1910-1963 The destruction of Penn Station | Bedford Hills Real Estate

C. 1910


Penn Station did not make you feel comfortable; it made you feel important.

In 1910, when New York City transportation terminal Pennsylvania Station opened, it was widely praised for its majestic architecture. Designed in the Beaux-Arts style, it featured pink granite construction and a stately colonnade on the exterior.

The main waiting room, inspired by the Roman Baths of Caracalla, was the largest indoor space in the city — a block and a half long with vaulted glass windows soaring 150 feet over a sun-drenched chamber. Beyond that, trains emerged from bedrock to deposit passengers on a concourse lit by an arching glass and steel greenhouse roof.

This may sound unfamiliar for present-day residents of New York City, who know Penn Station as a miserable subterranean labyrinth.

Though the original Penn Station served 100 million passengers a year at its peak in 1945, by the late 1950s the advent of affordable air travel and the Interstate Highway System had cut into train use. The Pennsylvania Railroad could not even afford to keep the station clean.





In 1962 plans were revealed to demolish the terminal and build entertainment venue Madison Square Garden on top of it. The new train station would be entirely underground and boast amenities such as air-conditioning and fluorescent lighting.

Vocal backlash and protests ensued, but the plan moved forward and Penn Station was demolished.

The outrage was a major catalyst for the architectural preservation movement in the United States. In 1965, the New York Landmarks Law was passed, which helped save the iconic Grand Central Terminal and more than 30,000 other buildings from similar fates. 2015 marks its 50th anniversary.

Since the demolition of the old Penn Station, train ridership has grown tenfold. The new station, a tangle of subway lines and commuter rail, is the busiest terminal in the country and bursting at the seams. Plans are currently underway to renovate and expand the station, and restore a modicum of its original glory.

1910-1963 The destruction of Penn Station | Bedford Hills Real Estate | Bedford New York Real Estate | Bedford NY Homes by Robert Paul Realtor.

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Interest Only Mortgages are back | Katonah Real Estate

They were the villains of the housing crash. Federal regulators called them toxic. Now interest-only mortgages are making a comeback, but these are not the loans of yesteryear or yester-housing booms.

“I think it’s opening the door back to responsible lending, giving people choices,” said Mat Ishbia, president and CEO of Michigan-based United Wholesale Mortgage, the second-largest lender through brokers in the nation.

The company announced Monday it is now offering interest-only loans through brokers, with significant safeguards. Borrowers must put 20 percent down, ensuring that they have the “skin in the game” that so many did not during the heady days of the housing boom. They must have at least a 720 FICO credit score, which is well above average, and they must qualify on what the payments will be once they’re adjusted higher, not at the starter rate.

Real estate

Mike Powell | Getty Images

“These people can afford these mortgages. They’re savvy homeowners,” said Ishbia. “We’re giving them the choice. It is no more risk to us. We actually think it’s less risk.”

United Wholesale Mortgage does not hold the loans but sells them to investors. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage giants, do not buy these types of loans.

The mortgage begins as a five-year adjustable-rate product. Without paying principal, a borrower using, for example, a $300,000 mortgage, would start at 4.125 percent today, the same as a 30-year fixed. Without paying principal, however, the borrower would save $420 per month.

The interest rate can then adjust higher after five years, depending on market rates, but borrowers for this product are underwritten at a rate above 6 percent to ensure they could handle that adjustment. Borrowers are also required to start making principal payments after 10 years; of course they can also refinance the loan whenever they want.

In 2013, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued rules to protect consumers from what it deemed “irresponsible mortgage lending.” So-called qualified mortgages under the new regulations would give lenders certain protections, should the loans go bad. Under the QM rules, according to the news release at the time, there would be:

No toxic loan features: A qualified mortgage cannot have risky loan features, such as terms that exceed 30 years, interest-only payments, or negative-amortization payments where the principal amount increases. In the lead up to the crisis, too many consumers took on risky loans that they didn’t understand. They didn’t realize their debt or payments could increase, or that they weren’t building any equity in the home.

Interest Only Mortgages are back | Katonah Real Estate | Bedford New York Real Estate | Bedford NY Homes by Robert Paul Realtor.

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California Says Goodbye to the Sprawling Ornamental Lawn | Armonk Real Estate

Californians have been hearing predictions that the ornamental lawn is becoming a thing of the past in the drought-stricken state. New state rules approved this week by the California Water Commissionbring those predictions one step closer to reality.

Starting December 1, turfgrass and other thirsty plants will be effectively limited to 25 percent of the yard in new residential landscapes of 500 square feet or more and yards of 2,500 square feet or more undergoing renovations that require a permit, plan check or design review. Landscapes of less than 2,500 square feet have the option of complying with a prescriptive checklist to meet the restrictions.

The new rules are a change from existing restrictions, which allow 33 percent of the landscape to contain high-water-use plants and apply only to landscapes of 2,500 square feet or more. State officials say the new restrictions mean landscapes will consume up to one-third less water on average. “Revising the ordinance was well due. We’re moving in the direction Californians would like to move,” says Vicki Lake, program manager at the state Department of Water Resources. “Our landscapes have to be just as resilient as our climate.”

read more….
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Cash Sales Fall to Six Year Low; Distressed Sales Plummet | Mt Kisco Real Estate

Only one out of four single family home and condo sales in May–24.6 percent–were all-cash purchases, down from 30.4 percent a year ago to the lowest level since November 2009. Distress sales also fell to a new low of 10.5 percent of all sales in May, down from 18.3 percent a year ago to the lowest level since January 2011, according to RealtyTrac.

