Saturday, March 31, 2007

How to Create Your Dream Home

How to Create Your Dream Home

(ARA) - Among the clipped lawns and traditional style homes of Green Bay, a cozy log home nestled in the woods is a rarity indeed. Equally rare are the steps the owners have taken to protect their original retreat.

On a hot summer morning, David and Kathy Janczak opened their Green Bay home to visitors who share their passion for log home living. "This is the first time we've hosted an open house since renovating our log home," said Kathy, in the lodge-like great room where the family of five shared meals, celebrated holidays and created hand-made Christmas ornaments.

Nearly 30 years ago, the young couple dreamt of a log home of their own. David, an avid woodworker who had been studying log home construction for some time, promised his new bride Kathy that he would build her a dream home as a wedding gift.

On a 20-acre parcel of land, David diligently set out to fulfill his promise, with Kathy working beside him every step of the way. Completed in 1976, the full log home was an intimate 1,547 square feet. The great room, which was the heart of the home, remains intact today.

Local excitement over their home and many requests prompted David to craft similar log homes for other enthusiasts. This, in turn, created Wisconsin Log Homes Inc., which David continues to oversee today. Both the home and company has grown significantly over the years, a testament to America's love affair with rustic homes and the simple, comfortable feeling they generate.

While the 60-plus people toured and explored their recently remodeled home, David and Kathy eagerly shared their experiences with both full log and half log construction. As the visitors marveled over the fine craftsmanship and attention to detail, David educated them on the basics of log homes and energy efficiency, including explaining why he developed the Thermal-Log insulated half-log building system 30 years ago.

David says the spacious, yet unpretentious 5,600-square-foot hybrid home "Is a result of 30 years of ideas and experience in log home design and construction." Designed for entertaining as well as day-to-day living, the home showcases many progressive design elements, all while exuding traditional log home comfort and warmth.

The Janczak home was designed to be one with nature, both indoors and out. Strategically placed doors, windows and bump-outs maximize the surrounding view which includes a pond, wooded area and front water garden. A screen porch and wrap-around architecturally lit stamped concrete patio is the perfect place to relax during sunset at the end of a long day.

Indoors, the couple's love for natural materials is evident, incorporated into almost every design element. From the chocolate glazed ceramic tile on the floor to the handcrafted antler chandeliers, the space is saturated with various textures. David's trademark wormy wavy edge trim and custom gnarly railings give the log home a personal artistic touch not readily seen in the industry today.

The custom kitchen designed by Kathy and the company's in-house interior designer shows how a modern working kitchen can flow effortlessly into an open floor plan typical of log home design. Character cherry cabinets topped with custom crown molding, state-of-the-art appliances cleverly tucked behind cabinet panels and a hand-scraped engineered hickory floor warmed with radiant floor heat are some of the few places where technology meets style in the Janczak home. The raised cabinet at the end of the island has a painted furniture look to it, complete with authentic antler pulls.

As the visitors split up and meandered from room to room, they began to share their ideas and own design inspirations with one another. Some were focused on the architectural elements while others eagerly discussed envisioned floor plans. "The trip to Green Bay was well worth it," one attendee noted. "This home gives us lots of ideas. The finished product shows much more than any catalog pictures."

Several visitors were fascinated with the Janczak's master bath which does not utilize a door. A strategically placed corner whirlpool tub with a mini-chandelier hanging above provides a spa-like view from the master bedroom. A partial wall separates the commode without closing in the space and a glass and tile walk-in shower is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. "This space was actually inspired by the Janczak's favorite Mexican retreat," Wisconsin Log Homes resident interior designer Stephanie Gauthier explained. "Beautiful design usually originates from things that we love. These are the elements that make your house a home and uniquely yours."

The groups were well rounded; some empty nesters, families, newlyweds and even a couple excited about planning a log-inspired bed and breakfast. "I love color and my husband loves structure," one wife commented in a boldly painted bedroom combined with a knotty pine ceiling and log accented walls. "I am so pleased to see that we can have both."

