Thursday, September 30, 2004

Real estate prices to slow, not collapse

Weakening economy not indicative of housing bubble

The Fed tightened (again) and long-term interest rates fell (again) in a disconnection between the Fed and the bond market as great as any in memory.

Since spring, the Fed has tightened .75 percent, and bond yields have fallen .90 percent. By all traditional measures, such a counter-move is a bond-market forecast of a too-tight Fed, and a recession soon to follow. None seems near, though economic data do not support the Fed's insistence that all is well with the economy.

If the Fed is nevertheless intent on raising its rate (its August meeting minutes: "Significant cumulative policy tightening likely"), what would motivate a bond rally? Two answers are floating around: first, oil prices are hurting the economy, stocks are swooning (again) and inflation has receded. All true, but just another version of the pre-recession concept. Second theory: bond yields are falling because China and Japan are buying bonds in order to keep their currencies cheap, and they don't care that bond yields are below fair value. Could be, but I don't think they have enough money to move the global swap/derivative curve along with the cash bond.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

HUD proposes broker flipping rule

In a proposal for a rule that would operate in much the same way appraisers are removed from the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) FHA Appraiser Roster, HUD has published in the Federal Register a means for sanctioning real estate brokers currently authorized to sell FHA repossessed properties. Under the proposal, fraudulent activities, the use of false and misleading statements, the loss of a state license, or acting in concert with an appraiser to arrive at an artificially appraised value would result in removal of the broker's authorization to sell FHA REOs.

Like HUD's means for expunging appraisers, once HUD decides there is cause to remove a broker, it will provide the broker with written notice and the removal takes effect 30 days later. However, brokers will have 20 days after the notice is issued to submit a written response to HUD opposing the proposed removal and to request a conference. The conference will take place within 15 days after HUD receives the request. Within 20 days after the conference, HUD will advise the real estate broker in writing of HUD's decision.

Comments are requested on the proposed rule by November 16. You can see the proposal online HERE

How would a truly flexible mortgage work?

Reducing, skipping monthly payments comes into fruition

Lat week I had little good to say about Fannie Mae's new Payment Power Program (PPP), which allows a borrower to skip up to two mortgage payments in any 12-month period, and up to 10 over the life of a loan. A skipped payment results in an additional loan, equal to the payment plus a healthy access fee, tacked on to the balance. As an emergency source of funds, it is much more costly than accessing a home-equity line of credit (HELOC).

My view is that borrowers don't need a high-cost way to borrow for emergencies. What they need is a no-cost way to accumulate a reserve within their existing mortgage that would allow them to skip or reduce payments when necessary. A truly flexible mortgage would provide this. Here is how it would work.

The flexible mortgage would base the borrower's payment obligation on the loan balance. A schedule of required balances, declining month by month over the life of the loan, would be part of the contract. If the borrower made all the scheduled payments, his balances month by month would correspond exactly to the required balances. But if he paid more in some months, his actual balance would fall below the required balance, the difference constituting a "reserve account," which he could draw on by paying less later on.

For example, the loan is for $160,000 at 5.5 percent for 15 years, with a monthly payment of $1,307. The borrower receives a bonus every Christmas from which he pays an extra $1,000 on his mortgage. With each extra payment, the gap between his actual balance and the required balance widens. If he does this five years running and then loses his job, he can skip his payment entirely in months 72, 73, 74, and 75, and in month 76 he can pay only $575. At that point, the actual balance and required balance are equal, so his "reserve" is exhausted.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Florida real estate market survives hurricanes

Existing-home sales, prices rise despite storms

Florida home sales weathered the impact and threat of hurricanes in August, and single-family existing-home sales gained 3 percent while median sales prices rose 15 percent from July to August, the Florida Association of Realtors reported today.

The strike of Hurricane Charley and menace of Hurricane Frances led to delayed closings because home buyers were unable to obtain homeowners' insurance policies.

Statewide, a total of 20,294 homes changed hands in August 2004, compared to 19,748 homes in August 2003. The statewide median sales price rose 15 percent to $189,500 a year ago it was $164,100. In 1999, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $106,200 which represents a 78.4 percent increase over a five-year period, the association also reported.

