Gunning Daily News

Housing Affordability Rises to Highest Level in Two Decades

March 25, 2011 8:13 am

RISMEDIA, March 25, 2011-Nationwide housing affordability during the fourth quarter of 2010 rose to its highest level in the 20 years since it has been measured, according to National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) data. The HOI indicated that 73.9% of all new and existing homes sold in the fourth quarter of 2010 were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,400. The record-setting index for the fourth quarter surpassed the previous high of 72.5% set during the first quarter of 2009 and marked the eighth consecutive quarter that the index has been above 70%. Until 2009, the HOI rarely topped 65% and never reached 70%.

"Today's report shows that housing affordability at the end of 2010 was at its highest level since we started computing the HOI," said Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Reno, Nev. "However, while this is good news for consumers, both home buyers and builders continue to confront extremely tight credit conditions, and this remains a significant obstacle to many potential home sales."

Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind., was the most affordable major housing market in the country for the second consecutive quarter, after relinquishing for a quarter the top spot it has held for five years. In Indianapolis, 93.5% of all homes sold were affordable to households earning the area's median family income of $68,700.

Also ranking near the top of the most affordable major metro housing markets were Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa.; Syracuse, N.Y; Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, Mich.; and Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, Mich.

Among smaller housing markets, the most affordable was Elkhart-Goshen, Ind., where 97.0% of homes sold during the fourth quarter of 2010 were affordable to families earning a median income of $58,600. Other smaller housing markets near the top of the index included Lansing-East Lansing, Mich.; Kokomo, Ind.; Mansfield, Ohio; and Bay City, Mich.

New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J., again led the nation as the least affordable major housing market during the fourth quarter of 2010. In New York, more than a fourth-25.5%-of all homes sold during the quarter were affordable to those earning the area's median income of $65,600. This was the 11th consecutive quarter that the New York metropolitan division has held this position.

The other major metro areas near the bottom of the affordability index included San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif.; Honolulu; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif.; and Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif., respectively.

Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif. was the least affordable of the smaller metro housing markets in the country during the fourth quarter. In Santa Cruz, 45.0% of the homes were affordable to families earning the median income of $84,200. Other small metro areas ranking near the bottom included Ocean City, N.J; San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif.; Laredo, Texas; and Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, Calif.

For more information, visit www.nahb.org.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Spice Up Your Weekends with Game Night

March 24, 2011 11:13 am

RISMEDIA, March 24, 2011-Day-to-day schedules can get tedious. Bouncing between work, home and family obligations, it's often hard to muster the energy and enthusiasm for making time for yourself. But weekends are two-day opportunities that should be used to recharge and indulge in some much-needed fun and relaxation.

By the time Friday and Saturday nights roll around, you might not feel like doing much of anything, so instead of feeling the pressure to go out, try staying in and creating your own memorable festivities.

Cynthia Nims, editor and author of 12 cookbooks, including Gourmet Game Night, focuses on the importance of unplugging and reconnecting with friends and families over entertainment at home. "Games are perfect for a night in with a group of friends. They are a fun reminder not to be too serious," says Nims. "The lighthearted atmosphere makes it possible for both guests and hosts to relax and enjoy the genuine fun of sharing laughs over a favorite game or two."

Nims recommends choosing your game night games thoughtfully to ensure that it will be fun for everyone. An updated classic like Trivial Pursuit: Bet You Know It is more about knowing your friends than knowing the answers to obscure trivia. A game like this keeps everyone engaged and doesn't put anyone on the spot. Players bet on whether or not their friends will get their questions right or wrong, and for each correct bet a player earns chips that can then be used throughout the game to buy wedge pieces for those categories they don't feel like attempting.

For a game night, Nims suggests easy nibbles that are upscale enough for a dinner party, but easily edible and mess-free enough for a game night.

For the host who doesn't want to spend time in the kitchen, order some no-fuss takeout and suggest each guest bring a dessert. Guests will have the pleasure of trying small bites of several different desserts, while also showing off their own favorite specialty.

Whether you're looking for a laugh-out-loud night of fun around the coffee table, or a rambunctious, out-of-your seat game, gathering together good friends and food is the perfect recipe for spicing up your weekend with a stress-free game night in.

For more information, visit www.familyfeatures.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


4 Home-Staging Trends to Help you Compete

March 24, 2011 11:13 am

RISMEDIA, March 24, 2011-Staging a home before listing it on the market is a crucial step that many homeowners often overlook. The International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSPR) offers five home-staging tips to help homeowners compete in today's market:

1. Home staging is not just for houses for sale. Traditional home staging involves working with sellers to prepare houses for sale; but today's successful Accredited Staging Professionals have a multi-faceted business that allows them to serve clients with staging to live, staging to work and for a myriad of events-from small parties to large, corporate parties.

