Thursday, May 13, 2010

HGTV Looking for Haunted Houses for new series, "Haunted House For Sale"

I was recently contacted by Sara, a producer at KPI about the "haunted house" I have listed and recently blogged about. Seems they are producing a new series for HGTV called, "Haunted House For Sale." Turns out, my little house in Ogden is not going to work out, but she did ask me to spread the word. Here's the blurb she gave me to share:

KPI, a New York based production company, are currently casting for a pilot episode for HGTV called “Haunted House for Sale.” We are looking to feature 3 haunted houses that are currently for sale anywhere in the US. Each of the 3 stories would include interviews with the seller, the prospective buyer, the Realtor, and a local ghost hunting team who will carry out a night time ghost hunt at the house. These houses must have a reputation for being haunted, with a history of paranormal activity. The house should be currently inhabited or only recently vacated, and in relatively good repair. All filming for the show will be completed in June/July 2010.

If you know of any suitable properties please contact the Producer – Sarah Hodgson: or 646-356-0710.

Give her a call if you qualify!

Jennifer Bunker CRS GRI

Broker, Coldwater Creek Properties
Ogden Utah

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Media: One Minute the Economy is Recovering, the Next We're Doomed

I get up about 5:00 a.m. every morning and spend a couple of hours reading the latest news from overnight news outlets. Each day I am amazed at how consistently various media outlets proclaim one of two things; "Housing market collapse is expected to cause a depression any minute now!" or, "The economy is on the rebound, home sales are up a gillion percent!" It never seems to be something in the middle. Something middlishly boring but probably much more accurate like, "Home sales, and as a result the economy, are showing signs of a VERY slow, but hopeful, and correcting recovery."

I am a trained professional in these matters, and yet I'm as confused as anyone else about the outcome in these wobbly times. And actually, it's not even the long range outcome I'm worried about, because I think we will be fine in the big picture. However, it's the getting there that seems so variable and troubling. So many factors, so many opinions, so many spins. What's a regular, struggling family to do?

My answer is, do the same thing our grandparents did when times were tight for them. Tighten your belt, save more, cut out things you really don't need, pay your bills on time, don't incur new bills, and put something aside for a rainy day. Age old advice that we need to hear now more than ever. Like Americans before us, we can and will weather the rest of this storm.

Related Article: As Economy Heals, Many Americans Slipping Back into Old Habits RisMedia

Jennifer Bunker CRS GRI
Broker, Coldwater Creek Properties
Ogden Utah

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ogden City Steps it Up!

Ogden City recently put up a new website, and I have to tell you, I'm impressed. Everything you need or want to know about Ogden, what to do, where to go, how to get around, is there!

Here are some notable quotes from the home page:

* "A playground for adrenaline junkies…" Wall Street Journal, May 2006

* "A stable economy and high ethics from its work force…" The Economist, June 2008

* "The best new place to be…" National Geographic, January 2008

Now that's chops! Check out this gorgeous new website today, and then Get into Ogden!

Jennifer Bunker CRS GRI
Broker, Coldwater Creek Properties
Ogden Utah

My First Haunted House

I recently had the thrill of listing a home built in 1884. Like many homes in central Ogden, at some point mid-century it had been turned from a stately 6 bedroom home to a chopped up 4-plex with 4 kitchens, 4 bathrooms, 6 bedrooms, and 4 living rooms.

It served this
purpose well until the early 1990's when dilapidated conditions, and better rent prices down the street shut the structure down for good. The gentleman who owned the property became increasingly elderly and did not visit the home again before his death in 2007. It was his heirs, his adorable daughters, who hired me to assess and sell the property. I was ecstatic to take on the project.

The sisters had never been in the structure, so all three of us went over toget
her. The two-story home had clearly lost most of the upper roof. We also realized that there was no way to ascend to the top floor as the external stairway had long ago rotted away. Despite the condition of the home, it still emanated a stately sense of pride. I could barely wait to get inside.

The inside was a wreck. Water damage had ru
ined most of the lapin plaster ceilings and walls. Still, there were visible remnants of Victorian style wallpaper, old Victorian fireplaces, and best of all, 2 claw foot tubs sitting in one of the kitchens. My Broker self immediately assessed that showings could be dangerous to agents and buyers alike. In inclement weather, pieces of ceiling could easily cave in and hurt somebody. I made a mental note to require all showing agents to be fully apprised of the situation before entering, and even considered having lookers sign a waiver before going in.

