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By Paul A. DiSegna | Real Estate Pro in Rhode Island
  • Keeping you updated on the market!

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Rhode Island, Home Selling in Rhode Island, Financing in Rhode Island  |  December 26, 2011 4:54 AM  |  2,660 views  |  No comments

    For the week of 

    December 26 , 2011


    Much has been written and said on the depressing influence of shadow inventory on the housing recovery. Most of us are familiar with the ubiquitous refrain: excessive shadow inventory impedes recovery because it lowers home prices, which, in turn, retards home sales and building activity while encouraging strategic defaults.

    Shadow inventory hasn't gotten much better in recent months, but it hasn't gotten worse either. CoreLogic reports 1.6 million housing units are slotted into the shadow-inventory category – a five-month supply at the current sales pace. These numbers have held steady since July, but it's worth noting that they are a significant improvement over the numbers posted this time last year.

    Positive news from homebuilders suggests that shadow inventory could become less of a depressing influence going forward. Homebuilder confidence is growing. The homebuilder sentiment index rose to 21 in December, posting its best reading in nearly 18 months.

    Homebuilders are reporting more interest from potential buyers, and more action from these buyers to boot. Housing starts surged 9.3 percent to an annualized rate of 685,000 units in November. The gain was led by a 25.3-percent jump in the multifamily component, though the much larger single-family component also improved, 2.3 percent, after a 3.6-percent rise in October.

    The fact is that confidence and activity don't increase if you are overly concerned about falling prices and rising inventory. Yes, shadow inventory remains a problem, but not an intractable one. Markets have been clearing and will continue to clear inventory until more normalized supply levels are reached.

    It's difficult to say when the clearing process will end. The NAR's sweeping revision to its data reporting clouds any estimates. Sales of existing homes posted at the annualized rate of 4.4-million units in November. Initial consensus estimates called for 5.1 million units, but this was before the NAR announced its revision. Based on the revised October sales, November sales actually posted a 4-percent month-over-month increase.

    Pricing and supply were the positive takeaways. The NAR's data also show that the median national home price increased 2.1 percent to $164,000, while supply dropped to seven months at the current sales pace compared to 7.6 months in October.

    The degree of NAR's revisions raised a few eyebrows, shaving sales, through 2007 to 2010, by a monthly average of 14 percent. But it's important to keep in mind that where we're going is always more important than where we've been.

    That's also an important point to keep in mind when vetting the mortgage market. We've been warning for the past year that borrowers have become too complacent with the idea that rates will remain permanently low. We think this is a dangerous assumption because inflation is a permanent fixture of our economy and money supply. Over time, investors need to be compensated for loss of purchasing power. Interest rates are a compensating variable.

    To be sure, mortgages rates remain low, but improvements have been slight over the past month. This tells us that rates really don't have much incentive to go lower. This isn't to say they can't go lower, but it's important to remember that a 4-percent 30-year fixed-rate loan is the anomaly not the norm.

    Date and Time

    Home Price Index

    Tues., Dec. 27,
    9:00 am , et

    0.2% (Decrease)

    Moderately Important. More current data point to firming prices in many metropolitan markets.

    Consumer Confidence

    Tues., Dec. 27,
    10:00 am , et

    60 Index

    Important. Improving job prospects are lifting confidence and home-buying prospects for 2012.

    Mortgage Applications

    Wed., Dec. 28,
    7:00 am , et


    Important. Purchase activity has slowed in the past month, but remains positive.

    Pending Home Sales Index

    Thurs., Dec. 29,
    10:00 am , et

    94 Index
    Important. Recent gains in contract signings point to a firm start to the new year.

    Bottom Up Over Top Down

    Housingwire.com recently ran a short but acknowledging article on smaller mortgage originators. Basically, the article explained the positive growth in this market segment.

    The article didn't surprise us, or reveal anything we didn't already know. Small business people tend to be more nimble in meeting consumer demands than their large counterparts. This isn't to say that large originators aren't populated with employees with a small-business mentality, but when you're in the trenches handling most aspects of the business, you tend to be a little more attuned to market reality.

    The point we want to highlight is that we are very important aggregators and disseminators of market information and knowledge. We know how to get things done, and markets will improve mostly due to our actions and less to directives from sources that are less connected.

    We say this because it's easy to forget how important our presence and insights are for getting things done and correcting market imbalances. We think this sentiment is worth keeping at the forefront of our thoughts as we head into the new year.