2. Home staging helps foreclosure, REO and short sale properties sell. With the increase of foreclosure, REO and short sale properties in many markets throughout the U.S., the need for presentation of these properties as a product that can sell is imperative.

3. Home staging becomes greener. As of late, IAHSPR has seen a trend toward eco-friendly home staging. Home stagers have specific inventory they can provide that is "green" to help a seller, builder or investor that wants to put their "green" foot forward and achieve their goal of marketing a product that truly has the environment at heart.

4. Home staging captivates mainstream media. There are currently no less than eight shows on HGTV devoted to the process of preparing a house for sale, and this trend will continue as long as the public finds value in learning what to do both inside and outside their home when getting ready to put it on the market.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Growing Great Tomatoes in Small Spaces - Container Gardening May Be the Key

March 24, 2011 11:13 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, March 24, 2011-Some people grow their own tomatoes to save money. Most grow them because few store-bought varieties can match the flavor or juiciness of juicy home-grown tomatoes-and the good news, say most home gardeners, is that you don't need lots of space to be successful.

"You can grow great tomatoes in any small space-even on a porch or patio-if you choose the right kind of plants and containers," said Mervin Dean of Armstrong Nurseries. "But the area should be sunny. Tomatoes like at least six hours of sun a day."

Dean offers the following tips for successful container-grown tomatoes:

Choose the right container. Even small varieties like cherry tomatoes need lots of space for maximum production. Opt for 5-gallon plastic pots, preferably light in color, and drill drainage holes in the bottom if none are provided.

Select the right tomato variety. Your local garden shop can tell you which varieties do best in your climate.

Use enriched soil. Fill the planter with specially marked container garden soil enriched with synthetic or peat-based mixes and moisture-retaining material. Mix in a slow-release organic fertilizer.

Plant carefully. When the chance of frost is gone, plant one tomato plant in each pot. Plant it deeply, right up to the lower leaves.

Water is critical. Be sure to keep the soil moist at all times. Water from a hose right into the container, but don't water the foliage as this can increase the chance of mold. Don't overwater once the plant has fruited. Overwatered tomatoes can taste watery.

Stake them up. Most varieties will need staking once they reach a one-foot height. Insert the stake in the pot and tie the plant to it with twist ties. Periodically, as the plant grows, pinch off the yellowed bottom leaves.

Harvest when ripe. You won't need to be told when the fruit is ready. It will be bright orange-red and fragrant. Enjoy!

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Word of the Day

March 24, 2011 10:43 am

Qualification. Act of determining a potential buyer's needs, abilities, and urgency to buy and matching these with available properties.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Q: How can I finance a remodeling project?

March 24, 2011 10:43 am

A: There are many ways to finance a remodeling project. If you have equity in your home, a good credit rating, and steady income, you can refinance your mortgage and borrow a percentage of the equity to cover remodeling costs. Refinancing is a good option if you can get a mortgage interest rate at least two percentage points below your current home loan rate. Other options include a second mortgage, a home equity loan, or an unsecured loan. Less popular options: margin loans, which are taken against securities you own, and loans from retirement plans, life insurance policies and credit cards.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Word of the Day

March 23, 2011 9:13 am

Property tax. Assessment levied by city and county governments on real and personal property to generate the bulk of their operating revenues to pay for such public services as schools, libraries, and roads.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Q: Is it possible to get a low down payment loans?

March 23, 2011 9:13 am

A: Such loans are offered by government agencies and private lenders, including nonprofit groups and employers. In fact, there are government programs at both the federal and state level to help cash-strapped buyers. Under many state housing agency guidelines, borrowers must usually be first-time homebuyers or have a limited family income to qualify for low down payment loans.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers several programs through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that require down payments of 3 to 5 percent.

Several times over the past few years, President Bush has proposed a "zero down mortgage" insurance program for first-time homebuyers with good credit. First proposed for his 2005 budget, it was promoted as a tool that would qualify about 150,000 FHA-insured borrowers in the first year alone. The 2006 budget indicated 200,000 potential borrowers would be helped. The plans, which required congressional approval, never got off the ground.

Fannie Mae, the nation's largest supplier of home mortgage funds, has a popular program for low- and moderate-income homebuyers called Community Home Buyers. Under the program, borrowers may buy with just 3 percent down-with a 2 percent gift from family members, a government program, or nonprofit group-and obtain private mortgage insurance to protect the lender against default. The program is available through participating mortgage lenders and requires that borrowers take a home-buyer education course.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Adopt an Up-for-Anything Attitude and Turn the Everyday into a Special Occasion

March 23, 2011 9:13 am

RISMEDIA, March 23, 2011-With the hustle and bustle of everyday, you shouldn't have to wait for a special occasion to have a party-try turning the everyday into its own celebration and adopting an up-for-anything attitude.

