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 Real Estate Blog 
Saturday, August 28 2010

Commercial real estate sectors, hurt by weak job growth, are offering incentives in many areas that are conducive to business expansion, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said fallout from the recession continues to impact commercial real estate.  “Vacancy rates are beginning to level off in some sectors, but rent discounts and moderate levels of landlord concessions are widespread,” he said.  “This is very much a tenant’s market, which is quite favorable for businesses that are considering expansion.  It’s also encouraging that there is a modest improvement in the sentiment of commercial real estate practitioners.”

The Society of Industrial and Office Realtors®, in its SIOR Commercial Real Estate Index, an attitudinal survey of more than 600 local market experts,1 shows vacancy rates are beginning to level, but rents remain depressed, and subleasing space is high.

The SIOR index, measuring 10 variables, rose 2.8 percentage points to 41.0 in the second quarter, but remains well below a level of 100 that represents a balanced marketplace.  This is the third consecutive quarterly improvement after nearly three years of decline; the last time the commercial market was in equilibrium at the 100 level was in the third quarter of 2007.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents expect improvements in the office and industrial sectors in the third quarter.

Commercial real estate development remains stagnant in all regions with low investment activity; 88 percent of respondents said it is virtually nonexistent in their markets, but development acquisitions are beginning to grow in many areas in what is described as a buyer’s market.

Looking at the overall market, vacancy rates will shift modestly in the coming year according to NAR’s latest COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE OUTLOOK.2  The NAR forecast for four major commercial sectors analyzes quarterly data in the office, industrial, retail and multifamily markets.  Historic data were provided by CBRE Econometric Advisors.

Office Markets

Vacancy rates in the office sector, with high levels of available sublease space, are expected to increase from 16.7 percent in the second quarter of this year to 17.0 percent in the second quarter of 2011, and then ease later next year.

The markets with the lowest office vacancy rates in the second quarter were New York City, Honolulu and Long Island, N.Y., with vacancies around the 9 to 11 percent range.

Annual office rent should fall 2.7 percent this year and decline another 2.1 percent in 2011.  In 57 markets tracked, net absorption of office space, which includes the leasing of new space coming on the market as well as space in existing properties, is projected to be a negative 13.6 million square feet this year and then a positive 22.6 million in 2011.

Industrial Markets 

Industrial vacancy rates are likely to decline from 14.1 percent in the second quarter of 2010 to 13.7 percent in the second quarter of 2011, and then continue to ease modestly as the year progresses.

The areas with the lowest industrial vacancy rates in the second quarter were Los Angeles, San Francisco and Kansas City, with vacancies ranging between 8 and 11 percent.

Annual industrial rent is estimated to drop 5.4 percent this year, and to decline another 4.7 percent in 2011.  Net absorption of industrial space in 58 markets tracked is seen at a negative 31.7 million square feet this year and a positive 157.2 million in 2011.

Retail Markets

Retail vacancy rates should hold steady at 13.1 percent in both the second quarter of this year and in the second quarter of 2011, with a level pattern for most of next year.

Markets with the lowest retail vacancy rates in the second quarter include San Francisco, Honolulu and Miami, with vacancies of 7 to 8 percent.

Average retail rent is expected to decline 2.6 percent in 2010 and then flatten out, slipping 0.1 percent next year.  Net absorption of retail space in 53 tracked markets is forecast to be a negative 2.3 million square feet this year and then a positive 6.4 million in 2011.

Multifamily Markets

The apartment rental market – multifamily housing – is benefiting from modestly higher demand.  Multifamily vacancy rates are likely to decline from 6.0 percent in the second quarter of this year to 5.6 percent in the second quarter of 2011.

Areas with the lowest multifamily vacancy rates in the second quarter include San Jose, Calif.; Pittsburgh; and Philadelphia, with vacancies of less than 4 percent.

With additions from new construction, average rent should slip 0.6 percent in 2010, and then hold even in 2011.  Multifamily net absorption is expected to be 105,200 units in 59 tracked metro areas this year, and another 138,000 in 2011.

The COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE OUTLOOK is published by the NAR Research Division for the commercial community.  NAR’s Commercial Division, formed in 1990, provides targeted products and services to meet the needs of the commercial market and constituency within NAR.

The NAR commercial components include commercial members; commercial committees, subcommittees and forums; commercial real estate boards and structures; and the NAR commercial affiliate organizations – CCIM Institute, Institute of Real Estate Management, Realtors® Land Institute, Society of Industrial and Office Realtors®, and Counselors of Real Estate.

Approximately 79,000 NAR and institute affiliate members specialize in commercial brokerage services, and an additional 263,000 members offer commercial real estate as a secondary business.

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.

1 The SIOR Commercial Real Estate Index, conducted by SIOR and analyzed by NAR Research, is a diffusion index based on market conditions as viewed by local SIOR experts.  For more information contact Richard Hollander, SIOR, at 202/449-8200              202/449-8200      .

