironically, this exotic treatment has inspired us for centuries, yet it feels hip, young, and eternally classic. It has recently crept into our interiors with a vengeance. Even fabrics are taking cues, giving us jazzy alternatives for upholstering furniture.

It's dramatic and exotic in small doses, such as on a coffee table or cabinets, and it feels alluring and intimate when completely covering the walls. Our favorite place to use Chinese lacquer red is in a library, and we like it best when paired with chocolate brown.

Southern Accents
photo: Thibault Jeanson

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, March 16, 2011  11:49:54 AM
The Color you need for Decorating ~Camel 0 Comments Posted

Its good looks and fresh attitude have long made camel a favorite of fashion designers, including Ralph Lauren and the late Bill Blass. Camel packs enough flexibility for subtle and edgy treatments alike.

Strike a balance with colors that pop. You can spice it up with red, or use it to tone down bright orange or electric turquoise accents. Or, paint your walls camel and create subtle contrasts with periwinkle velvets and white linens. At left, a black-lacquer table looks great among ebony chairs upholstered in camel-colored leather (the same way a black turtleneck looks great under a camel-hair coat).

Sourthern Accents

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, March 16, 2011  11:49:06 AM
The color you need for Decorating~Fuchsia 0 Comments Posted

This vibrant shade might conjure up images of lipstick and nail polish, but when used wisely, it's surprisingly sophisticated. We've seen fuchsia for years in Oriental carpets, and it's been prized for centuries in roses, orchids, peonies, and dahlias.

The color is bold, so it's best used in small doses. For impact, try fuchsia in a tablecloth, tableware, or accent pillows. Pair it with neutrals, such as camel or gray, to energize a space. It's probably not the best idea to cover an entire room in fuchsia, but painting one wall will provide a punch. Try it behind a bed or in a niche.

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, March 16, 2011  11:48:26 AM
Suspend Pots and Pans to Declutter and SELL 0 Comments Posted
nstead of investing in brand-new cabinetry, try working with what you have. You can free up space by suspending your pots and pans from the ceiling. A pot rack adds style, makes them easily accessible, and creates more cabinet space for other items, says designer Shannon Bowers, who did that in this Texas home's kitchen. housebeautiful.com
View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, March 16, 2011  11:47:35 AM
Liven up Dull Spots 0 Comments Posted
If your bookshelves look bland, paint the back and sides a contrasting color. Pick up the color across the room with an accent pillow or a throw." -Connie Beale
View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, March 16, 2011  11:46:50 AM
D.I.Y. Art Gallery 0 Comments Posted
Go to Hardware store, buy a length of crown molding at least two inches deep, and nail it to the wall to create a picture ledge. I'd do it in a family space, like a kitchen or a hallway. Buy standard frames and pop in your children's art or family photos and change it around every few weeks." —Suzanne Lovell

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, March 16, 2011  11:46:08 AM
Go Angular 0 Comments Posted
"Consider setting the furniture — and the carpet — on an angle. It will change the whole dynamic of a room."
-Vicente Wolf
View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, March 16, 2011  11:45:20 AM
FHA extends refinance program 0 Comments Posted
Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco has announced an extension of the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), a refinancing program administered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to June 30, 2012. The program was set to expire on June 30 of this year. In addition, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will make the following adjustments to their programs: Freddie Mac will exempt HARP loans from their recently announced price adjustments and Fannie Mae will conform their eligibility date to May 2009.

The program expands access to refinancing for qualified individuals and families whose homes have lost value. HARP has grown over the past year. Through 2010, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchased or guaranteed more than 6.8 million refinanced mortgages. Of this total, 621,803 were HARP refinances with LTVs between 80% and 125%. This is up from 190,180 in 2009, when HARP began.

For more information, visit www.fhfa.gov.

Source:  RISMedia, published 3/15/11

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 15, 2011  2:46:54 PM
Around the home: Turn used ink cartridges into cash 0 Comments Posted
Did you know that Americans use hundreds of millions of ink and toner cartridges for printers every year? And, estimates are that 70% of those are being sent straight to our landfills. This is enormously wasteful and unnecessary. These predominately plastic containers filled with ink are easily refilled or recycled. In fact, there are now a number of places that will actually pay you to recycle your used ink and toner cartridges.

Most cartridges are made of plastic, a by-product of oil, but recycling them often involves little more than taking them apart, replacing any damaged parts, refilling and testing them. It’s clear that it is cheaper for manufacturers to refurbish these parts rather than pay for a new one. This creates savings for them that are passed on to you and me, the consumers.

Today, recycling or remanufacturing ink and toner cartridges is becoming a big business. So much so, many companies are paying anywhere from a few cents up to $20 or more for your used cartridges. At DoYourPart.com/Columns you will find a number of online sources that will pay for used cartridges. They’ll even provide a pre-paid shipping label. This is great fundraising opportunity for small groups or schools and includes an eco-friendly lesson about recycling.

For the consumer looking to buy ink or toner cartridges, going with refilled or recycled cartridges cost 30-70% less than new. You will want to buy from a reputable retailer to ensure a quality product and you’ll also want to make sure that using recycled cartridges won’t affect the warranty on your printer.

Throwing used printer cartridges in the trash is almost like throwing money out the window. Refilling and recycling these items is another way to do your part to reduce your eco-footprint and save some green in your wallet.

Published 3/12/11, RISMedia Terri Bennet

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 15, 2011  2:46:17 PM
Needs to know about painting, refinishing, &/or refacing cabinets 0 Comments Posted
Q: We have white-washed oak cabinets (not very good ones at that). I want to change the color -- can they be painted successfully? And what about refacing -- is that a good option? I do not want to go through the expense of new cabinets! Also, do you recommend knobs on the doors and drawers? We don't have them now and I notice that in places we have actually made little marks with our fingernails, so I guess I may have answered by own question on that! --

A: Let's take your questions one at a time. First of all, oak is difficult to paint effectively without a lot of preparation work. If you look closely at the wood, you'll see light areas that are relatively smooth and darker areas that are very porous. The paint gets absorbed differently into these two areas, so it's difficult to get a smooth paint job without the grain showing through.

To paint oak, the old finish should be sanded off, then a specific paste sealer applied that fills in and seals the open pores. Then the wood is sanded again, primed and painted. It's kind of a time-consuming process to do correctly, so be sure your painter has specific experience with oak (he or she may also know some tricks I'm not aware of).

Refacing is also an option. This involves removing all the doors, drawer fronts and hardware, sanding and cleaning the cabinets, and then gluing on wood veneer. The veneer is then painted or stained and lacquered, and new matching doors and drawer fronts are fabricated and installed. If you are having any problems with older hardware -- hinges and drawer slides -- the refacing won't fix any of that, so you may have the expense of some additional repairs as well.

If you like the look of the oak, except for the color, another option would be to have the cabinets sanded and refinished. This is less expensive than a full paint job, and since you're back to raw wood, you can stain them any color you like, or leave them natural with just a lacquer finish.

Yes, I do recommend pulls. They keep the cabinets from getting dirty and scratched, as you mention, and they also add a nice look. And in the future, you have the option of doing a little kitchen redecorating by just changing the color and style of the pulls. For a great selection of quality pulls in all kinds of styles and price ranges, try www.leevalley.com or www.vandykes.com.

Finally, don't completely give up on the idea of new cabinets. There are some excellent modular cabinets on the market that are reasonably priced, and it gives you the opportunity to change the layout of the kitchen if you want, as well as making changes in wiring. You can reuse all the existing appliances and fixtures, although you will have the expense of new counters. Before you decide on a refacing, I would also get an estimate on new cabinets, just to compare.

By Paul Bianchina
Inman News™

Published March 11, 2011, Lowe's

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 15, 2011  2:45:21 PM
"Deer" Proof your Yard 0 Comments Posted
Master Gardener BROWN BAG PROGRAM "Deer Resistant Garden Design"

Choosing attractive plants that are less likely to become deer food, means relaxing and enjoying a garden that can include these graceful

animals and other wildlife..

Speaker - Jeanna C. Godfrey, DVM, Master Gardener

 TUESDAY, MARCH 15   12:00 - 1:00 P.M.

 ARANSAS COUNTY LIBRARY - 701 E. Mimosa - Rockport TX

Admission is FREE.

Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners   361 790-0103

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 15, 2011  2:42:34 PM
Learn how to volunteer at the Fulton Mansion 0 Comments Posted


And share your love of history at the same time. Fulton Mansion needs docents to lead tours.  You will meet interesting people, and take part in our great Docent benefits.. We have bi-monthly potlucks, by-yearly trips to historic and fun places, and the most talked about Appreciation Party in town.

Call or email  Sharron Flood, Volunteer Coordinator: 361-729-0386 x25, or email sharron.flood@thc.state.tx.us 

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 15, 2011  2:41:33 PM
New Homes will be Smaller, Greener, & More Casual 0 Comments Posted
A recent study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) shows that while consumer hesitation on home buying is waning, the recent housing downturn has changed what Americans are looking for in their next home.

The survey research on consumer preferences, which is presented annually at the NAHB International Builders’ Show, suggests that the severity of the recession has left an indelible mark on prospective home buyers, who have shifted their perspective on the housing they want and need.

Builders who were surveyed expect homes to average 2,152 square feet in 2015, 10% smaller than the average size of single-family homes started in the first three quarters of 2010.

To save on square footage, the living room is high on the endangered list—52% of builders expect it to be merged with other spaces in the home by 2015 and 30% said it will vanish entirely.

“As an overall share of total floor space, 54% of builders said the family room is likely to increase,” said Rose Quint, NAHB’s assistant vice president for survey research. “That makes it the only area of the home likely to get bigger.”

In addition, the relative size of the entry foyer and dining room are likely to be diminished by 2015. However, opinions were fairly evenly divided on the fate of the kitchen, master bedroom and bath and mudroom, said Quint.

The average new home of 2015 is likely to feature a great room comprised of the kitchen, foyer and living room; a walk-in closet in the master bedroom; a laundry room; ceiling fans; a master bedroom on the first floor in homes with two stories; and a two-car garage.

In addition to floor plan changes, 68% of builders surveyed say that homes in 2015 will also include more green features and technology, including low-E windows; engineered wood beams, joists or tresses; water-efficient features such as dual-flush toilets or low-flow faucets; and an Energy Star rating for the whole house.

For more information, visit www.nahb.org.

Published, RISMEDIA, March 10, 2011
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 15, 2011  2:38:51 PM
New Homes will be Smaller, Greener, and more Casual 0 Comments Posted
recent study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) shows that while consumer hesitation on home buying is waning, the recent housing downturn has changed what Americans are looking for in their next home.

The survey research on consumer preferences, which is presented annually at the NAHB International Builders’ Show, suggests that the severity of the recession has left an indelible mark on prospective home buyers, who have shifted their perspective on the housing they want and need.

Builders who were surveyed expect homes to average 2,152 square feet in 2015, 10% smaller than the average size of single-family homes started in the first three quarters of 2010.

To save on square footage, the living room is high on the endangered list—52% of builders expect it to be merged with other spaces in the home by 2015 and 30% said it will vanish entirely.

“As an overall share of total floor space, 54% of builders said the family room is likely to increase,” said Rose Quint, NAHB’s assistant vice president for survey research. “That makes it the only area of the home likely to get bigger.”

In addition, the relative size of the entry foyer and dining room are likely to be diminished by 2015. However, opinions were fairly evenly divided on the fate of the kitchen, master bedroom and bath and mudroom, said Quint.

The average new home of 2015 is likely to feature a great room comprised of the kitchen, foyer and living room; a walk-in closet in the master bedroom; a laundry room; ceiling fans; a master bedroom on the first floor in homes with two stories; and a two-car garage.

In addition to floor plan changes, 68% of builders surveyed say that homes in 2015 will also include more green features and technology, including low-E windows; engineered wood beams, joists or tresses; water-efficient features such as dual-flush toilets or low-flow faucets; and an Energy Star rating for the whole house.

For more information, visit www.nahb.org.

Published, RISMEDIA, March 10, 2011
View Comments | Add Comment Friday, March 11, 2011  8:07:46 AM
Everybody LOVES Popcorn-don't they? 0 Comments Posted
 How should I refurbish a rental condo after a tenant of some 13 years has departed? The ceilings have a "popcorn" finish, which I'm sure contains asbestos. The complex was built in the early '70s.

Should I have a "hazmat" (hazardous materials) service evaluate or just bring in a contractor to remove the old and replace with current market materials?

A: Over the years we've written quite a bit about popcorn ceilings and the potential hazards of asbestos. The fact is, dealing with a popcorn ceiling that contains asbestos can be as messy -- and expensive -- as you want to make it. If we were in your shoes, just trying to get a rental unit looking good again, we would encapsulate.

No hazardous-materials service is required unless you want to remove the cottage cheese. In that case, take a small sample of ceiling material from an out-of-the-way place and have it tested at a lab. For a list of accredited labs, go to http://ts.nist.gov/Standards/scopes/plmtm.htm.

Asbestos is a mineral composed of microscopic fibers that look similar to fiberglass. Because of its strengthening, heat resistance and soundproofing qualities, asbestos was used to make pipe insulation, ceiling and floor tile, paints and coatings, caulking, fire-resistant fabrics, and clothing and brake pads.

It was outlawed for most residential uses in 1978, although builders were allowed to use stock on hand, so it's possible that homes built as late as the early '80s can contain asbestos.

Asbestos is a health hazard when it decomposes and releases dust. When it's covered or encapsulated, it's safe.

We see three options to deal with the material. Removing the ceiling is a mess, and if the test is positive for asbestos, you're looking at a team of pros in moon suits, lots of ventilation, plastic and a hefty bill.

Your second choice is to drywall it. In the past, we've recommended installing drywall to cover the material, giving a more modern finish and eliminating the chance of toxic dust. Because this is a rental, you may not want to incur the work (if you do it yourself) or the cost of a professional job.

By far the easiest way to encapsulate the ceiling is to paint it with an airless sprayer.

Because this is the first rental turnover in 13 years, we're guessing the whole place needs painting. So gown up, cover everything you don't want to paint -- such as cabinets, windows, and flooring you're going to save -- and let her rip.

Use non-slip, nonabsorbent drop cloths for floors. Wear old shoes and socks, long pants, latex gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, a respirator (not a dust mask) and full head covering. Paint stores sell lightweight head socks made especially for this purpose.

The popcorn will soak up paint like a sponge, so start with a good-quality primer coat to retard absorption. Also, plan on two to three times the normal coverage on the ceiling and allow a full day's drying time between the primers and finish coats.

The ceiling may take as many as three finish coats. Wait at least four hours before recoating to ensure uniform coverage.

Finally, make sure to adequately ventilate the area and take frequent breaks to get some fresh air.

By Bill and Kevin Burnett
Inman News™

Published March 09, 2011, Lowe's

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, March 11, 2011  8:06:46 AM
A Renter's Insurance Wake Up Call 0 Comments Posted

Q: I have been a resident at an apartment community for several years and I am in the middle of a one-year lease. The property recently changed ownership and the new owner's property management company has just sent me a letter demanding that I double the amount of the minimum coverage for my renters insurance policy.

I don't mind having the renters insurance, as it protects me, but I think that the current minimum of $50,000 is sufficient and I shouldn't have to pay for a $100,000 policy.

Is it legal for my property manager to demand an increase in my minimum renters insurance coverage while my current lease agreement is still in effect with a $50,000 minimum?

A: There are really two issues here. The first is: Can the new owner require you to have a renters insurance policy with a $100,000 minimum? The second is that if the owner can require the new higher minimum, can it require you to obtain such a policy and show proof of the required coverage while you have a valid and binding lease with set terms already in place?

I believe that the new owner can require you to have renters insurance and it can also set the minimum policy limits. Of course, the owner needs to realize that this is an additional expense to its tenants and could be a deterrent or competitive disadvantage if other rental properties in the area do not have the same requirements.

I am an advocate for renters insurance and believe that tenants should make their own decision as to the proper amount of coverage. I will discuss some of the important factors to consider below.

So the real question is the timing of the required change in minimum coverage limits for your renters insurance policy. As with all terms that are set for the term of a lease, you cannot be required to comply with the new terms until the expiration of your current lease unless there is a specific clause allowing for such a change.

This is not very common, but an example would be if you had a long-term lease stating that the rent would be adjusted at some point during the lease.

It is extremely unlikely that your former landlord would have any language allowing for increases in renters insurance minimum coverage during the lease term. So I would suggest you send your new owner's property manager a brief letter indicating that you are not required to obtain the insurance it is requiring during your lease. Your new owner may not be aware that the change of ownership has no bearing on the validity of your current lease.

The new owner can change the terms at lease renewal but not during the current lease term. The only other exception would be if there is a mutual agreement of both the tenant and the landlord.

To see if you would actually want to consider increasing your renters insurance coverage from $50,000 to another amount, you need to get some professional advice from a competent insurance agent, as there are many important aspects to making sure you have the proper insurance coverage.

While I can give you some general feedback to your question, I strongly suggest you contact your insurance broker and ask about an HO-4 policy.

When done properly, obtaining the right insurance policy with all of the coverage you need plus an understanding of what you don't need is very personalized. You need to discuss not only policy limits for your contents or possessions, but also the appropriate limits for liability, which would cover you if someone were to be injured in your home.

In other words, you may think that your worldly possessions are worth only $50,000 and that your current policy limits are sufficient. But you need to ask about your current policy's limits for liability.

Liability coverage is to protect you if someone gets hurt or injured (maybe a slip-and-fall) in your home, and it is my personal opinion that $50,000 is not much coverage to protect you from a liability suit.

You will want to probably start with a basic HO-4 policy, but after consulting with your insurance professional you may also want special coverage or riders added if you have certain valuable collectibles or possessions, or if you participate in certain risky hobbies or activities.

Alternative-living expenses (ALE) is also coverage that may be worth considering.

You will want to evaluate the cost of your customized insurance and see how much of the risk of a covered loss that you are willing to accept yourself. This is known as the deductible (or simply the amount you pay before your insurance policy offers coverage) and you can usually reduce your insurance premiums if you have a higher deductible. But the right level of deductible is also a personal decision that only you can make.

Send your new landlord a letter and make an appointment with your insurance professional. Your landlord may have actually helped you determine that your current renters insurance policy is not exactly what you need. If you still think that your current policy is sufficient, then you will need to convince your landlord that its higher required limits are unreasonable or you will have to find a new place to live.

By Robert Griswold
Inman News™

Published March 10, 2011, Lowe's

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, March 11, 2011  8:05:28 AM
Double Dip for Home Prices is Near 0 Comments Posted
That big sucking sound you heard last week? That was the air being taken out of the housing market by a slew of bad reports followed by some dire predictions by an industry bubble-spotter.

On Tuesday, we found out that home prices were near their post-bust lows. Two days later the government reported that January saw a double-digit dip in the number of new homes sold.

Then Robert Shiller, the Yale economist and co-founder of the S&P/Case-Shiller home price indexes, dropped this bomb: “There’s a substantial risk of home prices falling another 15%, 20% or 25%,” he said.

That’s a stunning enough pronouncement to make house hunters consider putting purchases on hold. And that may not be a dumb move: If prices are near a double dip — meaning they fell after the bust, rose a bit during recovery and are now heading back down — there may be better deals ahead.

“There will be differences by market, but generally, you may get a big discount by waiting a year [to buy],” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, who thinks the price drop will be closer to 10% or 15%.
Most (and least) affordable cities to buy a home

Baker looks at the ratio between local home prices and annual rents to judge whether markets are overvalued. If the median-priced home sells for more than 15 times the median annual rent, there’s a good chance prices may come down.

On a national level, Shiller and other economists compare home price changes with income growth over the years. Before the bust, home prices had been outpacing earnings since the late 1990s.

Just to get that back to a normal ratio — which we last saw in 1998 — home prices would have to drop another 15%, according to Anthony Sanders, a director of Real Estate Entrepreneurship at George Mason University.

