Thursday, May 31, 2007

Manufactured Homes Go Green and Upscale? did an interesting piece on pre-fab housing. For those of us who take a snooty approach to pre-fab (and yes, I like the old historic homes better aesthetically), the article points out some reasons why the market for pre-fab is increasing.

1. Fresh designs. To me that means more than just the look of the exterior. Think about how people use extra bedrooms for offices, dens, game rooms. Think about how a Great Room or Family Room off the kitchen has turned into a practical and desirable floor plan for families or those who love to entertain. The small parlour/living room combination has been transplanted with this style. Pre-fab homes are offering ways to meet these new needs and apparently the public is buying it.

2. Designs that appeal to more upscale consumers. The old standard of a manufactured home only being a low to moderate income home design of lower quality does not hold true anymore. As one builder said in this article "....[perceptions] that are rooted in past decades when the industry kept costs low at the expense of good design...." are gone.

3. Environmental and energy concerns. Environmentally friendly construction materials and green housing standards are being met now with many pre-fab builders. As a side note, you can look at homes made of steel instead of wood framing, which is a big plus in areas that experience a lot of nature's wrath. Steel also gives you more square footage to play with inside the home since there are less 'interior room' structural supports needed.

They claim their biggest market is baby boomers, not that this is surprising since there are so many of us lol. Anyway, to read the entire article, go here. Peace Out - 3C

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cleveland's New Tax Abatement Policy

I'm going to direct you to the City Council Press Release on this, but wanted to quote or highlight a few items here.

First: "....Council is in agreement with Mayor Frank G. Jackson regarding the classification of downtown as a neighborhood. As a result, the new policy contains no distinction between downtown and the neighborhoods, which eliminates tiered abatement downtown...."

Second: ".... Understanding the need for energy efficiency and its impact on the future of the City and the environment, Council convened a green building working group, which determined it would be reasonable to expect the development community to prepare for a higher standard for development by 2010. Therefore, on January 1, 2010, new construction will be required to meet energy star standards...."

Would have loved for a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) component to be recognized in a new abatement policy. Revisiting it again in 2010 is much smarter however than the 20 year plan first put into effect. Just my two cents. Anyway, here is the entire press release. Peace Out - 3C

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

First Energy Corp Wants To Help Us Go Green

This from Apparently First Energy filed a plan that would allow them to choose green energy suppliers. The only catch is, the prices would fluctuate and that means we could be paying more than we are currently if we chose this plan. Would we be willing to do that?

I ask another question: can we get tax credit (State?) for the difference in the amount we would pay for solar or wind energy suppliers? Or even a flat $100 off every year. Just curious. Peace Out - 3C

Cleveland Magazine's 'Rate The Suburbs' Out for 2007

They examined 76 suburbs and you can read about in on the Cleveland Magazine web pages. This year, Solon was number one. They examine city services too - also on these pages. It's a good read, check it out. PS: I don't think you can read about all 76 of them unless you subscribe.

I couldn't help but check out some of the other articles. There is one written by Erick Trickey who laments the lack of neighborhood kids who will mow for you these days. I have to say I love mowing the lawn but there were two neighbor kids who came by a few times this year to see if I needed help shoveling snow! So the young ones haven't completely disappeared from every least they are alive and well in mine! Thanks guys! Peace Out - 3C

Sunday, May 27, 2007

We Have A 'Love-Hate' Relationship With Credit Cards

So says the Washington Post's Kathleen Day. You Can read here about how many transactions we make daily (way too many). While we love to use them we don't like some of the policies.

For example, did you know your credit card provider might increase your interest rate if you default on a different credit card?

Of course then there is The United States' debt; $148 Trillion, or about $161 k per person. Yikes.

MSN Money had a decent article on controlling your credit card debt. You can read it here.

Apparently Congress is finally getting into the act on getting Card Issuers to cap the amount of charges they will allow to accrue on late payments. Michigan Senator Carl Levin is one of the sponsors of the bill and you can read a speech he made on the topic here.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

New On Line Data Base Available to Track Graduation Rates Per School Across the Nation

When I was a student teacher, established teachers were grumbling that schools tended to under report their graduation rates. Teachers are still grumbling about the same thing. Now there is a National Data Base, unveiled by Laura Bush, Education Secretary Spelling and other Educators. You can read today's story in the Washington Post here.

