Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Today, in its 7th meeting of the year, the Federal Open Market Committee voted 9-to-1 to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged.
The Fed Funds Rate remains at a historical low, within a Fed’s target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.
In its press release, the FOMC said that the pace of economic recovery “has slowed” in recent months. Household spending is increasing but remains restrained by high levels of unemployment, falling home values, and restrictive credit.
For the second straight month, the Federal Reserve showed less economic optimism as compared to the prior year’s worth of FOMC statements dating back to June 2009. However, the Fed still expects growth to be “modest in the near-term”.
This outlook is consistent with recent research showing that the recession is over, and that growth has resumed — albeit at a slower pace than what was originally expected.
The Fed also highlighted strengths in the economy:
- Growth is ongoing on a national level
- Inflation levels remain exceedingly low
- Business spending is rising
As expected, the Fed re-affirmed its plan to hold the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent “for an extended period”.
There were no surprises in the Fed’s statement so, as a result, the mortgage market’s reaction to the release has been neutral. Mortgage rates in Pennsylvania are thus far unchanged this afternoon.
The FOMC’s next meeting is a 2-day affair scheduled for November 2-3, 2010.
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
Is it better to rent a Pittsburgh home, or to buy one? The answer may not be as clear-cut as you think. In this balanced, 3-minute joint interview from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll hear the case for both sides.
From the pro-renting part of the talk, there’s valid points about the economic impact of low credit scores and/or no cash for downpayment, and the ongoing, annual cost of home maintenance — estimated at 2% of a home’s value. Plus, renters have the ability to “follow a job” to a new town or region whereas a homeowner may be restricted, somewhat.
From the pro-purchase part, however, there’s excellent points that were made, too:
- Mortgage rates are low and each 1% drop to rates equates to a 9% drop to home price
- Buyers can zero in on a particular area with particular schools or walkability, for example, better than renters
- A home can a piggybank over the long-term; a place for “forced savings” for families that want it
The segment then closes with 5 of the best cities in which to rent, and 5 of the best cities in which to buy.
Whether buying or renting, don’t try to go at it alone. There’s lot of resources online, and an email to a local real estate or mortgage pro can set you in the right direction.
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Peters Township $369,900
Amazingly different property! Custom built, top quality log home in excellent condition on 1.89 acres. Located on a private road in a wooded, quiet setting, directly off Rt. 19 near Potomac Furniture. Crazy, but true. Drive up the private road and you feel like you are in the mountains of North Carolina. This home features a sizzling hot tub & a gorgeous, sparkling blue in-ground pool. Relax, retreat in your own rustic paradise but don't worry - your drive to work, shopping, schools and all public conveniences won't take long. Just minutes from I 79 & South Hills Village Mall.
Two bedrooms now but the owners are converting a downstairs game room area into a lower level bedroom. With so many beautifully appointed custom interior features, you’ll definitely want an appointment to view this lovely and unique home.
Call me today or visit the open house on Sunday, March 21st from 1-3 p.m.
Monday, 08 February 2010
10. Steps, steps and more steps. Our terrain is tough on out-of-towners. Especially if they’re from someplace flat like Ohio. They’re worried about big things like their new job, finding the right school, surviving black & gold fever in Blitzburgh during football season. But they think they’ve got the housing situation figured out. They’ve been on the web sites & looked at a gazillion virtual tours but nothing prepares them for the reality of our 3 story houses on the top of a hill with two flights of steps to the front door. Take them from the basement to the attic and our out-of-town visitor thinks they’ve climbed Rapunzel’s tower. What fun! And even the born-in-the-Burgh buyers want to know how realtors manage to take photographs that make a 3 story house on a hill look level. “But I looked at the pictures online – this lot looked flat!” Airbrushing?
9. Keeping with the rolling and hilly terrain – how about split entries and multi-levels? Most everyone from this area is familiar with the abundance of split entries where we live in our game rooms, in the BASEMENT (see # 8). But it’s fun to show a multi-level to an out of towner. Most multi’s start at ground level in the garage, up 5-6 steps to the game room/laundry room/storage; up 5-6 steps to the living room/dining room/kitchen; up 5-6 steps to the bedrooms and if you’re really lucky – some will go up 5-6 steps to additional bedrooms. Level entry? One floor living? Not easy to find in the rolling hills of Western PA.