Source:  NewsGenius, published News Genius, March 7, 2011
View Comments | Add Comment Friday, March 11, 2011  8:04:40 AM
Suie Dreams~Less is More 0 Comments Posted

Have you heard? Less is the new more; simplicity is the new sophistication. That’s why we love the tailored, clean lines of this nuanced bedroom in which color and texture play a starring role. Dare to be different with an eye-popping print. Keep it simple with a campy quilt, and don’t be a slave to a single style. That’s our advice. If you like that look, read on for similar styles. 

Source:  Cottage Living
Photo: Dominique Vorillon
View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 10, 2011  9:37:34 AM
Spring Gardening Tips 0 Comments Posted
still wishful thinking across much of the country, but the lure of budding trees and blooming flowers has many green-thumbers pressing their noses against the window panes.

The good news? It's never too early to start planning your garden.

First, you must establish what "zone" you live in. Knowing your zone will tell you when to plant what. You can find out your zone by visiting Garden.org.

If the risk of freeze is over in your zone, you might be able to start getting your hands dirty!

Everyone loves to look through Spring seed catalogs and dream up their perfect garden. And every perfect garden starts with a well-thought out plan. Now is the time of year to decide what you want to watch grow and bloom this season.

Draw out plans and pick out colors. Many flower buffs prefer to group like colors together. They'll have a pink annual garden one year and a yellow the next.

Others focus their attention on larger projects, such as decks, pathways, and patios. If this is your intent this year, start your research now. Garden books and magazines are full of inspiration and how-to books can even lead you down the do-it-yourself path. You can also get pricing estimates from local home improvement stores and lumber yards.

Spring is also a time to prepare your soil. This means checking the pH to see if it needs balancing, as well as prepping the soil with compost to ensure it is full of nutrients. Compost works especially well when you add it prior to planting, and it's a natural organic way to make your garden just that much better.

You can also take this time to prune bushes and hedges, clean dirty bird feeders, and service your lawn equipment. If you hire a landscaping company to handle the heavy work for you each year, then now would be a great time to interview potential companies and decide upon a service plan.

Above all else, be sure to enjoy the process of planning and caring for your garden. It really is a rewarding hobby that keeps on giving for years to come.

Published: March 9, 2011 RealtyTimes, Carla Hill
Photo: SpringHill

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 10, 2011  9:36:53 AM
Dryer Vent Buckets work fine~Do Dryers have to be vented to the Outside 0 Comments Posted

DEAR BARRY: Our home was built without a clothes dryer vent to the outside. The laundry is in the garage, and the previous owners used to let dryer lint settle on everything. We solved this by purchasing a dryer vent bucket from the hardware store, but our plumber says this is not permitted by code.

The bucket works just fine and never gives us any trouble. We just fill it with water and connect the dryer duct. The water in the bucket collects the lint, and we change the water from time to time. Is our plumber right about the code violation, or is the vent bucket OK?

Answer:  Clothes dryer vent buckets are often used by homeowners whose laundries are not properly vented. They are commonly sold in hardware stores and, when regularly maintained, appear to perform their intended functions adequately. But it should be clearly understood that dryer vent buckets do not comply with the requirements of the Mechanical Code.

There are two reasons to require an exterior dryer vent: The first is excessive moisture, and the second is lint. When the water in a load of laundry is expelled into a building, moisture condensation can cause fungus and mold infection. When lint accumulates inside a building, the buildup can pose a fire hazard.

A vent bucket can trap some or most of the moisture and lint, but it cannot catch all of it. What's more, the vent bucket depends on continued maintenance of the water level. If the water is spilled out or is lost by evaporation, the bucket becomes useless.

Ask your plumber if there is a practical vent path from your dryer to the exterior of the building. If so, this would be a worthwhile upgrade. If not, you may have to continue using the bucket. When you eventually sell your home, the dryer vent should be disclosed to buyers as a noncomplying condition.

By Barry Stone
Inman News™

Published March 08, 2011, Lowe's

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 10, 2011  9:36:20 AM
When Home Inspectors need outsite Help 0 Comments Posted

Don't mix professional activities with personal concerns

DEAR BARRY: I've been a home inspector for many years and have inspected more than 6,000 homes. For the first time since becoming an inspector, I'm shopping for a home of my own and plan to inspect it myself. A friend has advised against this. He says I should hire another home inspector. I feel totally confident to do my own inspection but would like your opinion. --James

Answer:   There is a saying in the legal profession that an attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client and an idiot for a lawyer. This axiom was born from bitter and costly experience and can be applied to a number of professions. Medical doctors, for example, seldom have family members as patients.

The wisdom of this rule applies as well to home inspectors, for one simply reason: Objectivity is essential when evaluating the condition of a home, and emotional involvement reduces objectivity.

To be objective, an inspector must be unconcerned about the outcome of the inspection and the nature of the findings. Therefore, your home inspection should be done by someone with no vested interest in the property.

Attorneys, doctors and home inspectors are well advised not to mix professional activities with personal concerns. This doesn't mean you shouldn't inspect the property, but you should not be the only home inspector to inspect it.

By Barry Stone
Inman News™

Published March 08, 2011, Lowe's

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 10, 2011  9:34:43 AM
What's all the excitement about Light Bulbs? 0 Comments Posted

What’s changing? The demise of traditional 100-watt incandescent bulbs will be followed by 75-watt bulbs in 2013 and 60- and 40-watt bulbs in 2014. The new regulations actually don’t ban or promote any particular lighting technology. They require bulbs to be about 25% more efficient. Traditional incandescent bulbs can’t meet the new standard.

What about specialty fixtures? You’ll still be able to buy the same incandescent versions of decorative, appliance and other specialty bulbs.

What should I buy instead? The most popular and affordable replacement is the CFL, many of which have a swirl design. “CFLs are a pretty good technology, and they’re getting better,” said Maria Vargas, spokeswoman with the federal Energy Star program. “But it’s not an exact replacement for incandescents, because it is a different technology.”

Today’s versions are far superior and come in sizes that fit most standard light fixtures.

“CFL manufacturers have responded favorably to all the historical consumer complaints,” said Terry Drew, director of energy efficiency and sustainability for CSA International, which tests and certifies light bulbs. More than 85% of consumers report they are satisfied with the performance of CFLs, according to the report by the Energy Department.

But halogen and LED lights are available, too, and have advantages. For example, LEDs and halogen bulbs are fully dimmable, come to full brightness instantly and contain no mercury. But they cost more.

How much money can I save? Anything that uses energy has two costs: the initial cost and the energy cost over its lifetime. CFLs win on both counts. The initial-cost advantage might not be obvious because a CFL bulb will cost more than an incandescent, maybe $1.50 per bulb compared with 50 cents. But the CFL will last up to 10 times longer, making it far cheaper over the long run on initial price alone.

“In the time you would replace one CFL, you’d have 10 spent incandescents sitting in your trash can,” said Chad Bulman, program manager for the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.

Then you have the energy savings. A CFL uses 75% less energy than an incandescent bulb. Each CFL can save you about $40 over its lifetime, according to Energy Star. Those living in regions with high electricity costs save more. The range is $30-$60 in savings per bulb. More broadly, the new standards will save an American family of four an average of about $200 per year, estimates the Alliance to Save Energy.

A minor benefit to CFLs are they don’t burn hot. So, in the summer, you will potentially use a little less air conditioning.

What about the quality of CFLs? CFLs have gone through growing pains. They once were pretty lousy: expensive and with poor-quality light. But today they are cheaper and are more similar to regular light bulbs. Those who were disappointed by CFLs in the past might give them another try.

Are there drawbacks? CFLs still don’t work well in most dimmable switches. And while you’ll get most of the light right away, it might take a minute or so to achieve full brightness. They also have mixed effectiveness in outdoor fixtures, especially in cold weather.

Consumers have complained about brightness of CFLs. But that might be due to the bad advice of buying a CFL equal to one-quarter the wattage of an incandescent. “I think that’s a mistake; it’s more like one-third,” Vargas said.

CFLs also have trace amounts of mercury, which is a potential health problem only if the bulb breaks, and you’d have to break several CFLs in a confined space to be in significant danger.

“The threat of CFL mercury is a bit overblown,” Bulman said. And environmentalists prefer you recycle burned-out CFLs, rather than throwing them in the trash.

How about other technologies? LED is the other major type of energy-efficient lighting. LED bulbs don’t suffer from many of the drawbacks of CFLs. They are fully dimmable and great for using outdoors. They are more energy efficient than CFLs and can last 25 years. But they are very expensive. An LED bulb might cost $40.

Another alternative is a halogen bulb. They are not that energy efficient, comparatively. So, they will save more money than traditional incandescents but less than CFLs. But they don’t suffer some of the CFL shortcomings. They, too, are fully dimmable and give good light. They might cost $4-$5 a bulb. Neither LEDs nor halogens contain mercury.

By Gregory Karp (c) 2011, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. Published RISMedia 3/9/11

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 10, 2011  9:33:10 AM
Are you in the "Lightbulb Luddites" Club? 0 Comments Posted
Despite avid media coverage and education campaigns by the government and environmental groups, consumers still aren’t flocking to newer, energy-efficient light bulbs. Even in states with long-running and well-funded programs to promote compact fluorescent lamps, only one in five household sockets contain those bulbs, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy. Sales of CFLs peaked in 2007 and have declined since, the report says.

But a switch could be good for your wallet. And besides, you won’t have much choice soon.

A federal law passed in 2007 requires manufacturers to make light bulbs that emit the same brightness using less energy. Traditional incandescent bulbs can’t do that, so they’ll effectively be dropped from production over the next few years. As a consumer, you can continue using incandescents, but eventually you won’t be able to buy any more unless it’s a specialty bulb.

A phase-in of the new rules starts next January with 100-watt bulbs. That’s news to a lot of people. Just two in 10 people know about the 100-watt bulb’s impending extinction, according to a recent survey by lighting manufacturer Osram Sylvania.

Some consumers aware of the coming change—13%—plan to stock up on incandescent 100-watt bulbs while they can get them, the survey found. A Consumer Reports blog referred to them as “Lightbulb Luddites.”

That’s probably because consumers have a better alternative to hoarding inefficient 100-watters. That is, switching to new energy-efficient bulbs, probably CFLs and perhaps halogen incandescents or light-emitting diodes (LEDs), experts say.

“People don’t like change, even when it’s good for you,” said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. “This is a change that can do good for your pocketbook and not do harm to the quality of your life or the quality of your light.”

By Gregory Karp-adapted c) 2011, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. RISMedia published 3/9/11-
View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 10, 2011  9:32:08 AM
"Slam on your Brakes" curb appeal at 474 Augusta 0 Comments Posted
People are slammin' on their brakes for a peek at the curb appeal of 474 Augusta Dr in the Rockport Country Club.

In normal market times, says the National Association of REALTORS®, 49% of buying decisions are based on curb appeal. While we begin to understand and work through the “new normal,” curb appeal is still of major importance, especially with so many homes for sale.

In effect, curb appeal is “outdoor staging,” said Center City REALTOR® Joanne Davidow, of Prudential Fox & Roach. Even if the interior decor is Buckingham Palace-quality, no one will ever know if the place isn’t appealing from the street—because no one will ever ring the doorbell to see it. “You need to pay attention to the outside as well as the indoors,” she said.

Late fall to early spring—right now, in other words—is the toughest time to make the view more pleasing. With short days and the sun at such a low point in the sky, the light that provides accent and focus to the appearance of a yard and house in spring and summer is temporarily unavailable.

There are challenges to curb appeal everywhere, no matter where you live. One is simply windblown bags, wrappers and leaves. You can sweep your sidewalk every day, but if the wind blows right before an appointment, the buyer doesn’t know that.”

Also affecting curb appeal may be the condition of neighboring houses. “It does not help if the attached house is beaten up.” says Marilou Buffum of Eichler & Moffly, Realtors in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood. “You have to look at your neighbor’s house when considering curb appeal. If there are issues, and you get along well with your neighbor, you might ask if they wouldn’t mind trimming hedges or cleaning their yards.” In some cases, sellers have even paid to have the house next door painted, she said. “Remember, you are selling your neighborhood, not just your house.”

Among the easier-to-fix curb-appeal issues are the weeds that pop up between pavers on sidewalks and patios, said Weichert Realtors agent Carolyn L. Sabatelli. Most plants and shrubs are still several weeks shy of bloom, “so color is at a premium” in late winter, said Sabatelli, who works out of Weichert’s Media office. “Bushes should be trimmed neatly, and plant beds should be trimmed out,” she said. “If driveways are asphalt, they should be nice and clean, and, if needed, another coat of blacktop applied.”

Think mulch, agents say. Fresh dark mulch adorning even barren landscapes gives them a warmer look.

Except for when a property cries out for professional help, boosting curb appeal does not have to be expensive, Buffum said. “A fresh coat of paint or windows washed and fixed don’t add up to much of an expense,” she said.

“Will you get the money back on your investment? Not necessarily, but you are making your house more appealing to buyers,” said Buffum. “It gives buyers the impression that you care.”

By Al Heavens (c) 2011, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. Published RISMedia 3/9/11-adapted

Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to view this fairway masterpiece over 3918 sq.ft. with 3rd floor private master suite! Unbelievable at only $569,724

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 10, 2011  9:29:59 AM
Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc. BROKER Active Listing Comparison 0 Comments Posted
Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker ACTIVE LISTINGS

#  Listed Value # Listed Value    # Listed Value   #   Listed Value      #   Value

34   $  7,055,400    30   $2,138,198     3   $1,774,900     0     0           67   $10,968,498

44   $10,600,098    31   $2,383,011     4   $1,979,000     0     0        79   $14,962,109

32  $  8,483,595    48    $3,372,012     3   $1,828,900    0     0    83   $13,684,507
47  $10,621,356    56   $3,385,022   4    $2,270,961    9   $1,468,929   116   $17,746,268

   Source:  Rockport Area Association of Realtors

Looking to BUY or SELL property in Aransas County? Call Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 or locally 361.729.8263

View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, March 09, 2011  7:53:28 AM
Rockport Fulton TX MLS Sales Comparison 2009 2010 and 2011 0 Comments Posted

Lynn’s TEAM ADVANTAGE ranked # 1, Jim Wills ranked # 26 The “M” TEAM MJ Olsen & Mack Sikorski ranked # 36, Alissa Spears # 43, of 60 REALTORS reporting Closed Sales for the Rockport Area Association of REALTORS through February 28, 2011.    

Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc. ranked # 4 out of 17 offices reporting Closed Transactions through February 28, 2011.
















































-26.1% from 2008

-6.3% from 2009

-10.1% from 2010

*red = highest

Source: Rockport Area Association of Realtors

Looking for property in Rockport/Fulton Texas? Call Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker toll free 1.866.232.1876 or locally 361.729.8263 and we'll FIND your Aransas County property!
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 08, 2011  8:44:29 AM
Is it possible to install hardwood over old linoleum 0 Comments Posted

Q: I had a contractor come out to give an estimate on tearing up the existing carpet in my den and laying hardwood floors. They noticed that there were two layers of linoleum/sheet vinyl. They said they could not lay the hardwoods over two layers and that one layer would have to be removed -- and that we would also want to make sure that there is no asbestos. Our home was built in the 1960s.

Is it even necessary to remove the vinyl tile before we lay the hardwoods? If there is asbestos I'd rather leave well enough alone and just put the hardwoods over the tile. Any help you can provide is appreciated. --

A: In general, it's possible to install hardwood over old linoleum, even two layers, providing the old flooring is in generally good condition, the underlayment beneath the old flooring is solid, and the additional height won't pose a problem at doorways, appliances, etc.

So, the first thing I would do is ask the flooring contractor why they want to tear up just one layer. In part of your letter you mention two layers of linoleum/sheet vinyl, but further down you mention vinyl tile. Vinyl tiles can crack when nails are driven through them, and it could be that the contractor is worried about chunks of tile coming loose and causing problems under the hardwood.

It could also be that the upper layer is not well adhered to the bottom layer, and they are worried that the hardwood won't lay flat. Or, as I mentioned, it could be that overall height is an issue.

You can also get a second opinion from another flooring contractor. If both contractors agree that the flooring needs to come up, then the next step would be to have a sample of both layers of flooring tested to see if asbestos is present. There may not be any in either floor, in which case one or both layers can easily be removed.

If asbestos is present, I would suggest you talk with your local Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to see what their rules and precautions are.

In some cases, a homeowner can assume the risk of doing their own tear-out where a contractor can't, so it may be possible for you to safely remove the vinyl flooring yourself and then have the contractor proceed with the hardwood floor installation. The DEQ can give you all the necessary guidelines for how to remove and dispose of the material.

By Paul Bianchina
Inman News™

March 04, 2011 published, RISMedia

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 08, 2011  8:43:30 AM
Consult an Engineer when cutting or altering a foundation wall 0 Comments Posted

Q: I have two crawl spaces underneath my house that each are accessible only through roughly 3-foot-by-3-foot, ground-level openings, surrounded to the left, the right and above by cinder block foundation. Crawling through them is difficult for most people, including myself and HVAC folks.

I would like to convert them to standard doors. Do you suggest that I consult a structural engineer as part of the planning? How should I approach this conversion? --Chris N.

A: Whenever you're cutting or altering a foundation wall, I definitely recommend a structural engineer be consulted. There are so many variables to take into consideration that this really is one place where you need to err on the side of caution.

Here's a suggestion for you and the engineer that should save you some money with the installation of the new door. First of all, let's assume that the block wall was correctly built in the first place, and that it has a steel lintel or reinforced blocks spanning the existing opening. If that's the case, your best bet is going to be to keep the opening the same width, and work from there to create an opening for your new door.

Rough openings for doors are typically 2 inches wider and taller than the door itself. So if you currently have an opening in your foundation wall that's 3 feet wide, it should accommodate a 2-foot-10-inch-wide door and frame. Even if the opening is a little rough or undersized, you should still be able to install a 2-foot 8-inch door with no problem at all, without having to alter the width of the opening.

So all you'll need to do is cut down from the bottom of the opening on each side to reach an overall height of 6 feet 10 inches (2 inches taller than a normal 6-foot-8-inch door height), remove the blocks between the cuts, and you'll have an opening that will accommodate a new, standard door. A concrete-cutting company can assist you with cutting out and removing the blocks.

By Paul Bianchina
Inman News™

March 04, 2011 published RISMedia

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 08, 2011  8:42:43 AM
What's Happening this week in Rockport/Fulton 0 Comments Posted

Around the Community  

For details, go to www.rockport-fulton.org  and click on events.


