Friday, August 5, 2011

510 E. Waldburg Update

All this trim will soon have a home.

All the windows in the house have been rebuilt.

I love that arched door.

This used to be the upstairs living room, but the new owners are going to use it as a bedroom to take advantage of the 2nd floor porch.

The debris is supposed to be cleared from the yard by the end of this weekend. If it's not, I"m going to go "Hulk" on those stacks of wood and start throwing them around.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Charlton Cottage Final Update

521 E. Charlton is finally completed (except for some minor touch-ups) and sold! This is a good time to see just how far we've come, with some before and after pictures.

All the stucco is new and repainted. The colors look similar, but the original stucco was a tabby style.

We used to have 8-foot ceilings and very old carpet.

The ceilings were opened and vaulted to the roof and the hardwood floors were excavated and refinished.

Hall Bath before.

Hall bath after.

2nd Bedroom before.

2nd Bedroom after.

Master Bedroom before, looking into what used to be a small extra room.

Master bedroom after, with a peek-a-boo view into the master closet/master bath.

Here's that extra room before.

Here's the master closet now, facing the bedroom.

This isn't the greatest shot of the new master bath, because of the drop-cloth used during the touch-up painting but you can see we added a walk-in tiled shower with glass door, vanity and toilet.

This used to be the kitchen.

New custom cabinets, stainless appliances, granite counters.

You can see the vaulted ceiling in this view.

Rear exterior before.

Rear exterior now.

Parking area before.

Parking area after.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Winners of the rental economy

Rental rates have been on the rise and are projected to continue increasing. With very low interest rates, you should definitely do the math to see whether owning would save you money. If you need help doing the math, feel free to ask me--I do have an MBA so the math isn't beyond me.


By Nin-Hai Tseng, writer-reporter May 25, 2011: 5:00 AM E

Members of the Rent is Too Damn High Party beware! Residential rental prices are on the rise. Here's who wins in the new non-ownership society.

FORTUNE -- There are still many factors discouraging even the most savvy homebuyers from purchasing a home, but a new class of renters is expected to bring a bright spot to the troubled U.S. real estate market. Prices for rental apartments are expected to rise nationally – by approximately 4.5% in 2011 and up to another 3% in 2012, according to

During the housing boom between 2001 and 2005, prices for rentals fell by nearly 10% as easy credit offered by banks lured many newcomers to homeownership. Since the bust of the housing market, rents have more than made up those declines as more people now question the financial merits of homeownership or simply can't get approved for a mortgage. From 2006 to 2009, rental prices on average increased by more than 15%, according to Moody's Analytics economist Andreas Carbacho-Burgos. Nationwide, the average rent today is $1,360 a month.

Experts predict rents will continue rising.

Christina Aragon, director of strategy and consumer insight of, says this is being driven by demographic changes coupled with an improving economy and ongoing foreclosure problems hampering the market for single-family homes. Much of the demand for rentals will likely come from younger people who tend to rent rather than buy. The economic recession pushed many jobless twenty- and early thirty-somethings to crash with friends and parents, but Aragon expects that the improving job market will get them to find their own place. What's more, the number of people aged 25 to 34 is forecast to grow 1.4% per year through 2013, helping drive demand further.

Paying more to the landlord might be bad news for renters, but it could signal that better days are ahead for the overall housing market. Here are a few winners of our burgeoning rental economy.

Builders and developers

Since the bust of the housing market, residential construction has dropped to record lows. But that is poised to change as builders and developers have already begun trying to cash in on higher demand for rental apartments.

Charles Brindell, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders' Multifamily Leadership Board, says he expects apartment construction to pick up to at least 160,000 units this year, mostly in urban areas along the East Coast. This would be significantly higher, given that construction since 2009 has totaled less than 90,000 a year – the lowest in 50 years.

Brindell, also CEO of a Texas-based firm that invests and develops apartment communities, says he's bullish because of the improving job prospects for younger workers. More than 60% of jobs created in 2010 went to workers between 20 to 24-years old – the prime age group for renters. Brindell's Mill Creek Residential Trust is planning to build 3,000 apartment units this year, mostly in the Northeast including the Boston area, Long Island, New York, and Virginia.

However, while a burst of activity in multi-family homes is certainly good news for the construction sector, it is by no means enough to return the homebuilders to their previous level of activity. The NAHB index that tracks builder confidence remains low at 16 -- it was as high as 72 in 2005.

Real estate investment trusts (REITs)

It's not that homeownership is dead, but people are certainly renting more and investors have picked up on the higher demand.