The on line data base is hosted at Education Week's website. We all know people are constantly trying to put a spin on education results whether they are test results, graduation rates or charter school vs. public school success. According to the Post article, 70 percent of the students across the country are graduating, and that is a lot lower figure than previously reported. Secretary Spelling referred to it as America's Silent Epidemic. I will be interested in learning more about how this new tracking system is set up. But for the time being, check out the site above for any details on a school you would like to track.

Peace Out - 3C

Westlake, Fairview, Shaker Heights, South Euclid Home Sales 2005-2007 Comparison

These again, are Realtor®/Broker sales. I'm comparing 2005, 2006 and 2007 sales averages from January to May 27th. This time it's Westlake, Fairview, Shaker Heights and South Euclid.

Westlake: 2007: 107 Homes and Condos Sold. Average Ask Price was $281,667. The Average Sale Price was $268,986. Average days on the market before selling was 84.

2006: 156 Homes and Condos Sold. Average Ask Price was $ 271,615. The Average Sale Price was $260,677. Days on the market for these homes was an average of 86.

2005: 159 Homes and Condos Sold. Average Ask Price was $274,836. The Average Sale Price was $265,625. Days on the market averaged out at 77.

So a fairly stable housing market in Westlake. The total number of sales is down but the ones that are selling are holding close to sale prices of a few years ago. I'm going to let you all interpret the rest lest I become one of those talking heads I see on television and yell at!

Fairview: 2007: 74 Homes or Condos Sold. Average Ask Price was $159,723. The Average Sale Price was $153,010. Days on the Market: 80.

2006: 87 Homes or Condos Sold. Average Ask Price was $148,983. The Average Sale Price was $144,424. Days on the market: 65.

2005: 86 Homes or Condos Sold. Average Ask Price was 161,833. The Average Sale Price was $156,288. Days on the market: 74.

Shaker Heights: 2007: 96 Homes or Condos Sold. Average Ask Price was $245,801. The Average Sale Price was $230,156. Days on the market: 96.

2006: 121 Homes or Condos Sold. Average Ask Price was $275,251. Average Sale Price was $265,408. Days on the market: 99.

2005: 146 Homes or Condos Sold. Average Ask Price was $251,363. Average Sale Price was $242,613. Days on market: 81.

South Euclid: 2007: 114 Homes or Condos Sold. Average Ask Price was $125,090. The Average Sale Price was $122,154. Days on the market: 92.

2006: 134 Homes or Condos Sold. Average Ask Price was $127,511. Average Sale Price was $123,583. Days on the market: 75.

2005: 136 Homes or Condos Sold. Average Ask Price was $131,812. Average Sale Price was $128,495. Days on the market: 82.

Peace Out-3C

Cuyahoga County Home Sale Stats: 2006 vs. 20007

They are running the Indy 500 this weekend so I thought I'd do a few posts putting 2006 stats against 2007 stats. I'm reporting on brokerage sales - January to May 27 2007 and the same period of time in 2006.

In Lakewood, 2007 sale prices beat 2006 by a few thousand; homes had to stay on the market about twenty days longer to sell. Total sales however? 2006 was higher. Here are the stats:

2007: 121 Total SF sales. Average Ask Price $172,852. Average Sale Price $165,655. On market 92 days.

2006: 132 sales. Average Ask Price $168,053. Average Sale Price $162,227. On market 71 days.

West Side of Cleveland (large area, includes Tremont and OC but also Clark/Metro Area). This area was the opposite, there were more sales in 2006 but the 2007 sale prices were a bit higher. Here are the stats:

2007: 150 Total SF sales. The average Ask Price was $81,133. The average Sale Price was $78,469. Number of days on the market averaged 92.

2006: 185 Total SF sales. The average Ask Price was $74,455. The average Sale Price was $71,442. Days on market averaged 81.

Since there are a lot of condos in 44113, I'm going to break that zip code out of the above figures and just do that zip code. This is for Ohio City and Tremont. First, single family sales;

2007: 30 Total SF homes sold. The average Ask Price was $205,109. The average Sale Price was $204,728. Average days on the market for these homes was 103.