Tuesday, March 8

10:30am  "Coffee & Caring" - Grief & Loss Support Group meets at Main Street Coffee & Deli, the community supportive effort of AIM Hospice

11:30am  Chamber Luncheon - Saltwater Pavllion

1:00pm  ACBL Duplicate Bridge - Woman's Club of Aransas County

3:30pm  Bay Education Center Lecture Series Weekly Topics

7:00pm  Rialto Rhythms Jam Session - 327 S Commercial, Aransas Pass

Wednesday, March 9

2:00pm  A Quick Trip to the Past - Aransas County Historical Society Lab, (Rockport School) 619 N Live Oak Room 15

Thursday, March 10

6:30pm  More Earth-Kind Gardening, Irrigation System Design & Maintenance - Aransas County Library

Friday, March 11

12:30pm  Play Cards - Bridge and/or Canasta - Woman's Club of Aransas County

7:00pm  "Rumors" - Rockport Little Theater at Old Rockport Elementary Scholl, 619 N Live Oak St, Rockport

7:00pm  Seafaring Saga "Operation Petticoat" 1959 - Texas Maritime Museum

Saturday, March 12

8:00am  23rd Annual Whooping Crane Strut Run & Walk begins at Rockport Beach Park Beachfront Pavilion

9:00am  Interpretive Series - Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

10:00am  Free Van Tours - Aransas National Wildlife Refuge - Call for Reservations 361-286-3559

10:00am  Garage Sale Relay for Life at 493 Augusta, Rockport

10:00am  Learn to Fly Cast - Swan Point Landing, 1723 Cherry 4, Rockport

12:00pm  Interpretive Series - Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

1:00pm  Free Van Tours - Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

7:00pm  "Rumors" - Rockport Little Theater

7:30pm  Chuckwagon Dinner Show - Featuring the Springer Family Band

Sunday, March 13

Celebrate National Wildlife Refuge System Birthday

10:00am  Free Van Tours - Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

1:00pm  Free Van Tours - Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Tuesday, March 8

10:30am  "Coffee & Caring" - Grief & Loss Support Group meets at Main Street Coffee & Deli, the community supportive effort of AIM Hospice

11:30am  Chamber Luncheon - Saltwater Pavllion

1:00pm  ACBL Duplicate Bridge - Woman's Club of Aransas County

3:30pm  Bay Education Center Lecture Series Weekly Topics

7:00pm  Rialto Rhythms Jam Session - 327 S Commercial, Aransas Pass

Wednesday, March 9

2:00pm  A Quick Trip to the Past - Aransas County Historical Society Lab, (Rockport School) 619 N Live Oak Room 15

Thursday, March 10

6:30pm  More Earth-Kind Gardening, Irrigation System Design & Maintenance - Aransas County Library

Friday, March 11

12:30pm  Play Cards - Bridge and/or Canasta - Woman's Club of Aransas County

7:00pm  "Rumors" - Rockport Little Theater at Old Rockport Elementary Scholl, 619 N Live Oak St, Rockport

7:00pm  Seafaring Saga "Operation Petticoat" 1959 - Texas Maritime Museum

Saturday, March 12

8:00am  23rd Annual Whooping Crane Strut Run & Walk begins at Rockport Beach Park Beachfront Pavilion

9:00am  Interpretive Series - Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

10:00am  Free Van Tours - Aransas National Wildlife Refuge - Call for Reservations 361-286-3559

10:00am  Garage Sale Relay for Life at 493 Augusta, Rockport

10:00am  Learn to Fly Cast - Swan Point Landing, 1723 Cherry 4, Rockport

12:00pm  Interpretive Series - Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

1:00pm  Free Van Tours - Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

7:00pm  "Rumors" - Rockport Little Theater

7:30pm  Chuckwagon Dinner Show - Featuring the Springer Family Band

Sunday, March 13

Celebrate National Wildlife Refuge System Birthday

10:00am  Free Van Tours - Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

1:00pm  Free Van Tours - Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 08, 2011  8:42:03 AM
RFHS Tennis Team Advances to State 0 Comments Posted
Rockport-Fulton High School Pirate tennis team finished second at the Region 7 TTCA Team Tournament, and advanced to the State Team Tournament in San Marcos scheduled March 11-12.

RFHS traveled to Harlingen, entering the tournament as the No. 2 seed behind No. 1 seed La Feria. The Pirates had lost to  them earlier in the year, 12-7.

In the first round, the Pirates defeated Port Isabel, 19-0, in the regional quarterfinal. The boys and girls both swept through doubles and singles, surrendering only nine games.

RFHS then faced Lyford in the regional semifinals, scoring a 19-0 victory. In doubles action, the Pirates swept through six matches, not surrendering a single game. A highlight was the come-from-behind win by Chad Harrison and Brittany Canoot.
The Pirate then went into the regional finals, Saturday morning, against La Feria, falling by a 6-13 score.

The No. 1 doubles team of Trevor Gittinger and J.D. Bueltel pulled off a win to get the Pirates on the board.

In boy’s singles, J.D. Bueltel, won a highly contested 6-4, 6-1 match.

The No. 1 singles player, Trevor Gittinger, then fought through a third set to pull off a huge win against a player to whom he had lost earlier in the year.

Krista Pape, at No. 4 singles, secured a win 7-5, 6-4.

Gale Bueltel earned another win for the Pirates at No. 6 singles, 7-5, 6-1.

Brittany Canoot secured the final win, a third-set victory, for the overall score.

As RFHS and La Feria faced off, Lyford beat Rio Hondo 10-8. As a result, there was no need for a playback since the Pirates had already defeated Lyford. Thus RFHS clinched second and a berth into the state team tournament

Coach James Sinard said, “I am so proud of all the players and the great opportunity they have created for us in going to state. I am hoping we can do some damage up there and really get Rockport-Fulton tennis on the map.”

Friday, March 4, 2011 The Rockport Pilot
View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 08, 2011  8:40:29 AM
Rockport's LIttle Bay Elementary to Host Discover Night 0 Comments Posted
Little Bay Primary campus will host Discovery Night , Thursday, March 10, from 5 until 7:30 p.m.

Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students and other community youngsters are invited to enjoy exhibits, student lessons and many science-type hands-on activities scheduled throughout the evening. Presenters will provide interactive/hands-on action. Several stations will have live animals for students to see and touch. There is no charge for any of the events, and all supplies will be provided.

Presenters include the Maritime Museum, Texas Parks and the Wildlife Department marine lab, Goose Island State Park, Jay Tarkington with the Wetlands Project, Texas State Aquarium, Victoria Texas Zoo, Aransas Wildlife Refuge, Rockport Aquarium, and others.

The PTO will host a concession stand featuring pizza, cookies, and juice/water.

For more information, parents will receive flyers, but they may also contact the campus at 361-790-2000.

Friday, March 4, 2011 The Rockport Pilot

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 08, 2011  8:39:54 AM
Mortgage Applications Decrease 0 Comments Posted
Mortgage applications decreased 6.5% from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending February 25, 2011. The results do not include an adjustment for the President’s Day holiday.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 6.5% on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 5.5% compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 6.5% from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 6.1% from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 3.5% compared with the previous week and was 19.6% lower than the same week one year ago.

The four week moving average for the seasonally adjusted Market Index is down 2.5%. The four week moving average is down 2.2% for the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index, while this average is down 2.7% for the Refinance Index.

The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 64.9% of total applications from 65.7% the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 5.5% from 5.6% of total applications from the previous week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.84% from 5.00%, with points increasing to 1.30 from 0.96 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio loans. This is the third consecutive weekly decrease for the 30-year contract rate. The effective rate also decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.17% from 4.28%, with points increasing to 1.07 from 0.80 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate also decreased from last week.

Published 3/7/11 RISMedia, For more information, visit www.mortgagebankers.org.

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 08, 2011  8:38:55 AM
Around the House: Going Green saves you MONEY 0 Comments Posted
We’ve all heard that going green is too expensive, not cost-effective, or that it just isn’t financially responsible in these tough economic times. That’s just not the case. There are ways to do your part to be easier on the planet and our wallets. Here are a few ways to incorporate everyday green living techniques into your routine and start saving right away.

Buy big: There are two good reasons to buy in bulk when it makes sense. It’ll save you money and it saves resources. If you’re a mom who always sends individually wrapped packages of crackers in your child’s lunchbox, this is a good place to save. I’ve added it up. It’ll cost you about four times as much when you go with the single serving packaging. And usually those individual containers and pouches are pretty hard to recycle.

Go the reusable route: What’s worse than throwing out barely used paper towels? Spending all that money on them. The cheapest paper towels on the market are about a dollar a roll. If you go through two rolls a week, that’s more than $200 a year. Save that money and keep dish towels and rags handy. It’s much more eco-friendly to wash them than it is to keep buying one-use paper towels. There are others ways to go the reusable route every day. Think of how much money you’ll save if you make the switch to reusable water bottles, cloth napkins and reusable food containers. And, most grocery stores now provide financial incentives when you use reusable bags.

Don’t buy what you can make: A lot of us have a bunch of household cleaners stockpiled in a kitchen cabinet. They’re downright expensive and many chemical-based ones can actually pollute our homes. Save money and have a healthier home by making your own green cleaners. An effective green cleaning kit will contain white vinegar, baking soda and borax. Want to know just what you’ll save? You can buy a 128oz jug of vinegar for about $3.49. That’s the same price of the leading glass cleaner which is only 26oz. If you whip up a glass cleaner using one part vinegar to one part water, that jug of vinegar will last nearly 10 times longer than the store bought cleaner for the exact same price.

Roll up your sleeves: A few weekend projects at home can save you serious money each month. Half of our monthly utility usage goes toward heating and cooling our homes. Adding a little weather-stripping where needed will help you keep treated air from escaping. Insulating attic doors will make a dent in your utility bills too. Installing programmable thermostats can help you slash another 10%. And, doing a little maintenance like cleaning your refrigerator coils and the vent line from your clothes dryer will keep them running more efficiently.

(c) 2011, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).By Terri Bennett, RISMedia published 3/5/11

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 08, 2011  8:38:19 AM
8 Areas to pay attention to When Updating your Kitchen 0 Comments Posted
What’s cooking in kitchens? Simpler styling, hidden appliances and a bit of color to make life interesting, to name just a few things. If you’re getting ready to update your kitchen, you may want to pay attention to the following trends that are popular in kitchen showrooms right now.

Clean lines
Fancy is fading. Kitchens are moving away from ornate looks such as Tuscan and French country in favor of more transitional design, a trend Betty Nairn of Cabinet-S-Top in Granger Township, Ohio, calls “simplistic luxury.”

The move toward clean lines and less ornamentation is due at least in part to homeowners thinking ahead, said Debra Shababy of Studio 76 Kitchens and Baths in Twinsburg, Ohio. Many are looking toward selling their homes as the economy improves, and they want their kitchens to appeal to a broad range of buyers.

Contemporary design is gaining interest, too—even in the Midwest, a region long tied to the traditional. Barbara Dillick of Kitchen Design Group in Bath Township, Ohio, figures people have become more comfortable with the spare, sleek look because they’ve been exposed to it through magazines, TV shows and upscale hotels.

Built-in dining
Eat-in kitchens are still in demand, but where we do that eating has changed. The bar-style counter is still popular, but it’s giving way in many new kitchens to an extension of the counter that looks more like a table.

Sometimes the extension is counter height; sometime it’s higher or lower. What sets it apart from bar seating is that it’s designed so the diners sit around the edge and face one another, rather than sitting in a line.

The idea of trading a table for a counter extension makes some homeowners nervous initially, Kitchen Design Group’s Deanna Carleton said. But the setup has advantages: It saves space, the extension can do double duty as an extra buffet surface and the deep base that holds the countertop provides a good amount of storage.

Safety, sustainability
More than ever, consumers are paying attention to the materials that go into their kitchens, Shababy said.

She said many respond positively when she suggests cabinet finishes with low levels of volatile organic compounds, vapors that contribute to indoor air pollution. They also like cabinets that are joined with dowels instead of glues containing formaldehyde.

Safety features are popular, such as lockouts that prevent stove burners from being turned on accidentally and mechanisms that keep drawers and cabinet doors from slamming on little fingers, Shababy said.

And people are leaning toward energy-saving features such as LED lights, as well as natural products such as wood floors and stone countertops. Granite is still the top choice for countertops, especially since common types have become affordable for most people, the designers agreed. But quartz—stone chips mixed with binders and colorants—is coming on strong, they said.

Kitchen lighting isn’t just a matter of function anymore. It’s also an expression of personality, Carleton said.

Hand-blown glass shades on pendant lights, contemporary drum shades and elegant chandeliers are all ways homeowners can infuse their style into a kitchen without making a big commitment. After all, it’s easier and cheaper to change lighting fixtures than it is cabinets or countertops.

Layers of light continue to be common in kitchen design—for example, a ceiling fixture combined with under-counter task lighting and ambient lights behind a glass-front door. But gimmicky lighting schemes such as lighted toe kicks aren’t so popular, Dillick said.

LEDs are finding their way into the kitchen, mainly in under-counter lighting but also in recessed ceiling lights. They’re available in both cool and warm lights to fit different decors and preferences.

Nairn has also seen a big preference for natural lighting via windows, skylights or reflective light tubes.

Refrigerator options
The depth of the typical refrigerator poses a design challenge, particularly in smaller kitchens. Manufacturers have responded with shallower appliances and drawer models, which are often used in combination in the same room.

Counter-depth refrigerators are easier to fit into a kitchen because they don’t jut out into the room. But even though they’re often taller, they typically have less storage space, Nairn said. Some designers are dealing with space shortage by incorporating drawer refrigerators or freezers into the cabinets to hold additional food. Shababy said this kind of arrangement makes sense only when the drawer holds foods that are used mostly in a particular part of the kitchen—for example, a drawer for vegetables next to the sink where they’re cleaned and prepared.

Bars are coming out of the great room and into the kitchen. Dillick said many of her company’s clients are requesting bar areas in the kitchen where they can store everything in one convenient spot. Often, they’re taking out kitchen desks to free the space.

Bar cabinets that look like pantries are popular as well. Often they’re outfitted with a wine or beverage refrigerator; storage space for glassware, knives and a cutting board; and sometimes a sink.

Most homeowners still tend toward the safe and neutral in their kitchen’s more permanent items—cupboards, countertops and flooring. But that doesn’t mean kitchens can’t be colorful.

Walls are sporting bold hues such as persimmon or pomegranate, Dillick said. Accessories and appliances bring spots of color, such as a range with colored knobs and a cobalt oven interior that “people fall in love with,” she said. It’s also popular to work a colorful painted cabinet or two in among white or natural wood cabinets to add a bit of interest.

Dillick has also seen the comeback of window seats, which provide the opportunity to add color in the form of fabric. Upholstered seats, pillows and window valances all add a bit of color and softness, which are often lacking in a room filled mostly with hard surfaces.

All of the kitchen designers were hesitant to talk in terms of trends, because they believe a kitchen’s design should suit the individual. Kitchens are places where we spend a lot of time, so it’s more important to have what you like, not what’s popular, they said. “Really, it’s up to you,” Shababy said. “It’s whatever makes you happy being in your kitchen.”

By Mary Beth Breckenridge  RISMEDIA, March 5, 2011 (c) 2011, Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio

View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 08, 2011  8:37:40 AM
Unwanted Visitors can get you EVICTED 0 Comments Posted
: I am the resident manager of a large apartment community. The police have come to our property several times recently because of one tenant. She told me that she has had to call the police because her former husband insists on coming to see her. I don't like the disruptions, and I am worried about the community getting a bad reputation because of the frequent police presence. Am I entitled to terminate this woman's tenancy? --

A: Before taking action, have a talk with this tenant. Your question implies that she has not invited the abuser to the property -- but has she obtained a protective, stay-away order from the court? If she has not, that may be the place to start, and if you're lucky, the ex may respect it and keep away.

Now let's suppose that the tenant has such an order, and it's not doing any good. Whether you may evict will depend on the type of tenancy this is, and whether any laws in your state give protection to domestic violence victims -- and narrow eviction rights to landlords.

No matter what state you're in, if your tenant is a Section 8 tenant (or you're running a public housing project), you are subject to the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which became law in 1994.

One of its many purposes is to protect women who are victims of domestic violence (as well as stalking and dating violence) from eviction, unless the landlord can show that there is an "actual and imminent threat" to other tenants or staff if she is not evicted.

Note that a "bad reputation" will not justify an eviction. If your tenant gets the protection of VAWA, you won't be able to evict based on the harm done to your property's standing in the community.

If you are a private landlord whose tenant is not part of the Section 8 program, you'll need to look to your state's laws to see whether such victims are protected. Over half of the states followed the federal lead after VAWA, enacting protective laws that sometimes gave victim women the status of a "protected class," like members of a race, religion, and so on.

Most laws required women to substantiate their experience of abuse before being entitled to the laws' protections, by reporting incidents to the police or obtaining a protective order.

Many states with domestic violence protections nevertheless realized that as sympathetic as one might want to be when domestic violence is concerned, there may come a point when the safety of others is imperiled by the presence of the victim on the property. When that point arrives, landlords should not be expected to subject other residents, staff or even themselves, to physical harm.

For instance, California recently passed a law, which took effect Jan. 1, 2011, that allows landlords to evict a domestic violence victim who, despite having been given a three-day notice to stop allowing the perpetrator access or leave, continues to give the abuser permission to enter the premises.

And the landlord has the power to evict if, even in the absence of such permission, the landlord "reasonably believes" that the perpetrator poses a physical threat to other tenants, guests and business invitees, including the victim herself (see California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161.3(b)).

Oregon and Indiana have similar laws, but like California those states require a threat of physical harm, not simply harm to the property's reputation.

Finally, suppose you're in a state without domestic violence protections? If your tenant's altercations with her ex are severe enough to justify police intervention, chances are they would support a termination based on the tenant's violation of her legal duty to not disturb the quiet enjoyment of other residents.

Your tenant might find a lawyer who would advance a creative defense, however, arguing that ousting an abused ex-wife amounts to discrimination based on the tenant's sex or familial status. Whether such an argument would work in your state is anyone's guess.

By Janet Portman
Inman News™

March 03, 2011 published, Lowe's RISMedia

View Comments | Add Comment Monday, March 07, 2011  10:58:05 AM
Bathroom "little touches" make a big impact 0 Comments Posted

Tailored Look
To customize the space, frame the walls with crown and base moulding. Add a moulding ledge above the pine paneling. The ledge acts as a picture shelf around the perimeter of the bath—perfect for personalizing the space and showing off favorite photos. 

Power of Paint
For maximum impact with minimum cost, use paint to update a space. Here, the dark brown warms up the room and brings in a rich earthy color.

Natural Fabric

Two linen curtain panels were chosen instead of a traditional shower curtain. Paired with a simple plastic shower liner, the curtains frame the bathtub and contrast with the dark walls.

Finishing Touches

Rustic accents, including the bamboo shades, wooden mirror, and shelf, mix well with classic elements, such as the tall faucet and vanity light, to give the bath a blended look.

Easy Organizing

To tame an unruly linen closet, the couple organizes storage with woven baskets.

Source:  Lowe's Creative Ideas
View Comments | Add Comment Monday, March 07, 2011  10:57:27 AM
Bathroom Tile Alternatives 0 Comments Posted
Bathroom Tile Challenge

The homeowners craved something more unique than the existing black-and-white tiled fl oor, but they still wanted to keep the look clean.

The Solution: Distinctive glass pebble flooring became the perfect solution. The tile, inspired by white river rock, continues the natural feel of the room.

The pebble tile was the homeowner’s one splurge for this project. So when it came time for installation, they saved on time and labor costs by installing it directly over the existing floor. This was possible because the profile of the old tile was low enough for the new tile to be laid right on top.

Source:  Lowe's Creative Ideas

View Comments | Add Comment Monday, March 07, 2011  10:56:19 AM
Solutions for CRAMPED Bathroom Feelings 0 Comments Posted
Bathroom Challenge

Before, the large vanity was the room’s focal point and made the space feel cramped. With an existing linen closet already in the bath, the family didn’t need the vanity’s storage area.

The Solution:
Replacing the vanity with a pedestal sink increases floor space and makes the room look larger.

Source:  Lowe's Creative Ideas

View Comments | Add Comment Monday, March 07, 2011  10:55:28 AM
Update Bath with NEW Color Palette 0 Comments Posted

With a few clever tricks and relying on some tried-and-true decorating secrets from the Creative Ideas design team at Lowe's, homeowners turned this fullll bath into a modern family-friendly retreat. Now, the charming space can easily accommodate guests. To achieve maximum impact on a minimal budget, follow this lead: Tackle the big problems first, save where you can, and limit yourself to one splurge.

Challenge #1

The black-and-white color scheme and tiled walls did not reflect the family’s personality. They wanted a cozier, more natural overall look and feel.

The Solution: The new tortoise shell-inspired color palette of earthy brown, linen, and white transforms this into a casual yet sophisticated room.

Source:  Lowe's Creative Ideas

View Comments | Add Comment Monday, March 07, 2011  10:54:44 AM
Mortgage Deduction under Renewed Scrutiny 0 Comments Posted
There’s a hallowed rule in U.S. housing policy: If you own a home, you get a tax deduction on your mortgage interest. But there’s also a growing push to sacrifice this sacred cow, and the reasons are disparate. Some people argue that the policy should be changed because it doesn’t really encourage homeownership like it’s supposed to. Others say the government shouldn’t be encouraging homeownership anyway. Some people say the government can’t keep giving out such a big tax break when it’s facing huge deficits. Others say the policy isn’t giving enough of a tax break to lower-income families.

