Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Transit Oriented Development at Cleveland's W. 25th and W. 65th Street RTA locations

Nothing seems more urgent to me than getting cars off the road. One reason why I am lobbying for The Cleveland Hub project. That can only happen of course if there is aggressive work to improve public transportation here. So I am mildly optimistic about some of the City plans. The Cleveland Planning Commission is designating two RTA stops in District Two as Transit Oriented Development centers. One is W. 65th Street's RTA stop (which excites me because it's a great location for it). W. 25th Street is the other west side location. There is a triangle of land available across the street from the RTA stop. W. 25th and Lorain is one of the City intersections with the most commuter cars passing through each day. Wouldn't it be great if some of that car fuel could get off the road because people moved to housing near the RTA stop.

This information is revealed at the Planning Commission's Connect Cleveland public meetings. There are still two more: St. Phillip and James Church on Bosworth tomorrow (Thursday) evening at 7PM and the last one at Gunning Recreation Center on Puritas Saturday March 3rd at 10:00 AM. If you have things you would like to say to your Planning Commission leaders, this is the place to do it! Peace Out - 3C

Dogs Welcome At Work

We are just not a stuffy real estate office. I am not sure I could work somewhere stuffy. One of the nicest things people do is bring their dogs for a visit. This is Manager Mark with his dog Pepper, who is a sweetheart. And very well behaved I might add. And dog visits are not just limited to colleagues. We have a few business owner neighbors and past clients who know we want them to stop in, when they are on the street with their pups. They say pets add years to your life. Since I don't have a pet at the moment, I consider dog friends like Pepper my 'rent a dogs.' So if you are in the neighborhood of the West Side Market with your pup, stop in, we will enjoy the visit -- and your pup might enjoy the dog treats. Peace Out - 3C

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Volume of Homes Sold Nationally Rose 3% In January 2007

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported some statistics regarding January home sales. It's the good news and not so good news scenario. First the good news: the volume of homes sold rose 3 % in January 2007 - the largest monthly percentage increase in two years. These figures are for already existing or previously owned homes sold. Okay and now the other news: the median price of those homes sold in January dropped to $210,600 which is apparently a 3.1 percent drop in median sale prices from January 2006. So more homes sold, that means people are still buying, but it also means it's still a buyers market and prices for buyers are better than they were a year ago.

I think it also means if you have owned your home a while, you can probably still expect a nice return on your investment if you decide you want to move. However, if you bought recently and are not forced to sell (new job, relocating, etc) then please wait, it's probably not the best idea to list your home at the moment. I think my rule of thumb still holds: if you want to move, or have to move, list your home and price it well and it will sell.

Keep in mind, these are National statistics and as always, real estate is local. Peace Out - 3C

Connecting Cleveland Planning Commission Meetings: Ten Down Two to Go:

The Planning Commission has already been to ten Connecting Cleveland neighborhood meetings. That included one I attended tonight at the Urban Community School on Lorain Avenue. They did a presentation, and had plenty of time for Q & A from those of us in the audience. I'm going to do a broader post about the whole thing after going to at least one more neighborhood meeting. Maybe I will see you there? The next one is:

Thursday Night, March 1st at St. Philip and James Church on Bosworth 7:00 PM

and the last one is:

Saturday Morning, March 3rd at Gunning Recreation Center on Puritas Ave. 10:00 AM.

Seeing the presentation boards lined up around the room is reason enough to go; they outline transportation plans (an emerald bracelet bike path for example) mixed use development, too much to post here - just passing on mtg. information. Peace Out - 3C

Eminent Domain and Cleveland's Innerbelt Plan

Eminent Domain can be an issue for residents and business owners alike. Familiar with the term? Eminent Domain is when property is 'taken' by a government, usually at a fair market price to the owner of that property. Oh, and just because they are going to get a fair market price doesn't mean said property owner is pleased about the idea! Lakewood Ohio residents had to become familiar with this issue quickly when the City Mayor and Council liked a mixed use development plan proposed by a developer; they declared a swath of homes and businesses in Western Lakewood blighted so they could tear existing property down in order to make way for this development. I wrote about how this mobilized the Lakewood community. The plan did not move forward. But people in Lakewood have stayed mobilized! Lakewood City government peeps said it was for the public good, but it was an attempt to use eminent domain in a way that was non-traditional. It has been successful for example, when used to build schools or roads. Which brings me to the most recent use of it.