2006: 23 Total SF homes sold. The average Ask Price was $178,628 and the average Sale Price was $173,454. Less days on the market, on average, in 2006: 71 days.

Condos in 44113? Here goes:

2007: 12 Sold Average Ask Price was $259,349. Average Sale Price was $246,175. Look at the days on the market - 205 days.

2006: 19 Sold. Average Ask Price was $224,484 and average Sale Price was $225,038. Fewer average days on the market: 174 days.

Peace Out - 3C

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Good Advice From a Fellow Realtor®: Thoughts to Consider While Your Home is Under Contract But Not Quite Sold

Leigh Brown is a Realtor ® in North Carolina but no matter, good advice is good advice. She blogged about a recent story involving a seller, and has good tips for you if you have a contract on your house but it is not quite closed yet (or as I say, the ink is not totally dry on the contract until the Title transfers lol). Check out what Leigh has to say here. Peace Out - 3C

Slot Machines At Ohio Racetracks Even Though It Was Voted Down?

I was tired after a long day yesterday and heard a blip on the evening news about Governor Strickland signing something about slots at Ohio racetracks. And the news anchor was so matter of fact about the issue; it rolled off his tongue like it was just something that happens every day.

So this morning I had to Google and of course Eye on the Statehouse had the issue covered (I thank Jill at She Writes Like She Talks for this link a while ago).

They are saying these machines are 'slot like' and not slots (!!!). And yes, I was in favor of the Learn and Earn initiative. But voters overwhelmingly voted it down. So why is it now something that Governor Strickland is supporting? You can read Eye on the Statehouse here for more information.

Maybe instead of having all the Board of Election issues and hanging chads, we could save money, eliminate voting and spend that money on schools. Eye on the Statehouse says "if this proposal doesn't work [now they are talking about the money going to sick children], maybe they can craft a proposal benefiting abandoned puppies...."

Let me state again, this mini rant (is it mini?) is not about whether or not I would support slots at racetracks. It's about whether or not our votes count. Peace Out - 3C

Voices and Choices Newsletter

Voices and Choices is truly a unique organization - fluid, in that it is all about us being able to have an impact and well, a voice! They have a newsletter now and I just received my copy in my email this morning.

Manufacturing jobs going unfilled.....I talked about it here. Apparently it is going to be the subject of an Associated Press story with a highlight on Northeast Ohio. Some excerpts are in the newsletter which you can read here. One thing I loved was hearing that an effort is being made to take the newly displaced Ford workers and train them to fill some of these jobs. The catch has been....skill level. While it's true that many manufacturing companies have disappeared, the ones that are unfilled require certain skills. I say get one of Cleveland's junior high (OK, middle school) and high schools more actively involved....a course load that is started in seventh grade that would enable more students 'at the end of the day' to choose a career in manufacturing. The WIRE NET Max Hayes program is fabulous, but we are only talking 25 students at a time. Anyway, that is my thought. What do you think?

Dream It Do It! is a local campaign to solve this problem. They are the ones who are looking to train and place the Ford workers.

If you want your own newsletter, and I hope you do, so you can add your voice to what happens here in Northeast Ohio, go to the Advance Northeast Ohio website. Peace Out - 3C

Monday, May 21, 2007

A United Plan for the Flats in Cleveland

This may not really be regionalism as Sam Miller describes it but it sure makes sense to me. Both the East and West side of the Flats and their developers working together to make a cohesive plan for the area? Who knew it could happen! I still need to spend time reading about the plan itself, but I love the concept. Here is the PD article by Henry Gomez. I would love to be a fly on the wall at the Conference these developers and others are attending. Peace Out - 3C

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Personal Perspective on Third Federal Savings and Loan

Not my usual topic. But the PD has been featuring Mark Stefanski, who has been running Third Federal for, they say, about 20 years now. I always think of them as an old fashioned bank; when in fact, they aren't. According to the PD they are the "third largest mutual thrift in the Country."