The Janczak's open house was a huge success and an inspiration to many. "We are planning another in the future for those who were unable to attend due to a limited number of reservations available," Kathy noted. "In the past we held design/build seminars at our headquarters', but seeing a completed home helps people better visualize what they can actually have."

For more information about designing and building log homes or to order Wisconsin Log Homes' comprehensive 156-page planning guide and DVD, log on to, or call (800) 678-9107.

Courtesy of ARA Content

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Top 10 metro home-value gainers for 2006

Top 10 metro home-value gainers for 2006

By Bankrate •

Bubble burst? What bubble burst? The danger in talking about local situations as if they applied across the board is that real estate is always a local situation and what's a bubble bursting in one area can be a time someone else's balloon is expanding rapidly.

Take a look at these metro areas that were the biggest value gainers in 2006, according the National Association of Realtors.

2006 biggest value gainers

Rank Metropolitan statistical area One-year appreciation (%)
1 Salem, Ore. 19.8
2 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Va.-N.C. 19.4
3 Spokane, Wash. 17.7
4 Salt Lake City, Utah 16.7
5 Eugene-Springfield, Ore. 16.7
6 Baton Rouge, La. 15.9
7 Gainesville, Fla. 15.9
8 Ocala, Fla. 15.5
9 Dover, Del. 14.7
10 Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Ore.-Wash. 14.7

Source: National Association of Realtors, February 2007 Metropolitan Area
Existing-Home Prices and State Existing-Home Sales report

Monday, March 19, 2007

Your House As Seen By:

Your House As Seen By:


Your Buyer...

Your Lender...

Your Appraiser...

Your Tax Assessor...

(contributed by Kevin Pape)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Housing Recovery Likely This Year, But Timing Isn't Clear

News Releases (From National association of realtors®)
For more information, contact:
Walter Molony, 202/383-1177,

Housing Recovery Likely This Year, But Timing Isn't Clear
WASHINGTON, March 13, 2007 - Unusual weather patterns and problems in the subprime lending marketplace are creating challenges in assessing housing market conditions, but a recovery is likely this year, according to the latest forecast by the National Association of Realtors®.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said there is some ambiguity about the current housing market. “Our goal each month is to fine-tune the forecast based on the latest housing data and a variety of economic indicators, but extraordinary weather variations are skewing home sales and clouding the picture,” he said. “Underlying trends point to a housing recovery in 2007, but it will take a couple months for us to get a better handle on it. Existing-home sales are expected to slowly improve from what appears to be the cyclical low last fall, but we think there will be some additional pain in the new home market, which hopefully will start to rise later in the year.”

Existing-home sales are projected at 6.42 million this year and 6.66 million in 2008, compared with 6.48 million last year. “Although existing-home sales will be marginally reduced due to subprime lending restrictions, they should be gradually rising this year and next. However, total sales this year will be fairly close to 2006 because last year started high and ended low,” Lereah said.

“Lending problems in our nation's subprime marketplace are building, which could inhibit future housing activity and further dampen our forecast. Even so, these problems are likely to be contained and not spill over into the prime mortgage market.”

New-home sales are forecast at 950,000 in 2007 and 981,000 next year, down from 1.06 million in 2006. Housing starts will probably total 1.50 million this year and 1.56 million in 2008, in contrast with 1.80 million units last year.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is expected to rise to 6.7 percent by the end of the year. Last week, Freddie Mac reported the 30-year fixed rate dropped to 6.14 percent. “Over the last few years, mortgage interest rates have moved in surprising directions – the unexpected dip we’re seeing now, and a rise in mortgage applications, are positive signs,” Lereah said. “With soft home prices and lower interest rates, affordability has improved for home buyers and that is encouraging them to get into the market.”

The national median existing-home price is projected to rise 1.2 percent to $224,500 this year, following a 1.0 percent gain in 2006. The median new-home price should grow 1.7 percent to $249,600 in 2007, following a 1.9 percent increase last year. Stronger gains are probable in 2008, with existing-home prices rising 3.1 percent and new-home prices growing 3.0 percent.