The Innerbelt Plan or redesign has been in the works, and now the beginning of the project seems to be starting. Business owners in the affected areas have been sent letters by The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) stating their property is being 'taken' and they will be offered fair market value for them. Crain's Cleveland tells the story and interviews a few commercial property owners here. No matter what the public good, it's always a dicey issue, especially for the property owners involved.

Well, not always. I recall living in Rockville Maryland when a block of residents in that city's east side tried to get all the homeowners to assemble their properties so that block, already near transit and commercial development, could be rezoned commercial; allowing them to get a pretty price for their property. That did not work in this case, but it has worked in other areas. I am always intrigued at the number of times this issue reappears. In any event, ODOT (to get back to the latest story) did say that if a building/business owner could show why waiting until the timetable ODOT had established to purchase their property was going to provide undue hardship, it might be possible to buy the property sooner. The Innerbelt Plan itself can be followed here. Peace Out - 3C

2/28/07 - Oddly enough, there is a short blub about eminent domain on the NAR 'on line' magazine website today - good facts, recent court decisions, etc.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Northeast Ohio Housing Market Trends in 2007

The computer listing service on the web those of us in the business utilize (NORMLS) gave us statistics on homes and condos sold in all of Northeast Ohio since 2007 began. This means Bratenahl, Medina, Avon Lake, Cleveland, Parma, the whole ball of wax. Here is some data:

  • Homes and Condos sold, on average, after three months on the market.
  • 5,474 new homes were listed for sale - up 67% from the number listed a month earlier
  • 692 condos were listed
  • 1,253 homes sold - 42% of the housing on the market sold
  • 165 condos sold - 27.4% of the condos on the market sold
  • 2007: Average Sale Price for single family homes in NE Ohio was $154,125 (same time frame in 2006: Average Sale Price was $160,699)
  • 2007: Average Sale Price for condos was $138,914. (same time frame in 2006: Average Sale Price was $155,190)

So yes, the average home and condo sale price is down from the beginning of 2006. Peace Out - 3C

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Cuyahoga County Condo Sales: Shaker Heights Condos Sold

Today was inspection day on a home sale in Shaker Heights. My clients are moving here from another State to accept jobs at Case Western Reserve and that alone makes me happy - it's great when people relocate to the Cleveland area. Anyway, the inspection took a few hours, as usual. The inspector does two things that are really important when you buy a home. 1. Look for any major issues and 2. help with his/her expertise on how to maintain your furnace and other mechanicals. My clients are first time home buyers so it's always good to learn how to keep things running well to keep from having repair costs in the future. ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) inspectors have a lot of knowledge under their belts - this inspector was no exception.

Anyway, tooling around Shaker is always fun, it's a gorgeous City. So I decided it's time to continue the condominium market trends discussion with results in Shaker Heights condominium sales for 2006 - comparing them to 2005 sales. Here is what I came up with: condo sales held steady both years. Here are the results:

2005: 65 condo sales and they were on the market an average of 97 days, or just over three months. Sales ranged from $117,144 for an efficiency condo to $699,167 for a 3 BR, 2 1/2 Bath condo on South Park Blvd. The average Ask Price was $121,926 and the Average Sale Price was $117,144.

2006 to Present: 66 condo sales from $19,900 to $596,900. Most of these condos were also on the market for just over three months (an average of 93 days) The Average Ask Price was $ $152,890 and the Average Sale Price was $145,328.

For both years, the average sale was for 2BR/2Bath condos with 1 car garages. I've talked with Realtors® from other states and they said their condominium sales were doing well - I'm inclined to agree with them as far as these Shaker Heights results are concerned. For information on current condominiums on the market, check out my website. (There are 82 condos available right now in Shaker). (Photo courtesy of Shaker City website. Peace Out - 3C

Cleveland Residency Laws Part Two

Got back onto's forum as people discussed the residency laws. One 'thread' talks about people not living in Cleveland then not doing their jobs well (i.e., police). I find that one hard to believe, it's a tough job. Would someone really not do their best as a policeman because they don't live in the same community?

I thought the idea was to put City workers in the City so they could become involved in every aspect of their communites, a win-win situation for them and the rest of us residents. I don't really believe the residency law is about public safety workers not caring about us. Anyway, you can decide for yourself, and read all the other comments on the Forum.
Peace Out - 3C

Friday, February 23, 2007

Judge Rules Against Cleveland's Residency Laws

Crain's Cleveland website edition has an article written by Jay Miller regarding a Common Pleas Court decision today that supports Ohio Legislation blocking Cleveland's right to require people reside where they work. Another article from

The Judge brings up the point that the City of Cleveland can still offer strong incentives for people to live in Cleveland and work in Cleveland. The City of Cleveland vows to continue the fight.