The very creepiest part of the house became apparent to me later, dur
ing a subsequent visit. I went in alone, late in the day, to take some pictures before the sun went down. As I entered the house, I had the distinctive feeling that I was not alone. The air was thick with bristling energy as I moved from room to room, simultaneously admiring and mourning the once elegant rooms. I felt closely observed in every room. It was as though I was intruding into some disapproving person's personal, private space.

I wondered if Buyers and other agents would notice this intimidating energy. I still don't know because as of now, I haven't had anybody brave enough to call me to see it. For now the current "tenant" remains undisturbed.

Have you ever been in a haunt
ed house? I would love to hear about it. Someday I'll tell the story about the time I walked into a house where the owner had just died. She hadn't gone very far away because as soon as I walked into the home, I heard her say .... (Stay tuned :-)

Jennifer Bunker CRS GRI Broker,
Coldwater Creek Properties
Ogden Utah

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The De-Valuing of America: HVCC

I spent a good part of my Facebook week relating the misfortune of three of my Buyer clients who made offers on homes, only to have them not appraise for what they offered for them. These failures are thanks in no small part to HVCC, or the "Home Valuation Code of Conduct."

This little agreement (May 1, 2009) is a misguided attempt to regulate inappropriate relationships between Lenders and Appraisers. Like many regulations we've seen originate from the Government as a result of our economic slowdown, apparently nobody had the brains to think through the unintended consequences to REALTORS, Lenders, Buyers, Sellers and the general American economy.

Perhaps it is quite politically incorrect for me to blog this here, however, I believe that it is important that people understand what is happening and how their home's (already deflated) value is in deep jeopardy. In fact, all of America's home values are in trouble if we keep these guidelines.

Case in point: I have a Buyer who offered to purchase a home for $182,000. This is substantiated by comps that I found from our MLS and my knowledge of the area. The offer was accepted by the Seller. The Buyer then purchased an inspection for $350 and an appraisal for $450. The inspection came out clean. The Appraiser, a person from 14 cites away (2 hours to the south of the subject property) was assigned to do the appraisal. Not surprisingly, he couldn't "find the value" and appraised the property at $179,500, just $2,500 less than the offer price.

You might be wondering WHY this person who clearly is not familiar with the area has been assigned to appraise the property. You see, this is the BRAIN CHILD of HVCC wherein no Lender can choose from their pool of appropriate, area-knowledgeable Appraisers. Now, they must put in a request into a anonymous pool of Appraisers who can be from anywhere, with any skill level (notably NONE) and any experience level.

Herein lies the genius of HVCC. Now, there will be no collusion because the Lender couldn't pick the Appraiser! There will also be no COMPETENCE, SKILL, or AREA KNOWLEDGE of any sort. Brilliant!

Let's examine how this hurts everybody. First of all, let me just say that having been in real estate 7 years, I have never personally witnessed or even heard about Lender-Appraiser collusion. Yes, no doubt it exists somewhere, but I bet in very few places. In my opinion, "collusion issues" was an easy way for the government to point a finger at something and make everybody think that they had fixed the problem by making a ridiculous guideline. Um, no.

In the case above, although the house is worth well above the offer price (as proven by two experienced real estate professionals who know the area) the Seller cannot get their rightful value now. They are forced to take less than the market says their house is worth. To put this in perspective, I had this same scenario happen twice elsewhere within a week. So for me, 100% of the houses I am involved with are being forced to artificially de-valuate in order to sell.

Most people have to sell due to a job change or many other reasons so they must take the lesser value for their home. Hence we have the devaluing of America. I hear from my REALTOR friends across the country that this is happening everywhere. Some are even thinking of leaving the business, it's too difficult to transact even a basic sale anymore. If every home, or even just 70% of the homes in America are forced to take less than market value .... does it take a rocket scientist to figure out ALL of our values will go down?

You can dispute a value that an Appraiser has submitted. But now that Appraisers have an assured income stream that is not based upon customer service and competence, many are arrogant and combative. Most will blow off any of the comps a REALTOR submits. Why not? The Appraiser already got their money!