Despite the buzz, it will be difficult to revamp a tax deduction that’s been in place for nearly a century. The housing industry’s powerful lobby is sure to fight any proposal that it believes would discourage home-buying, particularly given the weakness of the housing market. Both Congress and the White House would have to approve any change to the tax code, but they could be reluctant to take on such a controversial issue before the 2012 presidential election.

“REALTORS®, homebuilders, everybody who has a vested interest in preserving this, have a very strong voice on Capitol Hill,” said Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance. “They’ve done a pretty good job of keeping everybody’s hands off of it.”

The conversation about changing the mortgage deduction policy was sparked again this month, when the Obama administration released its plan for winding down the government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Though the report didn’t offer specifics on the mortgage-interest deduction, it did note that the deduction had encouraged investment in housing “over other sectors in the economy.”

The mortgage-interest deduction works like this: Say a home buyer makes $50,000 a year, and paid $5,000 last year in interest on his mortgage. If he claimed his mortgage-interest deduction, the IRS would tax only $45,000 of his income (or less if he claimed other deductions).

The IRS also lets people claim deductions on interest they pay on a second home or a home equity loan. The home mortgages must be $1 million or less, and the home equity loans must be $100,000 or less.

The mortgage-interest deduction is probably most helpful for people who bought their homes recently. That’s because when you first buy a home, a large portion of each monthly payment goes toward paying down the interest. As you live in your home longer, the portion of your monthly payment that goes toward interest will shrink, and the portion that goes toward principal will increase, at least in most traditional home loans.

Some consumer groups such as the Greenlining Institute, a California-based group that pushed the banking industry to modify low-income borrowers’ mortgages, propose wiping out the deduction.

Instead, the government should give a yearly tax credit of up to $5,000 to moderate- and low-income families who buy mid-priced or low-priced homes, the consumer groups say. (A credit, unlike a deductible, would simply wipe out the first $5,000 that the family owed to the IRS). The Greenlining Institute and the National Asian American Coalition say this plan would add to the government’s tax coffers, while also giving tax breaks to the people who need them most.

The Obama administration’s proposed 2012 budget would leave the deduction in place, but places some limits on the deductions claimed by families making more than $250,000 a year.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which helps the White House develop its budget, estimates that the mortgage-interest deduction cost the government $79 billion in forgone taxes in 2010. That could rise to as much as $144 billion in 2016, the OMB estimates. While some observers argue that the government should get rid of the deduction to help plug its budget gap, others say homeowners should be allowed to keep their money.

The president’s deficit commission advocates changing the tax deduction to a tax credit, similar to what the Greenlining Institute proposes. It would also cap eligible mortgages at $500,000 instead of $1 million, and eliminate any tax benefits for second homes and home equity loans.

After the deficit commission’s report was released in December, the real estate industry fired back. “Recent progress has been made in bringing stability to the housing market and any changes to the mortgage-interest deduction now or in the future could critically erode home prices and the value of homes by as much as 15 percent,” National Association of REALTORS® President Ron Phipps said in a release at the time.

He also said that in a recent NAR survey of almost 3,000 homeowners and renters, nearly three-fourths of the homeowners and two-thirds of the renters said the mortgage-interest deduction was “extremely” or “very” important.

Robert Pozen, chairman emeritus of MFS Investment Management, estimates the U.S. could save $15 billion a year if it got rid of the deductions for home equity loans and second homes, and decreased the eligible mortgages to $500,000. He doesn’t think the mortgage-interest deduction will disappear in the U.S. But he said there’s perhaps a 30% or 40% chance that one of the three proposals he advocates will be adopted. “Five years ago, I would have rated it at 1 percent,” Pozen said. “People are starting to come to grips with the budget problems.”

The purpose of the mortgage-interest deduction is to encourage people to buy homes, with the idea that homeowners take better care of their property, contribute more to their neighborhoods and can build wealth.

But some argue that the government shouldn’t subsidize homeownership. The government pushed homeownership hard in the 1990s and early 2000s, and some of the borrowers who got homes couldn’t really afford them. Most experts agree that this was one of the causes of the financial meltdown.

“Maybe the tax deduction encourages debt, which is not always a good thing,” said Karen Gibler, a real estate professor in Georgia State’s Robinson College of Business.

On the other end of the spectrum, some people support changing the deduction because they say it doesn’t actually fulfill its stated purpose, to increase home buying. Australia, Canada and England don’t give out tax deductions on mortgage interest, and they have higher homeownership rates than the U.S., said Pozen, who is also a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School.

A study by Christian Hilber of the London School of Economics and Tracy Turner of Kansas State University found that in some parts of the U.S., the mortgage-interest deduction can actually discourage homeownership. In tightly regulated, land-scarce metro areas, the tax deduction can raise demand for homes but not supply, making it more expensive for people to buy houses, the study said.

Pozen said the mortgage-interest deduction tends to disproportionately benefit families making $100,000 or more each year, largely because they tend to have the biggest houses and the biggest house payments. Middle- and lower-income homeowners tend to actually get a better deal by claiming the standard deduction instead of itemizing their deductions to claim the mortgage-interest deduction, Pozen and others said.

The standard deduction for most single adults is $5,700 this year, or $11,400 for married couples. So, all else being equal, the example homeowner mentioned above who pays $5,000 a year in mortgage interest would be better off claiming the standard deduction instead of the mortgage-interest deduction.

Pozen and others say they doubt that the mortgage-interest deduction is ever a deciding factor when a family chooses to buy a home, though it may encourage some families to buy bigger homes. “I’m not against people buying larger homes,” Pozen said. “The only question is: Should the government be subsidizing it?”

(c) 2011, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.).By Christina Rexrode published RISMedia

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, March 04, 2011  10:43:26 AM
Back in the Land of Affordable Housing? 0 Comments Posted

This year may be “the end of the housing crash!”, according to The Wall Street Journal, (WSJ).

It seems that housing is again affordable and the bad news is, well, not so bad anymore. According to Simon Constable in the WSJ, the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index, which tracks 20 markets, dropped 1% in December ... and that is the fifth consecutive decline.

The drum is beating loudly and the tune is “houses are a good deal”. In fact, experts at Mood’s Analytic’s, where income and housing prices are studied, claim houses are more affordable than in decades.

The WSJ reports that, for the first time in 35 years, nationally for the average family, the price of a house basically adds up to the equivalent of 19 months total pay.

Experts are pointing out that housing has dropped so much that the great debate of renting versus owning is clearly leaning toward homeownership.

Timing the real estate market or, for that matter, any market is iffy at best. But when you take a good look at the signs you can see that homebuying is becoming more attractive. Home prices have dropped about 31% from their high in 2006 (based on the S&PCase-Shiller national composite home-price index).

So if you put off buying a home because you were waiting for the best deal, now may be the time to re-launch your search. However, keeping in mind a few homebuying tips will help you navigate through the housing process.

Check your resources. No matter how affordable prices are, remember that buying a home is still likely your largest financial investment. With that in mind, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not just barely economically squeezing into a home.

It’s best to save up and have a solid, healthy downpayment. The new tightened credit rules may insist on a larger cash payment and insulate you from a possible dip in housing prices.

Call your agent. Even if you’ve been tracking the real estate market and watching the drops in your neighbor’s house that’s been on the market for a seemingly endless period of time, call your real estate agent. Why? Because he or she will have the inside scoop on your neighbor’s house and other deals in the community where you’re looking for a home.

I don’t need to spend a lot of time on this one because I’ve written about the importance of using agents in previous columns. It’s simply a good idea to consult with and use an expert when you’re investing a lot of money, time, effort, and–let’s face it–your heart–into something.

Stick around a while. I’m not talking about hanging at the open houses. Nor should buying a home with the intention of flipping it be a high priority right now. If you’re buying a home, plan to stick around a while. The cost of buying a home, moving, and paying for repairs/renovations adds up. However, experts say keeping a goal of owning the house you buy for a while (maybe 10 years) is the better route to take.

Weigh your options. I don’t like wasting time and one thing I could never understand as an agent was people who simply wanted to “window shop” for houses they really couldn’t buy. They would get agents to drive them around all over town looking at homes in price ranges they couldn’t afford. Not my idea of fun–for the agent or the buyers–it’s more like a lesson in frustration. Of course, comparison shopping in your price range is important.

The better option is to weigh your options, meaning know what’s important in housing. Know how much you can really afford to buy. Know your likes and dislikes. Know your needs in housing. Like choosing a mate, you’ll make some compromises. Keep track of what’s important to you by writing down what you hope to find in your next home. Keep the list handy, review it, adjust it during your house-hunting excursions, and then be sure to share your detailed list with your agent to ensure you’re all on the same journey.

Published: March 4, 2011 RealtyTimes, by Phoebe Chongchua

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, March 04, 2011  10:41:03 AM
$100 Bathroom Make Over 0 Comments Posted
Two really inexpensive things you can do is paint and regrout. You can do the job for around $100 and some elbow grease.

1.  Give walls a good washing to remove any soap scum or hard-water stains. Use products such as CLR and Lime-A-Way with a "scrubby" to remove stubborn patches.

2.  Check caulking at joint where wall meets tub. If  bad, scrape it out. Use pointed edge of a five-in-one painter's tool for this work. Now inspect grout.

3.  Check color of grout for yellowing. Also check for voids. If either is present, use a grout saw to remove top 1/8 inch of grout from between the tiles. Wipe shower down again and regrout with unsanded, bright-white grout.

4.  Use a rubber grout trowel to force new grout into joints. Tool joint with a wet fingertip. Wipe excess grout from wall with clean water. Let grout dry and buff tile with a clean dry cloth. An old washcloth does a good job.

5.  Recaulk wall-tub joint.

5.  After grout and caulk are completely dry, apply a grout sealer to retard moisture and inhibit staining.


1.  Select paint. The Paint Quality Institute is a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Co. that provides educational information on paint quality and techniques. The institute recommends spending the extra $5 or $10 a gallon to go with the best quality. Purchase only top-quality 100% acrylic latex paint. It's more durable, resists moisture and mildew better, and it is more washable than its cheaper cousins. Use a glossy finish to enhance these qualities.

These days, top-quality 100 percent acrylic latex interior paint functions as a primer and finish coat in one. Because of increased "hiding" capability you may well get by with one coat instead of the two or three coats you should expect with lesser-quality paints.

2.  An excellent paint job begins with excellent surface preparation. First, fill and sand smooth any nail holes or dings in  walls. Then clean walls, ceiling and woodwork by scrubbing them with a sponge and mild detergent solution.  If mildew is present, use a solution of 2 parts water to 1 part bleach to kill it. Make sure to wear rubber gloves and safety glasses, especially when working overhead.

An important safety note: Never mix household products together. Combining bleach with ammonia or a product containing ammonia can result in toxic gases.

3.  After washing, rinse with clean water and allow surfaces to dry before painting.

4.  Work from top to bottom. Start by painting ceiling to prevent any paint spatter from marring a just-painted wall. Roll paint to within a couple of inches of where wall and ceiling intersect, then cut in with a brush for the corner. Work your way around ceiling in this manner. Next, paint walls using the same method.

5.  Finally, paint window trim, door trim and baseboards. Don't forget to use a drop cloth and painter's tape and paper to keep drips at bay.

If you can afford it, consider updating shower curtain or shower door with a new model. Other nice touches if your budget allows are new mirrors, light fixtures, towel bars and faucet.


By Bill and Kevin Burnett
Inman News™

March 02, 2011 published, Lowe's - adapted

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, March 04, 2011  10:40:22 AM
Oysterfest in Fulton, Texas Starts Thursday Night March 3rd!! 0 Comments Posted

The 32nd OYSTERFEST starts this Thursday March 3rd and runs until 6:00 pm Sunday, March 6, 2011.   

Oh yes, the Parade is Saturday Morning at 11:00 am on Fulton Beach Road, the very same parade where the Little Bay Sea Queens first made their appearance in 2001.   

So that you won't miss a single moment, here's a schedule of all that's going on at OYSTERFEST, just click

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, March 04, 2011  10:39:51 AM
Credit Quality a Mixed Bag: Securing a Quality Tenant 0 Comments Posted
Everyone knows that The Great Recession has taken its toll on the housing market. Foreclosures have been at historical highs and we have all heard the personal and devastating stories of displaced homeowners. But there is a corollary in the rental market that gets less attention: Job loss and financial devastation don’t discriminate and renters have been severely impacted by the economic downturn, too. This has led to shifts in renter behavior as well as the delicate supply-demand balance in the rental market.

Rent.com, an eBay company that gives renters a free tool to search tens of thousands of rental listings nationwide, analyzed data from over 450 million searches in 2007 and 2008 to get a before-and-after look at renter behavior relative to the economic downturn (remember the recession officially began in December 2007). Before the recession started, the average number of bedrooms that renters searched for was trending downward steadily over the course of the year, but after the start of the economic meltdown renter search behavior showed a clear reversal of that trend. We hypothesized that renters were either doubling-up or trading up.

To vet out our theories, we looked at trends in the keywords renters use to search for apartments using data from Google and our own internal data. We also conducted interviews with some of our largest customers—the companies that manage rental properties. All evidence pointed to a doubling up trend and, in hindsight, it makes perfect sense. Renters were searching more on terms like, “cheap apartments” and “bad credit apartments” and property managers were telling us that they were seeing increases in vacancy rates due to renters losing their jobs, doubling up with roommates, or moving home with family to weather the storm.

All of this household consolidation took its toll on apartment owners and managers. National vacancy rates soared throughout 2009 and much of 2010, and apartment owners responded by offering greater concessions, decreasing rents and taking on more credit risk. In fact, in Rent.com’s 2009 Annual Property Management Survey, 73% of owners and managers revealed that their vacancy rates were being impacted by the declining creditworthiness of renters. When asked how they were responding to this phenomenon, 43% said that they were actually lowering their credit standards in order to fill vacancies.

In our 2010 Annual Property Management Survey, conducted this past summer, we identified that credit is still a major issue in the rental market. Over half (53%) of property owners and managers shared that the declining credit worthiness of renters was impacting their occupancy. To contend with this issue, 44% of property owners and managers told us that they were reducing security deposits to fill their vacancies, an increase from the 35% of owners and managers in 2009 who were using this tactic.

Today, vacancy rates are stabilizing and improving, but renter credit quality is a mixed bag. According to industry experts, properties are screening about 3% more rental prospects than a year ago and declining fewer renter applications due to credit quality. But while the credit scores of applicants at Class A and B properties (newer properties in nicer neighborhoods with better amenities) are showing improvements, credit scores of applicants at Class C properties (older properties in less desirable areas) are continuing a multi-year decline.

Interestingly, Class C properties are experiencing the largest increase in volume of applicants, as well as the largest effective rent growth. Our guess is that renters who would have previously applied to more expensive Class B properties are likely being financially conservative either because they are insecure about their employment or are newly re-employed and want to shore up their finances after some period of unemployment.

If you are managing rental property and having a hard time finding tenants, here are a few tips that may help you participate more effectively in the rental market recovery:

Collect a larger security deposit. The reality of the market may be that in order to lift occupancy rates, property owners and managers will need to accept renters with lower credit scores than before the economic downturn. To mitigate risk, managers should require larger security deposits because, on average, default rates decline with larger deposits.

Consider renting to people with foreclosures on their record. Those who have a mortgage in foreclosure or who have mortgage payments that are 90 or more days past-due make up 9.2% of apartment applicants, up from 7% just two years ago. At the same, they tend to make good renters who pay their rent on time, and over 70% of them typically “pass” their credit screening.

Reduce the security deposit, but make it non-refundable. Some property owners and managers may feel that in order to remain competitive, they still need to ask for lower security deposits than they would in fatter times. One way to mitigate losses is to make the deposit non-refundable. By doing so, they may actually increase their effective deposits while still remaining competitive and filling vacancies.

Source:  RISMedia published 3/3/11

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, March 04, 2011  10:38:44 AM
Are Rule Makers backing off New Accounting Standards for Leases 0 Comments Posted
Two international accounting authorities appear to be moving to scale down proposed new standards that would require landlords and tenants to account for real estate and equipment leases as assets or liabilities on their balance sheets. Many in the commercial real estate industry regard the new rules as onerous, dramatically increasing the complexity of leases for both landlords and tenants.

At a joint meeting in London of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and its Europe-based sister group, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) last month, the panels directed their staffs to find an approach that would classify leases as either "finance" or "other-than-finance" contracts -- very similar to the current rules which distinguish between capital , or finance, and "operating" leases. The boards are still seeking feedback from different industries on the types of leases affected by the rules, in fact, the very definition of a lease.

The FASB/IASB released an exposure draft last August proposing that companies be required to record nearly all leases on their balance sheets as "right of use" assets, and as corresponding "future lease payment" liabilities. The panels said in a statement last summer that the proposals would greatly improve the information available to investors about the financial impact of lease contracts.

However, CRE leaders have criticized the proposed new rules, arguing that the proposals could damage both the industry and the gradual real estate market recovery. Among other problems, they said the rules could throw a wrench into capital markets by encouraging tenants to sign shorter term leases, making it more difficult for owners to achieve the longer lease commitments favored or required by lenders and investors under lending covenants.

While current rules distinguish between operating lease and capital leases, the premise of the new rules is that all leases, no matter the duration or terms, should be recorded on the balance sheets of both the lessor and lessee as an asset and liability. The rules would particularly challenge tenants, who would be forced to place a value on estimated future lease liabilities using a complicated "expected outcome" formula. Landlords also would be subject to complex new reporting rules.

More than 780 comments on the exposure draft were filed by the Dec. 15 deadline, mainly criticizing the rules as too complex, potentially costly and likely to result in unreliable financial reporting. Respondents included nearly all of the major commercial real estate players and industry trade groups.

In an interview with CoStar, Mindy Berman, managing director of capital markets for Jones Lang LaSalle, said the FASB/IASB boards appear to be making an "about face" on some of the most objectionable of the proposed rules as they begin to understand the complexity and substance of lease contracts -- and find that parts of the proposal don't reconcile with real-world leasing practices.

"They're hearing the message from the leasing community," Berman said. "It's too early to say how it's going to affect the practice of actual leasing transactions, except that it appears it's moving in the direction of being more similar to where it is today."

Under current international financial reporting standards (IFRS) and U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) standards, accounting treatment of real estate, office equipment or other leased assets differs depending on how the lease is classified. "Capital" or "finance" leases are accounted for as a sale and included on the tenant's financial statement. Contracts classified as "operating" leases, aren't recorded as assets or liabilities on a lessee's balance sheet.

"This may be the closest we've come to eliminating the distinction between capital and operating leases, but this subject has come up on a recurring basis and failed every time," noted Chris Macke, senior real estate strategist for CoStar Group. "If [the boards] are not going to materially change the classification of leases, it would be most cost-effective to maintain the current classifications."

Regardless of what the boards ultimately decide, "I would caution that we're not going back to where we were, because the new standards will still be capitalizing leases and they will no longer be off the balance sheet," Berman said. "There are going to be spotlights and scrutiny on leases that wasn't there before."

The February board actions reveal that the FASB "may be having a profound change of heart, or, at least, wants to move more slowly on any rewrite of the current lease accounting rules," John Hanley, a partner in the real estate practice of the Seattle office of law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, wrote in a client paper. "The FASB and the IASB have decided to acknowledge that all leases are not necessarily the same."

At their most recent joint meeting on Wednesday (March 2) , the boards discussed accounting treatment for lessees involving non-tangible assets such as inventory, concessions and timber, but took no further action on leases of investment real estate. The boards, now meeting every two weeks, are likely to continue deliberations on a variety of issues for months, Berman said.

Also at the Wednesday meeting, the boards discussed possible effective dates and transition activities and outreach efforts for the new requirements once the boards deliberate and approve material changes to the exposure draft and issue revised rules. If the final standards are issued this year as targeted, the effective date would be about 18 months later, and likely no sooner than January 2013. Several IASB board members this week advanced an effective start date of January 2015 for all standards, including leases, while other IASB members said the start date should be based on the transition needs for each individual standard. FASB members continue to advocate a "no sooner than" effective date.