2Publication of additional analyses will be posted under Economists’ Commentary in the Research area of in coming days.

The next commercial real estate forecast and quarterly market report will be released on November 29.


Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 10:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, August 27 2010
I found a great site for smoke detectors and other essential safety products for the deaf and hard of hearing. We take many things for granted and sometimes forget that there are friends and family members amongst us who have disabilities and need special help.
Smoke, Fire, and CO Detectors for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Smoke detectors save lives. We know you take your safety and the safety of your loved ones and friends very seriously. That's why we've taken the time to hand select a collection of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. From the popular Gentex smoke detector to the Kidde smoke alarm and beyond, make Products for the Deaf your first choice when safety matters. We're proud to offer products like the Gentex smoke alarm that features an alert alarm with strobe light. You can buy with confidence knowing that your smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector is time tested and hard working.
Here is a link to the website:,-fire,-and-co-detectors
Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, August 26 2010

New home construction edged up slightly in July but applications for building permits tumbled to the lowest point in 14 months, a sign of continued stress in housing. 

Construction of new homes and apartments rose 1.7 percent in July, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Still, applications for building permits, considered a good sign of future activity, fell 3.1 percent. 

A rebound in housing is considered critical for a sustained economic recovery. But builders continue to struggle with weak demand for new homes caused by high unemployment and a glut of foreclosed homes on the market. 

The July increase in housing construction pushed total activity to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 546,000 units. Building activity in June was weaker than first reported. It fell 8.7 percent to an annual rate of 537,000 units, the slowest pace since October of last year. 

Housing construction got a boost earlier in the year when the government offered buyers up to $8,000 in federal tax credits. But after the incentives expired at the end of April, sales and constructions activity slumped. 

Driving the July increase was a 32.6 percent surge in construction of apartments and condominiums, which jumped to an annual rate of 114,000 units. The bigger single-family sector declined 4.2 percent, falling to an annual rate of 432,000 units. 

The drop in building permits left applications for new construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 565,000, the slowest pace since May 2009. 

Construction activity surged 30.5 percent in the Northeast and was up 10.7 percent in the Midwest. However, construction fell 6.3 percent in the South and was flat in the West. 

In advance of the report on housing starts, the National Association of Home Builders reported Monday that its monthly index of builder sentiment dropped to 13 in August. That was the lowest reading in 17 months. Readings below 50 indicate negative sentiment about the housing market. 

The last time builders' index was above 50 was in April 2006. 

Builders say consumers remain worried about the weak economic recovery and the sluggish jobs market. Among those who are buying, many are opting for deeply discounted foreclosed properties.


Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:05 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, August 25 2010

EVANSVILLE - Authorities in Vanderburgh County have issued a burn ban for the county and the City of Evansville.

The Evansville EPA issued the ban Tuesday night, effective immediately, because of extremely dry conditions.

Since July 1st, Meteorologist David Heckard said Evansville is 3.45 inches of rain below normal, and for the year is nearly 9 inches below normal.

The burn ban prohibits all forms of Open Burning including recreational fires, burn barrels, and agricultural and ditch cleaning. The ban does not include grills or patio fireplaces.

If you have any questions about the ban, call the Evansville EPA at (812) 435-6145. The EPA will issue a press release when the ban has been lifted.


Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 01:58 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, August 23 2010
Jump into the fun of Frog Follies during the last weekend in August. You’ll change lives for tri-state children and adults with disabilities!
Up to 5,000 souped-up autos will converge on the Vanderburgh County 4-H Center (Highway 41 north of Evansville, IN) August 27-29, for the E’ville Iron Street Rod Club’s 36th annual Frog Follies Street Rod Show. View the modified classic cars (all pre-1949 vintage) from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sunday.
This nationally known car show is also one of the Midwest’s largest charity events. A portion of each $5 admission (children under 12 free) will fund life-changing therapy sessions at the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center!
In addition to the huge display of street rods, Frog Follies features tempting concession stands, an arts and crafts show and sale, and a car parts swap meet. And don’t miss the celebrity frog races in the Industrial Building Saturday at 3:15 p.m.!
Hop on over to Frog Follies August 27-29! Help us ensure that people with disabilities receive equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in our community!
Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 05:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, August 20 2010

WASHINGTON—Mortgage rates fell to the lowest level in decades for the eighth time in nine weeks, a sign that investors are concerned about the weak economy.

The average rate for 30-year fixed loans this week was 4.42 percent, down from 4.44 percent last week, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday. That’s the lowest since Freddie Mac began tracking rates in 1971.

The average rate on 15-year fixed loans dropped to 3.9 percent, down from 3.92 percent last week and the lowest on records dating back to 1991.

Rates have fallen since spring as investors sought the safety of Treasury bonds, lowering their yield. Mortgage rates tend to track those yields.