In the case above, my Buyer asked the Seller to reduce their price so she could still purchase the home. Angry, they said no. Now my Buyer is out $800 in inspections and Appraisers fees. She has no place to go since she long ago gave notice to her apartment building and someone else is moving in at the end of the month. Nice job HVCC!

Guess what else? That was all of her money! She's done now. Back to renting, her dream literally ripped away before she even knew what hit her. (By the way, this young bride's husband is serving in the military, in another country - nice job again HVCC).

Every single person loses. The Buyer loses money, faith, a home, the Seller loses value and faith. REALTORS lose commissions on many hours of wasted time spent going nowhere. Even Appraisers lose, because the competent, busy ones are now waiting in the pool, their income way down and spread out amongst ... and here's the rub ... unethical appraisers who are now working MORE THAN EVER due to the pool! It is absolutely ridiculous!

I said that I had two others just like this. How many more are out there, across our country? WHEN, WHEN, WHEN will we finally wake up and put some competent, intelligent people into public office? How much more value will you need to lose before you get it America?

Thanks for the opportunity to vent. Next time I'll talk about how to avoid the above situation when you get ready to buy or sell your own home.

* There are two sides to every story. Everybody agrees that HVCC is ridiculous. I'll invite an appraiser to talk about what HVCC is like from their perspective in an upcoming blog post. *

Jennifer Bunker CRS GRI
Coldwater Creek Properties
Ogden Utah

Monday, November 24, 2008

I'm Baaaaack!

So, yeah. It's been a while since I've been here blogging about real estate. Just after my last entry in May of this year, I learned that I had cancer. Although I still worked a little bit at real estate, I basically spent the entire summer figuring out how beat cancer (I did). I kept a blog about it here, if you are interested.

And while I was gone, the economy went totally to pot. Thanks a lot economy, I have cancer bills to pay!

Fast forward to November and things look particularly ugly in real estate land. Cancer, always the great clarifier, gave me an opportunity to re-evaluate the current real estate situation, my personal roll in it, and things in general.

My take-away from the whole situation is that I need to use this blog to focus more on my immediate area of Utah (Northern end of the state) and to be more forthcoming with my opinions as I really see things. I see a lot out there, and much is not good. Helping people to avoid pitfalls is the most useful thing I can do for now.

I vow to *try* and blog more consistently!

Remember, home is where the mortgage is - Jennifer

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Utah # 2 in Home Price Increase

The following article is from the Salt Lake Tribune, dated May 21, 2008:

By Lesley MitchellThe Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 05/22/2008 12:08:25 PM MDT

Posted: 11:28 AM-

Salt Lake City is ranked No. 22 among nearly 300 areas in home-price appreciation from the first quarter of 2007 to the same period this year with a 5.4 percent gain, a new report shows.

But two of Utah's metro areas ranked in the top 10, according to the House Price Index report by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.

The Provo-Orem area was No. 6, with a 6.8 percent gain in home prices over the one-year period. Ogden-Clearfield was No. 9, with a 6.6 percent increase.

The Logan area was No. 15, with a 6 percent increase.

Among Utah areas, St. George had the worst ranking, No. 235, based on a 3.7 percent decline in home prices over that one-year period.

Utah as a whole is No. 2 among all states in home-price appreciation with a 5.6 percent increase, relinquishing the top spot to Wyoming, which posted a 6.3 percent gain. Montana rounded out the top 3 with a 4.9 percent increase.

A downturn in real estate markets throughout Utah has pushed home sales down and led to moderating home prices. Utah slipped to No. 2 after five consecutive quarters in the top spot. Nationally, prices were down 3.1 percent in the year that ended March 31.

Jennifer Bunker CRS, GRI
Utah Real Estate Broker

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The "Hope Now" Hotline

"Hope Now" is the project that the Government has set up to help homeowners heading to forclosure due to variable rate loans that have set to payments the homeowner is unable to afford.

The Hope Now hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for homeowners who are having trouble keeping up with mortgage payments.

The free service helps borrowers contact lenders to try to work out a payment plan or modify their loan. While there are no eligibility guildines, not all callers will be able to negotiate new terms or avoid the sale of their home.