"They haven't even started [to discuss] the lessor accounting side, and that's a hornet's nest, so we think they're really trying to button down the lessee side," Berman noted, adding it's possible the boards could issue rules on the lessee side first and deal with the landlord rules separately.

"The changes so far are positive developments for the leasing community, but things can be changed and there are many more topics to tackle. Things are looking positive in the sense that the boards are incorporating feedback, and they're beginning to understand that there's a concept of leasing that's a 'use of space' as opposed to a financing decision. That's a pretty pivotal fundamental concept, and I think [the real estate industry] has broken through on that front."

In any case, Berman does not recommend that companies and service providers stop preparing for the new rules in the expectation that they may be delayed or that lease accounting treatments may remain materially unchanged.

Studies over the last year show that many companies are unprepared for accounting changes that could potentially add $500 billion in lease liabilities to corporate balance sheets. Most recently, a survey released in February by Deloitte found that just 7% of executives believe their companies are "extremely or very prepared" to comply with the new lease accounting standards.

"The state of companies' data on leasing is wholly inadequate for whatever the new lease accounting rules will be. Companies can't design the systems protocols yet, but they will still have to collect information and capitalize leases. They will still have to communicate between different disciplines within their companies."

Now is the time to start building the framework and thinking about the potential impact of various rule changes on lease transactions, she said.

"You're not going to go out and redesign your systems based on what [the board is discussing] today. But if you haven't done the fundamental investigation of how capitalization of leases will affect your balance sheet, and are not considering that as you renegotiate credit agreements, then shame on you. You're signing leases today that will extend well past the implementation date."
By Randyl Drummer
March 2, 2011 Published, CoStar Group 

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, March 04, 2011  10:37:23 AM
Living GREEN: What to Recycle 0 Comments Posted

It can be a little confusing. Do I recycle this carton, but not that box? Do I need to rinse this out before I toss it? How does one know what is acceptable for recycling and what isn't? Here is a very rudimentary cheat sheet for you to use! Let's break it down into categories.


1. Corrugated cardboard. This means moving boxes, shipping boxes, and product boxes can all be recycled!

2. Office Paper. Most offices go through a lot of paper. From faxes, to memos, to old projects -- recycling paper is a great way to save a tree!

3. Junk Mail. Yes, even after email, we still get tons of snail-mail junk mail. If you are unable to opt-out of receiving this deluge, then at least recycle the weekly ads. And you can shred and recycle credit card offers and other mail!

4. Phone books. See the comments for junk mail above!

5. Gable-top cartons. Milk cartons and orange juice containers can also be sent to the recycle center.

6. Magazines. You may find some recycling programs still don't accept "glossy paper." But, in all actuality, glossy paper can be easily recycled using today's modern technologies.


1. Soup and Coffee Cans.

2. Aluminum Foil.

3. Soda Cans. To be really proactive, set up a collection bin at your office to collect post-snack and post-lunch cans.


Glass takes a long time to decompose. It takes longer than your lifetime and mine added together, multiplied by 100 and ... you get the idea. There are certain types of glass you cannot recycle, however. You CANNOT recycle: light bulbs, TV tubes, Pyrex dishes, mirrors, windows, or ceramics.


Plastic must be clean! So wash it out and send it on its way. Most plastic has a recycling code on the bottom. Codes 3, 6, and 7 are less likely to be accepted.

And no plastic shopping bags, unfortunately. Now is the time to buy some reusable bags!


From televisions, cell phones, VCRs, printers, and fax machines can all be recycled! The bad news? Microwaves, smoke alarms, and your old fridge need to disposed of in other ways.


You may already know that your car battery can be recycled, but did you know that those run-down AA, AAA, and other household batteries can also be recycled?

Why recycle? Recycled paper requires only 60% of the energy needed to make new paper. And that's just the tip of the recycling iceberg. It really is a no brainer. So, make a little extra effort at your office and home to save the planet, one glass bottle or pop can at a time.

Published: March 3, 2011 Realty Times, Carla Hill

View Comments | Add Comment Friday, March 04, 2011  10:34:55 AM
Housing affordibilty Soars & Investors Move In 0 Comments Posted

It's a good time to buy a home or invest in a property.

With so many distressed properties on the market, housing affordability has jumped to levels not seen in 20 years.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) for the fourth quarter 2010, reveals that 73.9 percent of all new and existing homes sold were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,400.

That record-setting level beat the last record high of 72.5 percent set during the first quarter of 2009. It was also the eighth consecutive quarter that the index has been above 70 percent. Until 2009, the HOI rarely topped 65 percent and never reached 70 percent.

"Today's report shows that housing affordability at the end of 2010 was at its highest level since we started computing the HOI," said Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Unfortunately, tight money makes it tough to take advantage of low prices, likely to get even lower.

"However, while this is good news for consumers, both home buyers and builders continue to confront extremely tight credit conditions, and this remains a significant obstacle to many potential home sales," Nielsen added.

Where the bargains are

With 93.5 percent of all homes sold affordable to households earning the area's median family income, the Indianapolis-Carmel, IN area was the nation's most affordable large housing market.

Also ranking near the top of the most affordable major metro housing markets were Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA; Syracuse, NY; Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI; and Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, MI.

Affordability was even higher in the smaller housing market of Elkhart-Goshen, IN, where 97.0 percent of homes sold during the fourth quarter of 2010 were affordable to families earning a median income of $58,600.

Other smaller housing markets with exceptionally affordable homes were Lansing-East Lansing and Bay City MI; Kokomo, IN and Mansfield, OH.

Where the bargains aren't

The least affordable major markets were New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ. In New York, only 25.5 percent of all homes sold during the quarter were affordable to those earning the area's median income of $65,600.

Other major metro areas near the bottom of the affordability index were in California -- San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale; and Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, as well as and Honolulu, HI.

But housing in California markets may be as affordable as it's going to get if investor buying in January 2011 is any indication.

Real estate information service DataQuick reported the median sale price of single-family homes in San Mateo County in January saw the biggest yearly price decline since June 2009 while the adjacent Santa Clara County's (Silicon Valley) home prices remained flat on an annual basis.

Cash buyers, typically investors, made up more than 25 percent of January's buyers for all types of homes in Santa Clara County, a record in DataQuick statistics going back to 1988. In San Mateo County, 25.4 percent of buyers were making all-cash deals, compared to the record 25.3 percent set in February 2010.

Absentee owners, again, typically investors, made up just more than 17 percent of buyers in the two northern California counties, a record for Santa Clara County and a near record for San Mateo County.

Elsewhere in California NAHB's HOI reported the Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA area was among the least affordable smaller metro housing markets in the country during the fourth quarter.

In Santa Cruz, 45 percent of the homes were affordable to families earning the median income of $84,200.

Other small metro areas ranking near the housing affordability bottom included more California towns, San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles and Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, as well as ; Laredo, TX and Ocean City, NJ.

Published: March 3, 2011 Broderick Perkins, Realty Times

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 03, 2011  10:42:04 AM
Foreclosures start down Inventoris go up 0 Comments Posted

The number of homes in foreclosure continued to climb in January despite a drop in foreclosure starts, as foreclosure timelines continue to lengthen and foreclosure starts outnumbered foreclosure sales by three to one, data aggregator Lender Processing Services said.

LPS's January Mortgage Monitor showed foreclosure starts falling 11.4 percent from December to January and 20.1 percent from a year ago, to 230,023. That's down 29.1 percent from the recent peak of 324,651 foreclosure starts in March 2009.

While fewer homes are entering the foreclosure pipeline, it's taking them longer to get through it. Among homes in the foreclosure process in January, the average number of days delinquent was 507, up from 410 days in January 2010 and 319 days in January 2009.

That helps explain why the number of homes in the foreclosure process climbed to a new high of 2.2 million. Mortgages on another 2.17 million homes were 90 days or more past due, but not yet in foreclosure. With 30- and 60-day delinquencies essentially unchanged from December, the total number of non-current loans grew less than 1 percent, to 6.92 million.

By Inman News Published 3/1/11 Lowe's
Inman News™

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 03, 2011  10:40:45 AM
FHA consessions or Seller consessions? 0 Comments Posted

There's some good news brewing at the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department that could save thousands of home sales in the months ahead. The final details aren't fully nailed down and a formal announcement is still more than a month away, but I can tell you about a broad outline taking shape that isn't likely to change.

It's all about seller concessions.

Last year the Federal Housing Administration announced that it intends to slash maximum seller contributions from 6 percent to 3 percent for purchasers using FHA-insured mortgages. Seller concessions or contributions are essential lubricants that make large numbers of FHA-financed home sales flow smoothly to closing. They make otherwise unaffordable deals doable.

Say you're negotiating on a house and the seller absolutely insists on getting a price of $150,000. Perhaps the buyer has struggled to come up with down-payment money and won't have the additional cash resources to pay for the settlement and loan origination expenses, which average about 4 to 5 percent in your area.

Under long-standing FHA rules, your seller is allowed to contribute money from the sale proceeds to help with your closing costs. A 6 percent contributions cap -- the current rule -- allows your seller to put as much as $9,000 into the pot, which would be more than enough to handle your closing costs and prepaids.

But a 3 percent ceiling -- the one HUD proposed last year -- would reduce that to $4,500, leaving you short and endangering the entire deal. A 3 percent cap would also make FHA's standard the same as what's typical in the conventional loan market, where both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac permit nothing beyond that limit.

After hearing complaints from builders, REALTORS® and lenders, HUD is now planning to adopt a more nuanced approach. A formal notice is expected sometime in April, with the changes taking effect this summer.

The core of the policy revision: flexibility. Rather than an across-the-board 3 percent ceiling on all FHA mortgages, the new policy would permit higher seller contributions -- probably between 4 and 5 percent -- on smaller loan balances. Meanwhile, the 3 percent cap would be mandatory on all loan amounts above some yet-to-be-specified limit.

Alternatively, a dollar ceiling on all seller concessions might be available, such as a maximum of $6,000. On the smallest-balance mortgages, the dollar total permitted might even hit 6 percent. Loans on newly constructed houses, where abuses have been reported when builders use concessions to support artificially high sale prices, could have special restrictions.

Whatever the final version turns out to be, the net result should be much better for home sellers, buyers and real estate professionals than last year's threatened 3 percent cap for everybody. This would especially be the case in hundreds of local real estate markets where FHA is the main support for first-time and moderate-income home purchasers.

For example, in the seven Southeast states where Memphis-based Crye-Leike REALTORS® is a major player, FHA loans are used by 50 percent of all purchasers, according to Steve A. Brown, executive vice president. The key attractions, he said, are FHA's low down payments, relatively generous credit requirements and the 6 percent seller concessions limit.

"FHA is what's keeping us alive," Brown told me in an interview. "If they do a 3 percent across-the-board limit, that would knock out a lot of our sales. But if they go with some graduated deal tied into lower-priced homes, then we should be alright."

The average home price in the Memphis area is about $115,000; the average starter home is $85,000, according to Brown. He figures that a 4.5 percent cap on seller concessions would cover closing costs in most transactions, but a 3 percent limit would be a disaster.

"This economy is pretty darn fragile," he said. "People haven't had a raise in three years, prices keep going up on gas and food, plus you've got all those fixed fees" -- attorney costs, title insurance, loan origination and underwriting, among others -- "and none of them has gone down."

In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the situation is similar: FHA loans account for 35 percent to 45 percent of all transactions, according to John Anderson, broker at Twin Oaks Realty. The average home price is $163,000 -- somewhat lower for FHA transactions -- and settlement costs average about 4.5 percent.

"Ninety percent of our buyers are asking sellers to pay closing costs and prepaids," said Anderson. "This is a tight economy, and you can't turn to parents and grandparents any more for gift money because they're worried about their own" pension fund shortfalls and depleted savings accounts.

Many brokers agree with FHA that 6 percent contributions may be excessive in higher-end transactions; they top out above $43,000 in the most expensive housing markets. Brokers also concede that there have been abuses and games played in the past that have increased FHA's insurance fund losses.

An example: Say a prospective buyer wants a house that's listed for $100,000. The seller agrees to make a maximum $6,000 contribution to the closing costs but insists that the final selling price be adjusted up to $106,000.

But now the house has to appraise at $106,000, or FHA will be insuring a loan with an artificially inflated price with little or no borrower equity -- making it a prime candidate for future default and insurance claims. FHA says it holds appraisers and lenders responsible for sniffing out such frauds, but officials acknowledge they can't catch them all.

Will a tightened seller concessions policy put a better damper on such abuses? I have no doubt that a mandatory 3 percent cap for all higher-balance mortgages and loans on some new construction would limit the damage in dollar terms.

A graduated system for average-sized and low-balance loans might limit risks as well, while still allowing most home sales to get to closing. A set dollar limit for concessions -- say it's $6,000, hypothetically -- might also provide a flexible way to lower risk while still allowing the lowest-balance loans to enjoy seller contributions up to 6 percent.

In the meantime, the good news is that the widely feared, draconian 3 percent limit appears to be off the table. Something more flexible is coming that might just balance FHA's legitimate needs to safeguard its insurance fund while accommodating home sellers' and buyers' legitimate needs for affordable housing with agreeable financing terms.

By Ken Harney Published 3/1/11 Lowe's
Inman News™

Ken Harney writes an award-winning, nationally syndicated column, "The Nation's Housing," and is the author of two books on real estate and mortgage finance.

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 03, 2011  10:38:42 AM
$40.8M awarded to Groups that help Fed investigate claims/educate public 0 Comments Posted

Federal housing regulators are boosting grant funding by 48 percent to fair housing groups and nonprofit agencies that educate the public about housing and lending discrimination laws and help catch violators.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today awarded $40.8 million to 108 fair housing organizations and nonprofit agencies in 36 states and the District of Columbia through HUD's Fair Housing Initiatives Program, up from $27.6 million last year.

The grants are used to investigate allegations of housing discrimination, educate the public and the housing industry about their rights and responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act, and to promote equal housing opportunities.

Most of the money -- $28 million -- is earmarked for private enforcement initiatives, in which fair housing organizations investigate alleged housing discrimination. This year's award includes $10 million to fund activities that address lending discrimination, including mortgage rescue scams, HUD said.

Another $6.8 million in awards are to be used to educate the public and housing providers about fair housing laws, and $6 million was set aside for groups serving rural and immigrant populations lacking existing fair housing organizations.

HUD published a list of groups receiving grant funding on its website, including the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and San Francisco Consumer Action.

By Inman News Published 3/2/11 Lowe's
Inman News™

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 03, 2011  10:36:42 AM
Consumer Group defends LOW Down Payments 0 Comments Posted

Full underwriting and reasonable debt-to-income ratios are a better way to "get back to basics" in mortgage lending than requiring homeowners to make down payments of 10 to 20 percent, the Center for Responsible Lending argues in a policy brief.

The Obama administration's proposal to shrink Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's role in mortgage markets calls for higher down payment minimums heading toward 10 percent. Lawmakers are drawing up their own plans that could be even more drastic.

While the Federal Housing Administration's 3.5 percent minimum down payment requirements remain in effect for now, underwriting standards have been tightened and premiums raised in an effort to reduce FHA's market share. Some lawmakers advocate raising FHA down payment minimums to 5 percent.

Mandating larger down payments would harm the economy, housing markets and middle class families, Center for Responsible Lending lobbyist Susanna Montezemolo argues in a policy brief.

Low down payments have been a "significant and safe part of the mortgage finance system for decades," Montezemolo says, with more than 27 million mortgages taken out between 1990 and 2009 with down payments of less than 20 percent.

That number -- which excludes FHA and VA loans -- represents nearly a quarter of loans purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during that period, and 13 percent of all mortgage originations.

Those loans generally performed well, producing limited losses for lenders, investors and taxpayers, while expanding the middle class, Montezemolo maintains. It was risky loan terms and weak underwriting standards that drove record defaults in subprime lending, she argues.

If homebuyers are required to put 10 to 20 percent down when they take out a mortgage, that will shrink the pool of eligible homebuyers a lot, with only marginal improvements in loan performance, Montezemolo writes.

Crunching the numbers, she figures it will take a family that saves $3,000 a year 14 years to save up enough for a 20 percent down payment on a $172,100 home. That's a savings rate of 7.5 percent a year for an average middle class family with about $50,000 in annaul income -- well above the current 5.8 percent savings rate for U.S. households.

Homeownership "remains a key driver of personal and national economic prosperity, and will be fostered by responsible low down payment loans," Montezemolo concludes. She suggests mortgage loan performance will improve under new origination standards in the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, without having to raise down payment requirements.

By Inman News Published 3/2/11 Lowe's
Inman News™

View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 03, 2011  10:35:26 AM
Ask a HOA Expert 0 Comments Posted

Question: Can the board offer discounts to members that prepay a special assessment rather than participate in a payment plan?

Answer: No discounts should be offered since they would cause a shortfall. It is appropriate, however, to charge late fees to those that don't pay as agreed.

However, it is a bad idea for HOAs to finance special assessments at all because of the increased administrative costs and the likelihood of dealing with delinquent payments. For example, If you have a 30 unit condo and allow 24 monthly special payments, you have 720 payments to track and 720 potential collection problems. Instead, require each member to provide special assessment funds from whatever source they have available. Some have cash, some has an equity line of credit. The HOA should not finance the special assessment or borrow the money.

Question: Our homeowner association is made up of condominiums built in a townhouse style. The HOA has the responsibility for all exterior repairs and maintenance. Our board has allowed several of the members to replace their own unit roofs and repaint their units since they wanted to sell. This doesn't sound right.

Answer: It's a very bad idea to allow individual unit owners to do or pay for this kind of work directly because of:

  • 1.  Quality Control. Is the person doing the work experienced? Is the material being used of good or superior quality?
  • 2.  Risk Management. Is the person doing the work properly insured for injury and liability?
  • 3.  Owner Still Financially Responsible. Doing this kind of work does not relieve a current or future owner from paying his normal share of regular and special assessments.

    Question: What kind of expectations or working relationship should an HOA manager have of the client's board?

    Answer: The board should:

  • 1.  Support the manager's decisions unless a clear mistake has been made.
  • 2.  Not undermine the manager's actions in rules enforcement and collections.
  • 3.  Carefully consider the manager's advice since it comes from experience and training.
  • 4.  Be respectful of the manager's busy schedule.
  • 5.  Allow the manager to execute the terms of the management agreement without micro-managing.
  • 6.  Remember that the manager works for the board.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see Regenesis.net.

    Published: March 2, 2011 Realty Times Richard Thompson

  • View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, March 03, 2011  10:33:53 AM
    Economy's Crystal Ball ~Real Estate 0 Comments Posted

    Mortgage rates are back in the 4 percent range, taken there by the 10-year Treasury note's drop to 3.42 percent, which has wiped out the whole early-February spike. We have Libya, oil, stocks, housing and the economy to thank, but how those pieces interact is not obvious.

    Arriving economic data is obscured by incessant "recovery" cheerleading among business media. Some news is pretty good: both consumer-confidence surveys found three-year highs, which may indicate some hiring.

    New claims for unemployment insurance are holding down near 400,000. Every measure of manufacturing is doing well, although scratching in at 15 percent of our economy.

    The "wait-a-minutes" are led by today's downward revision in supposedly corner-turning fourth-quarter 2010 U.S. gross domestic product (from 3.2 percent to 2.8 percent).

    Growth? Sure. Self-sustaining, accelerating ... not so much.

    Wal-Mart's sales in the last 90-days fell 1.8 percent. Orders for durable goods in January (excluding super-volatile transportation and defense) tanked 6.9 percent. The Chicago Federal Reserve's January national index rolled to a minus sign.

    If you're in doubt, consider housing. New-home sales dumped 12.6 percent in January. But, the National Association of REALTORS® says sales of existing homes rose 2.7 percent. Hmmm.

    A story cooking for months: NAR may have overreported those sales for 10 years or more, high by perhaps a half-million each year vs. CoreLogic (its parent is a title company using real data), and since 2008 resulting in as many as 1.5 million imaginary sales each year.

    Nothing intentional, of course -- I first joined the National Association of REALTORS® in 1978 and quickly learned not to trust the association to count to 10 on its toes and get the same answer twice in a row.