When I moved back to Cleveland in 1997, I wanted to open a checking account with them. But they didn't allow ATM cards. My 19 years in Washington DC mentality said huh? So I went with another bank. When I questioned the teller at the time, she said 'The Stefanski's believe we are better when we are basically a cash and carry people." Fast forward to my philosophy now, what with the average consumer 30k in debt and foreclosures rampant. There is wisdom in that philosophy. I don't know if they allow ATM cards now, but that teller's comment from 1997 has stuck with me all these years.

I also love the history of the bank. When traditional lenders in Cleveland would not lend to the Eastern Europeans (translate Polish) who came here to work the factories, Ben Stefanski started his own lending institution. I grew up on the outskirts of Slavic Village, and every family I knew, family or otherwise, used Third Fed. I know they made a fortune on mortgage loans to Clevelanders.

When I lived in Boston or St. Louis or Maryland I kept repeating the story of the history of Third Federal, with some pride that entrepreneurship was so successful and beneficial to the early Eastern European community of Cleveland. So here is the link again to the article.

(above is a commissioned bronze of Ben and Gerome Stefanski which sits at the Corporate Headquarters. It was done by one of my clients, the talented Ron Dewey from Light Sculpture Works.) Peace Out - 3C

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Award Goes To Senator Voinovich For Supporting Improved Train Service

Kudos to Senator Voinovich, and let's keep the momentum going! He received the Golden Spike Award. You can read about his award here.

Peace Out - 3C

Symbol of Flight From Vietnam Arrives in Cleveland

This is the kind of reporting I crave, and rarely see in the Plain Dealer. So kudos to reporter Robert L. Smith for this article. The Freedom Boat (this link is to a well written blog by Donny Tran that talks about the Freedom Boat and other issues, check it out) is making it's way across the Country, sponsored by a Vietnamese group out of California. It will still be behind Minh Anh restaurant at 5506 Detroit tomorrow. It is stirring up emotion for all who see it, especially those who escaped Vietnam in the same manner. Over the years I have heard many stories that leave me in awe; the resolve it must have taken to actually attempt to flee in ways that are unthinkable. I know a Vietnamese American who escaped with his uncle and infant cousin by crossing a bacterial laden waterway that sent them back at least once because of illness. There are thousands of stories. The Freedom Boat will be there through tomorrow. Thank you, Robert Smith - keep it coming.

Friendship Foundation of The American Vietnamese

Peace Out - 3C

Friday, May 18, 2007

CSU Levin College Study Says NE Ohio has a Glut of Retail

Supply exceeds demand by over 22 million a square foot! That is a lot of extra retail. This does not surprise me. This was reported in today's PD and can be read here. This was a grad school student study. Now, I majored in history, and one reason I always felt studying history was so important was so that the same mistakes don't have to be repeated (isn't that the definition of insanity?) Apparently it did not work in this case because similar findings came out of a study done seven years ago...and of course the amount of surplus is even higher now. I loved one of the readers comments on this blog/PD article. He said 'not only is there too much, there is too much of the same thing.....if you want Applebee's, you have ten Applebees. '

Green City Blue Lake does a great job of summarizing the new CSU retail report.

I could not agree more. This also seems to validate the City of Cleveland Planning Commission's plans for streets like Lorain Avenue. The 'Connecting Cleveland' Master Plan calls for designated retail areas along Lorain, instead of having the entire length of Lorain Avenue charged with supporting nothing but retail. Mixed use development (housing, office, retail) will be the zoning to encourage smarter use of the land.

Is it possible someone will wake up and listen this time? Peace Out - 3C

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Press Conference to Announce Ways to Help Revitalize Neighborhoods

Cleveland Action to Support Housing (CASH) is announcing a press conference for May 24th - they are a non-profit, with support from development corporations like Brooklyn Brighton and Clark Metro, The City of Cleveland, The Cleveland Housing Network and a slew of area banks.

We know that the vacant housing issue in Cleveland is a big deal, with the City trying to change the process of prior owner notification so that vacant homes can be sold/improved. So many of us are sad that so many boarded up homes needing some TLC are scattered throughout our neighborhoods.

The CASH press conference on May 24th is focusing on the vacant house/rehabilitation issues.