Personally, I think Cleveland already offers a lot of what I need to live here: walkable neighborhoods, affordable taxes, schools with a broad spectrum of classes and great teachers, and a beautiful housing stock with character, built in the days when pride in construction was the norm.
Peace Out - 3C

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Give the City Your Feedback on Three Proposed Convention Center Sites For Downtown Cleveland

Spent some time studying the comparative analysis of three proposals for possible Convention Center sites in Cleveland. Rather than reinventing the wheel so to speak, go to the City of Cleveland Convention Center website pages outlining the three plans. In great detail I might add, including straightforward renderings & plans, and outlines of issues to be addressed in order to move forward.
The best part? You can email the Planning Department with your opinions. We all deserve to be a part of this process so let your voice be heard! I like the Mall West Block Site (rendering pictured here) because the location lends itself to a facility that large without taking up Lakefront/Public Square space that could be used for multiple purposes instead of one huge facility. For a map showing where the three 'Centers' want to be located, click here. What do you think?
They say there are no coincidences, so I am sending a vote of appreciation to Mayor Jackson's staff. The City website has become so much more informative since the Mayor took up residence at City Hall.
I would love to hear your comments on the three plans, what impresses you, what doesn't appeal to you. But most importantly, if you review it you can email your feedback to the Cleveland City Planning Department Allow your voice to be heard! Peace Out - 3C

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Don't Throw It Away, Freecycle

A big shout out today to a blogging buddy of mine from Connecticut, Linda Davis. She posted on her Ledyard Connecticut blog about Freecycle. It was a new concept to me, I'm sure some of you already know about it. Freecycling means you don't throw it away, you give it away. There is a Freecycle Cleveland group on line. I love Plugged In Cleveland and advertise my listings there. They also have a Freecycle section. Learn all about Freecycle on their official website. When I go to their finder page I find groups in places all over Ohio, the closest ones being in Ashtabula, Akron, Brunswick and Independence.

There are many Yahoo! Groups for Freecycling. Here's one from Lakewood. Seems worth checking out. This is so good it almost makes me want to start de-cluttering! Peace Out-3C

Steelyard Commons Walmart to Participate In Job Opportunity Zone

The latest word is that the Steelyard Commons Walmart decided they want to play nice (actually very nice) and not take their allowable tax abatements for the new Steelyard Commons store. Instead, they are looking to set up a Job and Opportunities Zone in Tremont, setting aside grant money and advertising money to help local businesses in Tremont thrive, grow or start up. For more information, see my Active Rain post here.

Update: here is an audio podcast of Mayor Frank Jackson explaining the significance of Walmart opting out of the tax abatement (ten year) available to them. The podcast is courtesy of
Peace Out - 3C

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The IRS Awaits You: 2006 Deadline Lurks as Does The Taxman

It's that time of year again, and like George Harrison said in his song, when tax time rolls around each year I feel like I'm working for no one but the 'Taxman'. Ok so we all have to suck it up and get it done. I've been online with the IRS browsing tax changes that apply beginning in 2006. (And yes I need a heavy dose of good music to do this). Here are a few new items that caught my eye:

1. Telephone excise taxes. This can be good! Do you have a plan with a cellular phone company that gives you X number of minutes (both long distance and local) a month for a flat fee? If so, certain taxes were applied. And recent court cases have decided that some of the taxes were burdensome. So our friendly IRS is refunding tax monies. This is a one time refund! It is good for telephone bills between 2003 and 2006. The IRS has a very good Q and A page on this. Again, it's called the Telephone Excise Tax Refund and to get the refund you need Form 8913. Don't miss out on this one time IRS offer (sounds so weird to say that!)

2. Filing On Line. Are you able to do your own taxes and want to file the easy way on line? The IRS claims you get your refunds faster when you do it on line. Regardless, here is the link to On line e Filing.

I have more tips to offer but you have to go to Carole's Blog (my Active Rain Blog) to read more. Peace Out 3C (photo courtesy of Rolling Stone Magazine)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Forget Neither 'Rain Nor Sleet Nor Snow'', The Mail Delivery Can Wait!