In markets across the state, the aftermath of Hurricane Charley also created other problems for resale activity, as many lenders delayed closings for property re-inspections or repairs. In addition, local Realtor boards and associations, real estate firms and Multiple Listing Services in many areas across Florida were directly affected by the hurricane, which in turn impacted the collection of data for the month.


Monday, September 27, 2004

Prairie Avenue & Neighborhood Life Cycles

On its way back to the top!

It is said that all neighborhoods go through a life cycle. First comes growth, then stability, then decline and then rebirth or gentrification. And Prairie Avenue has gone through them all.

In the 1870's living on Prairie Avenue was extremely fashionable. This street was the home to Chicago's leaders of commerce and industry. Residents included Marshall Field, George Pullman and the Armour family.

As early as the 1880's the area started to fall out of fashion as the leaders of commerce and industry moved to the Gold Coast. Decline had started, by 1905 the area was turning industrial leading to a further decline in the residential area. By the 1960's Prairie Avenue had bottomed out.

Architectural organizations and preservation groups helped establish the Prairie Avenue Historic District. The district was designated a Chicago Landmark in December 27, 1979. A few homes were preserved, however; the area continued to languish for another 20 years.

By the 1990's things started to happen in the south loop. Mayor Daley moved from Bridgeport to the new Central Station development. Many of Chicago's residents followed his example and the area boomed. Land prices were cheap and all those old factories could now be made into fashionable "Lofts". There is now rapid development of new townhouse projects, and wedged in between the old historic homes are the new construction of upper bracket single family homes.

Once again Prairie Avenue is the home to the leaders of Chicago's commerce and industry.

William W. Kimball House Posted by Hello

Joseph G. Coleman House Posted by Hello

John Jacob Glessner House Posted by Hello

Friday, September 24, 2004

Fannie, Freddie need revised affordable housing goals

Group outlines points for national housing policy

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac need to have their affordable housing missions redefined, including being required to set aside a percentage of their annual net profits as a source of capital for sponsors of affordable housing.

That suggestion was just one of 12 reached by a bipartisan group that came together to outline proposals for a national housing policy. The group consisted of Democrats Henry Cisneros, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Nicholas Retsinas, director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University as well as Republicans Jack Kemp, former HUD secretary, and Kent Colton, former CEO and EVP of the National Association of Home Builders.

Fannie and Freddie, two housing government-sponsored entities, currently must have a certain percentage of their mortgage purchases be for financing housing for low and moderate income borowers, and borrowers in underserved areas.


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Real estate purchases increase slightly

Refi applications pick up

Overall mortgage purchases increased 1.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly survey.

The MBA seasonally adjusted purchase index increased by 0.2 percent to 456.6 from 455.7 the previous week. The seasonally adjusted refinance index increased by 4.1 percent to 2,052.5 from 1,972.5 one week earlier.

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 44.5 percent of total applications from 43.2 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate-mortgage share of activity increased to 33.1 percent of total applications from 33 percent the previous week


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

FBI tightens cuffs on real estate fraud

Undercover investigations lead to arrests

Six individuals in North Carolina were charged last week for their roles in a mortgage fraud ring that cost lenders up to $130 million in potential losses, according to the FBI. The Bureau in 2002 began sending undercover agents into seven organizations involved in the fraud ring, which led to the identification of the fraudulent loans.

The investigation was one of several the FBI highlighted to show progress made by its ongoing initiative to crack down on financial institution fraud. FBI investigators target a variety of financial fraud schemes, including mortgage and loan fraud, insider fraud, financial institution failure investigations, identity theft, check fraud and check kiting.

Read More

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Today's Historical Building

The Cornell Store and Flats, Walter Burley Griffin architect

Few architects have a Landmark District named after them, as does Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937). A native of Oak Park, Griffin studied architecture at the University of Illinois. After working on his own for a few years, in 1901 Griffin joined the studio of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, where he was the office manager and construction supervisor for many of Wright's early designs. Another of Wright's employees at the time was Marion Mahoney, whom Griffin married in 1911.

In 1906, Griffin opened his own architectural office. Most of his commissions were for private residences, which permitted him to develop his own unique approach to the Prairie School style.