Planning a festive f te need not be a daunting task. Jennifer Sbranti, otherwise known as Hostess with the Mostess, is the queen of bringing creative party planning ideas to light. Sbranti shares the following tips to make any day an occasion for entertaining without a lot of fuss. Her expert advice will help take your celebration to the next level.

Pick a theme. No matter how fancy or casual your occasion may be, choosing a theme will make the get-together more memorable and the planning process much easier. Themes can be as specific as you like-perhaps inspired by a movie your group will be watching or a book you've just read-or as simple as a favorite color palette, pattern or type of cuisine.

Make it festive. Creating an atmosphere that's a little different from the norm is one of the easiest ways to transform any gathering into a special occasion. There's no need to spend a lot of time or money-simple efforts like hanging colorful paper lanterns or creating DIY napkin rings and place cards from stylish papers will go a long way. Use your theme as the inspiration for your party d cor, and have fun with it.

Let there be (mood) light. When you're short on time or money for party decorations, white string lights and tea lights will always save the day (and night). Hang the lights around stair banisters, doorways, signature drink displays and anywhere else you can make them work, and use tea lights to dress up table and counter surfaces.

Meet. socialize. repeat. Whether it's a brunch on the first Monday of every month or dinner and a chick flick the third Tuesday, try to develop a regular habit of getting together with friends. Having a standing monthly date to keep in mind makes it easier for everyone to coordinate their schedules-and it also gives everyone in the group an excuse to take turns playing hostess.

For more information, visit www.familyfeatures.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Spring Cleaning Habits among Generation Y

March 23, 2011 9:13 am

RISMEDIA, March 23, 2011-If it's spring, Generation Y may very well be at home-cleaning. According to new research from the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), 82% of Generation Y men and women (our nation's 18-29 year olds) will engage in spring cleaning this year-that's approximately 15% more than the national average of about two-thirds (based on past ACI surveys).

Twenty-seven percent of Generation Y respondents use spring cleaning as a time to clean their home from head-to-toe. Their spring cleaning priorities include bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, closets and floors.

While the priorities rank in the same order for men and women, a greater number of women prioritize the importance of each job. Seventy-seven percent of women (versus 66% of men) say that even just the change in the weather makes them want to clean up.

The independent research showed that the majority (55%) of Gen Y has been living in their current location for less than two years. And, whether they live with a spouse or significant other, parents, other family, children or part-time at home and part-time at school, what is consistent is the importance of having a clean living space. Ninety-six percent of respondents reported that having a clean home is important to them.

"No matter where they seem to live, Generation Y wants their spaces clean," said ACI Vice President of Education Nancy Bock. "Spring cleaners do have a variety of easy-to-use and effective cleaning products on the shelves that can help them get their tasks done much quicker."

Gender-ation Y

When it comes to doing the "dirty work," 30% of Generation Y men agree that if it wasn't for spring cleaning, they probably would never clean. In fact, when it comes to most day-to-day cleaning chores, men are taken to task by Gen Y women.

The survey showed 96% of women are likely to clean and disinfect countertops daily, compared to 86% of men.

"It's reassuring that a strong majority of this age group regularly cleans and disinfects, which helps kill germs and lower the risk of infection," said ACI's Nancy Bock. Ninety-six percent of women are likely to clean the floors or carpet versus 88% of men, according to the survey.

The same gender pattern follows for reorganizing, cleaning under furnishings, swapping out seasonal clothes, washing windows, de-cluttering and donating old clothes to a local charity. Only when it comes to cleaning cell phones and computers is there gender-cleaning equality, with both men (73%) and women (74%) citing the likelihood of cleaning.

Gen Y women are not only more likely to clean routinely, they are more motivated to clean.

Both Gen Y men (64%) and women (79%) ranked "when their home space starts looking dirty or messy" as the top reason to clean. More women also ranked significantly higher in the following categories: when they are expecting visitors, fed up with dirt and mess, have some free time and feeling disorganized.

Overall, 74% of Generation Y respondents agreed that spring cleaning is a ritual worthy of carrying on, and seeing news about spring cleaning keeps it top of mind. Eighteen to 29-year-olds first look to family and friends for information about cleaning before turning to retailers, websites, magazines, TV shows, newspapers, blogs and social networking sites.

"What we learned is that when members of Generation Y choose to settle down, our newest generation of homeowners and families will continue to have a focus on cleanliness and better living," said Bock.

For more information, visit www.cleaninginstitute.org.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.