Here is a pdf link to read. Let's go to the press conference and find out for ourselves. Peace Out - 3C

New Ohio City Eatery, 'Light Bistro' Opens

A very interesting menu, at this new eatery. What caught my eye immediately was the eggplant flan. That is enough to make me want to skip my Thursday evening appointment and go try it! (I will be good and not do that however lol). The chef worked in Aurora as Exec. Chef of The Leopard. You can check out a Crain's Cleveland review here and you can also check out their website:

On the website Chef Matt talks about featuring food prepared from scratch (who doesn't love that!) and a diverse menu, everything from Louisiana fare to as he says 'decidedly Midwest' meals. Yum! I'm ready, are you? In my next life I am going to be a restaurant critic so I can eat my way through Cleveland :-) They have regular or 'large' meals as well as tasting plate sized meals, which would be a great way to sample the menu. Check it out, and welcome to Ohio City Light Bistro.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Having Homeowner's Insurance is About More Than Just Writing a Payment Check

I'm thinking about this because my client's found themselves with an insurance person painstakingly trying to recreate every little thing in their home. Thankfully they have insurance, but what they did not have, was an itemization of what they owned. When my clients get the keys to their new homes, there is a lot of excitement about the house and a lot of work to do to get moved in. One thing I hope never gets overlooked is the need to itemize your belongings.

Take photos of your rooms, your closets, everything. The photos can be done easily, digitally, but don't just keep the photos on your laptops because the laptops might burn up in a fire - it's reality.

Itemize your belongings. Clothes, shoes, books, cookware, everything. Jewelery. If you have a garage, itemize everything in there as well. Some (most?) insurance companies will provide you with itemization sheets. If they don't, do it anyway. As you add things to your 'inventory - new computers, phones, pagers, etc., take the photos and add to your list. Did you, Ms. Homeowner, go to an art show and buy a painting? Take a photo, take the artists info and purchase receipt. And keep a record of it.

Now that you have accumulated photos and items? Get a safety deposit box at a bank. Yes you can store an itemized list and digital photos on a website and retrieve it from some other computer location. But what about the necessary receipts? I still think a safety deposit box is the best bet.

It's easy to overlook this 'itemization' step because of all the activity involved in moving into a new home. And because it takes time you might be inclined to put it off. I'm suggesting this go on a list of very important things to do - and sooner rather than later. It never hurts to be prepared...and it can save you a lot of hassle should the unthinkable happen...a fire. Peace Out - 3C

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Help Keep Funding for Ohio Train Projects To Help Our Economy

I really don't know how any of you feel about the 3C Corridor Plan or the Hub Initiative, or any train proposal for the State of Ohio. I'm pretty passionate about trains being a means to an end of Cleveland being the poorest city in the Country. All Aboard Ohio is asking for our help to contact our political representatives and make sure the plans 'stay on track' so to speak. Here is a news release from their website. I hope you will read it and then contact your State Senator through the link on their site: advance freight and rail projects....and help our economy grow.

A really talented guy named Ben Kweller sang on David Letterman the other day. The song he sang was I'm Just a Penny On A Train Track so if you want to hear some real talent, go to his website here.

Peace Out - 3C

Saturday, May 12, 2007

History of Mother's Day...Check This Out on REALNEO!

This is a great post about the original meaning of Mother's Day. Nice job on this and I love learning this kind of stuff. Thanks REAL NEO!

Peace Out - 3C

Friday, May 11, 2007

Selling Your Home and Living Elsewhere? Beware of Copper Pipe Thieves

An article on the website by Donna Miller reminded me of this issue. Those of us in the real estate business are very aware and I personally know agents who have had vandalism/pipe theft in their clients' vacant homes. I'm glad three of the thieves in Akron were caught red handed.

What can you do to help protect yourselves? First I suggest alerting your city police or the Cleveland Police District in which your 'for sale' home is located. The police are always saying they will provide some extra neighborhood patrols to help.

Secondly, you might want to have your real estate agent provide keys in their office for other agents to show buyers, as opposed to a lock box. Times are tough and copper pipe provides a decent rate of exchange for thieves. Oh and by the way, hot water heaters have been stolen as well.