Among his notable local designs are three sets of twin houses (1400-block of Church Street in Evanston, and the 5900-block of North Magnolia and 2300-block of West Montana in Chicago), the Cornell Store and Flats at 1220 E. 75th St., the Tolles House in the Longwood Drive District, , and the seven houses in the Walter Burley Griffin Place District, which comprises the city's greatest concentration of Prairie-style architecture.

Cornell Store and Flats Posted by Hello

Monday, September 20, 2004

Today's Historical Building

The Abraham Lincoln Center 700 E. Oakwood Boulevard, Chicago

Frank Lloyd Wright designed this building for his uncle the Reverend Jenkin Lloyd Jones. The building was to contain an auditorium, meeting rooms, offices, a kitchen, living quarters and street level shops. Wright produced designs and models for his uncle. The uncle and Wright quarreled over the design. In 1902 Wright turned the project over to Dwight Perkins and wrote on the blueprints "bldg. completed over protest of architect" The center was opened in 1905.

John Lloyd Wright claims that the original design for this building should be dated 1888, and was his fathers first architectural work.

The Abraham Lincoln Center Posted by Hello

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Real estate: The week ahead

Inman News

Inman News' fall audio conference series begins Sept. 23, at 11 a.m. PST with "Alternative Real Estate Business Models." The event includes an interactive discussion on current commission levels, the traditional brokerage model and industry newcomers, among other topics.

The Federal Reserve Board will meet on Sept. 21, to discuss monetary policy and decide whether or not to raise, lower or leave the overnight federal funds rate unchanged.

The annual Identity Risk Conference, hosted by ID Analytics, is slated for Sept. 21-23, in Carlsbad, Calif. The event features representatives from financial services, wireless, government and technology sectors, and will provide a broad perspective on identity fraud and related issues.

The National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association will meet in Chicago, Sept. 19-21, for its annual meeting. Some of the topics to be discussed include the new "science" of wealth span planning, assessing the decision-making capacity of older adults, and measuring the impact rising interest rates on the reverse mortgage business.

The New England Mortgage Banking Conference is slated for Sept. 22-24, in Providence, R.I.

The Texas Association of Mortgage Brokers will meet Sept. 23-25, in Houston for its annual convention.

Brownfields 2004: Gateway to revitalization, hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency, is slated for Sept. 20-22, in St. Louis.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Appraisers: Not Going Away

What a difference a year makes!

The message at the Predictive Methods Conference (PMC) changed markedly from previous years, where appraisers may have left wondering if they were going the way of the buggy whip. The mantra this year – from virtually everyone presenting, is that appraisers are not going away. AVMs are great tools – for review and quality control, but are not reliable enough to replace appraisers except in certain circumstances- where the data and the credit score of the borrower - are strong. (PMC brings together the leading providers and users of mortgage technology. And increasingly, interested parties from the appraisal industry.)

Statistics regarding AVM use are hard to pin down and can be misleading. While the percentage of loans involving AVMs is high – upwards of 60 percent, they mostly are used post funding for review and quality control, experts say. The percentage of new loans where AVMs actually replace appraisers remains fairly low - in the five-eight percent range. And that number is not expected to increase much.

Lenders are beginning to echo what appraisers have been saying all along: that rising housing prices over the past several years have covered most underwriting sins. But with rising interest rates and a cooling market, they predict lenders will put the brakes on AVMs while portfolio assets come under closer scrutiny

Friday, September 17, 2004

16th annual Edgewater housewalk

Edgewater Historical Society

Twin homes on the tour designed by the noted architect Walter Burley Griffin will be among the nine vintage residences open for touring on Sunday during a housewalk in the Edgewater neighborhood. The homes are in an area developed in the 1890s called Magnolia Glen.

Griffin was the construction supervisor for many of Frank Lloyd Wright's early designs, notes the Landmarks Division of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development.Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tours begin at Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1244 W. Thorndale. Tickets are $20

Playboy Mansion Chicago

Today's Historical Home

Hugh Hefner bought 1340 N. State Parkway in 1959 and turned it into the Playboy Mansion. Hefner left in 1971 and moved to California. The mansion was donated to the school of the Chicago Art Institute and was used for student housing. Later it was converted into condominiums. If only these walls could talk!