    If existing-home sales are running below 4 million annually instead of above 5 million, then we have rather more trouble with distressed-inventory absorption than we thought. And market buyers and sellers have left the field or been elbowed from it.

    On that subject, NAR said only 37 percent of January sales were distressed ("only" ... sheesh). CampbellSurveys.com, meanwhile, says the distressed fraction was 44 percent in November, and shot up to 49.6 percent in January (California at 66 percent, Florida at 63 percent, Arizona and Nevada at a whopping 72 percent).

    Now two things not to worry about: inflation and the Middle East.

    Inflation comes in a few well-defined forms. The deadly one is the wage-price spiral, which plagued us in the 1970s and can be stopped only by recession.

    The U.S. today is impervious to such a spiral because we have near-zero wage growth. In fact, rising oil prices will slow this economy by crowding out other spending. Note that commodity prices have fallen -- not following oil, instead anticipating slowdown. Same for stocks.

    Other inflation forms include the classic money-printing of Zimbabwe and Weimar. The Fed's "quantitative easing" (QE) program does print monetary electrons, but the money cannot make it into wallets because the credit system is still broken. No credit, no money.

    The last form, cost-pushed inflation, is temporary -- it is not a structural ramp-up in general prices. That's what this is. Oil is driven by speculators, just as it was in 2008, and all should be reassured that this spike has stopped far short of that run to $150 per barrel.

    Middle East ... it takes some serious chutzpah to be relaxed about the place. But, concept No. 1: the Middle East nations need to sell oil worse than we need to buy it, no matter who is in charge over there.

    Non-oil economies in the Middle East have never developed, and 10-fold growth in population has made '70s-style embargoes impossible today.

    No. 2: Despite U.S. bejabbers about radical Islam, these brave Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans are in their streets waving their national flags, not pictures of Osama.

    No. 3: Post-revolutionary peoples' governments, no matter how they may roil and rock, are steadier by far than rotten autocracies, especially in dealings with neighbors. Some go sour (Iran), some are in doubt (Iraq), but dictatorships breed anger and extremism, and dictators need to pick external fights with pretend enemies.

    Refounded nations, even while struggling to establish representative government, have stabilizing advantages. The greatest of these: pride at self-liberation won hard.

    We live in one of those places.

    Published 2/25/11 Inman News: Lou Barnes is a mortgage broker and nationally syndicated columnist based in Boulder, Colo. He can be reached at lbarnes@pmglending.com.

    View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 01, 2011  10:23:10 AM
    End of Freddie & Fannie? What does that Mean? 0 Comments Posted
    The Obama administration announced on Friday plans to reform the housing finance market, including winding down government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and turning most of the market over to the private sector, as well as requiring larger down payments. The White House proposed three approaches to replacing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rather than offering up one final plan.

    The administration’s proposal is expected to reshape the way Americans buy and own homes.
    Among the plans outlined in the administration’s “white paper”:

    ▪ Shrinking the size of the portfolio of mortgages held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by at least 10 percent a year.
    ▪ Creating an insurance fund for mortgages, supported by premiums paid by lenders.
    ▪ Winding down government subsidies of mortgages by raising the fees charged to cover the risk of default.
    ▪ Raising fees for borrowers and requiring larger down payments for home loans.

    The administration also recommended measures to make government-backed mortgages more expensive in order to allow the private-sector to better compete in the mortgage market. For example, it called for reducing by this fall the size of mortgages Fannie and Freddie may purchase from $729,750 to $625,500.

    Raising Rates?

    Some critics of the proposal are concerned that the administration’s overall plan would raise mortgage rates.

    Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that mortgage costs likely will rise in the coming years, as government support is withdrawn and the private sector takes on a bigger role. Credit Suisse has estimated that rates on a 30-year fixed mortgage may rise as much as 2 percentage points if the government withdraws its backing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

    Higher borrowing costs could be a thorn for a recovering housing market, since interest rates greatly affect how much buyers can afford, experts say.

    Source:  NewsGenius-published 2/14/11
    View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 01, 2011  10:22:12 AM
    2109 Harbor Court is PERFECT for a GREEN Makeover 0 Comments Posted
    Giving your bathroom a green mini-makeover can help reduce your monthly utility bills and you’ll also be saving a whole lot of water, one of our most precious natural resources. Some upgrades won’t cost you a penny, others will cost a few bucks, and a few bigger investments will bring a bigger payoff down the road. Do your part and make a few upgrades to your inefficient bathroom because it’s the one room where we waste the most at home.

    Let’s start with the free stuff. Turning off the water when you brush your teeth is an easy way to save 2,000 gallons of water per person, per year. You can also save thousands of gallons of hot water in the shower when you turn off the water while you shampoo, shave, or lather up. Take it one step further and replace an older showerhead with a relatively inexpensive low flow model and save more than three gallons of water every minute someone is in the shower. And it’s not just water you’ll be saving. You are likely using heated water in the shower, so you’ll also be saving energy and money because you’ll be heating less water.

    The biggest water hog in your bathroom is likely the toilet, especially if it was installed prior to 1994. Older model toilets need as much as seven gallons of water per flush compared to models built after 1994 that are required to use less than two gallons per flush. Replacing an older toilet with a water-conserving model is one upgrade with an immediate water conserving impact.

    If it’s not in the budget, there is a no-cost or low cost solution to reducing the amount of water used with each flush. It’s called a water displacement device and you can make one for free with a plastic jug, some gravel and a couple minutes. Or you can spend less than $25 and buy a device that drops into the back of your toilet tank. By reducing the amount of water the toilet wastes, the average household can save about 17,000 gallons a year.

    Of course, there are other things besides water that go to waste in the bathroom. Many times, we don’t recycle all we can such as shampoo bottles, soap packaging and even those cardboard toilet paper rolls. Having a small recycling container in the bathroom will help you and your family recycle those valuable items instead of letting them waste in a landfill.

    The bathroom is one room where we can really make a difference. Do your part and make a few upgrades that will have you on your way to wasting less, immediately.  Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518to view the contemporary off-water Harbor Oaks home complete with LOFT, Island Kitchen + Bonus/Media/Exercise area overlooking back yard.  The bath is 'cute as a button' & "GEARED to go GREEN" ! ** 2109 Harbor CT. ** is an Unbelievable opportunity @ $214,325

    (c) 2011 Terri Bennett Enterprises, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

    Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services-published RISMedia 2/26/11

    View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 01, 2011  10:21:21 AM
    Economy gets STRONGER~Real Estate heading towards GROWTH path 0 Comments Posted
    Continued improvements in economic activity driven by strong growth in consumer spending are moving the economy beyond the recovery phase and into a period of expansion, according to the February 2011 Economic Outlook released by Fannie Mae’s Economics & Mortgage Market Analysis Group. For 2011, economic growth is projected to accelerate to 3.7%, up from 2.8% economic growth in 2010.

    Housing has yet to see robust movement and continues to lag the rest of the economy, according to the group. On the upside, the excess supply of housing appears to have peaked. In addition, the rental vacancy rate fell, indicating the excess supply of housing is being worked off slowly—a trend necessary for housing to return to stability. The downward trend in the rental vacancy rate is consistent with the downward trend in the homeownership rate, which implies a rising share of households have chosen renting over owning. The homeownership rate fell to 66.5% in the fourth quarter of 2010, down from a peak of 69.2% in late 2004.

    “We have confidence that the economy is on stronger legs with a sustainable growth path. Our projected annual growth rate for 2011 is nearly a full percent higher than the annual growth rate for 2010, which is a significant event,” said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “Economic cross currents such as the lack of sustained strong job growth, state and local fiscal issues and geo-political uncertainty in the Middle East present downside risks. Nevertheless, the positives outweigh the negatives.”

    For more information, visit www.fanniemae.com.

    Source:  RISMedia-published 2/28/11

    View Comments | Add Comment Tuesday, March 01, 2011  10:20:23 AM
    Closing Costs Explained 0 Comments Posted

    Qualifying and being approved for a mortgage are only part of the financial responsibility of buying a home. There's also a host of closing costs that, as a buyer, you should expect. Affordability is a topic on the minds of today's buyers, so researching each of the following costs, large and small, is important.

    1. Down Payment. This amount ranges widely depending on the dollar price of your home, but many financial experts recommend a down payment be at least 20 percent of the total cost of the house.

    2. Credit Report and Score: Before you even think about buying a home, you need to verify the accuracy of your credit report and score. You may access your credit report three times a year for free at annualcreditreport.com, but you generally must pay to view your credit score. This costs around $10 - $20.

    3. Home inspection: It is imperative that you get a home inspection. Even newer homes may have hidden budget busters, such as termites, mold, or shoddy electrical work. Chances are your offer, unless you are buying "as is", has a clause that allows you to back out of the deal if the home inspection comes back unfavorably. A home inspection takes a few hours, during which you should be present, and costs around $300 to $500.

    4. Loan Origination and Points: You may have agreed to pay "points" in order to get a lower interest rate. Think of this as pre-paid interest. For each point purchased, the loan rate is typically reduced by 1/8%. An origination fee is what you must pay the lender to write and process your loan. This can be up to several thousand dollars.

    5. Appraisal: An appraisal protects your lender from investing in a property that is over-priced. That means if the home appraises for $200,000, but the seller wants $225,000 ... you will only be able to get financing for $200,000. An appraisal also helps you to know the real market value of the home you are interested in.

    6. Private mortgage Insurance: According to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, "PMI is extra insurance that lenders require from most homebuyers who obtain loans that are more than 80 percent of their new home's value. In other words, buyers with less than a 20 percent down payment are normally required to pay PMI." PMI protects your lender if you default on a loan, something that weighs heavily on the minds of lenders in today's economic climate.

    7. Notary fees. Some states have a cap on the amount a notary may charge, while others don't. But you should generally expect a fee less than $10.

    The good news? Your lender and real estate agent will provide a "good-faith estimate" of your expected settlement costs. Planning ahead for these expenses is important, and it is another reason to examine whether or not you can truly afford to buy a home at this time.

    Published: February 24, 2011, RealtyTimes, Carla Hill

    View Comments | Add Comment Friday, February 25, 2011  10:50:13 AM
    How to "GET RID" of Stuff 0 Comments Posted
    organize your home for peace of mind.

    1.  Take a minimalist model home approach to staging and your home will sell faster.

    2.  Get items out of the way to breeze through a home improvement.

    3.  Clean house for new spring beginning.

    You've got plenty of reasons to get rid of stuff taking up space in your home, but what do you do with it all?

    Consumer Reports says there are numerous ways to free up space and relieve your home of items you don't need -- cost free and in some cases with a small cash windfall.

    Everyone either has or knows someone who has used Ebay.com, Craigslist.com, Half.com and a host of other online stores where you can sell your stuff, but Amazon.com is often overlooked.

    Consumer Reports' extensive "How to get rid of practically anything," in its March 2011 issue, surprisingly, also drops the ball.

    There are a host of ways to Sell on Amazon.com from individual sellers to those who want to set up their own web site or have Amazon take care of the fulfillment chores.

    Home owners are likely to opt for the individual seller account for its ease of use and limited draw backs. Anything you want to sell must be in Amazon's current catalog and available by Universal Product Code (UPC); European Article Number (EAN); International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or Amazon's own Standard Identification Number (ASIN). And the item must be in full working order and not in need of repair.

    That just means Amazon is more suited for relatively newer items, but newer can be relative. Some items can be as old as 10 years or more. If Amazon lists it, and your item is in working order, you can sell it -- books, computers, video games, video game consoles, video recorders and players, stereos, televisions, CDs, DVDs, tools and a whole lot more.

    Amazon takes a small cut, but sellers get a shipping allowance for each item sold and the allowance often covers your shipping costs and, in some cases, some of Amazon's cut. The cost to ship larger items can wipe out the shipping allowance and eat into your sales price. That means Amazon is better suited for items that can be shipped at a cost covered by the allowance and any part of your sales price you don't mind giving up to help cover shipping.

    Otherwise, here's Consumer Reports' tips for moving out some of those larger items that really gobble space.

    • Appliances - Retailers typically haul away the old model when you buy a new one and some local utilities will pay you to dispose of outdated appliances. Some retailers and utilities participate in the Environmental Protection Agency's Responsible Appliance Disposal Program to make sure recycling is adequate.

    Check with the Steel Recycling Institute to find your local appliance-recycling program. Also, for an income deduction, donate working appliances to charity -- Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc.

    • Furniture - The Web page for your area on Craigslist or the Bay can get you some cash for furniture that can be delivered and picked up locally. Include photos to help buyers see what you've got.

    Donate usable furniture without broken parts to charity or plop it curb side with a "free" sign. For a fee, 1-800-Got-Junk, Waste Management's TheBagster.com and other services will haul away your junk.

    • Mattresses - Keep your mattress out of the landfill. As with appliances, retailers will haul away your old mattress when you buy a new one, but they don't all dismantle and recycle them. Check for local recyclers or search Earth911.com for one.

    Homeless shelters also make a good second home for mattresses in good condition. Also search Earth911 to determine where you can recycle building materials and electronics.

    • Electronics - In addition to Amazon.com, Craigslist and Ebay.com check in with EcoSquid.com for resale and recycling options for all kinds of gear including cell phones, CDs, DVDs, cables, batteries, even inkjet cartridges and the like.

    Your city or county, DigitalTips.org and Call2Recycle.or can help you find local recycling centers for electronics.

    Before you unload anything like a hard drive, cell phone or other device with identifying information, wipe it clean, digitally. Check with the manufacturer to determine how to remove all traces of your personal information including email, Web visits and other digital trails someone could trace to steal your identification.

    Published: February 24, 2011, RealtyTimes, Broderick Perkins

    View Comments | Add Comment Friday, February 25, 2011  10:49:31 AM
    Looks like a -----DOUBLE DIP------- 0 Comments Posted
    Real estate prices in 11 of 20 markets fall to new lows

    U.S. home prices fell 3.9 percent during the last three months of 2010, back to where they were at the beginning of 2003 and near the low for the downturn set in 2009, according to the latest Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index.

    Looking back a year, the index showed prices down 4.1 percent, with 18 of 20 markets tracked in the 20-city composite index losing ground and 11 reaching new lows for the downturn.

    Markets that have "double dipped" to new lows since peaking in 2006 and 2007 are Atlanta; Charlotte; Chicago; Detroit; Las Vegas; Miami; New York; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Seattle and Tampa.

    "We ended 2010 with a weak report," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor's. Despite improvements in the overall economy, he said, "housing continues to drift lower and weaker."

    Unlike the first dip in home prices from 2006 to 2009, when all cities saw prices move together, market activity is now more varied, Blitzer said.

    California is doing better, he said, with gains from low points in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

    S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite


    Index level

    Change from November to December

    Change from October to November

    Change from year ago









































    Las Vegas





    Los Angeles















    New York















    San Diego





    San Francisco






























    U.S. National Index


    -3.9%* (Q3 to Q4)

    -1.9%* (Q2 to Q3)


    *Index base value of 100 established in January 2000. Changes in U.S. index are quarterly (Q3 to Q4 2010, and Q2 to Q3 2010) instead of monthly.
    Source: Standard & Poor’s and Fiserv.

    Looking at trends in individual markets from November to December, however, only Washington, D.C., saw price appreciation.

    By Inman News
    Inman News™

    February 22, 2011-published Lowe's

    View Comments | Add Comment Friday, February 25, 2011  10:48:45 AM
    Movable Mortgage??? 0 Comments Posted
    Program made loan, interest rate portable

    There used to be a big push by lenders to secure "customers for life." Not only did banks promote attractive mortgage programs, but they also targeted the same customers for checking and savings accounts, individual retirement accounts, credit cards, auto loans, wealth management advice and insurance services.

    Now, with many borrowers upset with their present lender about home loan refinance problems, the warm-fuzzy, customer-for-life feeling has given way to a can't-wait-to-escape attitude. Individual services seem to have their own promotions.

    One of the more intriguing offerings used to lure more than mortgage borrowers came from E-Trade Mortgage, a subsidiary of E-Trade Financial.

    It sought to add stock and bond investors and other financial services clients by rolling out a Mortgage on the Move Loan (MOTM) product that gave customers the option of taking their new loan with them -- including a low-interest rate -- to their next house. The program is no longer available because E-Trade no longer originates and keeps its own loans.

    "The loan was great for baby boomers, especially those with retirement just on the horizon," said Robert Bernabe, E-Trade's former vice president of retail mortgage lending who created the program. "They could use the loan to buy a truly nice home now, then carry that interest rate with them when they were ready to move to another home for retirement."

    Many mortgage professionals would like to see more similar programs today -- loans that demand borrowers to have "skin in the game" (sizable down payment) in exchange for a benefit down the road (movable mortgage). That way, consumers save thousands of dollars in loan fees and interest payments that come with "restarting the mortgage clock" every time they are lured to refinance.

    Traditional mortgages require homeowners to apply for new loans with every new home purchase. There are fresh credit checks to complete, income statements to verify ... not to mention rates and fees to negotiate. The MOTM option removed much of that hassle, plus introduced the possibility of eliminating possible higher payments brought by a higher interest rate.

    While the MOTM loan did allow customers to lock in today's rate in tomorrow's environment, it came with specific limitations. First and foremost, the MOTM option was only available on new purchase loans, not refinances. The option could be exercised one time only on an owner-occupied, single-family residence. No second homes or vacation homes qualified, and any condominiums had to be in a building with fewer than four stories.

    "Most of the inquiries came from people who wanted to refinance," said Bernabe, who advises a pay-it-off philosophy in his 2010 book, "Mind Your Own Mortgage." "We did not sell the loans and did not have enough resources to handle all of the refinance business. I wish we had -- it would have helped a lot more people."

    Financing guidelines were fairly stringent -- all MOTM options were for 30-year, fixed-rate loans and no stated-income or low- or no-documentation loans were permitted. Borrowers had to show timely payments for the past 12 months and any bankruptcies must have been discharged for at least 48 months. No foreclosures were permitted on the loan application. Loan amounts ranged from $60,000 to $1 million.

    The MOTM option was appealing to borrowers seeking to lock in predictable, reliable long-term housing costs -- especially to first-time buyers who preferred 30-year, fixed-rate loans. It made sense to consumers who knew they would be facing a job relocation in the near future.

    "Today's lenders need to do a better job of getting people into homes -- and keeping people in homes -- who deserve to be there," Bernabe said. "Now, a self-employed individual with equity in his home can't afford to refinance but somebody with little or no money down can get a loan. It just doesn't make sense, especially with interest rates at 50-year lows."

    There are lenders who do/did not sell their loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, preferring instead to hold them on their books, or in their own "portfolio." Seattle-based Washington Federal, a portfolio lender in seven states, has offered rates a slight tick higher than its competitors in exchange for an inexpensive, one-time refinance.

    "We need to get out of this economic mess by reducing our consumer debt," said Bernabe. "Consumers need to take the best mortgage for them, not just the best rate offered by the lender. There's too much restarting of the mortgage clock."

    Tom Kelly's book "Cashing In on a Second Home in Mexico: How to Buy, Rent and Profit from Property South of the Border" was written with Mitch Creekmore, senior vice president of Stewart International. The book is available in retail stores, on Amazon.com and on tomkelly.com.

    By Tom Kelly
    Inman News™

    February 23, 2011-published Lowe's

    View Comments | Add Comment Friday, February 25, 2011  10:47:19 AM
    Smart Phone Ap for Appraisers in the works 0 Comments Posted
    Appraisal management company tests app for multiple platforms

    A national appraisal management company that employs a network of 100,000 certified appraisers in 50 states says it's in the beta testing phase for a smart phone application that will allow users to order appraisals, check the status of appraisals, and pay for services.

    Rockville, Md.-based Coester Appraisal Group says appraisers will also be able to use the app to upload completed appraisals when it is released later this year.

    The app will use the HTML5 format, which will make it compatible with multiple operating systems including iPhone, BlackBerry and Google's Android platform, the company said.

    Coester Appraisal Group said it's also building a searchable database of every appraisal the company has completed over more than 30 years, and will allow authorized users to conduct customized searches of completed appraisals.