Falling rates have pushed refinancing of home loans to the highest level since May 2009. But it’s still lower than during the first three months of that year, when rates first fell to around 5 percent.

Low mortgage rates, however, have failed to spark home sales. They remain hobbled by the weak economy and tight credit standards.

Rates have fallen since spring as investors sought the safety of Treasury bonds, lowering their yield. Mortgage rates tend to track those yields.

To calculate the national average, Freddie Mac collects mortgage rates on Monday through Wednesday of each week from lenders around the country. Rates often fluctuate significantly, even within a given day.

Average rates on five-year adjustable-rate mortgages were unchanged at 3.56 percent. Rates on one-year adjustable-rate mortgages also were unchanged at an average of 3.53 percent.

The rates do not include add-on fees known as points. One point is equal to 1 percent of the total loan amount. The nationwide fee for loans in Freddie Mac’s survey averaged 0.7 a point for 30-year and 1-year mortgages. They averaged 0.6 of a point for 15-year and 5-year mortgages.

By Alan Zibel

Source: Associated Press/AP Online

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 09:31 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, August 19 2010

Watering, weeding and deadheading are among the main activities for gardeners this month. But it's also time to harvest fruits and flowers.

Summertime, and the livin' is easy — at least it can be for gardeners.

Aside from tasting, weeding and watering, essential gardening tasks are at a lull in August.

Never fear, gardening addicts: There's always something to tend for those who are determined. But go easy on yourself and take advantage of the occasional cool day to work in comfort.


  • August is a relatively low-maintenance month for flowers, but regular watering isn't the only task that will keep your garden in top shape.
  • Keep deadheading flowers as they fade; not only will the plants look better, but if they're allowed to produce and shed their seeds, they're more likely to stop producing new blooms.
  • In areas with mild winters and longer growing seasons, annuals should have another feeding of fertilizer in late summer.


  • Along with the tips below, water perennials weekly and deeply.
  • To check on water levels, trowel into the soil and look for moisture to a depth of three or four inches, or deep enough to ensure that water is reaching roots.
  • Deadhead spent blooms before they have a chance to seed.
  • Dahlias are probably getting leggy right about now; if so, support them with stakes.
  • Iris and other early-blooming perennials can still be divided this month and even into September. Choose a cool day or time of day, and give them a tall drink of water in their new locations.
  • If you're gardening in a mild climate, fertilize roses once again this month.


  • Since August is usually the hottest month of the year, watering is a top priority in lawn care.
  • Water deeply once a week (more often during scorching dry spells) for an hour at a shot.
  • Raise the cutting height on your mower to keep grass longer, conserving water and helping roots stay cool.
  • If water is scarce, consider letting your lawn go dormant, and reduce watering to once a month. It may look a little scrappy, but that glowing green hue will return with fall rains.
  • Wildflower seeds tend to be ripe by late summer, so if you have a meadow to mow, this is a good month to hop on the tractor.

April may be the "cruelest month," but for gardens August is worse if the weather is hot. Even in mild climates, a single heat wave can put the kibosh on your garden if it doesn't receive enough water.

  • Water evaporates quickly on sunny days, so water early in the morning to give plants a head start.
  • Make a frequent check of flowers and vegetables for their watering needs. Generally, you'll want to give them about an inch of water each week; deep, less frequent watering is better for them than frequent surface watering.
  • Add a light layer of mulch around young plants to help their roots retain water.
  • If you're keeping a green lawn, give it an inch of water once a week or slightly more often.
  • Check hanging baskets and container plants every day in hot weather.

Here are a few tips for extending your growing season:

  • Early in the month, plant seeds in the ground for fall and winter vegetables such as spinach, radishes, scallions, carrots and lettuces.
  • There's still time to transplant greens such as kale and collards, broccoli, cauliflower and early cabbage.
  • Container plants, including perennials, trees and shrubs, can be put in the ground now.
  • Plant crocus bulbs for delicate splashes of fall color.
  • Order fall bulbs for planting.

Pest control
Keep up the battle against slugs and aphids.

  • Slugs will tend to be more abundant now due to extra watering; plant saucers of stale beer around the garden, especially around mulched areas (a favorite slug hiding place) and near tender greens.
  • At first notice of aphids, hose-blast them off of leaves or spray them with an insecticidal soap.

Extra watering and hot weather make August a red-letter month for weeds. Expect weeds to germinate and drop their seeds faster; pull them out as soon as they pop up.

Pruning and grooming

  • Shrubs and trees are approaching dormancy and should not be pruned except in mild climates. In colder climes, they may not have time to harden off before the cold weather sets in.
  • Prune hybrid roses late in the month.
  • Cut back lavender once it has finished flowering.
  • Pinch back tomato plants for a higher yield.
  • Prune raspberries after the last harvest: Cut out old flowering canes, leaving shoot tips and three or four younger canes per foot of raspberry row.