If you live in the area, visit your vacant home frequently and at irregular hours. Or have relatives or friends do the same. If a thief is 'casing the joint' they won't be able to establish a pattern of time when no one is ever home.

Keep lights on in the basement and/or other parts of the house. I know it costs money but it's much better than having thousands of dollars in home repairs if something is stolen.

If you have one of those beautiful Cleveland homes with the character of leaded or stained glass included and the house is vacant and for sale? Do not let your agent put a lock box on the door. Seriously. This is another area that experienced a rash of theft about a year ago. Agents from all brokerages networked and the solution we came up with was to not use lock boxes. Your agent can keep keys with them and provide copies at their offices. Just a few tips from the trenches. Peace Out - 3C

Cuyahoga County Housing Trend Reports

I see a lot of people in my Cleveland neighborhood doing home repairs: new siding, roofs, windows. I wondered if they are planning on selling their homes or just doing due diligence and making them look better/be more energy efficient. I headed to the computer listing service we use as Realtors® and searched some statistics. This service (NORMLS) is updated through the end of the prior month - in this case, April.

So what has been happening since January 1, 2007? Here is some data (single family or SF- homes only this time):

Brecksville: there are 92 homes on the market; 125 have been listed for sale since January. The average sale price for a SF home was $281,924. 48 homes sold. They were on the market about 75 days and the sellers got 94.29% of their asking price, on average.

Bay Village: there are 134 homes on the market; 172 newly listed for sale since January. 52 SF homes have sold since January. The average sale price was $249,918. They were on the market about 91 days on average. And sellers for these homes received about 93.71% of their asking price.

Shaker Heights: there are 371 SF homes for sale; 451 of these homes have been listed since January. 65 SF homes have sold. The average sale price was $210,292. They were on the market about 86 days before they sold. And the sellers of these homes received about 94.15% of their asking price.

Lakewood: 328 SF homes are for sale in Lakewood now. 493 were newly listed since January. 131 homes sold. Their average sale price was $147,647. These homes were on the market for about 96 days before they sold. Sellers received about 95.27% of their asking price on these homes.

What about Cleveland? Okay, here is my neighborhood - where all that home repair work has the streets buzzing.

West Side of Cleveland From Brookpark Road North to Lorain Avenue, East to W. 117th and West to W. 140th.

There are 428 homes for sale now. There were 117 sold since January. There were 467 new listings since January. The average sale price was $90,013 and these sold homes were on the market about 79 days. Sellers of these homes received about 94.49% of their asking price.

The key finding in these results is a change in the average listing price to sale price. Historically, sellers have been receiving 3% of their asking price in NE Ohio. The neighborhoods I studied showed that to have changed. I would say 5% of asking price is closer to reality based on these stats. Why would that be?

1. Could be harder to convince sellers to accept that the market value of their home is not what it was three years ago.

2. Could be that homes on the market needed work and that came 'off' the asking price when a contract agreement was reached.

3. It's a buyer's market. I'm as tired as you are of hearing that phrase. But with so much competition, sellers are more willing to negotiate on their prices.

Peace Out - 3C

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Supporting Our Local Shops and Stores

This aggravated me a bit. The website for Newsnet Five featured a story about shopping: how to use the local stores to find exactly what you want and then go online and buy the items elsewhere. Even shoes, the article exclaims, can be tried on locally so you know exactly what you want, and then you can take your business to the Internet and save money.

First of all, most of us have limited disposable income. I hear that. But I can't help but think that taking our support away from local stores hurts our economy and therefore affects our pocketbooks anyway. Secondly, there are shipping costs to consider so how much are you really saving by buying it on line? Thirdly....okay I guess you see where I am coming from without beating the drum too loudly.

The article talks is about Angie Lau the consumer reporter for Channel Five. I don't have a gripe with her when she is saving us money locally. I just don't see encouraging people to buy somewhere else. Am I wrong? Is there such a huge mark up in a storefront operation that enables you to truly save enough to overcome shipping costs? I checked on line, picked a pair of shoes from the Steve Madden website (example used by the 'consumer savings' article). The shoe was priced on line at $79.00. It costs (according to their website) $14.95 to ship one pair of shoes. I called Nordstrom and they said $82.00 is the price for the same shoe.
Do the math. You can read about her (Angie Lau's) 'discoveries' and 'suggestions here. Peace Out - 3C

Interest Rates To Hold Steady...For Now

At least for now. A Market Watch article by Greg Robb. The Federal Reserve has been pretty consistent at keeping the rates low....their target goal remains 5.25%. I gather what was intriguing about this is that the concern for inflation has still not translated into a change in Federal Reserve Policy - which has stayed the same since August 2006 and earlier.