There was a story in today's Plain Dealer about mail service during our recent Valentine's Day snowstorm. I know we did not have delivery on the 15th. My Cleveland street was snow covered beyond belief. This was due to cars parked in the street, making it impossible for a plow to do anything substantive with the snow. At one point that day I saw a small City of Lakewood pick up truck with a plow trying to make at least a path on the street - I don't know if the City asked this person to do it or he/she was just being kind lol.

Back to the mail delivery. There was nowhere to park a mail truck. I did not expect my long time mailman Mike to deliver mail that day in such treacherous conditions. Maybe it's just me, but I think cars should be off the street during a snow emergency. Ask a neighbor if you can park your car in their driveway. I know I would have been happy to allow one or two more cars in my driveway. First it keeps the driveway somewhat clean! Secondly and more importantly, the City snowplow can then come by and do the street justice. Just my humble opinion.
Today's musical selection? Song For A Winter's Night provided by Stonewall Studios.
Peace Out 3C

Friday, February 16, 2007

How are Cuyahoga County Condo Sales? Part One: Tremont, Ohio City and Cleveland's Near West Side

I was cruising around on my favorite Ohio Forum, and I saw a thread talking about condos and the housing market. Someone asked how condos and homes were appreciating in price. I realized I wanted to focus on condos and find out for myself. So this is the first leg of my search, comparing condominium sales in 2005 to 2006 for the Near West Side, which includes Tremont and Ohio City. There are quite a few condo complexes to choose from in this part of Cleveland. So let's get started.

2005 : 95 Condos Sold. Sale prices were all over the map: $14,000 to $499,900. How long did it take for these condos to sell? An average of 212 days. The Average Ask Price was $242,338 and the Average Sale Price was $238,836. On average, the condos that sold in 2005 had 1444 Sq. Ft., 2 BRs, 2 baths and a one car garage. Next?

2006: 52 Condos Sold. Again, sales prices were all over the map: $25,325 to $459,740. How long did it take for these condos to sell? An average of 151 days (fewer sold, but the ones that did were on the market for a shorter time). The Average Ask Price was $213,663. The Average Sale Price was $213,515. Your eyes are not deceiving you, that is just barely $100 difference between the average price the sellers wanted and the price the buyers paid. On average, the condos that sold had 1374 Sq. Ft., 2BRs, 2 baths and a two car garage.

***The average price per square foot in 2005 was $178/Sq. Ft. And in 2006, $156/Sq. Ft.

Want to buy a condo in this area? There are 120 for sale right now. Peace Out - 3C
(photo courtesy of website)
Here's Luther Vandross Serenading A House Is Not A Home

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Cleveland City Council Supports Rail Plan

There are plans in the works to bolster our area's economy through commuter rail. One plan is the Cleveland Hub Initiative . On a smaller scale, the West Shore Corridor commuter rail plan is also proposed. This would develop a system that runs from Lorain to Cleveland. All Aboard Ohio(AAO ) is the website to track for all Ohio rail plans. The big news this month is City of Cleveland support for it. Last week, Cleveland City Council passed a resolution asking our Congressional Delegation to support funding for analysis over the next two years. You can read the press release here. I was happy to see my Councilman (and Council President) Martin Sweeney listed as a supporter on this resolution.

The West Shore Corridor was listed as 'potentially feasible' with the possibility of providing local and regional benefits to the economy. This comes from a ten county NEOrail study done in 2001. There are commuters from places like Lorain, Avon, Westlake and Rocky River who would benefit from this commuter rail. There are also a slew of Clevelanders who could accept jobs in the western suburbs if commuter rail existed. One area to continue in this analysis is that of 'Quiet Zones' that have to do with, among other things, noise levels at train crossings. Transit Oriented Development(TOD's) has been really successful in areas with Quiet Zones.

This Rail System would be run with (theoretically) a three car 450 passenger train. The cars are available very inexpensively from other cities already relying on commuter train systems. The kind of RR Tracks needed are pretty much already existing on this corridor. Environmentally, 450 commuters on a train use less fuel than 450 cars (duh!) and they estimate 2.5 acres of Downtown Cleveland parking lots could be put to good use as mixed use development, shops, etc., adding to the vibrancy of Downtown. For a clear analysis, Ken Prendergast, spokesperson for All Aboard Ohio has written a post on Green City Blue Lake.

