Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Decade - A 7 Minute review

The end of 2009 is also the end of the first decade of the century - and that makes it a good time to get some perspective on the last 10 years.

This video, courtesy of our friends at Newsweek that gives you a quick overview of the decade - it might surprise you to realize that even something as ubiquitous as the Ipod is less than 10 years old.. seems like those white earbuds have been around forever doesn't it?

Anyway, here's best wishes from our family to yours,for a better decade ahead!

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kepping A Front-Loading Washing Machine Free of Mildew Smells

Front-loading washing machine.Image via Wikipedia

The front-loading washing machine is a popular home appliance choice. As compared to its top-loading counterpart, a front-loader can handle larger clothing loads, is gentler on garments, and uses about 1/3 less water. In situations where stacking the washer and dryer is needed, the front loader is the winner.

However, because its design prevents water from fully draining, a front-loading washer can be a haven for mold and bacteria if not cared for properly. I have a front loader in my second home, and even though I leave the door open after use to dry it out, there sometimes persists and odor. It's the story the salesman doesn't often talk about and is the reason why products like Affresh exist. An all natural product is which can be ordered online or bought locally.

If you own a front-loading, here's some steps to keep in-washer mildew at bay and your clothes smelling fresh.

  1. Leave the door slightly open after every cycle. This allows water to evaporate.

  2. Use low-sudsing, high-efficiency detergent. If your local store doesn't carry it, try Amazon.

  3. Every week, pull back the rubber seal and wipe the inner ring with a cloth.

  4. Clean the drain pump filter monthly, at least.

  5. Run a bleach-and-hot-water cycle monthly, at least.

Front-loaders are good products, but require special care. Follow the steps above and your washer should remain mildew- and mold-free.
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Better Housing News Flashes - From 1935

75 Years ago, in 1935 a suffering housing market was being returned to normal through a new housing stimulus package based upon the creation of the Federal Housing Administration and the use of mortgage products that allowed people to pay off the debt during the term of the loan.

From the Internet Archive's Prelinger Archives comes this reminder that housing always recovers first, and that even in times that seem to be challenging financially, recovery begins when people take advantage of new programs to get the benefits of home ownership.

I hope you enjoy this film as much as I did - whether its watching the construction process, the latest amenities in the house (like the built-in ironing board and cabinets in the kitchen) or the billboard at the end showing the price, down payment and monthly payments for a new detached single family home - and remember, 75 years from now people may be just as amazed at the values in our housing market!

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Friday, December 25, 2009

A Holiday Treat - Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer

Over 60 years ago, this classic song was made into a] Christmas Cartoon Classic by Max Fleischer who is perhaps best known for Betty Boop, Popeye the Sailor, and the famous Superman comics staring Bud Collier in the role of Clark Kent/Superman.

From a kinder and gentler age, perhaps you'll find some memory of your childhood, or maybe you can show this to one of the children in your family and create some new memories.

In any case, whether Christmas is your holiday, or you just enjoy the season and the spirit of giving as I do, please enjoy.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Holiday Message

From my childhood - a Holiday message by R.O. Blechman for CBS created in 1966 - at a time when we bemoaned the commercial nature of the holiday without knowing how much more commercial it was going to get - Have a wonderful Holiday - enjoy your time with your family whether you're spending it at a traditional Christmas dinner or going to the movies and having Chinese food - This time of year is about family and rebirth - old times and new beginnings

Best Wishes to you and your family from me and mine!

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Simple Explanation of the Last Federal Reserve Statement

Modern-day meeting of the Federal Open Market ...Image via Wikipedia

The Federal Open Market Committee voted last week to leave the Fed Funds Rate within its target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

In its press release, the FOMC noted that the U.S. economy "has continued to pick up", that the jobs markets is getting better, and that housing market has shown "some signs of improvement" lately.

It's the fourth straight statement in which the Fed speaks optimistically about the U.S. economy -- a signal that the worst of the recession is likely behind us. Which doesn't mean that things are better, just that they are getting better.

Just as there was speculation about the end of the last "boom" before the impact of that end was felt, there is always a lot of conversation about recovery before its impact is completely felt. People who are struggling now may be feeling some relief, but they may continue to struggle for a while longer - though they can do so feeling that things are getting better, and should continue to do so.

The economy isn't without threats, however, and the Fed identified several, including:

  1. Tight credit conditions for consumers

  2. Businesses are reluctant to hire new workers

  3. Lower overall housing wealth

The impact of each is obvious. Without more liquid credit, larger purchases like homes, cars, and business equipment may be stalled (or at least slowed) even though the demand or need for those purchases is growing. Until more people are employed, many families will be more conservative in their spending, delaying some of the benefits of the recovery. And finally, with less equity in their homes, people have a harder time releasing that equity for education, purchases, or opening new businesses. At least in our market area, since our price adjustments have been very moderate in comparison to the national averages, people have not lost as much housing wealth as in other parts of the country.

The message's overall tone remained positive, however and inflation appears to be held in check.

Also in its statement, the Fed confirmed its plan to hold the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent "for an extended period" and to honor its $1.25 trillion commitment to the mortgage bond market. That plan -- due to expire at the end of March 2010 -- should be noted by today's homebuyers. Fed insiders estimate that the program suppressed rates by 1 percent through 2009.

Mortgage market reaction to the Fed press release is negative. Mortgage rates aincreased after the annoucnement.

The FOMC's next scheduled meeting is January 26-27, 2010.
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Fannie Mae Makes it Tougher for Buyers - Again!

Being approved for a mortgage is getting tougherFannie Mae raised the bar for mortgage applicants last weekend. Getting approved for a home loan just got harder, as if loan liquidity weren't already the biggest problem facing home buyers.

In its official announcement, Fannie Mae says the updates minimize long-term lending risks. If that's the case, this won't be the last guideline change Fannie Mae makes -- especially with loans defaulting at an above-normal clip.

The immediate changes are major. The first pertains to credit scores.

Effective December 13, 2009, the bulk of Fannie Mae's loans require a 620 credit score minimum. There are very few exceptions. As a result, buyers with damaged credit may need to make repairs to their credit to qualify.

A second relates to loans with private mortgage insurance.

Homeowners whose loan-to-value exceeds 80 percent now have a choice:

  1. Pay higher mortgage insurance premiums month-after-month

  2. Pay a one-time fee paid at closing to compensate for higher risk

Both options result in higher consumer loan costs. This change probably has less impact since rates are so low, the monthly increase will probably be bearable for buyers, though it does result in less "bang for the buck" in the new loan - since the total payment is the target for most buyers, the increase in the amount of PMI means a decrease in the portion of the payment needed to handle the actual loan.

A third change concerns maximum debt-to-income ratio. Fannie Mae will no longer approve loans with debt ratios exceeding 45 percent except with very strong assets and very high credit scores.

In no case whatsoever may debt-to-income exceed 50 percent.

There are other changes, too, including the elimination of seldom-used mortgage products and additional risk-based fees for "expanded level" mortgage approvals. These updates affect just a small part of the population.

The National Association of REALTORS took a lot of heat from people who thought their ad campaign "There's Never Been a Better Time to Buy a Home" was too optimistic. However, the ad campaign may have been nothing but the truth. Home prices are rebounding, mortgage rates are low, and -- for 5 more months at least -- there's a federal tax credit for qualified buyers. You don't have to buy a home now, but with mortgage guidelines sure to tighten in 2010, now may be a better time than later.

The best "deal" won't matter if you can't get qualified on your mortgage.
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