For critics who don’t understand the weather impact on seasonally-adjusted sales, Lereah explained we’re likely to be reminded about the consequences throughout this spring. “Here’s what’s happened and how it’s likely to play out. In December, unusually mild weather brought out shoppers and January existing-home sales rose,” he said. “However, a sudden chill in January slowed shopping activity relative to December and pending sales, based on contracts, fell.

“We have yet to see the biggest weather impact – February’s winter storms brought markets to a halt in much of the country, and it was the coldest February since 1979 – that should drag sales down in March,” Lereah said. “This means we may not see an upturn in closed transactions before May 25 when we report sales for April.”

The unemployment rate will probably average 4.7 percent this year; it was 4.6 percent in 2006. Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, is forecast at 2.1 percent in 2007, down from 3.2 percent last year, while growth in the U.S. gross domestic product is seen at 2.5 percent this year, compared with 3.3 percent in 2006. Inflation-adjusted disposable personal income is expected to rise 3.1 percent in 2007, up from a gain of 2.6 percent last year.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

# # #

Existing-home sales for February will be released March 23; the Pending Home Sales Index is scheduled for April 3 and the next forecast will be April 11.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Record foreclosures hit mortgage lenders

In today's USA Today....

Record foreclosures hit mortgage lenders

By Noelle Knox, USA TODAY
The reason many mortgage lenders are in trouble became alarmingly clear Tuesday. The Mortgage Bankers Association said more than 2.1 million Americans with a home loan missed at least one payment at the end of last year — and the rate of new foreclosures hit a record.
The problem is most severe for borrowers with scuffed credit and adjustable-rate mortgages. More than 14% of them were behind on their payments. And the worst is yet to come, the MBA said. At least $300 billion in subprime ARMs will reset this year to higher interest rates. Those borrowers face higher payments and a harder time refinancing.

States with the most job losses are seeing the largest number of delinquencies. In Mississippi, Louisiana, West Virginia, Michigan, Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee, at least one in five subprime ARMs is in default.

In the final quarter of last year, 0.54% of homeowners with a mortgage began foreclosure proceedings — a record — up from 0.46% in the third quarter.

Calls from distressed homeowners to the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a free credit counseling service (888-995-HOPE or 888-995-4673), have more than doubled from last summer.

Percentage of all delinquent loans in the fourth quarter by state (State data are not seasonally adjusted):

To stem their losses, lenders are ending 100% financing plans, requiring better credit scores and demanding more proof of a borrower's income. The stricter rules are squeezing first-time buyers, as well as homeowners who want to refinance.

Sellers, meantime, must compete with a rising number of foreclosures at cut-rate prices. Lenders that seize control of a house are usually aggressive about selling it, to limit the cost of maintaining and marketing it.

It's like a one-two punch, Zandi says. "It means less demand because many potential borrowers will be locked out," just as foreclosures expand the supply of homes for sale.

Some economists, such as Patrick Newport of Global Insight, had been expecting the real estate market to rebound soon. Now, he says, "We probably won't see a recovery in the housing market until next year."

In fact, sales of new homes are expected to fall 10% this year, while sales of existing homes are likely to slip about 1%, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday.

States with the most job losses are seeing the largest number of delinquencies. In Mississippi, Louisiana, West Virginia, Michigan, Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee, at least one in five subprime ARMs is in default.

In the final quarter of last year, 0.54% of homeowners with a mortgage began foreclosure proceedings — a record — up from 0.46% in the third quarter.

Calls from distressed homeowners to the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a free credit counseling service (888-995-HOPE or 888-995-4673), have more than doubled from last summer.