Enjoy today's music video Runaway Train. :-) Peace Out - 3C

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Enjoying the Valentine's Day 2007 Snowfall in Cleveland

Some of us had snow days today. It was like being a school kid again with the day off! I HAD to post these photos, sent off to me by my listing partner, Belinda Bonoan. She and her two sons made the most of the day off by playing in the snow. Somehow snow doesn't seem so bad when you get one large snowfall a season (do I sound overly optimistic? The many ground hogs told us that winter will be short.) Even Dick Goddard our long time weatherman, predicted a change in the jet stream that will warm things up beginning on February 20th (!!!)

Belinda and her sons found a way to enjoy themselves. I smile at the photo of Belinda and Tyler in their igloo. Looks like fun, no?

Then we have the value of recycling, while featuring son Ian snowboarding. Our Company is now Howard Hanna Smythe Cramer because Smythe Cramer and Howard Hanna merged a few years ago. What to do with old yard signs? Apparently they work well for snowboarding :-)
Listen to some Smokey Robinson to celebrate the Day.
Peace Out - 3C

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Strongsville, Berea and Middleburg Heights Homes Sold So Far in 2007

City of Berea stats tell us that there are 7,449 housing units within Berea's city limits. And yes, some of them have sold since the beginning of this year. This post will include data for Berea as well as Middleburg Heights and Strongsville. The following information includes homes sold through area brokerages, which means the data appears on our Northern Ohio Multiple Listing Service (NORMLS) computer website.

Berea: There have been eleven homes sold since January 1, 2007. The sales ranged in price from $58,250 to $250,000. The average number of days on the market (DOM) for these homes was 71. The average Ask Price was $120,663. The Average Sale Price was $109,284. The average amenities included in the homes that sold were: 1,734 Sq. Ft., 3BRs, one bath and a two car garage.

Middleburg Heights: There have been seven homes sold since January 1, 2007. The sales ranged in price from $85,000 to $207,000. The average number of DOM was 73. The average Ask Price was $162,314 and the Average Sale Price was $148,842. Average amenities in the sold homes in Middleburg Heights included 1,517 Sq. Ft. of finished living space, 3BRs, one bath and a two car garage.

Strongsville: 25 homes have sold since January 1, 2007. The sales ranged in price from $118,915 to $411,000. The average number of DOM for these homes was 96 or just over three months. The average Ask Price was $239,173. The Average Sale Price was $228,383. The average amenities included 2,551 Sq. Ft. of living space, 3BRs, two baths and a two car garage.
Notice a trend yet? My February 7th post on housing market trends in 2007 in other neighborhoods also showed a two car garage as a constant in buyer preferences. Food for thought?

I will be holding the home pictured above, 19555 Glenmar Way, open today between 2 and 5PM. It is a lovely Strongsville home with 3BRs, 2 full baths and a spacious hot tub thrown in. (no, we will not be in the hot tub, but if you are considering a move to Strongsville, stop by and see me). **Ryan Adams singing A House Is Not A Home.
Peace Out - 3C

Friday, February 9, 2007

What's Faster Than a Speeding Bullet? The Ohio Hub Train

It seems there are more things to do today than there are hours, which must be why I am up at 5 o'clock in the morning. So let's feature a video. One of my passions, the proposed 3C Corridor Plan/Ohio Hub Initiative. All Aboard Ohio's website is the place to find out the most recent news and details. Read my Active Rain post on The Hub and when you get to the bottom of the comment list you will find a way to support this project. You need Quick Time in order to watch this video. It features fast trains (110 mph) and as the narrator says ".....5000 HP jet engine bullet that can get you anywhere in Ohio in an hour or two....." This is definitely, they say, "Not Your Daddy's Train." Climb on board and Enjoy the video!!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Steelyard Commons: Tax Money Trouble In Paradise?

While everyone basks in the glow of the new Steelyard Commons, a glitch has been discovered. Susan Vinella reports in the Plain Dealer this morning that the tax monies Cleveland was expecting from Steelyard Commons may not be there after all, at least for the next ten years. When you participate in Brownfield Remediation of a site, the State of Ohio allows you to receive a tax break for doing so. It's not that this is a bad thing, but my immediate reaction is, how could our City Government not know this ahead of time when they are formalizing agreements to plan development projects? According to the PD article, Mitchell Schneider, the projects developer is working with the City to try to get some of the tax monies to the City. But many of the stores (Target, Walmart) are already on board with the abatement available to them. By the way, this money was earmarked for continued improvements to the Towpath and Bike Paths, among other things.