  • To avoid giving pests a free lunch, pick fruits and vegetables as soon as they're ripe.
  • It's apple-pickin' time! Early apples should be ready to pick this month.
  • Garlic and onions can generally be harvested now; pick them when you notice their dry tops beginning to fall over, and let them air-dry.
  •  Harvest raspberries, which should be producing the last of their fruit this month.
  • Tomatoes and melons should be harvested as soon as they're ripe, before pests have a chance to dig in.


  • Houseplants will need to be watered more often this month, especially if they're in a sunny window.
  • Before you head out for your Lake Minnehaha vacation, move plants out of direct sunlight, especially those in south-facing windows.
  • Check the undersides of leaves for aphid clusters and send them to their doom with an appropriate insecticide.
  • Flowering houseplants should be pruned after flowers fade; make cuts directly above leaf joints.


  • Be especially vigilant about ventilation and watering needs in the greenhouse this month.
  • Take cuttings of geraniums.
  • Give tomatoes plenty of water and food.


Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 09:41 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, August 13 2010



Market Watch For August 2010

Two months have passed since the expiration of the homebuyer’s tax credit and we’ve had time to see how the market would react.  As I predicted, we did see a decline in closed transactions from May and June levels as a result of a decrease in written transactions from the previous months.  And while the news isn’t great, it’s better than expected.  July brought an increase in written contracts up 37% from May and up 22% from June.  I believe July written contracts are more representative of the remainder of the year than either the spectacular numbers we saw in March and April or the depressed numbers we saw in May and June.

The tax credit has expired, but there really has never been a better time to buy.  I mentioned briefly last month that interest rates were attractive but I don’t think many potential buyers realize how much more house the same payment buys today than it did not long ago.  Thirty year fixed rates are now about 4.25%.  On a $100,000 loan that monthly payment (before taxes and insurance) is only $492.  That is $75 a month less than the payment at 5.5% and $140 a month less than the payment at 6.5%.  Buyers can buy the same home and have more money in their pocket or buy a bigger home with the same payment.  Either way rates are great and will not stay at this level.  Don’t miss your chance to take advantage of this opportunity.

While you are shopping for your home don’t forget that allows you to search for any listed home from any smart phone.  It is easy to search by price, address or MLS number and you can save your search results.  Please call me at 812-499-9234 if you have any questions. 

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Kevin Eastridge Broker/Owner of F.C.TuckerEmge Realtors this year’s recipient of the Realtor of The Year 2010 Award.

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend and I’ll update you again next month. 

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 09:48 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, August 12 2010

From a price perspective, the latest news is good for the housing market. Home prices for the second quarter are up on a year-over-year basis in almost two-thirds of the big metro areas that the National Association of REALTORS® tracks, and in almost 10 percent of markets, the gains were in the double digits. The national median home price at the end of June was $176,900, about 1.5 percent higher than the same time last year.

Although the clear firming up of prices is positive, the question you’re no doubt asking is: What happens going forward? The second-quarter data reflects the impact of the home buyer tax credit. When it comes out, the third-quarter data won’t have the stimulus effect of that credit. So, what the numbers look like at the end of September will be illuminating.

Based on his most recent comments, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun believes prices should hold steady, with no swings either up or down, for the near term even though the tax credit is gone and the economy isn’t being cooperative. The reason for the predicted stability is the way prices change over time. Price shifts tend to reflect longer-term trends, and the long-term trend for the past year or so has been stabilization.

As I interpret his point, there would have to be a significant shift in the economy for big changes to show up in broad home price trends. So, if the economy remains sluggish but doesn’t lurch downward, prices could remain relatively stable (with small up or down movement on a month-to-month basis) for the next several months. But if the economy remains sluggish until, say, the end of the year and beyond, then prices could be affected.

Of course, you have to approach national price data with a realistic eye. Last year, distressed sales comprised almost 40 percent of sales, compared to a little over 30 percent this year through the second quarter. That means some of the price improvement could be the result of the different mix of properties, not price appreciation.

The bottom line, though, is that prices so far are stable. That’s good for consumer confidence. When the stable prices are combined with historically low rates (about 4.9 percent on average right now for long-term, fixed-rate financing), you have good conditions for the market. For that reason, housing prospects are really hinging on jobs. Tepid job growth is the main impediment to rising consumer confidence.

Access NAR’s latest quarterly price data for yourself: Metro Area Median Prices.


Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, August 10 2010
If you're planning to buy a house, rent a different apartment or relocate your family anytime soon, chances are you didn't think that moving could make you the victim of identity theft.

But during a move, homeowners and renters alike are particularly susceptible to identity theft -- a crime which is especially prevalent during the summer, since half of all moves in the United States take place between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

So in addition to packing and coordinating with the moving trucks, you also need to safeguard yourself from fraudsters.