8. Basement living space. I admit – I’m a basement dweller – have been for years. Long time Pittsburgh residents want a finished basement, or, at the very least, a basement that can be finished. Everybody finishes their basement. Most often, we’re talking game rooms, but there are rooms dedicated to the Steelers and Penguins, rooms for model train displays, playrooms, craft rooms, dens, bedrooms, kitchens (see # 7) and just about any type of room imaginable. Some have very low ceilings because the anxious-to-have-a-finished-basement homeowner covered up all the low beams with ceiling tile and now you have to scooch down to get from the coach to the tv. Out-of-town visitors are like “Is this one of those bomb shelters?” Last year, I showed a house in Canonsburg where the basement ceilings had to be lower than 5’6” (my height) because I could not straighten up. Anywhere! In the entire basement. As opposed to the signs at Kennywood (you must be this tall to ride this ride), this house needed a sign out front that said “You must be no taller than this to buy this house”.
7. Kitchens in the basement. It’s amazing how many houses have two kitchens; the family kitchen on the main floor and the canning kitchen in the basement. I’ve seen a lot of two kitchen houses in the Canonsburg and Houston areas. I’ve been told it’s because many of the people who originally occupied these houses were immigrants from Italy, Greece and eastern Europe. They cooked big meals for large, extended families, had big gardens and did a lot of canning. I always find myself smiling when I walk down the steps to find a basement kitchen because it makes me think about how past owners and their families enjoyed living in the house.
6. Small closets. In the older turn of the century houses, there is a distinct lack of closet space. Some of these houses are oh-so-charming with their stained glass windows, built in cupboards & fireplaces in every room. I can hear the buyers saying “Ooh, aah, oh my – wow”. The showing is going really great and I can feel their excitement growing. Then… as they are imagining large bedroom sized walk-in closets, as seen on MTV’s Cribs, they open the door to find there is not even enough room to put a clothes hanger in straight on – you have to turn it sideways. They’ll turn to me and say “Are there any newer houses on the market in this price range?”
5. Crawl spaces with windows but no doors. Why? So you can look at the space no full sized adult can get in to? Weird. It is fun watching a home inspector debate whether or not he might actually be able to fit through the window or if inspection by flashlight will have to do.
4. Captive bedrooms. A captive bedroom is a bedroom you can only get to by going through another room. No hallway access. This is a tough one for buyers today. If a 3 bedroom house includes a master bedroom and 2 other bedrooms, one of which is captive, most buyers want another bedroom.
3. Septic systems with no holding tanks. Love this one, which is amazingly, not uncommon in parts of Washington County. Here’s a conversation that took place between a buyer & seller: Buyer: “So you flush the toilet and where does it go?” Seller: “Out.” “Out where?” “Outside.” “To a tank?” “Nope, no tank.” “So where does it go?” “Out there – over the hill.” In the car, after this type of exchange, it is not uncommon for the buyer to say: – “let’s only look at houses with public sewers, okay?”
2. Garages. Two issues here. What’s with all those “2 car tandem” garages and narrow driveways? Okay – I don’t care what you say - that is an oversized one car garage. I wish owners and agents would stop calling them two car because nobody in this day and age likes to play the game of shuffling cars around so they can go to work in the morning. And issue #2, in the newer houses – garages are getting smaller and smaller. Today’s two car garage is only really big enough for 2 Honda Civic sized vehicles. Wherever will I park my Hummer and my Suburban?
And the number 1 unique feature: The Pittsburgh Toilet or the Pittsburgh Potty. I know you’ve seen them – in the basement – a toilet – not a bathroom – just a toilet. It can be against a wall and have walls around it (although that’s a pretty high class example); it can be in the center of the room – just kind of freestanding there all by its lonesome. I saw one in the middle of an unfinished basement with a magazine rack next to it and a bright yellow flowered shower curtain around it. You just gotta smile – can’t help yourself.
The Pittsburgh Toilet was born years ago, when steel workers and miners would come home from work and stop in the basement to wash up in the laundry tub and use the facility (toilet) before going upstairs for supper with the family. For those of us whose families first settled in this area – the Pittsburgh Toilet is another little piece of history surviving in houses all over the Burgh that makes us smile and think about our ancestors. And for that anxious-to-have-a-finished basement home owner – a place to begin…”hey, hon – look, a toilet - we can build a game room around it.”