I guess this adds to the discussion about the value of tax abatement to cities like Cleveland. In this case, brownfield remediation would be a smart reason to allow them. It amazes me that Cleveland could be blindsided in this way. I'm a layperson and if I am aware of tax abatement available for remediation then why would those hired to work on City Planning not be more aware? Shouldn't this have been part of the negotiations up front? Again according to the Vinella article, Cleveland claims to have discovered the loopholes/ramifications of this issue 'late last year.' That means just a few months before Steelyard Commons is ready for business?
Peace Out - 3C

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Lakewood, Rocky River, Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights Homes Sold in Cuyahoga County Since 2007 Began

Four communities to update here detailing sold homes in Cuyahoga County in 2007. This is a list of all the homes sold through area brokerages (since January 1st of this year) for these four suburbs.

Lakewood: 17 Single Family Homes sold this year. Sale prices ranged from $62,000 to $1,100,000.00. The average number of days on the market was 79. The average ask price was $227,561 and the average sale price was $215,583. The average room count included 3BRs,2Baths and a 2-car garage.

Rocky River: 9 Single Family Homes sold this year. (Actually ten are listed but one home listed over $500k is showing as 'sold' for $2500.00, seemed unusual so I am not including that sale here). Sale prices ranged from $153,000 to $560,000. The average number of days on the market before going under contract was 76. The average ask price was $279,600 and the average sale price was $264,722. The average room count included 3 BRs, 2 Baths and a 2-car garage.

Cleveland Heights: 23 Single Family Homes sold this year. Sale prices ranged from $30,000 to $367,900. The average number of days the houses were listed was 89. Average ask price was $122,123 and the average sale price was $115,653. The average room count included 4BRs, one bath and a 2-car garage.

Shaker Heights: 10 Single Family Homes sold so far this year. Average days on the market was 71. Sale prices ranged from $45,000 to $425,000. Average ask price was $271,070. The average sale price was $250,300. The average room count included 4BRs, 2 baths, and a 2-car garage.

The one constant in home buyer tastes seems to be at least 3 bedrooms with a 2-car garage. I'll feature more communities later this week.
Remember Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell, where she sang 'they paved paradise and put up a parking lot?' Here is the Counting Crows version.

Peace Out - 3C

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Art Exhibit Postponed Until March 9th

The weather is not cooperating this week is it? Well, due to the extremely cold temperatures, the Robert Stockham Exhibit at Bergen Village scheduled for this Friday night's Tremont Art Walk has been postponed until March 9th during the same event. It has to be warmer by then yes? Peace Out - 3C

Shovel or Sweep That Pesky Snow if Your Home is For Sale

If you have your home on the market, your Realtor® has probably told you that a clean house is crucial to 'looking good' to a potential buyer. I have a past blogpost on Hints to having your home ready for buyers.

Now that we have some snow on the ground, don't you want to keep that snow outside instead of on your beautiful floors or carpets? Keep your sidewalks and the walkway to your door (or your driveway for that matter) free of snow. Yes we can ask people to park their shoes at the door. But what if they don't listen?
Sweeping the porch and stairs can make a big difference. First it enhances the curb appeal of your home on dreary winter days. Imagine the look of horror on your own face when you hear that someone fell on the snowy stairs on your porch and broke an arm. It keeps all the civil law suits in Judge Judy's courtroom (is her show still on?) on television, and not on the docket of your real life!

I previewed homes today for clients and it amazed me that not one of them had swept away the snow. That's why I am making this plea to you. If you cannot sweep the snow yourself, your Realtor® can advise you of a list of people to call. And let's hope that pesky groundhog Phil was correct and winter is almost over!
OK. I'm on my way to sweep off the porch for my mailman now :-) Peace Out - 3C

Lease Options - An Alternative to Selling & Personal Savings Declines aka, All the News That's Fit To Print

Several news articles struck me today. They are only somewhat related, but I'm posting them both anyway. The first one is another sledge hammer to personal savings. Reuters and CNN is reporting that personal savings in the United States has fallen to a -1%, the lowest reported since 1933, during the Great Depression. That is a stark figure. They are also talking about Sub Prime Loan defaults increasing in numbers. Sub prime loans are loans given to people who may have credit issues, for example, and do not qualify for prime lending loans; they usually involve higher interest rates. The number of sub-prime loans defaulting has been increasing year by year. The personal savings statistic was very sobering and should be a wake up call to all of us. An article from CNN Money talks about manufacturing coming out of it's slump which would be good news.