"Regardless of what people say, you can't prevent ID theft. But you can be a lot more aware and take some strong precautions," says Steve Schwartz, executive vice president of consumer services for Intersections Inc., an identity protection company.

Schwartz provided a rundown of simple steps that you can take to minimize your risk of identity theft and maximize your safety and security before, during and after a move:

Top 10 Safety Steps for Homeowners and Renters on the Move

1. Write everything down

Before you move, make a list of all the personal mail you routinely receive. Tell your banks, financial institutions, creditors and others of the move and redirect all correspondence, statements and sensitive mailings to your new address.

Be sure to notify:
a. Retirement accounts/banking institutions/credit card companies
b. Utility companies (electric, gas, water, cable, etc.)
c. Insurance companies (medical, property, renters, fire and auto)
d. Local government agencies, federal agencies & the IRS
e. Healthcare providers
f. Schools
g. Publications to which you subscribe (magazines, newspapers, etc.)
h. Clubs you have memberships in

Alternatively, consider switching to online statements. According to the 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report from Javelin Strategy & Research, consumers with electronic statements needed less time to detect fraud and paid lower consumer costs ($116 vs. $274) than those monitoring paper statements.

2. Submit a change of address form to the U.S. Post Office

Once your form has been filed, double-check the confirmation from the Postal Service to make sure that they list your new address correctly. Your mail should start being delivered to your new residence within seven to 10 business days after you submit a change-of-address filing.

3. Shred all sensitive documents that you won't take with you

Don't leave behind any paperwork, including credit card offers, that con artists can use if they go through your trash. Instead shred them yourself. A good shredder will cost just $50 or so.

4. Thoroughly research your moving company

Mover fraud is on the rise nationwide. To thwart this crime, properly investigate local moving companies by getting recommendations from trustworthy friends, family members, and real estate agents. Also, check a mover's rating with the Better Business Bureau. Finally, only pick a mover that is registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and that has a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDDOT) number. The most reputable ones will supply you this information on request.

5. Remain present during the entire move

This may not always be possible, but just being there with the movers could help deter potential identity theft. Plus, you'll get to oversee any remaining packing or moving activities to make sure things are being handled properly.

6. Transport important physical documents properly
Transfer all sensitive documents – like wills, insurance policies, stock certificates or bonds – to a safe and secure place, such as a locked box, and keep these items with you personally during the move; don't hand them off to your moving company. You can also transfer sensitive documents to an online secure vault.

7. Lock down your computer

Don't make the mistake of leaving your computers (desktops and laptops included) readily accessible to your movers. Instead, secure those items before the movers even arrive. Take all computers, hard drives and other external storage devices with you during the move.

During his last move, "I packed my computers myself and they went in my car," says Schwartz, adding, "That's not a box you want to go with the mover."

8. Monitor bank and credit card statements

After your move, watch for unexplained charges or suspicious activity on your debit and credit cards. But also be aware that credit-related fraud "accounts for only about one-third of identity theft," Schwartz says. Non-credit related problems actually make up the bulk of problems, with thieves stealing your personal information in order to open new cell phones or bank accounts, establish utility services, or even get payday loans and fake driver's licenses in your name.

9. Verify all mail, post-move

Use your previously-created checklist to make sure that everyone you notified about your move has, in fact, started sending your mail to your new address. If something is missing, follow up immediately to make sure mail isn't still being routed to your old address.

10. Create a secure zone

After your move, even though there may be loads of boxes and furniture everywhere, carve out a secure zone – preferably one that's off-limits to movers and others. This is where you'll store computer items, check your data files or do personal financial record-keeping, like balancing your checkbook or reviewing credit card statements.

Regardless of whether you're relocating across town or clear across the country, a move can be hectic and stressful. But by taking some or all of the steps above, you'll help ensure that one important thing – your identity – doesn't get overlooked during your busy transition.
Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, August 09 2010

Pundits warn of a new housing crash after a tiny number of people signed contracts to buy homes in June, according to the Pending Home Sales Index kept by the National Association of Realtors.

The seasonally-adjusted Index sank to 75.7 in June. That's down slightly from May, and down steeply from April and March, when buyers rushed to take advantage of the federal homebuyer tax credit.

"Hell has broken loose all over again in real estate. Don't buy a home. Sell one," said commentator Michael David White at

However, if you look closely at the numbers, the Pending Home Sales report seems less like a sign of impending doom and more like all the other economic headlines you've been reading, pointing to continued weakness and a wimpy recovery.

The Pending Home Sales numbers have a big problem: The index is adjusted downward by U.S. Census officials to account for the usual summertime rush to buy homes -- but economists at Standard & Poor's point out that extremes of the last three years have made a mess of the math behind seasonal adjustments.

To really see what is going on, ignore the seasonal adjustment and focus on comparing this year's unadjusted index with last year's. This year, without the seasonal adjustment, the Pending Home Sales Index peaked just before the tax credit deadline at a stunning 133.4 in April, up 24 percent from the year before. In June, without the adjustment, the index crashed back to 92.9, down 20 percent from the year before. Taking together, the springtime boom and and the summertime bust add up to a very slight overall improvement.