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    This Newsletter is for informational purposes only. The information contained herein may not be applicable to every situation or jurisdiction and we urge you to consult your professional advisor prior to acting on information contained herein. The content, accuracy and opinions expressed herein are not verified or endorsed by the sponsor hereof.
  • 7 Ways to Rethink Your Approach to the Daily Grind

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Rhode Island, How To... in Rhode Island  |  December 26, 2011 4:50 AM  |  2,458 views  |  No comments

    RISMEDIA, Monday, December 26, 2011—

    In a perfect world, “work” and “home” would balance out neatly. We’d work from 8 to 5 each day, take an hour-long lunch, and then come home and spend uninterrupted time with our families. But for those of us here in the wake of the Great Recession, firmly entrenched in an “always on” society, this notion seems hopelessly outdated. Most of us are working longer, more stressful hours, and work is spilling over into evenings and weekends. No wonder a recent survey of North American employees found that 87 percent of respondents say their work/life balance (or lack thereof) is negatively affecting their health.

    With so many people suffering from this problem, you would think the natural solution would be to encourage businesses to help their stressed-out employees find more balance in their lives. Not so, says best-selling author Jon Gordon.

    “Work/life balance, at least in the sense that most of us think about it, is a myth,” says Gordon, whose new book is The Seed: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work. “It does not exist. For many people, it never has. Personally, I have never been able to balance the scales of work and life on a day-to-day basis. Rather, I’ve come to realize that the dance between work and life is more about rhythm than balance.”

    Gordon compares the rhythms of work and life to the rhythms of nature. There’s a time and a season for everything.

    Read on for Gordon’s advice on rethinking the concept of work/life balance and finding passion and purpose in both arenas:

    First, let go of the work/life balance notion. Instead, think “purpose and passion.” It’s true that work/life balance is a topic that seems to be on many minds, says Gordon, citing a recent NPR segment titled, “In America, Too Much ‘All Work, No Play’?” But in many ways, he insists, a perfectly balanced life is a perfectly tepid life. How much balance do you think Bono has when U2 is on tour? What about an Olympic athlete preparing for a competition? Or the leadership team at Facebook? Probably not much, but their passion and purpose fuel them to work harder and longer with more joy and satisfaction in both work and life.

    Look at your work/life blend over the past year. Consider it as a whole. Rather than thinking of your work and life day to day, think of it as a whole. How many times did you get away with your family last year? Were there particular weeks/months where you worked really, really long hours? Were there times you were less busy? You might find that, when viewed that way, you did have a balanced life. Or you might realize you need to make a change in the way you do things during the upcoming year.

    Identify the “seasons” in your company’s work flow. In nature there’s a season for everything. Spring (planting season) and fall (harvest) are times of extreme work. But there’s a slow down in the summer when plants are growing, and, of course, winter is when farmers do other things (repair work on house and equipment, etc.).

    Most industries/companies work this way, too. They have busy seasons (when they’re getting ready for major industry events or peak sales times, for instance) and not-so-busy seasons. It might be easy for you to plan your work/home life flow around these times. Not just in terms of when you plan vacations, but also in terms of daily work hours. During the slow time, it’s okay to leave a little earlier each day if you know you’re going to be working long hours once busy season arrives.

    Keep in mind your family’s “seasons” too. Of course, you can’t base everything on work schedules. There are times your family needs you more than others: birth of a new baby, when a child starts school, or when an older parent is having a crisis and needs you to care for him/her.

    Build up a “hard work” bank account with your company. When the company needs you to really push, push hard. (And do it cheerfully.) This way, when you need to slow down the pace or take time off, they’ll be willing to work with you. Gordon suggests you think of it as making deposits into a bank account.

    When you’re at work, really engage. Fully commit to whatever you’re doing at work. Don’t complain—positivity goes a long way. And don’t feel guilty that you are not at home. Feeling guilty is a recipe for misery and poor performance on the job and unhappiness at home. Commit fully to your season of hard work while planning for your season of rest and recharging.

    “When you commit to your season of work, you won’t be tempted to watch the clock, dreading each hour that will pass before you finally get to leave work for the day,” says Gordon. “You’ll be more successful at work and feel more fulfilled.”

    When you’re at home, really BE at home. Throw yourself into those precious family relationships. Don’t spend family time thinking about work or zoning out in front of the TV or computer. It’s not about the amount of time we spend with our families, says Gordon. It’s about how engaged we are during the time we do have with them.