The other article is from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) on line magazine. In the Cleveland market there are a lot of homes competing with each other for buyers. This article talks about an option for sellers, and that is to allow your home to become a Lease with an Option to Purchase. One reason this becomes attractive to me is if you are selling your home very soon after you have purchased it. Maybe you are moving out of state for job purposes; an unexpected transfer that makes you think you have to put your home on the market even though you just purchased it. We just 'closed' a lease agreement on a rental for a home in just this situation. It's very hard to recoup your expenses in a short period of time so maybe selling a home is not the best idea, why not put it up for rent or a Lease with an Option to Buy ? Single family home rentals are very marketable and this can be a win-win scenario for both the homeowner (landlord) and the tenant. This allows you to wait a bit longer before putting the home on the market for sale, allowing more time for the home to increase in value. It can also give you time to make some improvements that will increase your homes value, all the while making your mortgage payment through the monthly rental amounts. It's worth considering.
Peace Out - 3C

Monday, February 5, 2007

Cleveland City Council to Consider Banning Cell Phone Use While Driving

This article on male infertility because of cell phone use aside, I think most of us consider our cell phones a way of life. As a Realtor® I cannot imagine not having one. I know that Brooklyn, Walton Hills and North Olmsted don't allow me to use it while I'm speeding, er, driving down the road - may as well stay within the letter of the law! Of course common sense has to come into play even when I'm in a community that DOES allow it. I know the State of New York passed a ban; I wonder how that is working there?
Why am I bringing this up now? Well, Councilman Dolan (Ward 21) has introduced legislation to ban cell phone use while driving, in the City of Cleveland. You could spend a couple of months in jail (probably unlikely) or many hundreds of dollars in fines (much more likely). My opinion? There are people who pay too little attention to their driving, be they on the cell phone, applying makeup, fishing for some mysterious file under the seat (is it not amazing how frequently we see that?). Banning cell phone use still does not preclude someone from being stupidly distracted in a different way. I would have loved to link to the City Council page here but their site is still not working (I will add it if that changes anytime soon). OK good news, the City Council Website is now up and running.

My last bit about cell phones is a shout out to Michele Connors post on Active Rain today regarding the Do Not Call Registry. You can get all the details from her post, but the synopsis is this. You may like telemarketer calls, but if you don't, or don't want to pay for cell phone minutes while listening to a telemarketer, you can call the Do Not Call Registry at: 888-382-1222.

In less than two weeks, telemarketers will legally be allowed to solicit on cell phones and that is a big change in policy. So this is a heads up. When you call the number above, make sure you are calling from the phone you want to register. The registration is good for five years. The website has complaint forms you can use when telemarketers call you (once you are on the Registry List of course). If you would like information on the general Do Not Call Registry for land line phones check the FTC site here.
A little music to lighten things up, thanks to Travis Tritt.

Peace Out - 3C

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Net Neutrality,The FCC & John McCain...What a Combo!

I wrote a blog post on John McCain's Bill (HR 1606) which is aimed at regulating the Internet (it's a House Bill that he supported and now I am doing what the media does, saying it is his bill). The main 'hot button' is the issue of on line child predators, with a little copyright infringement thrown in. What happens too often when the government gets involved? The issue has now become one of Net Neutrality . There was an Amendment proposed, which got defeated last month. Final vote on this Bill is to take place in June 2007. Do we want the government involved in regulating the Internet? We know how well the FCC does with it's regulations (yes I am being sarcastic). The FCC would of course be responsible for policing this legislation. I give a big shout out to the CNET article I highlighted above. They discuss all the amendments to this Bill (which when all is said and done will have a new SB number). Quite a few of these amendments are still 'in committee.' People as diverse as movie stars and Vint Cerf (who helped invent the Internet) all believe in net neutrality, which really means equal treatment of all sites on the Internet. The question isn't really should all sites be considered equally (blogs and websites, for example), but should it be self policing, while adhering to the existing laws (copyright infringement for example), or should the government get in the middle of it with new laws and enforcement rights. At the last minute, an amendment was introduced by Lamar Smith of Texas that said none of the Anti Trust laws would be changed in a way that would interfere with District Court oversight of Anti Trust Laws. For some reason this makes those who want Net Neutrality to remain nervous, because the proposed law keeps getting reworked to make it more palatable to all Memebers, which means it keeps becoming more and more likely that they might vote Net Neutrality out of existence.