Hardly a crash -- but hardly great news. Of course, to crash an object generally needs to be moving. For example, it's hard to crash a parked car. Our housing market has been stalled for the last year. Sure, home prices have risen slightly over the past 12 months. But the increase is small -- 4.6 percent as of May, according to the latest Case-Shiller 20-City Index.

That increase only looks steep to people who expected values to drop. And most of the increase happened last summer, when it still seemed slightly possible that the economy might come roaring back to life. Home prices have been more or less flat for the last seven months, according to Case-Shiller.

Pessimists like White say foreclosures will strike our stalled housing market and force prices down so steeply that you should sell your home right now -- before it's too late.

But foreclosure actions already have been striking continuously for the last year, at record rates of roughly a third of a million a month, according to research firm RealtyTrac. That's so high that it begins to strain credibility and common sense to claim that the rate can get tremendously worse. For the rate to double, there would have to be well over 600,000 foreclosure actions a month. Barring some unexpected new economic apocalypse -- in addition to all the bad news we've already suffered through -- that's not going to happen.

Instead, the consensus among economists is that the housing market will continue more or less as it has been, as record-high foreclosures and a weak-but-stabilizing job market square off against historically low interest rates, to keep home prices treading water.

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, August 08 2010
Freddie Mac reports that long-term mortgage rates moved south again this week.

Interest on 30-year fixed loans hit a new low of 4.49 percent, compared to 4.54 percent last week and 5.22 percent a year ago; and the 15-year mortgage landed at 3.95 percent, down from 4 percent last week and 4.63 percent a year ago.

Five-year adjustable-rate mortgages reached a new low of 3.63 percent, down from 3.76 percent last week and 4.73 percent a year ago; while one-year ARMs fell to 3.55 percent from 3.64 percent last week and 4.78 percent a year ago.

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:30 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, August 07 2010

If you want a yard that demands less time, money, and water, consider ground cover rather than a traditional lawn.

Americans have long had a soft spot for lawns. Turf grass covers nearly 47 million acres in the U.S., according to the Lawn Institute. But there’s plenty that’s not green about all that green. For starters, the average household dumps 60 gallons of water a day on conventional lawns. Toxic lawn herbicides and pesticides run off into lakes and streams. Gas-powered mowers spew pollution into the air. And then there’s all that time spent watering, weeding, seeding, sodding, thatching, and mulching.

If you’re looking for an alternative, consider replacing some or all of your high-maintenance turf with ground covers that form walkable “carpets,” and innovative grasses that require little or no water or mowing once established.

In turn, you’ll reduce the need for irrigation, stop washing harmful chemicals into the watershed, add depth and texture to your landscape, and spend your spare time enjoying your yard instead of manicuring it.

Creeping perennials, clover, and other ground covers

There’s a ground cover to meet most needs, whether you’re planting a pathway, a hedge, or a broad swath of green. They run the gamut of foliage textures and colors, and many have wonderful flowers. Some varieties are ground-hugging and feel delicious under bare feet. Others grow up to two feet tall, making them ideal as barriers or landscape punctuation.

Look for attributes that meet your needs: child-durable, deer-resistant, drought-tolerant, shade-loving. Mixing them up is not only aesthetically pleasing, it’s also good for the landscape: Diversity increases resistance to pests and disease and reduces the need for fertilizer and pesticides. Here are some popular choices.

Creeping perennials: Tight to the ground, these plants are especially good for cushy green carpets. They keep out weeds and allow air, water, and nutrients to get to plant roots. Many work equally well in rock gardens or in crevices between stepping stones, in full or partial sun. These include mat-forming New Zealand Brass Buttons (Cotula squalida) and Scotch or Irish Moss (Sagina subulata), which isn’t a moss at all but a perennial that forms a cushiony blooming carpet.

Some, like Blue Star Creeper (Laurentia fluviatilis), which has tiny green foliage, bear up to heavy foot traffic. Creeping Jenny (Convolvulus arvensis) has an extensive root system that makes it quick to spread and tough to kill. That’s a good thing if you’re looking for a tough turf alternative but a problem if it creeps into beds where you don’t want it.

Besides being good creepers, many ground-hugging perennial herbs are often nicely scented, hardy under foot traffic, and even edible. These include chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), which has fern-like foliage and white flowers with yellow centers; Corsican mint (Mentha requienii), which thrives in shade, exudes a minty smell when trod upon, and is edible; and various thymes (Woolly, Red, Prostrate), which feature dainty flowers and work well between pavers or as a low mounding carpet.

Creeping perennials cost $6 to $10 per plant. A 15-by-20-foot area with plants 2 inches apart (for instant density) requires 300 plants. But if you’re patient enough to wait a year or so for them to spread, you can buy fewer plants and space them 12 inches apart.