Other housing groups and counseling agencies also working with homeowners at risk. Make sure whomever you're dealing with is certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Hope Now hotline 1-888-995-HOPE

Homeowner Crisis Resource Center 1-866-557-2227

Jennifer Bunker CRS GRI
Utah Real Estate Broker

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Finding a "Good" School in a Foreign New Land

I'm in my 6th year of Real Estate now. It's been a fun, interesting, and an eye-opening ride. One of the most wonderful things about this profession is meeting new people and retaining their friendships for life.

I recently had a new client call me about relocating into Utah. They are currently living in the South and the family's Mom expressed concerns about finding a good Elementary School in the Beehive State. In fact, a good school is her top criteria. "Find us a good school and then we'll move to whatever's nearby," she said.

It's a big order to fill. What is the definition of a "good" school? The answer to that complex query varies according to the paradigm of the person asking the question.

Her quest for information has us both searching the Internet for acceptable data for use in the family's decision. However, there really isn't a central location where schools are "ranked". In the end, this family will have to do what every other relocating family does, make a choice based upon what they were able to find out and then hope for the best.

In Utah, any decision probably won't be a bad decision. While raising my children through three excellent schools here, I continually observed involved, caring parents, intelligent and interested children, teachers who are paid too little to not be doing the job from their hearts, and the highest quality/caring staff anywhere. It's safe to say you will find those same qualities in every one of Utah's public schools. It's how we are as a people. Children are this state's priority.

And, we have a large variety of private choices appearing on our Horizon as well. This is exciting. I believe that choice breeds excellence, which ultimately will shape both public and private schools into the very best that they can be.

I empathize with families moving into Utah (I did it once, too!) It's scary to not know what you are going to no matter where you are relocating. I admire all my clients who take the plunge and dive into the process with the tenacity and the courage of pioneers.

If you are considering a move to Utah, please call me. I'll get right to work for you. It is my job to ensure that you have the information and data that you need to feel comfortable with your difficult decisions.
And guess what? You're gonna love it here. You really are!

Green Homes Are Red Hot

Around our Brokerage, we are becoming more and more interested in becoming "green". Not only in our homes, but for social responsibility purposes in business.

Here's an excerpt from an interesting article I just found in Time Magazine:

"For all the professed consumer interest, though, the average home buyer knows little about green building. That's partly because it's a broad concept with several components. The most obvious attribute is energy efficiency. For some buyers, that means investing big money in fancy geothermal or solar technologies—but more often it simply means being diligent about using good insulation, efficient appliances, superior windows and designing the house to take advantage of the sun. Green houses also conserve water, often by using specialized plumbing fixtures. For some builders, going green also means limiting waste, sometimes by using "panelized," factory-built walls or recycling wood from older homes. Inside, green homes often feature sustainable materials, like countertops made from recycled glass.

For a public tired of stories about the latest health scare, green homes have another allure: they're often healthier. Since these homes are built more tightly than drafty older homes, many builders install systems to bring in—and filter—fresh air. Green builders typically use paints that are low in volatile organic compounds, and avoid the carpeting, adhesives and varnishes that often give new homes their distinctive smell—and that have been associated with health problems. When George and Dorrie Sieburg hired Moody to remodel their Asheville bungalow in 2005, this approach was a big selling point. "At the time, we were pregnant, and we wanted to build as green as we could to make sure it was safe for our child," says George, whose wife is expecting again."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Utah Fine-Tunes Complicated Liquor Laws

I've lived in Utah for well over 20 years and I STILL don't understand the liquor laws! Now the legislature has passed a bill to make Utah look more "normal" in this arena. Read the story from and you decide ... Utah Fine-Tunes Complicated Liquor Laws ....

Here's a website that explains Utah's Liquor Laws in detail.

Jennifer Bunker CRS GRI
Utah Real Estate Broker

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

South Ogden City Planning Commission

I received a call the other day from the Mayor of South Ogden, George Garwood, informing me that he had chosen me to fill a recently vacated seat on the city's Planning Commission.

I particularly honored because during my interview, Mayor Garwood told me that he had interviewed several very qualified people and that the decision would be very difficult to make.

It's an exciting time to be serving because there is so much going on, not only in South Ogden city, but also in the surrounding perimeters (Ogden, Washington Terrace, Layton, light rail, the Junction, the Powder Mountain debacle, etc).