Playboy Mansion 1340 N. State Street, Chicago, IL. Posted by Hello

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Top 5 U.S. cities for retirees

Hurricanes and sweltering summer heat aside, Florida is still a great place to retire. Yet it's not necessarily the top spot in the country.

Based on David Savageau's research, those honors go to a coastal community 3,000 miles away that's not even in the Sunbelt.

The half-million U.S. seniors who move between states each year should think about retiring to Florence, Ore., says the author of the just-published 2004 edition of "Retirement Places Rated."

Based in part on his nationwide travels in an Airstream RV, Savageau chose 203 retirement spots to rate after factoring in safety, affordability, age-based demographic trends, population size and natural resources.

He then ranked them on the basis of ambiance, cost-of-living, climate, personal safety, services such as health care and education and local economy. That last factor, Savageau says, is especially important to seniors who plan to work during their retirement

1. Florence, Ore.
Florence, based on Oregon's central coast with a full-time population of 7,000, fulfills most if not all of the criteria that retirees and baby boomers seek. It get high marks for ambiance: There are massive dunes to hike, sea lions to watch, lighthouses to photograph, golf courses to blaze and mushrooms to hunt. Plus, there's Historic Old Town, which features art galleries and antique stores.

2. Scottsdale, Ariz.
Just northeast of Phoenix, this 185-square-mile city with a population of 250,000 is far from an undiscovered gem. But it is a perennial favorite, especially when it comes to climate (the number of sunny days per year is 314 and average precipitation is just 7.66 inches) and ambiance (there are 180 art galleries and as many golf courses, including six of the top 100 in the country, according to Golf magazine.)

3. Charleston, S.C.
Nestled on the coast, South Carolina's second largest city boasts unique architecture (it's one of the oldest cities in the country), warm Southern hospitality (it's been designated "America's Most Mannerly City" for nine years running) and warm weather (the average January low is 38 and the average August high is 89).

4. Melbourne-Palm Bay, Fla.
Hurricanes notwithstanding, this part of Florida's Space Coast is home to 33 miles of mostly unspoiled beaches, the Cracker Fest, greyhound race tracks and weather that's almost always warm -- January's average low is 51 and July's average high is 90. Despite its climate, Melbourne-Palm Bay is not necessarily known as a retirement community, says Chuck Galy of Melbourne's Chamber of Commerce.

5. North County San Diego
Over on the other coast, 30 miles north of San Diego, is this popular retirement area, which includes the cities of La Jolla and Del Mar. And what's not to like?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

What kind of home marketing should sellers expect?

A look at full-service brokerage offerings

Home sellers have a full array of options available to them when they list their home for sale. They can pay a minimal fee to have their home listed on the Multiple Listing Service, and do the rest themselves. Or they can pay 5 percent to 6 percent of the sale price to a full service broker who handles all aspects of the marketing and sale of the home. In other words, you get what you pay for, or you should. Here's what you should expect if you opt for full service brokerage.

Before you even list your home for sale, your agent should provide you with a marketing proposal and comparative market analysis. The marketing proposal should explain in detail what your agent would do to bring about the successful sale of your property.

Ask to see samples of advertisements. What sort of the brochure or flyer is the agent going to provide? How often will your home be held open?

More and more buyers are using the Internet to help them find a home to buy. For example, in the tech-savvy San Francisco Bay Area, approximately 75 percent of home buyers start their home search on the Internet. So make sure that your agent, or realty company, has made a commitment to advertising their listings on the Internet. In addition, make sure that photos of your home will be included.


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Anti-predatory law causes decline in real estate lending

Study finds minority, low-income borrowers hit hardest

North Carolina's 1999 anti-predatory lending law has caused lending to decline among minority and low-income borrowers, according to the findings of a study released today by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The study, conducted by Abt Associates, analyzed the changes in lending in North Carolina and neighboring states of Tennessee and South Carolina before and after passage of the North Carolina law. Abt Associates examined lending volumes on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis for prime and subprime lenders.

"The study reveals, vis-?-vis the anti-predatory lending bill, the North Carolina state legislature has imposed a modern-day form of redlining on its citizens by choking off mortgage credit to minority and low-income neighborhoods," said Robert M. Couch, MBA's chairman. He also is president and CEO of Birmingham, Ala.-based New South Federal Savings Bank.


