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Showing posts from October, 2009

States take steps to cut GHG emissions

By Marcie Geffner - Partnership for Sustainable Communities

A number of U.S. states have begun to use transportation and land-use policies and projects to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in an effort to combat climate change. California's climate change program is among the most ambitious overall, but other states have made at least a small start.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, and Washington may well take the top honors, judging by a national survey that found nearly 600 state-level programs that could cut GHG emissions in the areas of climate, energy, transportation, and building. Boos and hisses might greet such states as Alabama, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Tennessee, which, based on the survey, appear to be nearly oblivious to or decidedly uninterested in these issues.

Read on:

How much is your home worth?

Marcie Geffner -

Homebuyers and sellers may be on opposite sides of a home sale, but they have one dilemma in common: They both need to sort through a thicket of prices and valuations to figure out how much a home is really worth.

The holy grail of these prices and valuations is market value, which refers to the price at which a typical seller would be willing to sell the home and a typical buyer would be willing to buy it, according to Leslie Sellers, owner of Leslie Sellers & Associates, an appraisal firm in Knoxville, Tenn.

But while market value is the "goal" or "standard" buyers and sellers would like to ascertain, this amount may be quasi-mythical as it's not necessarily equal to either the appraised value, as determined by a certified appraiser, or the sales price, which refers to the price at which the property was sold.

Read on:

Fed says economy is 'leveling out'

By Marcie Geffner -

The U.S. economic recession may not be over yet, but there are some signs that the situation may be improving, according to the Federal Reserve. That improvement — and the Fed’s plan to keep interest rates low for the time being — are good news for borrowers.

“Economic activity is leveling out,” the Fed suggested in its Aug. 12 statement, and what’s more, this “leveling out” can been seen throughout different sectors of the economy. The Fed noted signs of economic improvement for the financial markets, households and businesses.

“Conditions in financial markets have improved further in recent weeks. Household spending has continued to show signs of stabilizing….Businesses are still cutting back on fixed investment and staffing but are making progress in bringing inventory stocks into better alignment with sales,” the Fed reported.

Economic Outlook Improved, But Uncertain
Despite those favorable trends, not all is rosy in the U.S. economy and much of…

Economy up, interest rates down

Marcie Geffner -

All systems were go for borrowers this week as interest rates dropped again and the U.S. economy showed new signs of recovery.

The average interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was just 5.0 percent during the week that ended Sept. 24, 2009, according to Freddie Mac's weekly survey. The average interest rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages was just 4.46 percent, the lowest since Freddie Mac began to track this rate in 1991, and the average interest rate on five-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) was even lower at just 4.51 percent.

“Mortgage rates held relatively steady at three-month lows this week,” said Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft.

Fed policies keep interest rates low
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve reported that economic activity has picked up. In a Sept. 23 statement, the Fed said that financial markets have improved, home sales have increased, household spending seems to be stabilizing and businesses have continu…

Home appraisals: What you should know

By Marcie Geffner -

If you’re shopping for a loan to buy a home or refinance your mortgage, you may already know that a home appraisal is almost always required before a loan can close. But if you’re like many other borrowers, you might not know much about appraisals or why they’re so important.

Appraisals have been a hot topic in recent months due to new rules that have changed how lenders and mortgage brokers order appraisals for certain types of loans. The new rules are spelled out in the Home Valuation of Code of Conduct (HVCC), which became effective May 1, 2009.

What is an appraisal?
Technically, a real estate appraisal is an opinion of a property’s value prepared by a licensed real estate appraiser. Each property is unique, so appraisers rely on their expertise and information they’ve gathered about the neighborhood, the property and sales prices of other comparable properties.

Appraisals are supposed to be unbiased and free from the influence of anyone’s opini…

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