I am discovering that South Ogden city is nearly built out, and as a result the city's Master Plan charts several courses of action for the revitalization of blighted areas, an interconnecting trail system, the citizen's desire to protect open spaces in the city, amongst others. The recent city survey shows that residents are very happy with their police and fire services, that they feel safe in South Ogden, and that we have a population who has owned homes in the city for many years more above the average.

What a fun time for me to arrive on the scene. The city is safe and thriving. The citizens are interested in revitalization and building up community areas. City leaders before me have carefully, thoughtfully, and methodically laid the foundation for what I envision as a fabulous time ahead for the city. It's like somebody already made the cake and all I have to do is decorate. I especially look forward to learning from my fellow residents as I begin to serve in this position.

Thanks for the appointment, Mayor Garwood!

No More Fear - Utah is Doing Okay!

While the national mortgage mess is very serious and poised to get worse, I am alarmed at the lack of good information available to Utahns about our local situation. Local papers and news shows are underreporting the Utah situation and this lack of good information is alarming Utahn's unnecessarily.

Utah is a well-managed, fiscally conservative state. Because of this, and because of a recent (within the past 2 years) correction in stagnating home prices, we are still enjoying appreciation in most areas.

Yet I get the same questions all day long from frightened homeowners wondering if they will somehow be affected by the same dire economic forces that are ravaging the housing situation in places such as Detroit, Ohio, and California. The answer is yes and no.

Here's the difference between us and them: We are still enjoying appreciation here (with the notable exception of Salt Lake City and the Provo areas) which means that if a homeowner needs to sell their home quickly, they can without worries about being upside down (owing more than the home is worth). The spring weather and low interest rates have brought out droves of buyers. As a Real Estate Broker in Utah, I've never had such a busy February!

Examine your local market conditions before buying into the scary national stories about what is happening to other homeowners in different situations than ours. If you are thinking of moving or refinancing, do your homework and find the right professionals to navigate you through the process. There are a lot of well-qualified, diligent people in this state standing ready to assist us to stay strong and prosperous together through rocky times.

Isn't that what Utah's always been about?

Jennifer Bunker CRS GRI
Utah Real Estate Broker

Monday, November 26, 2007

Who Are The Winners in the Mortgage Mess?


By John W. Schoen
Senior Producer

The financial markets are pretty skittish these days as banks and other mortgage lenders continue to report big losses from mortgage loans gone bad. But in any market, one person’s loss is often another person’s gain. So where did all those “losses” from bad mortgages go? And are there any winners in all of this?

Recently you see in the headlines all of the big banks "losing" billions of dollars from their participation in the "subprime" mortgage game. What does it really mean that they "lost" this money. It didn't just disappear. Someone gained on this loss, who?— Rodney Detroit, MI
There may be some potential winners in the Mortgage Meltdown of 2007, but much of the money now being reported as “lost” will never reappear. In some cases, it was never there to begin with. So think of it as having gone to Money Heaven.

For now, the estimates of eventual losses — as much as several hundred billion dollars — are only estimates. Part of the reason is that the story is still being written. Some 2 million homeowners are at risk of defaulting on adjustable loans in the next year or so when those loans “reset” to higher payments. If those loans can be refinanced at more affordable terms, many of those people will be able to continue making payments and will avoid becoming the next foreclosure statistic. If those foreclosures can’t be avoided, you can expect to see reports of additional losses as more loans go bad and more unsold homes get dumped on an already falling housing market.

So far, the losses are being felt in several different places. The first place they’re hitting is the lenders and investors that put up the money used to fund the big pools of mortgages that Wall Street couldn’t get enough of during the housing boom. With home prices rising, lenders assured buyers eager to own a home that they could afford the big fees and high interest rates.

These investors — everyone from hedge funds to insurance companies to wealthy individuals — were looking for the higher returns they could get from bonds that were backed by the monthly payments generated by pools of bundled mortgages. The value of those bonds — and the price investors paid — was determined largely by computer models. These complex formulas looked at borrowers’ credit scores, historical defaults rates, interest rate impact, etc. and helped assure investors they were getting a higher return without taking on higher risk. On Wall Street, that’s a great deal.