Mississippi 10.6%

Louisiana 9.1%

Michigan 7.9%

Indiana 7.8%

Georgia 7.5%

West Virginia 7.4%

Texas 7.4%

Tennessee 7.3%

Ohio 7.3%

Alabama 7.1%

Kentucky 6.3%

South Carolina 6.3%

Pennsylvania 6.3%

North Carolina 6.1%

Arkansas 6.1%

Missouri 6.1%

Oklahoma 6.1%

Illinois 5.4%

Kansas 5.1%

Rhode Island 5.0%

Maine 4.9%

Florida 4.9%

New York 4.8%

Nebraska 4.7%

Massachusetts 4.5%

New Jersey 4.5%

Delaware 4.5%

New England 4.5%

Iowa 4.4%

New Hampshire 4.4%

Colorado 4.4%

New Mexico 4.3%

Connecticut 4.3%

Maryland 4.3%

Wisconsin 4.1%

Nevada 4.1%

Utah 4.0%

Minnesota 4.0%

Mountain 3.9%

District of Columbia 3.7%

Virginia 3.7%

Arizona 3.5%

Vermont 3.4%

Idaho 3.4%

California 3.3%

Alaska 3.1%

Washington 2.9%

South Dakota 2.9%

Wyoming 2.9%

Montana 2.8%

North Dakota 2.7%

Oregon 2.6%

Hawaii 2.4%

Source: Mortgage Bankers Association

* The bad news cause the stock market to spiral downward with the DOW below 12000 for the first time in a long time this week.

* The good news in California, the delinquency rates is still relatively low compared to all 50 states. Hopefully consumer will get back into the market because of below market pricing.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Housing Bust Rebels

Real Estate February 20, 2007, 12:00AM EST

Affordable housing and booming job markets have helped some metros buck the national trend of stagnant home prices
by Maya Roney

You can buy a house on Park Place with $200 in Monopoly money, but the real thing will cost a whole lot more, especially after last year. Even as national home prices saw their worst-ever decline last quarter, the median home price in the Atlantic City (N.J.) area shot up almost 26%, to $339,800, marking the sharpest year-over-year increase of any U.S. metropolitan area.

Atlantic City isn't the only place that appears immune to the U.S. housing "bust." Seventy-one other U.S. metro areas saw price gains in the fourth quarter of 2006 from a year earlier, including 14 metros with increases of 10% or more, according to a Feb. 15 report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Five metro areas remained unchanged and 73 areas had price declines, contributing to an overall U.S. median home price drop of 2.7%, to $219,300, the biggest year-over-year decrease on record. Home prices in the Sarasota (Fla.) area fell 18%, the sharpest decline among the metro areas.

Rare Affordability
How did Sarasota lose out and Atlantic City get lucky? In general, the more home prices increased in an area during the housing boom (2001-05, roughly), the more they needed to go down in 2006 to create a more balanced market in which prices matched household income.

Areas such as the Florida coast and Southern California saw the most speculation and consequently the most rapid price runups in the boom years. Places that didn't experience dramatic price appreciation until recently, including Atlantic City, Salt Lake City, Texas, and the Pacific Northwest, remained relatively affordable last year, drawing buyers and sending prices skyward.

"Everybody got used to that double-digit appreciation that was going on and that just really was not reality," says Bill Hanley, president of the New Jersey Association of Realtors (NJAR). "We're coming into a balanced market again."

Casino Boom
Economic law isn't the only factor driving home price gains in many metro areas. More than $2 billion in new construction in Atlantic City, including casinos, megaresorts, and shopping centers, is now attracting a "yuppie" crowd, according to Drew Fishman, president elect of NJAR and an Atlantic County-based realtor.

"We're seeing a whole new wave of casino activity going on," Fishman says. Many buyers are choosing second homes in the metro area to be close to the ocean and entertainment for a more affordable price than they might pay in other beach towns. There's even speculation that hotel-casinos will soon start to add condo residences, as Las Vegas has already done, Fishman says.

Job creation also led to significant home price appreciation in some metro areas last year, especially in the Northwest states. Three Oregon metros—Salem, Portland, and Eugene—and two Washington metros—Seattle and Spokane—saw double-digit price growth in the fourth quarter of 2006.