REITs, which invest in commercial properties from office buildings to rental apartments – have outperformed the S&P500 since the financial crisis. In 2010, investments in apartment complexes led gains in the overall REITs market with total returns at 47%. Returns for the overall REITs market was 28%, markedly higher than the S&P500 that saw returns of 15%.

Last month, real estate investment trusts Equity Residential (EQR), headed by real estate mogul Sam Zell, and AvalonBay Communities (AVB) -- both among the nation's biggest apartment owners -- posted higher year-over-year revenue as the companies raised rents.

For Equity Residential, average rent rose 3.6% to $1,400 and occupancy rose to 95% from 94.6% the previous year on properties the company operated for a year or more. Revenue rose by 4%. And AvalonBay reported that revenues jumped 3.7% and average monthly rental rates ticked up slightly quarter over quarter from $1,873 to $1,879.

As of Monday, total returns for REITs were 8.73% (with about seven months to go), outperforming the Russell 2000, NASDAQ and S&P 500. Investments in apartment complexes continued contributing much of the gains.

Overall U.S. housing market

Given that many homeowners are still trying to clean up their messy finances, it might be hard to see how higher rents could benefit the overall U.S. housing market. In theory, at least, renting could become so expensive that it costs less to buy a house and make monthly mortgage payments.

In fact, that's happening already, even if it hasn't yet translated to a return to homeownership. In Moody Analytics' latest list of rent ratios for 54 U.S. metropolitan areas, 29 cities fell into the "better to buy" category. With many experts predicting that home prices have further to fall this year and with higher expectations for rentals, more cities could end up on the buy side of the buy-versus-rent calculator.

But much of that will likely depend on huge hurdles weighing on the housing market – namely, record foreclosure rates, high unemployment and tighter lending standards for new mortgages. Areas that continue to experience high foreclosure rates and widespread unemployment, such as Florida and Arizona, might find it more affordable to buy than rent. Yet renting will likely be king in more urban areas with more employment opportunities, such as New York and Seattle.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Charlton Cottage Update -- Before and After

The interior of 521 E. Charlton should be complete by the end of the week. Here are some before and after photos of a few rooms.

Living Room Before

Living Room After

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After

Hallway Before

Hallway After

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Not a lot of real estate agents post links to articles talking about price declines, but the corollary link is that mortgage applications continuing rising. So we continue the same stories we've been tracking--prices remain under pressure, BUT we still have people taking advantage of buying opportunities and very low mortgage rates. I would say the lesson is to keep it all in perspective, not dwell on the solely negative news stories, nor to get too excited about the positive items. Remember the mantra--if the house works for you, and your mortgage payment is affordable, and you wouldn't need to sell it next year, you don't need to be afraid of buying.


Home Values See Biggest Drop Since 2008
Published: Monday, 9 May 2011 | 8:36 AM ET
By: Reuters

U.S. home values fell in the first quarter at the fastest rate since late 2008, real estate data firm Zillow said on Monday, suggesting that a bottom will not be seen until 2012 at the earliest.

Zillow said its home value index fell 3 percent in the first three months of the year from the previous quarter, and was down 8.2 percent year-over-year.

The number of homeowners under water—or, those who owe more on the mortgage than their house is currently worth—amounted to 28.4 percent of single-family homeowners, representing a peak since Zillow began calculating the data in 2009.

That was up from 27 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

Foreclosures also rose, following the moratoriums that had been in place in late 2010. In March, one out of every 1,000 homes was in foreclosure.

Given all those factors, it is unlikely home values will reach a bottom this year, Zillow said, and the firm pushed its forecast out to 2012.

"Home value declines are currently equal to those we experienced during the darkest days of the housing recession. With accelerating declines during the first quarter, it is unreasonable to expect home values to return to stability by the end of 2011," Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries said in a statement.

Almost all of the 132 markets covered by Zillow saw home value declines. Only Fort Myers in Florida, Champaign-Urbana in Illinois, and Honolulu, Hawaii, managed quarterly increases.
Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters

Mortgage Applications Rose Last Week
Published: Wednesday, 4 May 2011 | 8:48 AM ET
By: Reuters

Applications for U.S. home mortgages rose last week, helped by refinancing demand as interest rates fell for the third week in a row, an industry group said on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, rose 4 percent in the week ended April 29.

The MBA's seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications climbed 6 percent, while the gauge of loan requests for home purchases added 0.3 percent.

The refinance share of mortgage activity rose to 62.7 percent of total applications from 61.6 percent the week before, the highest level of the month, MBA said.

Fixed 30-year mortgage rates averaged 4.76 percent in the week, down from 4.80 percent the week before.