The cash sales share in May was close to its long-term average going back to January 2000 of 24.8 percent and well below its recent peak of 42.2 percent in February 2011. The top five metro areas with a population of at least 200,000 with the highest share of cash buyers were all in Florida: Naples-Marco Island (56.0 percent), Sarasota-Bradenton, (54.0 percent), Miami (53.4 percent), Ocala (49.9 percent), and Cape Coral-Fort Myers (49.7 percent).

RT Cash sales

Meanwhile, the median sales price of a distressed residential property was 43 percent below the median sales price of a non-distressed residential property in May, the biggest distressed discount since January 2006 when RealtyTrac first began tracking this metric.


Cash Sales Fall to Six Year Low; Distressed Sales Plummet | Mt Kisco Real Estate | Bedford New York Real Estate | Bedford NY Homes by Robert Paul Realtor.

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CoreLogic: May home prices rose 6.3% nationally | North Salem Real Estate

May home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased by 6.3% in May 2015 compared with May 2014, according to the home price report from CoreLogic(CLGX).

This change represents 39 months of consecutive year-over-year increases in home prices nationally. On a month-over-month basis, home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased by 1.7% in May 2015 compared with April 2015.

“Mortgage rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans remained below 4% through May, helping to fuel home-purchase activity,” said Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Our homes-for-sale listing data shows that markets with high demand and limited supply, such as San Francisco, are recording double-digit appreciation rates over the past year.”

Including distressed sales, 33 states and the District of Columbia were at or within 10% of their peak prices in May 2015.

Ten states and the District of Columbia reached new price peaks not experienced since January 1976 when the CoreLogic HPI started. These states include Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont.


CoreLogic: May home prices rose 6.3% nationally | North Salem Real Estate | Bedford New York Real Estate | Bedford NY Homes by Robert Paul Realtor.

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Cleaning Up Armonk | Armonk Real Estate

On July 3, 2015 I wrote a letter to the Town Board (see below). The issue at hand relates to the irresponsible and hazardous stockpiling of asphalt millings or RAP (Recycled Asphalt Pavement) within the Highway Department’s property off Bedford Road and within its yard on Middle Patent Road.  There is great concern that the stockpiling of asphalt millings can cause serious human health and environmental problems.  Dust particles containing high concentration of pollutants can be wind swept into the air off of stockpiles and rainfall can cause these same pollutants to leach out into the soil and eventually find their way into our water supply.


I am very concerned that the Town maybe stockpiling this material without the proper permits required from the New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) nor are they abiding by the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act or SEQR.  To read more information about the SEQR process visit the NYS DEC website atwww.dec.gov.ny/permits/357.html


Last April I fought with the Town unsuccessfully to have stockpiles of asphalt millings removed from the Town yard at Middle Patent Road, an area which is in close proximity to State regulated wetlands. The Middle Patent yard is boarded by the Mianus River watercourse which has tributaries that lead into the Mianus Gorge, which in turn provides drinking water to certain areas of Connecticut.  Also, the yard is located in close proximity to the wells that provide drinking water to the residents of Windmill. Is our town acting environmentally responsible? Does it fully understand the potential problems we face as taxpayers without going through the SEQR process?


I plan on attending tomorrow night’s Town Board meeting to discuss these issues.  The meeting will be held at the North White Plains Community Center, 10 Clove Road, North White Plains, New York 10603 at 7:30 pm.


Cleaning Up Armonk | Armonk Real Estate | Bedford New York Real Estate | Bedford NY Homes by Robert Paul Realtor.

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US housing stages ‘lopsided’ recovery | Bedford NY Real Estate

The lasting legacy of the US housing crash has ranked at the top of the so-called “headwinds” that Federal Reserve policy makers such asJanet Yellen cite when discussing America’s economic prospects.

A host of indicators are suggesting now that, even if the property market remains well below its boom-time highs, it is firmly in recovery mode.

The Case-Shiller index of home values in 20 cities rose 4.9 per cent from a year earlier in April, according to data released Tuesday, with values in Denver and San Francisco rising around 10 per cent from a year earlier. That came after the National Association of Realtors index of pending home sales hit its highest level since April 2006.

The problem with the recovery is that it is, in the words of Sam Khater, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic, a lopsided one.

An acute lack of construction at the lower end of the market is creating a tight supply of housing, driving up rents and pushing up prices of affordable homes to levels reached in 2006.

With access to credit far more constricted than it was before the financial crisis and income growth depressed, home ownership rates have fallen to 20-year lows, as many younger Americans are locked out of property ownership.

Mr Khater said: “The property market is strengthening, but it’s a complex picture that’s by no means good news for all Americans.”

Back in 2013 US housing hit a setback associated with a 100 basis-point upward lurch in mortgage rates induced by the Fed’s so-called “taper tantrum”. In recent months it has seen renewed momentum, however. Existing home sales rose to an annual rate of 5.35m in May, according to the National Association of Realtors, the fastest pace since 2009.


US housing stages ‘lopsided’ recovery | Bedford NY Real Estate | Bedford New York Real Estate | Bedford NY Homes by Robert Paul Realtor.

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