Many are saying that large companies like broadband providers will be able to provide website content that smaller providers will not - sort of like digital versus basic cable? The consumer rights group Public Knowledge feels that this will allow companies like AT&T and Cox Cable and Com-cast to control the content of the Internet. Unlike FCC control which of course brings to mind the words tweedle dee dee and tweedle dee dum. The Internet has up to this point, allowed all users and providers to decide what applications they want to use and what content they want to view or write. Google uses this analogy: ".....Just as telephone companies are not permitted to tell consumers who they can call or what they can say, broadband carriers should not be allowed to use their market power to control activity online...."

A second point, and one that got my boxer shorts in a knot (even though I don't wear them), is that the FCC loves to control what comes across the airwaves, be it television or radio. John McCain spouted off about how political blogs can say what they want and maybe if there were some changes made, they wouldn't be allowed to be so free with their tongues (ok I paraphrased, but that is the crux of his statement). This sounds like a slap at Free Speech to me, and he is cloaking it all in regulation of sex predators on the internet. Political bloggers and sex predators are apples and oranges. And as so often happens with government, there are already laws on the books that sites like have to obey. If a sexual predator is found to have a personal profile or image on Myspace, they are required to take it down. Why more laws? I can't come up with a good reason, if you can, explain it to me. In the meantime, I think anything increasing FCC police powers over the Internet and blogging is a bad idea. Congress is trying to wrap this up for a June vote.

How do you feel about Net Neutrality? Do you want to take action? Let your voice be heard by going to InternetFreedom where you can either sign an online petition, or contact your Representatives.
Did you know actor Kevin Spacey sings? Decide for yourself if he should quit his day job with his version of The Freedom Song.

Peace Out -3C

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Tax Abatement: Does it Help More Than it Hurts the City of Cleveland?

The City of Cleveland authorized a Tax Abatement Program for new construction and rehab projects in 1991. 100% tax abatement on a 'for sale' property has been alluring to buyers, something I have seen first hand. In 2006 I had several clients move here from other States and they specifically chose homes that included the 100% abatement over others that were similar but lacked the tax relief. The question comes up for debate again because City authority for this Abatement Program ends this July; they have to decide if they are going to continue it, change it or end it.

City Council is holding a series of hearings on the issue. Last week's hearing brought out some of the prominent builders in the area. Developers like Sutton Builders, Rysar Properties, Zaremba and The Ferchill Group all asked the City to continue the Abatement Program. I thought the most telling comment came from Chris Ferchill of The Ferchill Group. The Ferchill Group developed The Villa Carabelli Town Homes which occupy space in both Cleveland and Cleveland Heights. He pointed out that "....the six units within City of Cleveland limits sold quickly [and they had 100% tax abatement for 15 years]. ...the fourteen units in Cleveland Heights took two years to sell...." and the tax abatement for those units was 65% for 7 years. (quote is from the Crain's article linked above)

Councilwoman Fannie Lewis discussed the fact that tax abatement had helped turn her neighborhood around (although Fannie Lewis deserves a lot of credit herself, she is a dynamo for her neighborhood, IMHO). And Councilman Cummins from the Old Brooklyn neighborhood pointed out that his area doesn't have much land to assemble for new construction projects, but that rehabbed and new homes on vacant lots should get 12 % abatement. This discussion, regarding whether or not the abatement amount should change, was a key part of the hearing. Overall it sounds like the majority of the builders requested that The City give them a year at the status quo while they rethink a strategy.

Personally and professionally, I see the advantages of tax abatement, and stories like Fannie Lewis' tell me we need to keep some form of it. But the City of Cleveland is losing money on the type of abatement structure set up currently. It was necessary, but now I'm thinking a change in focus might be good. Why not apply the total 100%/15 year tax abatement to Smart Growth rehabs or new builds; or homes that are built near public transportation (TOD's)? Or reach a certain level of energy efficiency? Other layers of abatement could still be applied but at smaller percentages for different types of rehab projects. The storefront abatement program seems like a winner to me too. I would tell you to keep an eye on the City Council website for information on more public hearings, but I will have to call on Monday to find out -- the City Council website seems to be in 'reconstruction' mode this week. I will edit this or add a short blurb in a new post when I find out details. Peace Out - 3C
2/27/07 - I have an update - Cleveland State University did a study involving 400 homebuyers who purchased homes in Cleveland over the last few years. The majority of them (60%) said tax abatement was a big reason they chose Cleveland over someplace else. I think that's great, it just proves abatement works. What it does not do however is prove it should stay in the same form it is in right now. Regardless, here is the Crain's Cleveland Business article in it's entirety.