MLSNI denies fraud, mismanagement

President speaks out on forensic audit findings

In a letter sent Thursday to members of the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois, MLSNI President Loretta Alonzo said a recent forensic audit of the company found no evidence of fraud.

"The audit findings included no evidence of fraud, financial mismanagement, misappropriation of funds, or any inappropriate activity whatsoever by MLSNI staff, officers or Board members," Alonzo wrote.

MLSNI and its CEO Jay Huffman were the subject of a forensic audit performed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, who presented the results to the MLSNI Shareholder Boards and Associations of Realtors on Aug. 3.

The MLSNI board of directors met on Aug. 25 to review the audit findings and discuss appropriate response. Board members took no action on shareholder recommendations to resolve all issues related to Huffman's performance as CEO, according to sources present at the meeting. They also voted to keep Robert T. Cichocki as corporate legal counsel, rather than terminate as shareholders recommended

Read More

Monday, September 13, 2004

Today's Historical House

Isabel Roberts House 603 Edgewood, River Forest, Il.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed this house for his secretary in 1908. Originally built in stucco, it was covered in brick veneer in 1927. Wright supervised the remodeling of this house in 1955. The unique feature of this house is the 100 year old English elm tree growing through the roof.

For more Frank Lloyd Wright homes go HERE

Isabel Roberts House 603 Edgewood Place, River Forest, Il Posted by Hello

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Change coming for overnight interest rates

Fed reports economic 'expansion' in August

Rates fell this week, not a lot, but back to the post-spring lows: low-fee mortgages shading under 5.75 percent, taken there by the 10-year T-note trading persistently in the 4-teens.

Last week's news of modest job creation in August has been overtaken by the reality of negligible inflation (wholesale "producer" prices fell .1 percent last month), and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's formal acknowledgement of that fact in testimony to Congress on Wednesday: "...Inflation and inflation expectations have eased in recent months."
However, Greenspan also said, "The most recent data suggest that, on the whole, the expansion has regained some traction." Traders gave that comment a collective "Huh?" along with sideways glances and "What data? Our expansion, or one in some other country?" The Fed's own "beige book" was thin reading. The chairman's optimism looks more like cover for continuing hikes in the Fed funds rate toward neutral than any prospect of economic growth on the order of last spring's.


Saturday, September 11, 2004

Is the Housing Boom Over?

Home Prices Have Gone Up For So Long That People Think They'll Never Drop

For years the debate has been raging: Is it a bubble or isn't it? Two years ago FORTUNE looked at the housing market and saw reasons to be concerned. While home prices nationally were only 5% to 10% overvalued, we said, some frothy markets, mainly on the coasts, were more than 20% above historical norms. Our conclusion: While the trends were worrisome, "for the nation as a whole, no housing bubble exists ... we're not there yet."

Two years later it looks like "there" is finally here. The housing market is rapidly losing touch with reality. Fueled by interest rates that have remained near record lows, prices have continued to soar, and the gap between home values and the underlying fundamentals such as personal income and job growth is greater than ever. The most alarming development, though, is the change in psychology. "The market isn't acting rationally," says Christopher Thornberg, an economist at UCLA. "It's now an emotion-driven market where people are buying on the expectation of future appreciation." Increasingly Americans view houses not primarily as places to live but as foolproof, can't-lose investments. The passionate faith that money poured into real estate will magically multiply is creating a self-fulfilling speculative frenzy that's bound to end badly.


Friday, September 10, 2004

Neighborhoods seek spot on historic registry

With community pride and potential tax breaks at stake, four city neighborhoods are trying to get their bungalow-filled blocks placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The North and Northwest side areas are vying to create federally recognized historic districts, making bungalows within them eligible for tax relief if owners tackle renovation projects that cost at least 25 percent of the home's value.

That's a large undertaking though, so much of the historic register effort is about pride.
"I just figured it's kind of nice to say you are living in a historic bungalow," said Louis Krueger, 75, who is pushing the designation effort in his North Mayfair neighborhood.