    “When you focus on planning your life around the rhythms of work and home, you have to be fully committed to the demands of the specific season,” he says. “So when you’re in a family season, don’t constantly check your BlackBerry. Don’t take work calls during dinner. Devote as much of yourself as possible to your family. Use the time that you wouldn’t get to spend with them if you were in a work season to do something special. Read to your child each night. Take your family on a surprise weekend trip.

    “When you live your non-work season to the fullest, you’ll be all the more motivated to give 110 percent when you’re at work,” he adds.

    “What I’m really talking about is making the most of your time however you spend it—of making each and every moment really count,” says Gordon. “Understanding your rhythms and planning and committing to the seasons of your life may not help you achieve perfect work/life balance. But you will create a life that is more passionate, more productive, and happier in every way.”

    For more information, visit www.JonGordon.com.

  • Seal Your Home's Envelope for Savings

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Rhode Island, Remodel & Renovate in Rhode Island, How To... in Rhode Island  |  December 22, 2011 11:29 AM  |  2,854 views  |  No comments
    Frank Hopton
    11 West Park Street
    Telephone: (401) 635-2242Providence, Rhode Island 02908
    Email: fhopton@HearthStoneInspections.comwww.HearthStoneInspections.com


  • Stop Procrastinating; Do It Now!

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Rhode Island, How To... in Rhode Island  |  December 21, 2011 3:56 AM  |  2,766 views  |  No comments

    RISMEDIA, Wednesday, December 21, 2011—

    Whether it's filing your taxes on time, paying your bills, cleaning out the garage, or getting out of bed to exercise, everyone tends to procrastinate once in a while. It has been said that Robinson Crusoe is the only person to have all of his work done by Friday. Are you the type of person who tackles projects head on and gets tasks done right away, or do you tend to procrastinate and put things off? The habit of procrastination is an attractive form of self-sabotage and is the grave in which opportunity is buried.

    Procrastination can take a toll on all aspects of your life and has a significant impact on your mental and physical health. The habit of procrastination brings with it a whole host of overwhelming, negative emotions such as increased stress, anxiety, guilt, fear, worry, depression, and low self-esteem.

    Here are five proven tips to help you overcome the problem of procrastination and become more productive.

    1. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. You can keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed by breaking your project up into smaller, more manageable bite-size tasks. Develop a written plan of action and set realistic timeframes for the completion of each task. If you find that you're able to complete a task faster than you have planned, you will feel good about being ahead of schedule.

    2. Be sure to allow plenty of time to finish each task. Once you have estimated how much time you will require to accomplish your project, schedule your work into short, thirty-minute blocks of time to keep you energized. If you do not need all the time you've allowed, you will be able to progress ahead of schedule.

    3. Stay focused and avoid distractions such as talking to coworkers, checking your e-mails, playing computer games, answering phone calls, or surfing the Internet.

    4. Make a commitment to accomplishing your project and hold yourself accountable. If you catch yourself thinking about not working on your project, remember the Nike motto and "Just Do It." Remind yourself of how good you'll feel when you've completed your project.

    5. Become more efficient by multitasking whenever possible. How many important projects or tasks on your "things to do list" keep getting put off because you have deliberately chosen to procrastinate? The good news is that procrastination is not a character flaw you were born with, but a habit that can be overcome with self-discipline and the determination to "Do it Now!"

    "Much of the stress that people feel doesn't come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they started."
    - David Allen

    John Boe presents a wide variety of motivational and sales-oriented keynotes and seminar programs for sales meetings and conventions.

    For more information, visit www.johnboe.com.

  • The Future of Home Improvement; Staying Organized and Tackling To-Do Lists with Lowe's

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in Rhode Island, Design & Decor in Rhode Island, How To... in Rhode Island  |  December 20, 2011 6:12 AM  |  2,997 views  |  No comments

    RISMEDIA, Tuesday, December 20, 2011—

    For sellers with homes on the market or for newly moved-in buyers, fixing up your home can be a worthwhile and satisfying process. Needless to say, the home improvement process can potentially be daunting when trying to keep track of room sizes, paint swatches, project information and more. With Lowe’s new MyLowe’s initiative, consumers have a revolutionary new way to maintain, manage and track all things relating to the home, making home improvement that much more simple.

    By registering for a MyLowe’s card, consumers can keep track of all purchases made online and in Lowe’s stores. From the shade of deck stain used on the garage last spring to the paint color used in a particular room, logging in to a MyLowe’s account will display a customer’s entire purchase history.

    For future projects, homeowners can create folders and lists right from their MyLowe’s account to help keep ideas organized and handy. Wish lists, to-do lists or any other list can be created, saving links, products and ideas for later implementation. With this added organization, homeowners can be sure to tackle their well thought-out plans when the time is right.