In hindsight, the models didn’t work so well. It turns out they didn’t take into account a major bust in the housing market and a full-blown panic in the bond market. When it came time to sell these mortgage-backed bonds, there were no buyers. Even though the bonds are backed by loans which are backed by real houses with real value, in a falling real estate market, no one is quite sure what those houses are worth. And with no buyers, the bonds aren’t worth much.
So when banks and other financial institutions holding these mortgage-backed bonds “marked them to market,” they had to report a big loss on their books. Some adventurous buyers are stepping up and buying these bonds at fire sale prices. If and when the market for these bonds recovers, they may be winners.

The people who wrote these mortgages and then quickly sold them off to Wall Street were also winners. The lenders who originated the loans got paid up front: they collected big fees and then moved on to the next borrower without putting any of their own money at risk. (Some investors are now trying to recover some of those profits in court.)

Homeowners who can’t make their payments are also potential losers: they’ve spent thousands of dollars trying to build equity in a house and will lose all that when they lose their house. When buyers come forward to buy that foreclosed home, they may eventually profit from buying in a depressed market. But they won’t know until the market recovers whether the strategy worked.

Finally, the neighbors of people who lose their homes to foreclosure also lose. Various studies have tried to quantify just how much. But anytime you add a bunch of foreclosed properties to a local market that already has more homes for sale than buyers, the market value of everyone’s house goes down. If you want to identify the winners there, you probably have to look for the home owners who sold during the peak of the housing boom, after years of easy lending pushed prices to unsustainable levels.

Jennifer Bunker CRS GRI
Utah Real Estate Broker

Thursday, November 1, 2007

911 For Homeowners in Trouble

By Erika Angulo
updated 9:41 a.m. MT, Wed., Oct. 17, 2007

The numbers reveal plenty of reason for concern: Foreclosure filings are expected to exceed two million this year. In the month of August alone, one of every 510 U.S. families began the foreclosure process, according to RealtyTrac, which follows mortgage defaults across the country. That’s a 115 percent increase from the month before. If you’re among the millions struggling to hold on to your home, there are many people ready to help you. More ...

Jennifer Bunker CRS GRI
Utah Real Estate Broker

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Teeny Utah Mayor Tackles Would Be Thief

10/24/2007 6:49:00 PM The Associated Press

Utah Mayor Tackles Alleged Burglar

Awakened by Burglar, Ogden, Utah, Mayor Tackles Bike-Riding Man and Applies Headlock

OGDEN, Utah - It's not a good idea to mess with the mayor, even if he isn't very big.

Mayor Matthew Godfrey and his wife were awakened early Wednesday when somebody tried to break into their house through a side and then a rear door. Godfrey jumped out of bed, checked on his children and went outside."

He was heading across the front lawn riding a bike of ours," Godfrey said. "I ran him down and tackled him, wrestled him and put him in a headlock."

He held the man down while his wife called 911.

Curtis Poorman, 20, was arrested for investigation of burglary, robbery, public intoxication, illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor, possession of marijuana "we'll stop there," police Lt. Scott Sangberg said.

The mayor is "half the burglar's size," police Chief Jon Greiner said with a trace of exaggeration.

Godfrey, a long-distance runner, stands 5-foot-6 and weighs 135 pounds. Poorman, 20, weighs 163 pounds on a 5-foot-11 frame, jail records said.

The mayor, whose only injury was a cut behind one ear, has made reducing crime an issue in his re-election campaign. Asked if it was wise to take on an intruder in an early morning break-in, Godfrey said he would encourage others to let the police handle it.

"It should be left to mayors who are determined to make their streets safe and the police. Everyone else should call 911," he said.

The man Godfrey tackled is no stranger.

"He's from a family that we know and love and respect. They're good friends of ours, and they just have a wayward child," Godfrey said. "I taught this young man in church."

Greiner said Poorman was awaiting trial on charges involving two previous garage burglaries but had been allowed to remain free without bail.

Poorman couldn't be reached Wednesday at Weber County jail.

"With this case, I just heard about it," said his attorney, J.D. Poorman a distant cousin who said he had "no clue" what happened. "It's like what I tell my son: Between 18 and 25, that's what I call the stupid years."