Translated, to me, it means the FR feels our market will recover on it's own without a need for tweaking on their part. To read more about the Market Watch coverage of this new development, go here.

For those of you who are stock and Market wonks, here is Market Watch's 'take' on Ben Bernanke and his style compared to Alan Greenspan. Apparently we no longer have to watch how the Chairman is carrying his briefcase to see if interest rates will rise or fall :-)

Mortgage rates for the week are hovering around 5.75% for a 30-year fixed rate loan. I found it curious that a 30 year market loan rate is listed as better than a VA Loan this week. If you are curious about other types of rates/loans, check out this week's results here.

Loft Living In Cleveland

Have you ever thought about living Downtown or more importantly, living in a loft? For people who like open space in their homes, living a 'loft' lifestyle could be the way to go. There is an article in Crain's Cleveland today written by Zachary Lewis. He interviews a loft-dweller who just happens to reside in the Grand Arcade. His story is interesting because he aptly describes one cool aspect of buying a loft: designing your own space and being able to feel like it is truly created by you.

Some people may choose to try out 'loft living' as renters. The Bingham in the Warehouse District is a terrific example of apartment living for lofters (I just made up that word!) Browse their website and see for yourself.

Several true advantages to loft-living Downtown: close to transportation (leave your car at home, save gas, take RTA to the airport). Another advantage is all the natural beauty that surrounds you - great architecture, the lake, scuplture.

This is a fun article at Wise Geek who I believe is a Chicago resident. Cool take on loft living and lifestyles. Peace Out - 3C

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Perspective on Tax Abatement Policy: A Knee Jerk Reaction?

Roldo Bartimole of Lakewood is a writer who is featured on Lakewood Buzz, a cool local website if you want to learn about the goings on in that city. He said something that rang true for me. Mayor Jackson proposed a change to the tax abatement policy - not an elimination of it. Regardless of how people vote on this issue, it seems to me we avoided healthy dialogue by 'side taking' early in the game.

Read what Roldo has to say here. My thinking goes like this: for us to come up with creative ideas to move Cleveland forward, we need to not be so quick to stop dialogue. Just my two cents.

It's almost June, and probably there will be an extension of the current policy. I just get tired of things becoming a 'for' or 'against' on issues like this...important issues that need discussion. UrbanOhio (The Forum) is one of the few places I've seen a healthy discussion on the topic. If you are interested, check it out here.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Clues to the Foreclosure and Housing Bubble Mess

Many of us have spent time scratching our heads about the housing bubble and the foreclosure issue. Mortgage lenders themselves were not the only ones involved in creating this mess. For example, if you got an overvalued loan from a predatory lender, how and more importantly why did the appraiser sign off on that loan?

If you live in an area where housing prices skyrocketed, how did the homes continue to get past an appraisers eye at so much over the 'last home sold' amount?

This article by David Cho in today's Washington Post does not surprise me, probably will not surprise you. But it does give some specific insight, due to comments from a mortgage appraiser with a company called New Century, who talked about the pressure she and other apppraisers were under to look the other way and sign off on appraisals for 'bad loans.' Peace Out - 3C

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Sweet Gum Trees: Cleveland's Ornamental Tree Torture

When I 'Google' Sweet Gum Trees, all the write ups are flowery, glowing and supportive. What wonderful trees with their gray gnarly barks and statuesque glory. What beautiful leaves. Who wouldn't want one? I hate to tell you, but I don't want one! I live in Cleveland where the Sweet Gum Tree is the City's ornamental tree of choice. At least in my neighborhood.

Raking leaves every Fall is one thing. Until I moved to my current house and had to start raking up Sweet Gum spikey pods (my scientific name for them) I did not really understand the true meaning of an exercise in futility.