    By creating and managing a home profile with MyLowe’s, homeowners can create a virtual version of their home, adding and collecting important info, such as home specs, room dimensions or project information, all organized by room or broken down by project. Not only can the account serve as a quick reference for specs and sizes, but it can also be a go-to source for manuals and warranty information for all of your products and appliances.

    For sellers currently on the market, this one-stop-shop of information can be vital to the sale of the home. When working in conjunction with a real estate professional, sellers have easy access to all of the pertinent information they need to provide to their agent in order to successfully pitch the home to prospective buyers.

    In addition, agents who are members of the National Association of REALTORS®, can help both buyers and sellers prep their home by taking advantage of the free Lowe’s Program for REALTORS®. REALTORS® can sign up to send direct mail or email to their clients that includes a special savings in the form of a 10%-off coupon for use in Lowe’s stores. By joining forces with a REALTOR® taking advantage of Lowe’s partnership in NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program, consumers have even more assistance completing projects and renovations that will either help their home sell or aid them in completing their dream home.

    With these resources, consumers and their agents have a mutually beneficial set-up that will help them continue to drive toward success. Whether renovating to sell or improving the home to satisfy personal taste, Lowe’s has the solutions to satisfy home selling and home improvement needs.

    The Lowe’s Program for REALTORS® is free for NAR members and offers personal marketing tools from Lowe’s through its partnership in NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program.

    For more information, visit www.lowes.com orwww.lowesrealtorbenefits.com.

  • Keeping you updated on the market!

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Rhode Island, Home Selling in Rhode Island, Financing in Rhode Island  |  December 19, 2011 4:39 AM  |  3,093 views  |  No comments

    For the week of 

    December 19 , 2011


    Can we trust the data? Everyone is asking that question after the National Association of Realtors said it would revise its home sales data for the past four years. The revised data are scheduled for release this coming Wednesday with the NAR's monthly report on home sales for November.

    The NAR cited several reasons for revising sales. The most notable reason was that the NAR believed it was overcompensating for sales that did not occur on the regional and local real estate listing services from which the NAR extracted data.

    The bottom line is that sales and unsold inventory will be revised downward, but monthly percentage changes in sales volumes, months of outstanding inventory, and median home prices will remain unchanged.

    Some media outlets have attacked the NAR's revisions from an alarmist or snarky angle. Neither is deserved; the NAR is simply admitting that it needs to be more accurate. What the NAR revisions really highlight is the difficulty in producing national numbers that are meaningful to any local market. If you think about it, is a median national sales price of $167,000 meaningful to a tony suburban enclave in Alexandria , Virginia or to an overbuilt Las Vegas ? We would argue that it isn't.

    That said, we will still post and examine the national numbers, because they interest many market participants. The inputs can also be revealing. For example, Corelogic reported that total home prices were down 3.9 percent in October from a year ago, but prices were down by just 0.5 percent when distressed sales are excluded. This tells us that we have two distinct markets at work, which most of us knew anyway, but which much of the lay public doesn't know.

    The national numbers can also set the mood and expectations of any one buyer or borrower. It's in our best interest then, and it's also truthful, to highlight the positives in a market dominated by negativity. To that end, we'll mention that Swiss financial services firm Credit Suisse told its clients last week that “ U.S. homes now appear fairly valued compared to median family income.” Credit Suisse's analysis also shows that shadow inventory and mortgage defaults will improve noticeably in 2012.

    Mortgage rates, contrary to our expectations, will also continue to improve. Most financing options moved lower this past week, with the 30-year fixed-rate loan hitting a new low in many markets (though it's worth noting that a new low can be hit with only a couple basis-points move). Our outlook for an improving stock market, which would draw funds out of the bond market, is being negated by Europe's inability to deal with the near-bankruptcy of a few of its Mediterranean countries.

    While the sense of urgency to refinance or purchase has been reduced, we still think it's best to lock and take advantage of today's rates. The fact is that most borrowers are less frustrated being locked and wishing they were floating than the reverse.

    Date and Time

    Home Builder Index

    Mon., Dec. 19,
    10:00 am, et

    21 Index

    Important. Sentiment is improving on rising buyer interest and falling distressed-property competition.

    Housing Starts

    Tues., Dec. 20,
    8:30 am , et

    632,000 (Annualized) 

    Important. Increases in permits suggest building activity is gaining permanent traction.