He and his wife raised four kids in their bungalow in the 4900 block of North Kenneth, a home built in 1924 for $6,500. There are about 750 similar homes in his neighborhood bounded by Foster, Lawrence, Kedvale and Kilbourn.

He and other volunteers are collecting old building permits and historical data to submit first to the city, then state and finally the federal government. Official listing on the U.S. register could come in 2005.

Being in a historic district doesn't get you a fancy plaque -- but it doesn't bring the tight construction restrictions assigned to landmark buildings either. The most tangible benefit is getting property tax bills frozen for eight years if you sink 25 percent of the home's value into rehab work. The tax bill gradually increases to the home's true, post-rehab assessment between the ninth and 12th years.

In addition to North Mayfair, residents in two separate districts roughly bounded by Western, California, Lunt and Devon are also planning historic district applications. And the Wrightwood Boulevard Community, which includes 55 bungalows in the 4600 and 4700 blocks of West Wrightwood, already has its paperwork in and could be designated this month.

It would be the third bungalow district in the city designated by the feds. The Schorsch Irving Park Garden and the South Park Manor districts were approved in March.

Annual Oak Park "Painted Lady" Housewalk

"Painted Lady" Housewalk by the 19th Century Club

Seven elaborately painted Victorian residences will be open for viewing on Saturday during the annual Painted Lady housewalk in Oak Park and River Forest.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $40, or $35 in advance. Tickets are available at the 19th Century Club, 178 Forest Avenue, Oak Park (708) 386-2729

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Alta Vista Terrace, Chicago, IL. Posted by Hello

Real estate sales should eclipse last year's records

Forecast projects higher home prices

Existing-home sales should reach a record 6.5 million this year, a 5.7 percent increase over last year's record 6.1 million sales, the National Association of Realtors reported today in its latest monthly forecast for the year. Meanwhile, new-home sales are expected to rise to a record 1.16 million, or 7.1 percent higher than last year's numbers. And housing starts are forecast to increase 4.8 percent to 1.94 million in 2004, the strongest pace since 1978.

This existing-home sales forecast represents a slight improvement over last month's forecast, which called for 6.45 million existing-home sales this year. This month's new-home sales forecast for the year is down slightly from last month's forecast, which estimated that new-home sales would reach 1.2 million this year.

Read More

Today's Historical Home

Alta Vista Terrace District, 3800 block of North Alta Vista Terrace

Built 1900-04 J.C. Brompton, architect, designated a Chicago Landmark September 15, 1971. This street represents one of the last real estate developments of Samuel Eberly Gross, a highly colorful realtor responsible for the construction of thousands of houses in the Chicago area.

Sometimes called "A Street of Forty Doors," Alta Vista Terrace displays a lively variety of architectural styles and detail, yet every townhouse on one side is duplicated with only minor variations at the diagonally opposite end of the block.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Mortgage tech firm closes fully paperless loan

All-electronic mortgage ready to be sold on secondary market

Document Processing Systems announced this week that it had closed what it calls the nation's first successful implementation of a fully paperless, all-electronic mortgage.

The mortgage was closed using DPS eMortgage Studio, which was used by all parties, including lender, document provider, title company, settlement agent, notary and borrower to electronically create, execute, register and store all documents for the settlement.

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Sunday, September 05, 2004

Today's Historical House

Clarence and Grace Hall Hemingway House

Built in 1906 by architect Henry Fiddelke this was the home of Ernest Hemingway from 1906 until he graduated from Oak Park high school in 1917. The house is located at 600 N. Kenilworth, Oak Park, IL.

Clarence and Grace Hall Hemingway House Posted by Hello

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Why Preserve?

What Does "Historic" Mean, Anyway?

Let's face it: The label "historic" gets applied to so many different kinds of places -- from ancient ruins and Gothic cathedrals to World War II battlefields and Art Deco skyscrapers -- that it's sometimes hard to figure out exactly what it means.

What is it that makes a place "historic"? And who decides what's "historic" and what isn't?

Clearly, it's a complicated issue -- but there's a fairly simple way to approach it: Instead of asking, "Is this building historic?", it may make more sense to ask, "Is this building worth saving?"