    The company said the database will help users determine what constitutes "customary and reasonable" fees for appraisals in a given market, as mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Financial Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

    By Inman News
    Inman News™

    February 23, 2011-published/Lowe's

    View Comments | Add Comment Friday, February 25, 2011  10:46:20 AM
    Housing Affordability Reached 20 Year HIGH! 0 Comments Posted

    Housing affordability is higher today than it has been for decades. What does this mean for today's buyer? It means now is the time to buy.

    According to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) data, "73.9 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the fourth quarter of 2010 were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,400."

    "Today's report shows that housing affordability at the end of 2010 was at its highest level since we started computing the HOI," said Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Reno, Nev. "However, while this is good news for consumers, both home buyers and builders continue to confront extremely tight credit conditions, and this remains a significant obstacle to many potential home sales."

    Are you looking for the best of the best when it comes to affordable markets? Indianpolois-Carmel, Indiana, is a great place to start. It was ranked as the most affordable housing market in the entire country. Ninety-three percent of homes sold in the city were affordable to households earning to area median of $68,700.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA, was ranked as the least affordable city in the country. Only 45 percent of homes were affordable to families making the median household income of $84,200.

    Also near the bottom of the list, according to the NAHB, were: Ocean City, N.J; San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif.; Laredo, Texas; and Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, Calif.

    Nearly all of the lowest range major metrol areas were in California, which is not surprisingly considering the housing bubble that formed in the early 2000s.

    RealtyTimes, Carla Hill Published: February 23, 2011

    View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, February 24, 2011  9:52:53 AM
    Controversial Issues Addressed in Appraisal Institute's New Book 0 Comments Posted
    A landmark book published this week by the Appraisal Institute demonstrates valuation methodologies for controversial easement-related appraisal assignments. The Appraisal Institute is one of the nation’s largest professional associations of real estate appraisers.

    Appraising Conservation and Historic Preservation Easements addresses an area of valuation that has become contentious in recent years due to increased Internal Revenue Service scrutiny of valuations of conservation and historic preservation easements that are donated to charity. The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2002 and The Washington Post in 2004 ran series on the topic, leading to IRS and Congressional investigations.

    Written by Richard J. Roddewig, MAI, CRE, FRICS, the book was published in response to a recommendation from a joint task force on conservation and preservation easement appraisal issues appointed by the Land Trust Alliance (an umbrella organization for hundreds of conservation easement-holding organizations across the country), the Appraisal Institute, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the American Society of Appraisers and the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.

    The culmination of years of research and development in a specialized area of valuation practice, Appraising Conservation and Historic Preservation Easements draws on legal, regulatory and professional appraisal literature to examine the valuation of conservation and historic preservation easements from the contradictory perspectives of the IRS, the courts, easement-holding organizations and appraisers. The book explores and documents the history of easements, corresponding appraisal practices and general land use considerations. In addition to a comprehensive analysis of this specialized area of appraisal, the book includes a series of detailed examples and sample sections of appraisal reports relating to various conservation and preservation easement properties and appraisal situations.

    The book is aimed at everyone involved in the valuation of conservation and historic preservation easements: appraisers, agencies acquiring easements, non-profit organizations accepting easement donations, IRS staff reviewers, attorneys, judges and hearing officers involved in conservation and preservation easement valuation cases.

    Roddewig is a real estate appraiser and land use and zoning attorney with more than 30 years of valuation experience. He has been involved in more than 200 assignments involving conservation and historic preservation easements, and his clients have included taxpayers donating easements, the federal Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Justice.

    For more information, visit www.appraisalinstitute.org.

    View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, February 24, 2011  9:52:17 AM
    Stay Warm from the Ground UP 0 Comments Posted
    If heat is escaping your home, this is the time of year when you’ll feel it—in most areas of the country anyway—not just physically, but in your wallet. Too many people spend way more than they should on heating a home due to heat escape. Your first instinct, if you’re spinning your wheels trying to heat your home, is that the culprits are things you see every day, from picture windows in the living room to your bathroom skylight. And those very well might be part of the problem. But you may not know that a huge potential source of heat loss is the basement. In fact, basements can account for over one-third of a home’s heat loss.

    A major reason for this is incorrect insulation in basements. There are many types of insulation and the best choice for your basement is based on the area where you live and the age of your home: fiberglass, mineral wool blanketing, loose fill (cellulose, fiberglass or vermiculite) and spray foam. One of the most effective types, however, is rigid board insulation (typically either fiberglass boards or foam polystyrene boards). This type is typically the most expensive and tough to fit into irregular spaces, but many find the initial cost and effort well worth it in energy savings.

    Even if the basement walls are well insulated, there’s another consideration: the foundation. Older foundations (like rubble, stone and brick) often suffer from moisture problems and should generally be insulated from the outside. Concrete foundations can be insulated from either the inside or outside if they’re structurally sound. Preserved-wood foundations generally must be fully insulated.

    Crawl spaces should generally be insulated, as well, but must follow proper ventilation codes and guidelines (1 to 500, vent area to floor area) and the floor must be covered with a polyethylene moisture barrier.

    You might be reading this feeling slightly helpless, thinking: How do I know if I’ve got a 1 to 500 ratio and how do I know what kind of insulation, if any, my foundation has? If you’ve recently moved and got a thorough, well-documented home inspection at closing—or if you’re in a new home and can contact the builder—you might already have records of this information. But in the absence of such records—or if you’re in an older home and feel that time and age has lowered your quality of insulation—call in a certified home inspector. Insulation quality isn’t something that you can check yourself, if you’re untrained; especially in older homes, to do so can be dangerous. A certified, professional home inspector can check your insulation and let you know where it’s lacking and how it can be improved or made more energy-efficient.

    In addition to efficiency in energy use, safety is a concern too: When upgrading existing insulation to improve efficiency, it’s essential to follow local codes and laws. That’s where a local, certified professional home inspector can help as he or she will know what your area’s laws are. For instance, in many areas it’s necessary to place a fire-resistant gypsum board layer over existing insulation to reduce the emission of harmful gases in the event of a fire. In many cases, a home inspection reveals safety lapses, like the lack of such a safety measure. The result: suggested fixes that make your home not only warmer, but safer too.

    Source:  RISMedia, published 2/23/11 Charles Furlough is vice president of Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspections.

    View Comments | Add Comment Thursday, February 24, 2011  9:50:46 AM
    HD/Plasma TV with the purchase of 3 Olde Towne Lane in Rockport, Texas 0 Comments Posted
    It’s a 2/Fer P=A=R=T=Y = **Buyer gets an HD/Plasma TV**+**Selling Broker gets an HD/Plasma TV**(not to exceed $1,000/each)at closing! Take advantage of Seller’s generous present--HURRY--Rock/stone facade embrace the security gated patio home's contemporary exterior. Dramatic staircase. All tiled OPEN living~kitchen area. Corian topped Eating Bar+kitchen dining. HUGE pantry+Utility Closet/Storage. Custom media center features Boise Surround Sound. Carpeted master adjoins tiled double-vanity bath & walk-in closet. Downstairs guest bedroom & bath+upstairs OPEN bedroom(study) & bath. Wrought iron balcony decorates landing leading to upstairs deck~PERFECT for viewing fireworks! Skylights, Storm door+lucite or galvanized window covers; security wired.

    Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 for more info on 3 Olde Town Ln offered @ $284,927
    View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, February 23, 2011  8:09:01 AM
    HD/Plasma TV with the purchase of 1402 Shadyside 0 Comments Posted
    == It’s a 2/Fer P=A=R=T=Y == **Buyer gets an HD/Plasma TV** ++ **Selling Broker gets an HD/Plasma TV**(not to exceed $1,000/each)at closing! Take advantage of Seller’s generous present--HURRY--Vintage brick ranch-style home on 2 quiet cul-de-sac lots only blocks from shopping, restaurants & schools. Formal living or dining or BOTH overlook towering & mature Live Oak trees. COMBO kitchen/dining adjoins den. Green & pink VINTAGE tiled baths. Workshop/bonus area perfect for hobby or air-conditioned tackle room. Uility area features room for xtra appliances. Screened porch overlooks fenced back yard. Oversized 598 sq.ft. side-entry garage creates ample storage/parking for full-sized vehicles.

    Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton, TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 for more info on 1402 Shadyside Now $147,329
    View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, February 23, 2011  8:08:09 AM
    HD/Plasma TV with the purchase of 106 Ling Road in Rockport, Texas 0 Comments Posted
    == It’s a 2/Fer P=A=R=T=Y == **Buyer gets an HD/Plasma TV** ++ **Selling Broker gets an HD/Plasma TV**(not to exceed $1,000/each)at closing! Take advantage of Seller’s generous present --HURRY--Venture upstairs into a tiled, artistically painted living~dining~kitchen. OPEN floorplan creates FLEXIBLE arrangements. Atrium doors lead to front deck 'expanding' the living area for entertaining! Enjoy deck's never ending breezes, sunsets & VIEWS. Recessed lighting, crown molding, designer ceiling fans, creative tiled backsplash & countertops are just a few of the unique & custom amenities. OVERSIZED garage+workshop GREAT for BOAT/jet-ski/Classic Antique Car. JUMP in the 5-1/2' deep fiberglass POOL approx 13'x22'long. Luscious landscaping. 2 bedrooms up & 1 down.

    Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 for more info on 106 Ling Rd. offered @ $189,000
    View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, February 23, 2011  8:07:31 AM
    HD/Plasm TV with the purchase of 109 Myrtle Lane in Rockport, Texas 0 Comments Posted
    ==== It’s a 2/Fer P=A=R=T=Y ==== ****Buyer gets an HD/Plasma TV**** ++++ ****Selling Broker gets an HD/Plasma TV****(not to exceed $1,000/each)at closing! Take advantage of Seller’s generous present ---HURRY--- Remodeled Peninsula Oaks 3 bedroom on cul-de-sac. Newly tiled living, dining & galley kitchen. Custom FIREPLACE MANTEL. Electric stove & UPGRADED countertops & wallpaper. Remodeled bath is ADORABLE boasting updated tub surround, light fixtures & tiled floor! YES, all interior was painted or wall papered & several doors replaced in 2010. Exterior painted too. 1-car garage + carport, covered patio + fenced back yard. Whether you need 2 or 3 bedrooms, this Aransas County home HAS it ALL.

    Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty, Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 for more info on 109 Myrtle Lane offered @ $89,750
    View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, February 23, 2011  8:05:58 AM
    Real Estate Outlook? Like the Weather depends on LOCATION 0 Comments Posted
    No news can sometimes be good news. According to the December Home Price Index, recently released by analytic firm CoreLogic, "2010 shows home prices stabilized with the average annual HPI index showing no change relative to 2009."

    Month over month, however, home prices were still down in December, with prices declining by 5.46 percent from November. This was the fifth straight month of declines.

    Home prices were also down in some unexpected areas. While declines in home values were expected in previous boom areas, such as California and Florida, declines have now been surfacing in some new, unlikely cities.

    A recent article in the New York Times highlighted the affects of this down market on such areas as Seattle, Minneapolis, and Miami.

    According to Zillow.com, Seattle is down about 31 percent from its mid-2007 peak, and could see another 10 percent dip on the horizon. Stan Humphries, the chief economist for Zillow, sees a 5 to 7 percent decline in the rest of the nation's future.

    He says, "If these declines are sustained, as we expect to happen in many markets, the result will be a “double dip ” in home values, defined as two periods of sustained declines in home values separated by a brief period of stabilization or recovery."

    It's not all gloom and doom. Some states are seeing positive appreciation. Corelogic reports that "excluding distressed sales, the five states with the highest appreciation were: Hawaii (+6.15 percent), North Dakota (+6.03 percent), West Virginia (+3.53 percent), New York (+3.27 percent), and District of Columbia (+2.64 percent).

    The Obama Administrations recent call for an orderly transition from the current form of the secondary mortgage market also has some experts breathing a welcome sigh of relief. The National Association of Realtors reports that they believe "we cannot have a restoration of the former secondary mortgage market with entities that took private profits while pushing losses onto the taxpayer. The new system must involve some government presence, outside of FHA, USDA, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, to ensure a continued flow of capital to housing markets during economic downturns when large lenders flee the housing market."

    NAR President Ron Phipps reports, "NAR believes that the size of the government's participation in housing finance should decrease if the market is to function properly." NAR's economists estimate that a retreat of capital from the housing market will negatively impact the economy; because for every 1,000 home sales, 500 jobs are created for the country.

    Improvements are also being seen in the 55+ housing market, a market that was stalled in the second half of last year.

    Recent reports from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) indicate that builders are more confident now that the slump has ended.

    "The normal course of purchasing a new home in anticipation of or upon entering retirement has been interrupted by the fall in Baby Boomers' house values and reduction in their home equity," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "Boomers are finding that the market for their current home remains soft and potential buyers cannot qualify for affordable mortgages. Even those with the ability to buy a new home are finding a limited selection, as builders cannot get loans to build homes."

    However, for a little leaven in the loaf, expected sales (six months into the future) dropped five points on the Housing Index scale.

    Source:  RealtyTimes: Carla Hill, Published: February 21, 2011

    View Comments | Add Comment Monday, February 21, 2011  10:37:59 AM
    Obama's budget predicts FHA will insure $218 BIllion in 2012 0 Comments Posted
    As part of ongoing efforts to strengthen the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) capital reserves, FHA Commissioner David H. Stevens announced a new premium structure for FHA-insured mortgage loans increasing its annual mortgage insurance premium (MIP) by a quarter of a percentage point (.25) on all 30- and 15-year loans. The upfront MIP will remain unchanged at 1.0%. This premium change was detailed in President Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget, and will impact new loans insured by FHA on or after April 18, 2011.

    “After careful consideration and analysis, we determined it was necessary to increase the annual mortgage insurance premium at this time in order to bolster the FHA’s capital reserves and help private capital return to the housing market,” said Stevens. “This quarter point increase in the annual MIP is a responsible step towards meeting the Congressionally mandated two percent reserve threshold, while allowing FHA to remain the most cost effective mortgage insurance option for borrowers with lower incomes and lower down payments.”

    The proposed change was announced last week as part of the Obama Administration’s report to Congress, which outlined the Administration’s plan to reform the nation’s housing finance system. The Administration’s housing finance plan also recommended that Congress allow the present increase in FHA conforming loan limits to expire as scheduled on October 1, 2011.

    This premium change enables FHA to increase revenues at a time that is critical to the ongoing stability of its Mutual Mortgage Insurance (MMI) fund, which had capital reserves of approximately $3.6 billion at the end of FY 2010. The change is estimated to contribute nearly $3 billion annually to the Fund, based on current volume projections. It is vital that HUD take action to ensure that FHA will continue to serve its dual mission of providing affordable homeownership options to underserved American families and first-time home buyers while helping to stabilize the housing market during these tough times.

    On average, new FHA borrowers will pay approximately $30 more per month. This marginal increase is affordable for almost all home buyers who would qualify for a new loan. Existing and HECM loans insured by FHA are not impacted by the pricing change.

    FHA will continue to play an important role in the nation’s mortgage market in 2011. President Obama’s FY 2012 budget projects the FHA will insure $218 billion in mortgage borrowing in 2012. These guarantees will support new home purchases and re-financed mortgages that significantly reduce borrower payments.

    Source:  RISMedia (2/17/11) published

    View Comments | Add Comment Friday, February 18, 2011  1:46:26 PM
    It's COMPLICATED~ Calll A REALTOR! 0 Comments Posted
    In a landmark study examining the home buying and selling preferences of consumers in the Mid-Atlantic region, 95% reported that working with a real estate professional is just as important, if not more important, than it was just a few years ago. The survey results were released in a new research paper entitled Keepin’ it Real, by MRIS, the area’s Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and a leading developer of real estate information technology.

    According to the report, which can be found on www.MRIS.com, today’s consumers recognize this is not the time to complete a real estate transaction on their own, and are placing a stronger emphasis on the agent’s professional skills. As such, trustworthiness was ranked as the most critical factor in choosing an agent, followed by experience, willingness to look out for a client’s interest, expertise in negotiating contracts, responsiveness, familiarity with contracts and knowledge of the local community. These requirements are evidence that consumers are seeking more than simple guidance, they are looking for an expert they can trust to execute a step-by-step process throughout the entire transaction.

    “In today’s housing market especially, this is no time to go it alone,” noted John L. Heithaus, Chief Marketing Officer of MRIS. “With 95% of all buyers and sellers reporting that working with a professional real estate agent or broker is important, it is evident that consumers understand how vital they are to the process. A real estate professional has the industry knowledge, networking ability and expert guidance on home buying and selling to deliver top notch customer service and advice, and provide a successful experience for consumers.”

    Additionally, the Keepin’ it Real report reveals that 68% of buyers and sellers rated their agent with a six or seven, on a 7-point satisfaction scale. This high level of consumer confidence reinforces the credibility of the real estate professionals in the Mid-Atlantic area. Nearly half of the consumers surveyed, or 48%, found their agent by way of referral. Moreover, 80% of consumers stated that they would recommend their agent to a friend or family member, especially those that purchased or sold a home in the past twelve months.

    Whereas in years past, the agent was the first step in the home buying or selling process, today, Internet-savvy consumers can gather information and educate themselves, long before contacting an agent. The Internet empowers consumers to search for homes and neighborhood information, compare pricing and explore financing options on their own. Yet, despite all of the tools and resources available, when it comes time to actually buy or sell a home, there is nothing more valuable than the industry knowledge, expertise and guidance a real estate professional brings to the table.

    The Keepin’ it Real research paper is confirmation that today, more than ever, a real estate professional is an invaluable resource in the home buying and selling process.

    Call Lynn's TEAM ADVANTAGE, Lynn Johnson Realty Inc., Broker of Rockport/Fulton TX toll free 1.866.232.1876 locally 361.729.8263 or cell 361.463.9518 to list or sell property in Aransas & San Patrico Counties!  We represent BUYERS & SELLERS & look forward to working with YOU!

    Source:  RISMedia (2/17/11) published

    View Comments | Add Comment Friday, February 18, 2011  1:45:11 PM
    How to SPOT Fake Antiques 0 Comments Posted

    Fake antiques have been around for centuries. A few, like Samson porcelain, are now antiques themselves, and have their own devoted collectors. But in general, antiques shoppers are looking for the best quality and authenticity. Here are some examples, both authentic and fake, to guide your decision-making.

    Warmth of Ages

    Certain repairs, such as re-caned seats or new upholstery, won't necessarily degrade an antique. But pieces lose value when the wood has been refinished, and artificial patinas are undesirable. True patinas, built up through years of use and polishing, exhibit a warm and variable surface, like the example at left. False patinas may be identified by their overly regular finish.

    Against the Grain

    Examine the primary woods. Those covering the piece's exterior should match from top to bottom. Likewise, any decorative carvings or motifs, along with the degree of oxidation, should be consistent. Be wary of instances where two or more exterior pieces seem to have been joined together. Also, examine the piece's secondary woods, which line the drawers and form the piece's skeleton. These components, typically of lesser quality than the exterior woods, should exhibit well-constructed joints and uniform wear.

    More than Meets the Eye

    To determine if a veneer is original, look inside a drawer. Often, hardware has been replaced, and the holes attaching it may be different from those of the original brasses. Pulls and knobs on a veneer leave behind a faint shadow when removed. If you see holes inside a drawer and no shadow outside it, the veneer may be new.

    Snaky Workmanship

    Worm holes are to be expected in an antique. But the pathways should ascend and descend through the surface, snaking around as the worms ate their way through the wood at random. Flat-looking worm holes indicate the wood may have been sliced through to create a new piece that simply looks old.

    Wear It Well

    Craftsmen will go to great lengths to make a new piece look old, so check for appropriate wear. Common sense tells us that, in general, the right top drawer should be more worn than the bottom left. Chairs should have scuffs and scrapes from centuries of use, like those found on this 1780s wing chair. Nicked corners and worn feet make sense, too. But uneven wear should be questioned. Examine the details: Have the feet been chopped off, replaced, or extended? Quiz the vendor if the front or sides of a piece are particularly beaten-up.