    Mortgage Applications

    Wed., Dec. 21,
    7:00 am, et


    Important. The lull in purchase applications points to moderating sales growth.

    Existing Home Sales

    Wed., Dec. 21,
    10:00 am, et

    5.1 Million (Annualized)
    Very Important. The NAR's redacted data could raise financial-market volatility.

    Gross Domestic Product
    (3rd Quarter 2011)

    Thurs., Dec. 22,
    8:30 am , et

    2.1% (Annualized Increase)

    Important. Revised numbers show that economic growth slowed in the 3 rd quarter.

    New Home Sales

    Fri., Dec. 23,
    10:00 am, et

    313,000 (Annualized)
    Important. Less pricing pressure and lower inventory levels point to a stronger market heading into 2012.

    A Prediction With No Guarantee

    Former Yankees catcher Yogi Berra is as well known for his malapropisms as for his catching ability. On the former, Berra once famously quipped, “It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” With that thought in mind, we'll take a shot at predicting the mortgage-rate market for early 2012.

    The reflexive response is to say that rates have to remain low. After all, the Federal Reserve has openly stated that it will continue to reinvest short-term securities into long-term securities. The Fed also said that it would keep reinvesting in mortgage-backed securities. Both activities will surely raise the pressure for mortgage rates to remain low.

    Now, couple the Fed's resolve to hold long-term rates low with Europe 's ongoing travails and our own sluggish economy and it would appear mortgage rates would have to remain near today's levels at least through the first quarter of 2012.

    With all that said, don't overlook or underestimate the “unseen” – the unexpected event that moves markets. Everything seen favors low rates, and few pundits are expecting higher rates. Because of that fact, we think the inevitable “unseen” favors a spike up in rates over a spike down.


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    This Newsletter is for informational purposes only. The information contained herein may not be applicable to every situation or jurisdiction and we urge you to consult your professional advisor prior to acting on information contained herein. The content, accuracy and opinions expressed herein are not verified or endorsed by the sponsor hereof.
  • Baker's Tips for Awesome Cookies

    Posted Under: How To... in Rhode Island  |  December 19, 2011 4:37 AM  |  2,637 views  |  No comments

    RISMEDIA, Monday, December 19, 2011—

    (MCT)—Baking cookies is like a family: Each ingredient has its own special quality, and when you mix them all together, the result is awesome. Here are some cookie-baking tips from Daily Bread owner Patrick Judd and his family.

    • Remind the kids (and the adults) to wash their hands thoroughly before they get started.

    • When purchasing supplies for your holiday cookie baking, use only the finest ingredients. It’s the holidays, and the cookies are for family and friends, so splurge on the best.

    • Use real cane sugar. Read the label: If it doesn’t say cane sugar, it’s probably beet sugar, which is not as good for baking.

    • Use butter for flavor. However, some recipes include shortening and butter. There’s a reason for this: The combination of the two affects the texture of the cookie.

    • Use unbleached flour. Our favorite is King Arthur Flour.

    • Always use real vanilla instead of imitation.

    • We prefer to use parchment paper on cookie sheets. The cookies brown nicely and you can transfer the cookies easily and reuse the cookie sheets. And there’s less cleanup!

    • Read the recipe all the way through and measure out all the ingredients before starting.

    • Follow the recipe directions exactly, at least the first time. If you want to make your own adjustments on the next batch, great.

    • Don’t overlook the importance of specific mixing instructions. If the recipe says “beat egg before adding,” then do that, instead of adding the whole egg before mixing. For soft, cake-like cookies, the instructions probably will call for mixing the dough more. If you are baking a dense, chewy cookie, you probably will mix the dough a little less.

    • Plan your baking schedule. We often mix the dough and freeze it to bake cookies later; bake the cookies and then freeze them; or choose a day when no one has anything to do. (Good luck with that last one!)

    • Be certain the cookies are completely cool before packing them. Warm cookies produce steam, which when trapped in a container can cause the entire batch to soften or even spoil. Also, let iced or painted cookies set up and dry completely before storing them.

    • Pack each variety of cookie in a separate container. Otherwise, the flavors of all the various types will mingle and become muddled, and the moisture in the soft, chewy cookies will cause the crisp ones to become limp.

    • Pack cookies in airtight containers. Depending on the sturdiness of the cookies, suitable containers may include plastic boxes, metal tins, glass or ceramic canisters, cookie jars or heavy-duty plastic bags. In every case, the container should provide some protection against breakage and prevent exposure to the air.

    • The most important thing to know about great bakers is that they always clean up after themselves!

    ©2011 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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