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Don't Get Burned By Shoddy Home Inspection

By Herb Weisbaum
MSNBC contributor

You’d have to be a fool to buy a house without having it inspected first. The challenge is to find a competent home inspector who can give you an accurate picture of the property, so you know whether to go forward with the purchase.
More ...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Outdoors is on the Way Up in Ogden, Utah

Published: June 22, 2007
New York Times

WEDGED between old stockyards and a boarded-up packing plant on the western edge of town, the kayak park is not easy to find. But it is just the kind of thing that draws outdoor enthusiasts to Ogden, Utah,

Of the 15 paddlers gathered at the park, on the Ogden River, one Saturday this spring, nearly half were from Salt Lake City, 35 miles away, while one man drove 90 miles from Provo for the day.

“Ogden is rocking right now,” said Craig Haaser, 44, a potter born and raised in Ogden who was among the paddlers at the park that day.

Set in the western foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, Ogden, a city of approximately 83,000 people, is fast gaining on places like Boulder, Colo., as a destination for extreme sports.

Miles of mountain biking wind through the Wasatch-Cache National Forest within minutes of downtown, and the Ogden and Weber Rivers provide ample opportunity for in-town kayaking and canoeing. In addition, Snowbasin Resort, the site for the 2002 Olympic downhill and super G ski events, is less than 20 miles up Ogden Canyon.

Among several new developments in town is the 125,000-square-foot Salomon Recreation Center that will include a climbing wall, a surf rider pool, a bowling alley, a dance studio, a wind tunnel and a Gold's Gym. The center, which is to open this summer, is part of a multimillion-dollar entertainment and residential complex called the Junction that will occupy 20 formerly decrepit acres downtown.

While the 2002 Olympics helped raise Ogden's profile, it is the efforts of city officials, outdoor-company executives and real estate developers that are transforming the town, a former railroad hub.

The city is poised to be “the high adventure Mecca of the country,” said Mayor Matthew Godfrey, 36, over a chopped salad at Rooster's Brewing Company on Historic 25th Street.
The mayor, who took office in 2000, says he sees outdoor recreation as a means to a vibrant and financially sound community.

“We need more high-paying jobs,” he said. “We need tourism. We need a 20-to-40-year-old demographic that likes to work hard and play hard.”

To achieve that, he is recruiting recreation companies to move to town. One such company is Goode Ski Technologies, a manufacturer of carbon fiber water and snow skis and ski poles, formerly based in Waterford, Mich.

“The mayor rolled out the red carpet for me, literally,” recalled David Goode, the president and founder who relocated his 35-employee company to Ogden in August 2005.

Other ski companies, like Scott USA and Rossignol, have established small operations downtown or in Business Depot Ogden, an industrial park north of downtown. This fall, Amer Sports, the maker of Salomon and Atomic skis, expects to move its headquarters into the former American Can Building at 20th and Grant Streets that it is currently renovating.

Though Ogden is emerging as a snow sports hub, many other sports lure visitors to town. With a $1.5 million investment from Goode Ski Technologies, the city is also building a 70-acre water ski park on an existing lake that will include a half-mile-long slalom course, a 17-acre fishing lake and an 18,000-seat amphitheater for plays and concerts, a complex that Mr. Goode hopes will help to bring the water ski championship to Ogden in 2011.

Ogden already is host of a spring marathon and the Xterra Mountain Championship, an off-road triathlon with mountain biking and trail running events. It is also on the brink of being a notable climbing destination.

TWO years ago, Jeff Lowe, 56, a former world-class mountaineer who sits on a mayoral sports advisory committee, established Ogden Climbing Parks, a nonprofit organization to “make Ogden attractive to climbers,” he said. Mr. Lowe, who moved back to Ogden after 30 years in Boulder, established a series of climbing routes using bolted ladder rungs, called a via ferrata, on private land in Waterfall Canyon last year. His current project is a tower of ice — suspended from steel cables — to be used for ice climbing. He plans to build it next winter in Ogden.
The city's commitment to outdoor recreation and an adventure-based economy is attracting young professionals, some of whom are buying and refurbishing 1920s bungalows in once rundown neighborhoods.

“We see it as a diamond in the rough,” Delanie Hill, 32, said of Ogden's downtown. She and her husband, Jeff, 34, are both graphic designers; they bought a 2,200-square-foot Arts and Crafts house in 2000 for $115,000.