When you strip away all the jargon and rhetoric, historic preservation is simply having the good sense to hang on to something -- an older building or neighborhood or a piece of landscape, for instance -- because it's important to us as individuals and/or as a nation. This importance may derive from any of several factors.

Some older buildings are important simply because they're good to look at. As one author put it, they are "a gift to the street" whose style, textures, materials and charm (and maybe even eccentricity) enrich and enliven their surroundings. These buildings are worth saving because our communities would be less interesting, less attractive, without them.

Others are worth saving because they have plenty of good use left in them. Innovative examples of what's called "adaptive use" can be found everywhere. Factories have been turned into convention centers, train stations reborn as restaurants, mills converted into shopping centers, office buildings transformed into apartments, and on and on.

This process is good for the environment: Think of it as the Ultimate Recycling. It can be good for the pocketbook too, since reusing an old building means avoiding the expense of demolition and saving materials and craftsmanship that are costly (or even impossible) to replace today.

Finally, some places are worth saving because they link us with our past and help us understand who we are. Places like Gettysburg, the Alamo and Independence Hall tell America's story, and we'd never allow them to be destroyed.

But places that tell your story are worth saving too: the house where your grandparents lived, the school you attended, the movie theatre where you had your first date, the church where you were married.

That's what historic preservation is really all about. It's about hanging on to what's important.

Today's Historical House

The William Drummond House 559 Edgewood Place, River Forest, IL.

William Drummond worked with Frank Lloyd Wright from 1899 to 1909. His personal house built in 1910, owes much to Wright's "Fireproof House" published in the Ladies Home Journal in 1907. Edgewood Place contains two other Wright homes and two other Drummond homes.

For more information on River Forest homes go to Citywide Services

William Drummond House Posted by Hello

Real estate: The week ahead

Inman News

The XLII Interamerican Conference for Housing Development is slated for Sept. 6-8, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This event is focused on "Consolidating Urban and Housing Systems: Challenges and Opportunities for the American Continent."

"America's Town Meeting" will take place Sept. 8-10, in Washington, D.C. The annual conference is held by the National Association of Towns and Townships, and will explore new technologies altering the face of small-town America, as well as regulations and emerging issues.

The GOING conference, held by WestStart/CALSTART, will take place Sept. 10, in Boulder, Colo. The conference agenda includes sessions on alternatives to car dependency, connecting existing technologies to viable community transportation services, and assembling these technologies to work together for local communities.

The Fall Regional Default Servicing Seminar is slated for Sept. 8-10, in Orlando, Fla. The event is held by America's Mortgage Banking Attorneys.

The Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp. will hold the NeighborWorks Community Leadership Institute Sept. 9-12, in Los Angeles. The theme of the Institute is "Community Building: Each One, Reach One, Teach One."

Downturn strikes economy

Mortgage rates to remain below 6.5% into '05

Financial Frances made landfall in New York at 8:30 this morning.

Right, wrong, or subsequently to be revised, high winds from the Labor Department brought word of new jobs added to payrolls. Not a lot of them 144,000 in August, and another 59,000 found washed up on the beach from June and July but enough to lift interest rates.

Mortgages are rising toward 6 percent; the 10-year T-note is trading at 4.29 percent, decisively out of its 4.08 percent-4.18 percent gloomy-pleasure range; and the more dramatic 3.3 percent-to-3.5 percent move in the 5-year indicates unanimous expectation of another .25 percent from the Fed at its meeting in three weeks. That move, from 1.5 percent in the overnight cost of money to 1.75 percent, had been considered hostage to today's job data.

The damage from the payroll news would have been worse had all other indicators not been weak weak here in the United States, and among trading partners.

In early summer Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan insisted that a sudden economic slowing after a sparkling spring was merely a "soft patch," a gathering of breath before resumed vigorous expansion; he observed further that all long-running expansions include intermissions. Four months later, there isn't anyone left in the financial markets who believes in his benign description of a more persistent slowdown (aside from the always hopeful pushers of stocks).

Read More

Friday, September 03, 2004

Today's Historical House

The Charles E. Roberts Stable

Roberts was a benefactor of the young Frank Lloyd Wright and commissioned him to remodel the stable next to his house into a residence for his son. The stable was built in 1886 and remodeled by FLW in 1896 is located at 317 N. Euclid Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois.