"Our market just seems to keep chugging along," says Terry Miller, a realtor at Seattle-based Coldwell Banker Bain. The median home price in the Seattle area was up 11.3% last quarter, to $372,900. Tech companies like Microsoft (MSFT) and Amazon (AMZN) are headquartered in the Seattle area, and aerospace-manufacturer Boeing (BA) remains one of Seattle's largest employers. In 2006, Seattle began a major redevelopment of its South Lake Union neighborhood to attract more biotech companies to the city. Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen has contributed financially to the effort.

Tough Negotiators
A large and increasing immigrant population in the Seattle area has also helped create demand for housing, Miller says. In addition, the Northwest region's price increases in recent years have not been as significant as in other parts of the U.S. "We had times when we were slower than the rest of the country," Miller says.

Maybe the slump in national home prices isn't the housing market's biggest problem, as evidenced by the positive price changes in nearly half of the nation's metro areas. In fact, problems may just be starting for areas like Seattle, which could see prices get out of control. "Prices are so high now, it is a concern," says Miller.

It may be a buyer's market in many parts of the U.S., but it seems like sellers have been tough negotiators when it comes to price. NAR has said the last three months of 2006 marked the bottom of the current housing cycle. Although the 2.7% decline in national home prices is the biggest on record, it pales in comparison to the 10.1% decline in total existing U.S. home sales in the same period.

"The number of homes selling has gone down, but the homes that are selling are selling around the same price and are appreciating [in some areas]," says NJAR's Hanley. "I don't believe that everything's falling out."

Click here to see the U.S. Metro Areas with the Biggest Home Price Gains.

Roney is Real Estate writer for

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Housing Boomers

By Nanette Overly, Epcon Communities

As the nation’s largest demographic ages, a new housing product emerges to change the way — and the where —Americans retire

The Baby Boomer Generation is once again exerting its gravitational pull on the housing market.

Today, as Baby Boomers enter their 50s and 60s, they are healthier, more active and more engaged in their lives and their communities than previous generations. When it comes to deciding how and where they will live, Boomers aren’t in the rocking chair — they are in the driver’s seat.

Home Sweet Home
According to research, 37 percent of Boomers will move to a new home within the first year after their youngest child goes off to college. Increasingly, however, these newly mobile Empty Nesters are breaking away from traditional expectations. They are moving across town, rather than across the country. They are ready for a more manageable lifestyle, but shudder at the idea of a traditional “retirement” community.

In fact, a recently published AARP survey revealed that, when it’s time to retire, 90 percent of today’s 50+ Americans say they would either stay in their current home or move to one very nearby. In short, a significant majority of Baby Boomers would prefer to “age in place.”

A few homebuilders, such as Epcon Communities, are recognizing this trend, and are providing an expanded range of innovative housing options that combines the comforts and conveniences of a resort lifestyle with the aesthetics, amenities and independence of a single-family home; not thousands of miles away, but right down the street. These new Boomer-oriented homes and communities are a testament to the vital importance of location, as astute homebuilders recognize that proximity to children and grandchildren is a driving force behind many real estate decisions.

Home is Where the Hearth Is
New Boomer-friendly housing options incorporate a number of design and development strategies to cater to this demographic. They recognize that, to this nostalgic generation, the idea of home and hearth as the iconic center of family and social gatherings exerts a powerful emotional appeal.

These design considerations for Boomers speak to leisure, comfort, quality and convenience, such as the following new design techniques and amenities:

• Ample open space and tall ceilings (which create a sense of “volume”) are very popular.
• Minimizing unnecessary staircases through single-story layouts is a common strategy.
• Well-deserved small luxuries, such as twin vanity sinks have gained favor.
• Kitchens are important, and are highly functional with expansive counter space.
• Laundry and utility rooms are convenient and accessible, without becoming too prominent or intruding into the living space.
• Wasted, excess space is not desirable, but space for hobbies and other pursuits can be a nice bonus.
• Hallways are wider, but not to accommodate a wheelchair; rather, to allow the exercise devotee ample room to walk one’s bicycle into the house.