“It was kind of a lot at the time,” Ms. Hill said, considering other young professionals were buying two-bedroom homes for $40,000 or $50,000 in their neighborhood around Harrison Avenue and 27th Street. Once an area of “extreme poverty with two and three families living to a house” the neighborhood has changed sharply in recent years, said Ms. Hill, who grew up near Alta Resort and worked in Jackson Hole.

“I can't afford to live in Jackson,” she said, “but I can here.”

The average price of a three-bedroom home in Ogden runs about $160,000, according to Stan Booth, an Ogden-based real estate agent with Coldwell Banker. Real estate “exploded” a couple years after the 2002 Olympics, Mr. Booth said, especially in Ogden Valley, where “people from Florida and California paid asking price and felt they were getting a killer deal.” The market has since leveled off, he said.

In 2004, Mr. Haaser, the kayaking potter, who lives in Ogden year round, bought a four-bedroom house, which he is remodeling, with views of Snowbasin, for $215,000. He recently received an unsolicited offer of $350,000 for the five-acre property.

Rising property values aside, it is the revitalization of downtown that is drawing the most attention. Once home to brothels and taverns frequented by railroad workers in the late 1880s, and more recently to transients and prostitutes who moved in after residents and commerce fled the downtown in the 1980s, Historic 25th Street is both a link to Ogden's past and its future as a tourist destination.

Faux gas lanterns and sycamore trees strung with white lights line the wide east-west boulevard. Shaded by striped awnings, the century-old brick storefronts house art galleries, acupuncturists and cafes.

The town's arts scene is anchored by Peery's Egyptian Theater, which is a satellite site for the Sundance Film Festival in Park City and presents theatrical and musical performances throughout the year.

There are still empty buildings and a handful of dank bars on 25th Street, where men in dirty T-shirts call out to women walking by. Near a taco stand on the corner of 25th and Washington Boulevard, a gritty man with a faded blue bandanna around his forehead waited at the bus stop.
“That's what keeps Ogden from being too cool,” Mr. Lowe said.

Despite the lingering rough-town image, development continues. The mayor is seeking to build a gondola that would connect downtown to a proposed ski and resort community that would occupy nearly 1,800 acres and include Malan's Basin, 1,440 acres of mountainside land owned by a Salt Lake developer, Chris Peterson, who is championing the idea.

Beyond the added $10 million in tax revenues the mayor expects from the private investment, the mayor says he is intrigued with the “urban to mountain experience” the gondola would create.

But some residents are skeptical. “Nothing about this makes sense from a common sense perspective,” said Dan Schroeder, a physics professor at Weber State University and board member of the local Sierra Club, referring to the logistics of relocating existing power lines and water reservoirs.

While the reduction of pollution and traffic appeals to many of the town's environmentally conscious residents, it is the development of public and private land — including a 113-acre public golf course and over 200 acres of undeveloped land currently used for mountain biking and hiking — into a private residential community of empty nesters and second-home owners that rankles some.

“Ogden is known because of its outdoor recreation,” Mr. Haaser said. “What we have here is wonderful. Let's just keep in that way.”

Eagles Soar In Utah

By Molly Bennett
Ogden Standard-Examiner
June 29

OGDEN -- With the removal of the bald eagle from the endangered species list, Utah birders believe the bird's future still hangs in a delicate balance. OGDEN -- With the removal of the bald eagle from the endangered species list, Utah birders believe the bird's future still hangs in a delicate balance.
Read more here ...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Foreclosures Hit 37-year High

Daily Real Estate News

June 15, 2007

More home owners entered the foreclosure process during the first three months of 2007 than during the record-setting final quarter of 2006, according to a report by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The MBA’s Chief Economist Doug Duncan predicts that delinquencies would continue to rise, peaking later this year. He also points out that the rate would have fallen if it weren’t for substantial increases in seven states.

"The percentage of loans in foreclosure would be well below the average of the last 10 years were it not for Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana," Duncan says. "And the rate of foreclosures started nationwide would have fallen were it not for the big jumps in California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona. Those states have special circumstances that do not reflect what is happening in the rest of the country."

Seasonally adjusted, 0.58 percent of loans entered the foreclosure process last quarter, compared with 0.54 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006 and 0.41 percent in last year's first quarter. The rates for the past two quarters are the highest in the survey's 37-year history.

— REALTOR® Magazine Online and The Wall Street Journal
Damian Paletta and James R. Hagerty (06/15/07)