    Buyer Beware

    Finally, consider the price and trust your instincts. A high price is not a guarantee of authenticity. But with antiques in particular, you get what you pay for. It's okay to buy something that's not what the tag says it is. Just make sure you're paying for the piece (like the obvious but successful marriage of a desk and cabinet shown at left) and not the label. And if something feels wrong, just walk away.

    Source:  Southern Accents/myroomideas.com/Photo:  Cheryl Dalton, Lisa Dams, Angie Seckenger

    View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, February 16, 2011  10:16:14 AM
    Get a brush and "lighten up" too much WHITE 0 Comments Posted

    SPRUCE up an ALL WHITE kitchen by adding a touch of GREEN to the cabinetry, that's all! The green color of the cabinets absorbs light in this open, white kitchen.

    Source:  myroomideas/photo:  Tria Giovan

    View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, February 16, 2011  10:14:55 AM
    Cottage Kitchen Staging easy as 1-2-3 0 Comments Posted
    Stage your kitchen to SELL by creating a cottage kitchen in three EASY steps! 
    1-2-3 cottage style:
    1.  beaded board cabinets
    2.  concrete countertops
    3.  antique accessories
    Source:  myroomideas/photo:  Tria Giovan
    View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, February 16, 2011  10:11:43 AM
    Public Recored ERRORS can H~U~R~T Sellers 0 Comments Posted

    Real estate buyers today often turn down a listing because they think it's priced too high relative to the livable square feet it has to offer. In some neighborhoods, like planned unit developments, price per square foot might be a fairly reliable value indicator because there is little variability in the housing stock. It's of limited use in neighborhoods with great variability in home style, size, age and condition.

    Regardless of what the sellers report as the livable square footage, the buyers usually want to know what the public record on the home says. For example, if the sellers say their house has 3,000 square feet of living space, but the public record reports only 2,300 square feet, the buyers expect an explanation for the discrepancy.

    It's not only prospective buyers who are concerned when the public record differs from what is reported in the multiple listing service. Due to recent lender tightening, many appraisers consider only legal square footage, that can be verified with a building permit, to establish valuation.

    Owners of homes that were added onto over the years without the benefit of building permits from the local planning authority could end up with a low appraised value. A lender will lend only a certain amount (usually 80-95 percent of the appraised value).

    If the price on the purchase contract is much higher, the transaction could fall apart unless the buyers put down more cash or the sellers lower the price, or both.

    A low appraisal might not cause a problem if the buyers are making a large cash down payment. If they make a 50 percent cash down payment ($150,000) for the purchase of a $300,000 house and the house appraises for $250,000, the lender will likely lend up to $200,000 with 20 percent down, or $50,000. However, if the purchase contract includes an appraisal contingency, the buyers could withdraw without penalty based on the low appraisal.

    HOUSE HUNTING TIP: The information reported in the public record is often wrong. Before you put your home on the market, find out what the public record reports on the characteristics of your home and try to correct any mistakes that could work against a sale.

    In California, properties are reassessed for property taxes based on renovations and additions done legally, with permits. Often, the local assessor's office will update its record but the information doesn't get into the public record that is accessible by real estate agents, buyers and appraisers.

    In one case, a couple had purchased a vacant lot and architectural plans from the previous owner who couldn't afford to build. The couple then added more than 1,000 square feet to the plans and built a bigger house.

    The public record showed a 3,600-square-foot house, which was the size of the house that was originally planned. The Certificate of Occupancy issued by the City of Oakland Planning Department reflected the larger 4,800-square-foot house that was built. Armed with this documentation, the appraiser had no problem appraising the property for the purchase price.

    Sometimes when an addition is made to a home, the public record is not amended to include the additional square footage. In Alameda County, Calif., a seller can visit the Assessor's Office and ask for a copy of the Property Characteristics Report on their home. If it's not accurate, the seller can request that changes be made.

    Mistakes in the public record aren't confined to livable square feet. The public record also includes information about such things as the number of total rooms, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and whether there's a garage.

    THE CLOSING: It can take months for changes to show up in the public record, so start working on this early.

    Source:  Dian Hymer, Inman News, published 2/14/11 RISMedia

    View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, February 16, 2011  10:09:39 AM
    Fannie & Freddie target JUMBO Limits 0 Comments Posted

    A plan unveiled by the Obama administration today to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could take years to implement, but at least one aspect would kick in this year: lowering the ceiling on the jumbo conforming loan limit in high-cost markets from $729,750 to $625,500.

    The California Association of REALTORS® voiced its objections to that aspect of the plan, saying reduced government presence in the mortgage market would raise the cost of homeownership and make mortgages less available.

    "Congress needs to understand that during economic downturns, the housing market needs government involvement to ensure capital stability," said CAR President Beth L. Peerce in a statement. History has shown "the private market is incapable and unwilling to step in during the hardest of times and meet the demands of the nation's homebuyers." 

    As a matter of policy, the National Association of REALTORS® also supports making the higher ceilings permanent, "unless the private market begins to make a significant return to the mortgage market." Further restricting liquidity by lowering the limits "would have a dramatically negative impact on our housing recovery," NAR's government affairs staff said in an issue summary.

    The administration's plan also calls for gradually increasing down-payment requirements on loans guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie to 10 percent, and a continued wind-down of Fannie and Freddie's investment portfolios.

    The wind-down of the portfolios -- mortgage-backed securities the government-sponsored entities purchased as investments -- could put upward pressure on mortgage rates as Fannie and Freddie continue to shed nearly $1.5 trillion in MBS investments at a rate of 10 percent a year.

    The administration's plan would also require Fannie and Freddie to gradually increase the price they charge for their guarantees over the next several years to bring them in line with the private market.

    Lawmakers need to sign off on the plan's recommendations for them to be put in place, but many Republican lawmakers are eager to usher Fannie and Freddie off the stage as quickly as possible and also reduce the volume of loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

    "What the administration offered today isn't a plan to move us forward, but rather a collection of options to consider," Rep. Spencer Bachus, the Alabama Republican who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, said in a statement today. "What's needed is a real plan, and we intend to sit down with administration officials to find common ground."

    Bachus said Fannie and Freddie's fate must be part of a comprehensive housing finance reform package that includes FHA as well as the private sector.

    The Obama administration had promised the long-awaited plan put forward today by the Treasury Department would address not just Fannie and Freddie, but the entire housing finance system.

    Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said the plan does address that broader goal, calling for stronger consumer protections, increased transparency for investors and improved underwriting standards, and returning the FHA to its traditional role of providing assistance to low- and moderate-income borrowers.

    But the plan relies on implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act to fix "fundamental flaws" in the mortgage market, and implementation of Dodd-Frank remains a hotly debated issue, with real estate and mortgage industry lobbyists battling consumer groups over particulars of the bill.

    "We are going to start the process of reform now, but we are going to do it responsibly and carefully so that we support the recovery and the process of repair of the housing market," Geithner said in a statement.

    By endorsing a reduction in the $729,750 ceiling on jumbo conforming loans -- currently set to fall to $625,500 at the end of September -- the Obama administration has increased the likelihood that Congress will not extend the limit again.

    Congress created the jumbo conforming loan limit in 2008, after it became impossible for lenders to securitize and sell mortgages to investors unless they were guaranteed by Fannie or Freddie, or alternately Ginnie Mae, which securitizes FHA loans.

    Before the emergency ceilings were implemented, Fannie and Freddie's conforming loan limit was $417,000 in all but a few high-cost markets.

    Now, the jumbo conforming loan limit ranges between $417,000 and $729,750 in high-cost markets, and is determined by multiplying the median home price in a given market by 1.25.

    A reduction in the jumbo conforming loan limit would affect not only Fannie and Freddie's ability to guarantee large loans in high-cost housing markets, but FHA's as well.

    In normal housing markets, FHA is only allowed to guarantee loans of up to $271,050. But in high-cost markets, FHA is permitted to insure loans of up to 125 percent of the median home price, with the same $729,750 ceiling as Fannie and Freddie.

    The Obama administration's plan to wind down Fannie and Freddie calls for allowing the temporary increase in the jumbo conforming loan limits reset as scheduled on Oct. 1 to levels set in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA).

    When that happens, the jumbo conforming loan limit in high-cost markets will be 115 percent of median home price, with a cap of $625,500.

    The ceiling was briefly allowed to drop back down to $625,500 in early 2009, but Congress quickly restored the higher jumbo conforming limit as part of the $787 billion economic stimulus bill passed in February.

    The market for so-called "private label" mortgage-backed securities that fund loans not backed by the government collapsed in 2007. Since then, only one $238 million securitization of private-label MBS has taken place, said Sarah Wartell of the Center for American Progress, at a hearing Wednesday.

    Wartell said she fears the consequences of lowering the conforming loan limit before the market for private-label MBS recovers.

    "If the loan limit were to fall and the private securitization market was unable to provide capital for homes above a newly reduced conforming loan limit, then homes valued in that band will find credit constrained and it will have an effect on the ability to find buyers, the ability to sell homes, and the value of homes whether or not on the market," Wartell said in her prepared testimony. "In such a fragile economy, policy-induced home-price declines seem unwise."

    Those who support allowing the ceiling to come down note that the "spread," or difference in rates between jumbo loans not backed by the government and conforming loans eligible for purchase by Fannie and Freddie, has come down considerably since the peak of the crisis.

    Those who want Fannie, Freddie and FHA out of the jumbo loan business say that while jumbo borrowers may have to pay higher rates, they will still be able to obtain loans.

    Source:  Inman News, published 2/11/11 RISMedia
    View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, February 16, 2011  10:05:45 AM
    Fannie & Freddie target JUMBO Limits 0 Comments Posted

    A plan unveiled by the Obama administration today to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could take years to implement, but at least one aspect would kick in this year: lowering the ceiling on the jumbo conforming loan limit in high-cost markets from $729,750 to $625,500.

    The California Association of REALTORS® voiced its objections to that aspect of the plan, saying reduced government presence in the mortgage market would raise the cost of homeownership and make mortgages less available.

    "Congress needs to understand that during economic downturns, the housing market needs government involvement to ensure capital stability," said CAR President Beth L. Peerce in a statement. History has shown "the private market is incapable and unwilling to step in during the hardest of times and meet the demands of the nation's homebuyers." 

    As a matter of policy, the National Association of REALTORS® also supports making the higher ceilings permanent, "unless the private market begins to make a significant return to the mortgage market." Further restricting liquidity by lowering the limits "would have a dramatically negative impact on our housing recovery," NAR's government affairs staff said in an issue summary.

    The administration's plan also calls for gradually increasing down-payment requirements on loans guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie to 10 percent, and a continued wind-down of Fannie and Freddie's investment portfolios.

    The wind-down of the portfolios -- mortgage-backed securities the government-sponsored entities purchased as investments -- could put upward pressure on mortgage rates as Fannie and Freddie continue to shed nearly $1.5 trillion in MBS investments at a rate of 10 percent a year.

    The administration's plan would also require Fannie and Freddie to gradually increase the price they charge for their guarantees over the next several years to bring them in line with the private market.

    Lawmakers need to sign off on the plan's recommendations for them to be put in place, but many Republican lawmakers are eager to usher Fannie and Freddie off the stage as quickly as possible and also reduce the volume of loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

    "What the administration offered today isn't a plan to move us forward, but rather a collection of options to consider," Rep. Spencer Bachus, the Alabama Republican who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, said in a statement today. "What's needed is a real plan, and we intend to sit down with administration officials to find common ground."

    Bachus said Fannie and Freddie's fate must be part of a comprehensive housing finance reform package that includes FHA as well as the private sector.

    The Obama administration had promised the long-awaited plan put forward today by the Treasury Department would address not just Fannie and Freddie, but the entire housing finance system.

    Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said the plan does address that broader goal, calling for stronger consumer protections, increased transparency for investors and improved underwriting standards, and returning the FHA to its traditional role of providing assistance to low- and moderate-income borrowers.

    But the plan relies on implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act to fix "fundamental flaws" in the mortgage market, and implementation of Dodd-Frank remains a hotly debated issue, with real estate and mortgage industry lobbyists battling consumer groups over particulars of the bill.

    "We are going to start the process of reform now, but we are going to do it responsibly and carefully so that we support the recovery and the process of repair of the housing market," Geithner said in a statement.

    By endorsing a reduction in the $729,750 ceiling on jumbo conforming loans -- currently set to fall to $625,500 at the end of September -- the Obama administration has increased the likelihood that Congress will not extend the limit again.

    Congress created the jumbo conforming loan limit in 2008, after it became impossible for lenders to securitize and sell mortgages to investors unless they were guaranteed by Fannie or Freddie, or alternately Ginnie Mae, which securitizes FHA loans.

    Before the emergency ceilings were implemented, Fannie and Freddie's conforming loan limit was $417,000 in all but a few high-cost markets.

    Now, the jumbo conforming loan limit ranges between $417,000 and $729,750 in high-cost markets, and is determined by multiplying the median home price in a given market by 1.25.

    A reduction in the jumbo conforming loan limit would affect not only Fannie and Freddie's ability to guarantee large loans in high-cost housing markets, but FHA's as well.

    In normal housing markets, FHA is only allowed to guarantee loans of up to $271,050. But in high-cost markets, FHA is permitted to insure loans of up to 125 percent of the median home price, with the same $729,750 ceiling as Fannie and Freddie.

    The Obama administration's plan to wind down Fannie and Freddie calls for allowing the temporary increase in the jumbo conforming loan limits reset as scheduled on Oct. 1 to levels set in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA).

    When that happens, the jumbo conforming loan limit in high-cost markets will be 115 percent of median home price, with a cap of $625,500.

    The ceiling was briefly allowed to drop back down to $625,500 in early 2009, but Congress quickly restored the higher jumbo conforming limit as part of the $787 billion economic stimulus bill passed in February.

    The market for so-called "private label" mortgage-backed securities that fund loans not backed by the government collapsed in 2007. Since then, only one $238 million securitization of private-label MBS has taken place, said Sarah Wartell of the Center for American Progress, at a hearing Wednesday.

    Wartell said she fears the consequences of lowering the conforming loan limit before the market for private-label MBS recovers.

    "If the loan limit were to fall and the private securitization market was unable to provide capital for homes above a newly reduced conforming loan limit, then homes valued in that band will find credit constrained and it will have an effect on the ability to find buyers, the ability to sell homes, and the value of homes whether or not on the market," Wartell said in her prepared testimony. "In such a fragile economy, policy-induced home-price declines seem unwise."

    Those who support allowing the ceiling to come down note that the "spread," or difference in rates between jumbo loans not backed by the government and conforming loans eligible for purchase by Fannie and Freddie, has come down considerably since the peak of the crisis.

    Those who want Fannie, Freddie and FHA out of the jumbo loan business say that while jumbo borrowers may have to pay higher rates, they will still be able to obtain loans.

    Source:  Inman News, published 2/11/11 RISMedia
    View Comments | Add Comment Wednesday, February 16, 2011  10:04:27 AM
    Kitchen Workspace design ideas 0 Comments Posted
    Some of the lower cabinets have a metal grating instead of wood, to add another layer of texture. Doesn't it remind you of those old-fashioned pie safes to lets things breathe and dry? Parefeuille Peach antique terra-cotta flooring from Exquisite Surfaces.
    View Comments | Add Comment Monday, February 14, 2011  10:14:38 AM
    Eat-in Kitchen Design Ideas 0 Comments Posted
    Glass cloches became light fixtures, with the addition of light sockets from Schoolhouse Electric. Table from Intérieurs. Openweave side chairs from Design Workshop; Biscayne Wire armchairs from Peddler's Home Design.

    Source:  housebeautiful.com
    photo:  James Merrell
    View Comments | Add Comment Monday, February 14, 2011  10:11:56 AM
    Eat-in Kitchen Design Ideas 0 Comments Posted
    Glass cloches became light fixtures, with the addition of light sockets from Schoolhouse Electric. Table from Intérieurs. Openweave side chairs from Design Workshop; Biscayne Wire armchairs from Peddler's Home Design.

    Source:  housebeautiful.com
    photo:  James Merrell
    View Comments | Add Comment Monday, February 14, 2011  10:11:56 AM
    Eat-in Kitchen Design Ideas 0 Comments Posted
    Glass cloches became light fixtures, with the addition of light sockets from Schoolhouse Electric. Table from Intérieurs. Openweave side chairs from Design Workshop; Biscayne Wire armchairs from Peddler's Home Design.

    Source:  housebeautiful.com
    photo:  James Merrell
    View Comments | Add Comment Monday, February 14, 2011  10:11:50 AM
    Kitchen Wall Tile Ideas 0 Comments Posted
    Tile Ideas for kitchen  *** WALLS & BACKSPLASHES *** to update your New Home!

    An accent wall of richly colored tile sets off the bar area. Glass shelving and support brackets in Architectural Bronze from Urban Archaeology. Refrigerator drawers in the center of the cabinet hold ice and sodas.

    View Comments | Add Comment Monday, February 14, 2011  8:16:11 AM
    Framhouse Kitchen 0 Comments Posted
    The quartersawn oak cabinetry in this kitchen is solid and traditional. Screw Stools from Design Workshop and a shelf made with pipe fittings add an unexpected industrial touch. Shelves on either side of the Wolf range keep everyday necessities nearby.  Source:  housebeautiful.com
    photo: James Merrell
    View Comments | Add Comment Monday, February 14, 2011  8:15:47 AM
    Demographic Shifts shaping Future of Housing Market 0 Comments Posted
    A recently released national poll finds that new incentives will be needed to persuade Americans to make energy-efficient improvements to their homes.

    “They’re concerned about resistance to smart meters and slow to roll out time-of-use billing. As a result, utilities are missing out on a huge opportunity to help people take control of their energy use by giving them the information they need and the choices they want.”

    Beginning this year, tax incentives that once rewarded Americans for energy-efficient improvements have been slashed. For many Americans, the survey found, those incentives were a prime reason for making such improvements as replacing windows, adding insulation and buying energy-efficient appliances.

    The national poll, one of four conducted each year by Shelton Group, examined the state of power in the United States: how consumers are saving electricity and why.

    The survey found almost one quarter (23%) of Americans who made energy-efficient improvements said they’d received a rebate or financial incentive. Of those, most said they’d received either a utility rebate (41%) or a federal tax incentive (39%).

    A full 25% of respondents said they wouldn’t have acted without the incentive, and another 7% said the incentive encouraged them to pay slightly more for a higher-efficiency model.

    “That means at a minimum, about one third of Americans who made their homes more energy efficient would likely not have done so if it weren’t for the incentives,” said Suzanne Shelton, president of Shelton Group.

    The new tax law chops incentives from 30% to 10% of costs for many improvements—reducing the maximum cumulative credit from $1,500 to $500. In addition, there are now lower caps such as $200 for energy efficient windows, compared to $1,500 in credits before.

    “That means utilities, manufacturers and retailers are going to have to step up their incentives and get a lot more creative and targeted in marketing energy efficiency,” Shelton said.

    Among the survey’s other findings:

    -Thirty percent of Americans who have undertaken improvements said they haven’t seen the bill reduction they’d expected. Most said this was because their utility rates had gone up, but 44% said that they likely needed to make more improvements. In fact, the survey found that the number of improvements completed is strongly correlated with achieving the expected savings. The tipping point: about five improvements.

    “This isn’t an easy process. Doing one or even two things isn’t going to get consumers the savings they expect,” Shelton said. “Making homes energy efficient is a multi-step process.”

    -There is significant interest in time-of-use billing plans, smart meters and online energy information management systems. Over half of respondents, if given access to more information about their energy use, said they would utilize it regularly to try to shift or reduce their consumption. That includes 61% who are interested in receiving a smart meter that would notify the utility if they lose power and offer more information about when they were using electricity.

    “When it comes to meeting customer needs, many utilities fear the vocal minority,” Shelton said. “They’re concerned about resistance to smart meters and slow to roll out time-of-use billing. As a result, utilities are missing out on a huge opportunity to help people take control of their energy use by giving them the information they need and the choices they want.”

    -Asked what specifically they’ve done to save energy, the largest