Of course you have to rake them because they will chew the heck out of your lawn mower blades otherwise. This is my fourth Spring here, and I find myself mumbling under my breath as I rake: why did the City plant them in the first place! They have to be bad for the sewers and they certainly are no fun for homeowners trying to stay on top of yard work. The squirrels can't enjoy the fruits because of the spikes on the pods, so are these pods really the definition of obscenity (no social redeeming value ?) I will leave that thought for you to decide but I know how I vote!

Then last week I looked at the newly planted tree in my neighbor's tree lawn. It's about two years old now. Lo and behold, there were about 30 or so Sweet Gum pods on it! My neighbors were on their porch as I raked my own pods. I shouted to them, 'I can't believe the City of Cleveland is still planting these trees!' They nodded and smiled supportively (although I could be wrong, maybe they thought I was a whack job).
I suppose it's not the kind of thing you really call your Councilman about. I mean, Marty Sweeney has much more important things to worry about.....doesn't he? :-) Peace Out - 3C

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Protest High Gaseoline Costs with a "Gas Out" Day on May 15th

I received an email asking me to support a 'Do Not Pump Gas on May 15th' protest. It's hard to think of any reason why this would be a bad idea! I wanted to check it out and see how widespread the 'gas out' might be. I found this post by Todd and Tyler who say they are cheap :-) I think in this regard it's admirable.

Then I found this link to an on line paper in Kentucky. And then this posting on a local Seattle site. There have been other organized protests like this. In the past, gas prices have dropped either before or after the gas out day. So I am advertising it here -- and asking you to tell all your friends and ask them to tell all their friends.
The difference this time is it's organized as an event for all Internet users. They say 73 million plus users; I can't verify the accuracy of how many users there are, but I know the numbers are high. It's a good cause! Peace Out - 3C

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Who Provides the Best and Worst Customer Service in Cleveland?

What inspired me for this post is an article at People were asked to comment on the worst customer service provider experiences they had...experienced! lol Home Depot and Sprint seem to be hot buttons of frustration for a lot of people around the Country - they were at the top of the list. My phone provider, Verizon, was 8th on the list. Curiously, I have always received good customer service from Verizon. No complaints here. Apparently others do not agree with me.
When Cleveland cable service was provided by Adelphia I honestly didn't have much to complain about. Never had to wait on the phone line for a live person for more than a minute or two. (Although I always loved when my internet would be down, I'd call Adelphia, and the robotic message would be "you can save time by accessing us via the internet...." yes well wouldn't THAT be nice! I digress....)

Now that it is Time Warner however....forget it! If the internet is down, you call and they say we are working on some cable issues please hang up. How do I know they are working on MY cable issues? :-)

One point they make in the article struck a chord with me: if you are providing poor customer service it may be more than your customers who are unhappy...the shareholders/stockholders may not be pleased either. You know what they say: do a good job and someone might tell another person. Do an awful job and you can bet your unhappy customer will tell lots of people. Here is one quote from the article I loved:

"If you want to know how a company is doing, look at their sales," Calloway says. "If you want know how they're going to do in the future, look at their customer service. You can only tick people off for so long."

I can't just do 'bad' service. I have a few places with terrific customer service. Torch Hardware in Cleveland; Ingersoll's Hardware in Rocky River (can you tell I love hardware stores?); Rego's Market, Heinen's.

Just thought you might want to read the MSN customer service polling results. And oh yes, you can add your comments to that article! Peace Out - 3C

Cleveland Homes and Condos Sold In April

It's May 1st, and inquiring minds (mine anyway) want to know how many homes sold last month. I'm starting with Downtown Cleveland and the West Side of Cleveland.

West Side Homes Sold in April: 121
West Side Condos Sold in April: 9

The homes sold ranged from $5,000 (I'm guessing this one needed a little love to be livable!) to $513,000 for an Ohio City Town Home.

The nine condos ranged in price from $30k to $487,500.

Here are some Downtown Cleveland stats: there are 165 units on the market right now. In April:

21 units went under contract
6 sold.

I'm off to do a brokers open at a condo today so I will update more communities later.

Peace Out - 3C