The Charles E. Roberts stable 317 N. Euclid Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois Posted by Hello

Job-market woes push mortgage rates lower

30-year fixed holds below 6% for fifth consecutive week

Mortgage rates sank this week in response to a sharp drop in consumer confidence for August, according to surveys conducted by mortgage buyer Freddie Mac and Bankrate.

In Freddie Mac's weekly survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.77 percent, with an average 0.8 points, for the week ended today, down from last week when it averaged 5.82 percent.

The average for the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage this week is 5.15 percent, with an average 0.7 points, also down from last week when it averaged 5.21 percent.

One-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 3.97 percent this week, with an average 0.8 point, down more from last week when it averaged 4.05 percent.

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Thursday, September 02, 2004

U.S. real estate prices post record appreciation

Annual rise of 9.36% highest in 25 years

Average U.S. home prices increased 9.36 percent from the second quarter of 2003 through the second quarter of 2004, according to figures released today from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight's House Price Index.

Appreciation for the most recent quarter was 2.21 percent, or an annualized rate of 8.83 percent, according to OFHEO's index, a quarterly report that analyzes housing-price appreciation trends.

"The appreciation over the past year is the largest four-quarter increase since 1979," said Patrick Lawler, chief economist at OFHEO. "These data show no signs of the long-anticipated, and ultimately inevitable, slowing of house-price inflation." The quarterly appreciation is more than 50 percent faster than the upward revised 1.45 percent increase in the first quarter of 2004. Over the past four quarters, house price rises far exceeded gains in the prices of non-housing goods and services incorporated into the Consumer Price Index. House prices rose 9.36 percent, while the price of other goods and services rose 3.03 percent

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Mortgage rates fall

30-year down at 5.4%; 10-year Treasury down at 4.12%

Long-term mortgage interest rates were lower Tuesday, and the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond yield fell to 4.12 percent. The 30-year fixed-rate average dropped to 5.4 percent, and the 15-year fixed-rate sank to 4.8 percent. The 1-year adjustable was down at 3.21 percent. The 30-year Treasury bond yield decreased to 4.93 percent.

Rates are current as of 7:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Frank Lloyd Wright's Lincoln on display

2004 Pebble Beach Concours

The Continental, built from Lincoln's Zephyr platform, was the first automobile to be honored for design excellence and placed on display by New York's Museum of Modern Art.

To promote its stunning new car, Lincoln offered free cars to prominent Americans like Frank Lloyd Wright, who had called it the most beautiful car in the world. But Wright demanded two cars, one for each of his homes. They agreed, and gave him a coupe and a convertible, each one painted in his signature color--Cherokee red.

In 1947, the convertible was rolled in an accident and instead of simply repairing it, Wright decided to redesign the car, penning a town car roof with half-moon shaped opera windows, piano hinged at the bottom, and no rear window. His wife referred to it as his "love wagon."

Now owned by motion picture producer Joel Silver. The cars reside at Silver's plantation in South Carolina, which was built by Wright and restored by Wright's son, Lloyd.

Frank Lloyd Wright's 1941 Lincoln Continental Posted by Hello

Frank Lloyd Wright's custom Lincoln Continental Posted by Hello

31th Annual Historic Pullman House Tour

October 9 & 10, 2004 Homes open 11:00am - 5:00pm

Make plans to visit Pullman for the 31st annual house tour. One weekend each year, Pullman residents open their homes to the public for the annual Historic Pullman House Tour. These 120-year-old landmark homes range from executive mansions to14-foot wide worker's cottages to multi-unit apartments, all with a charm and uniqueness that is part of the Pullman experience.

For advance tickets and other information go HERE

Mortgage rates steady

30-year holds at 5.44%; 10-year Treasury down at 4.18%

Long-term mortgage interest rates were flat Monday, and the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond yield fell to 4.18 percent.

The 30-year fixed-rate average remained at 5.44 percent, and the 15-year fixed-rate stayed at 4.84 percent. The 1-year adjustable was down at 3.23 percent.
The 30-year Treasury bond yield decreased to 4.98 percent.

Rates are current as of 7:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

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