Clover: Although clover has gotten a bad rap as a weed, it’s actually not a weed at all. In fact, a clover lawn (or, for high-traffic areas, a clover-grass mix) has many advantages. Sweet-scented, inexpensive, and quite durable, white clover (Trifolium repens) grows in any kind of soil, stays green even during low-water periods, and feels lovely underfoot.

Low-growing clover doesn’t need regular cutting, nor does it need fertilizer, but an occasional mow will encourage new growth and discourage bees. If you don’t mind the bees, consider letting your clover bloom, which benefits the bees and the environment. Clover is one of the least expensive groundcover options, costing about $4 to seed 4,000 square feet. 

Laura Fisher Kaiser writes about architecture, design, and sustainability. She is in the process of letting clover, moss, and creeping jenny take over what’s left of her Washington, DC, lawn.

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 09:55 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, August 05 2010

Homeowners can better guard against liability claims by knowing what’s covered by umbrella insurance and what isn’t.

Homeowners insurance protects you if, say, a fire burns your house to the ground. That’s a start. But you also need to think about protecting your home against something equally dangerous: a lawsuit. If a houseguest slips in the bathtub, you could get sued. Lose the lawsuit and you could lose all of your assets, including your home.

Umbrella insurance is designed to take over when your homeowners insurance reaches its liability limits. The key to making a decision about whether to purchase an umbrella policy is understanding what’s covered by umbrella insurance and, equally importantly, what isn’t.

Umbrella insurance: What’s covered

Increasing the liability limits on your homeowners insurance can help, but homeowner liability extends beyond the property line. An idle remark can get you sued for slander. A car accident can land you in court. Umbrella insurance offers the advantage of extending the liability protection on your home and auto policies.

Travelers, a provider of umbrella insurance, lists items generally covered in an umbrella policy. While some of these don’t relate directly to homeownership, umbrella insurance is in effect protecting your home, probably your biggest asset, from an unfavorable lawsuit stemming from just about anything. Among what’s commonly covered by an umbrella policy:

  • Personal injury or property damage caused by you, members of your family, or hazards on your property for which you are legally liable. This includes what are called “attractive nuisances” such as swimming pools and trampolines.
  • Personal liability coverage for occurrences that take place off your premises. For example, if your dog bites a neighbor.
  • An additional layer of protection for your vehicles, beyond your auto insurance.
  • Protection against slander, libel, wrongful eviction, or false arrest.
  • Lawyer fees when you have to defend yourself.

Umbrella insurance: What’s excluded

While umbrella insurance is comprehensive, there are some exclusions, according to Travelers, such as:

  • Damages expected or intended by the insured.
  • Liability arising from certain exotic vehicles, such as aircraft and jet skis. (Snowmobiles and golf carts usually are covered.)
  • Damages to your own property. (Depending on how these were caused, your standard homeowner policy may cover these.)

Other key exclusions for typical umbrella policies involve business activities. Bob Gustafson, a certified financial planner in Marlborough, Mass., offers the example of a van driver delivering yarn to a homeowner who makes extra money knitting sweaters and selling them on eBay. This is a business, and your home/umbrella policies probably won’t cover you if the van driver gets hurt on your icy driveway. Riders, costing about $300 to $400 a year, are available for small home-based businesses.

People who work on your property normally aren’t covered either. How you should handle them depends on their status. Workers employed by a business, such as landscapers or gutter cleaners, should carry their own insurance, says Gustafson. Check before hiring them.

Full-time domestic employees, such as housekeepers and nannies, are treated differently. They aren’t likely to have their own insurance, and Brian Mittman, an attorney in White Plains, N.Y., says they may not be covered under yours either. If your full-time nanny falls down rickety basement steps, you probably aren’t covered, even if you pay her “off the books” in cash. Ask your insurer about a special rider.

Occasional domestic workers—those who work less than 35 hours a week—should be covered under standard homeowner/umbrella policies. You shouldn’t require a rider for an infrequent house cleaner or babysitter, for example, but check the terms of your policies to be 100% sure.

Tally your liability needs

Before you shop around for additional liability coverage, determine how much you already have. Most homeowners insurance comes with liability protection, but it’s usually capped in the $100,000 to $300,000 range. If you own a very modest home and have few other assets, then that may be sufficient.

Most homeowners, however, require more, says Bob Adams, a certified financial planner in Cupertino, Calif. Even $300,000 can disappear quickly in the face of a major lawsuit. The median home price in 2009 was $173,500. Add to that the value of your personal possessions like jewelry, cars,  boats, vacation homes, rental properties, and savings, and the assets you need to protect probably exceed the limit of your homeowner policy. You can even be forced to give up a portion of your future income.

It’s worth noting that some states have so-called homestead laws that can protect homes from creditors. There are many exceptions to the rules, however, so check with an attorney.