As is the case with all of Epcon Communities’ more than 200 communities in 31 states, these new communities feature elegantly designed residences that present the appearance of a detached home when viewed from the street, providing all the conveniences and efficiencies of a condo while exuding the aesthetics and vibe of a freestanding house.

Active Adults
Working out and staying active are very important to Boomers, and access to a high-quality fitness center is a necessity, rather than a luxury. New communities also now frequently feature integrated or adjacent walking trails.

Exterior landscaping is attractive, but managed and maintained by professionals, freeing up valuable personal time.

Swimming pools are important to the Active Adult, providing a place to relax and unwind, another option for exercise, and a venue for entertaining the grandchildren.

Access to community clubhouses and public spaces is another welcome feature, providing usable common space to host receptions or activities.

Ultimately, this new and increasingly popular residential format enables Boomers to simultaneously assert their independence and relieve some of the everyday burdens and tedium of housework, yard work and other mundane responsibilities. These residences, convenient to restaurants and other amenities, allow homeowners to enjoy the pride and satisfaction of hosting events and welcoming guests, while providing the freedom to be able to “lock the door and go,” to travel on a moment’s notice.

Baby Boomers may need to change where they live, but they don’t have to change how they live.

Visit our site for the full article:

Cheapest Place To Live (In The USA)

Most affordable housing markets
Lower mortgage rates and home values help overall affordability. Indianapolis holds top spot. Just 2% of homes in L.A. deemed within reach.
By Les Christie, staff writer
February 27 2007: 2:04 PM EST

NEW YORK ( -- As mortgage rates edged downward during the fourth quarter of 2006 and some real estate markets took price hits, affordability improved - albeit only marginally, according to a report released Thursday.

Some 41.6 percent of homes sold during the fourth quarter were affordable to Americans earning the median family income of $59,600, according to the Home Opportunity Index, constructed quarterly by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo.

That compares with 40.4 percent during the third quarter.

NAHB president Brian Catalde, a home builder from Playa del Rey, Calif., attributed the improvement to declining interest rates toward the end of the year.

Is it time to buy?
Indianapolis was, once again, the most affordable major housing market in the United States. The median home sold there, already low at $122,000 during the previous quarter, fell to $113,000 during the last three months of the year. With a median income of $65,000, 89 percent of the homes sold were affordable to the average family.

Other affordable major markets included: Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pennsylvania.; Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, Michigan; Toledo, Ohio; and Buffalo-Niagara Falls, New York.

Latest home price stats for 149 markets
The Los Angeles metro area was again the nation's least affordable market. Only 2 percent of the homes sold during the quarter there were affordable to those families bringing home the median earnings for the area, $56,200. The median sale price was $525,000.

Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, California; San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, California; and New York-White Plains-Wayne, New Jersey joined Los Angeles near the top of the unaffordable list.

Most affordable
City State Price Income
Indianapolis IN $113,000 $65,100
Youngstown OH $83,000 $52,100
Detroit MI $92,000 $56,700
Toledo OH $105,000 $58,900
Buffalo NY $89,000 $58,300
Dayton OH $100,000 $59,800
Grand Rapids MI $124,000 $61,500
Akron OH $101,000 $61,300
Rochester NY $111,000 $64,100
St Louis MO $124,000 $65,800

Least affordable

City State Price Income
Los Angeles CA $525,000 $56,200
Santa Ana CA $620,000 $78,300
San Diego CA $475,000 $64,900
New York NY $500,000 $59,200
Modesto CA $360,000 $54,400
Riverside CA $391,000 $57,500
Stockton CA $415,000 $57,100
San Francisco CA $750,000 $91,200
Fresno CA $293,000 $47,000
Sacramento CA $370,000 $65,400

Source:National Association of Home Builders and Wells FargoFind mortgage rates in your area.

Latest home price stats for 149 markets

Is It Time To Buy?

Bottom line: If you can afford to make the purchase now and you're planning to be in the house for at least five years, "I wouldn't be worried about buying a house today," says Reston, Va. financial planner Patricia Houlihan.