Lawsuit payouts can be huge. ACE Private Risk Services, which advises individuals on insurance needs, notes a case in which $8 million was awarded when a man suffered an aggravated vertebra injury requiring fusion surgery after a simple fall from a porch. It doesn’t matter if the person who is suing you has extensive health insurance—you’re still on the hook. In fact, umbrella policies tend to have a “med pay” provision specifically to cover medical bills in the event of a lawsuit.

When looking into umbrella insurance, be sure to check with your current home and auto insurers, since many insurers offer multi-policy discounts. An umbrella policy, which typically costs about $300 a year for $1 million of coverage, can usually be issued in a couple of hours, unless red flags come up such as a poor insurance score or an extensive history of home and auto claims.

Richard J. Koreto has been editor of several professional financial magazines and is the author of “Run It Like a Business,” a practice management book for financial planners. He and his wife own a pre-Civil War house in Rockland County, N.Y.


Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, August 04 2010


Last week, Congress passed legislation to restore funding to the 502 single-family rural housing program. The legislation will increase the guarantee fee for borrowers (but still allow it to be financed), which will make the program self-sufficient. The legislation also increases the commitment authority so Rural Housing Service can formally guarantee loans (they had been providing conditional commitments).

Also, the House Financial Services Committee approved H.R.4868, the Housing Preservation and Tenant Protection Act of 2010, which aims to stem the loss of affordable rental housing units and prevent the displacement of low-income tenants.

The Rural Housing program had run through its $13.1 billion funding by early this year and many buyers hoping to finance home purchases using Homebuyer Tax Credits were unable to close their loans.Depleted funding has been a nearly annual occurrence for the program that guarantees loans for single-family homes in designated exurban and rural areas.The new legislation will end the annual uncertainty by putting the program on a self-funding basis through enacting a 3.5 percent guarantee fee paid by the borrower. The fee, while substantial, can be included in the total amount financed.

Source: NAR and, Jann Swanson, (07/30/2010)
Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, August 03 2010

The Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana is reporting its mid-year accomplishments for community development include more than 35 written and administered grants. The organization says since its formation in 2006, it has secured $32.2 million in direct grants for its four partner counties to help with water and sewer improvements, downtown planning and purchase of emergency responder equipment.

The Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana announced its mid-year accomplishments in Community Development with more than 35 written and administered grants for 2010. An integral part of its mission, the Coalition provides up-to-date grant program information to units of local government and works with local elected officials to identify projects that could potentially be funded by grant awards. Since its formation in 2006, the Coalition has secured $32,266,710 in direct grants for its four partner counties to help with projects such as water and sewer improvements, downtown planning and purchase of emergency responder equipment.

“We love what we do! It is very fulfilling knowing that in a small way the Coalition is helping to build this region for generations to come,” said Debra Bennett-Stearsman, Vice-President of Community Development for the Coalition. “It is an honor working with the communities to make them better places to live.”

“Efforts like those exhibited by Debra and her team enrich the quality-of-life for the region’s residents and helps to attract both talent along with new businesses to our communities,” said Greg Wathen, President & CEO for the Coalition.

The Coalition also recently completed the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) document for submission to the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). Spearheaded by consulting firm Strategic Development Group, a committee of 46 community leaders was brought together over a period of four months to compile goals and objectives for the region. A master list of projects for future grant consideration by the EDA and the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs (OCRA) is also part of the document. The CEDS document may be viewed at

The Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana acts as the umbrella economic development organization for Gibson, Posey, Vanderburgh and Warrick Counties in Southwest Indiana. The Coalition facilitates and coordinates business retention, expansion and attraction activities; and, supports efforts to enhance the business climate through regional capacity building. For further information about the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana please visit our web site at

Source: Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana & Inside INdiana Business

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, August 02 2010

The real estate market here in Evansville Indiana does not always follow the national trend. We are in a fortunate situation that our market is sheltered and we do not have the extreme ups and downs as in other markets. However, the trend that: “Demand Strong for Well-Prices Homes” does apply to our local market. Homes that have been updated and are in move-in condition and that are priced right, will sell faster.

Demand Strong for Well-Prices Homes

Yes, houses will sell as long as they are priced right. In many — but not all places — that means they’re priced low.

"People who price their homes to the market are selling them in a reasonable amount of time, but people who cling to 2004 or 2005 prices aren't," says Richard Smith, president and CEO of Realogy, the parent company of Century 21, ERA, Coldwell Banker and Sotheby's International Realty.

In some areas, pent-up demand has exploded. "It's crazy," says Brendon DeSimone, an associate with Paragon Real Estate in the Noe Valley near San Francisco. "I had one house with five offers, and it went from $1.4 million to $1.7 million. The valley has just popped. It's not uncommon for one open house to have 200 people come through."

Source: USA Today, Stephanie Armour (07/28/2010)

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:28 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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