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Chairman Bill Mulrow and SONYMA Help New Yorkers Achieve Home Ownership

August 13, 2013

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Recent difficulties in the housing market have reduced financing opportunities for many prospective homebuyers despite record low interest rates. Under the leadership of its Chairman, Bill Mulrow, the State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA) offers a number of programs designed specifically to help New York residents qualify for financing to purchase their first home or move into a new home.

Mulrow previously held senior administrative positions at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, the Municipal Assistance Corporation for the City of New York and the New York City Rent Guidelines Board. Mulrow also serves as a Senior Managing Director at the Blackstone Group L.P., the largest alternative investment company in the world. His background in the financial world has given Mulrow a broad range of experience in the issues facing home buyers in the New York area and throughout the country, making him a natural fit for this important public position.

Extra Help for Veterans
Bill Mulrow administers the Homes for Veterans Program in New York, a government program dedicated to ensuring that former and current U.S. military members can enjoy the advantages of owning their own homes. Qualifying veterans and military personnel can obtain favorable rates and terms when applying for any of the home loan programs offered by SONYMA, including the following exclusive initiatives:

Own It, Fix It New York!
Low Interest Rate Program
Construction Incentive Program
Achieving the Dream

By taking advantage of these programs, veterans and non-veterans can improve their chances of qualifying for low-interest mortgage loans and flexible terms when buying a primary residence in New York.

Own It, Fix It New York!
For homes that need a little extra TLC due to lack of maintenance, the Own It, Fix It New York! initiative can provide added help with lower down payments, down payment assistance for qualified buyers and larger loan amounts to cover the costs of necessary renovations. This program can be combined with the Low Interest Rate Program or the

Achieving the Dream initiative to allow distressed New York properties that have been through foreclosure or short sales to shine once again.

SONYMA’s Low Interest Rate Program
Designed to provide assistance for first-time homebuyers, the Low Interest Rate Program can be used to finance an existing home or to fund new construction for a primary residence. This loan program is ideal for families interested in making the move from rental properties to home ownership and can be combined with the Own It, Fix It New York! program to incorporate the cost of repairs into the initial mortgage amount for the property.

Construction Incentive Program
Properties in need of significant rehabilitation and new home starts are eligible for financing under the Construction Incentive Program. Available to first-time homebuyers, this SONYMA-backed mortgage option is designed to boost the home building industry and promote the use of energy-efficient systems in new construction.

Achieving the Dream
Low-income buyers can make their dream of homeownership come true with this advanced program from SONYMA. This initiative can be combined with Own It, Fix It New York! to provide funding for renovations and purchase of existing homes or to fund new construction on energy-efficient properties.

Bill Mulrow and the SONYMA team administer these programs to help New York residents make the transition to homeownership more easily. By taking advantage of these initiatives, more prospective homebuyers can realize their dreams of purchasing a home for
themselves and their families.

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Teaching Kids About Money

November 23, 2012

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Once your children reach high school, it’s time for them to start learning how to manage money, especially investing. Yeah. It helps if you already know about how to manage money. Which, incidentally, I do not. Ugh. I never learned how to manage money (I went to public school where a lot of things slipped through the cracks) and my parents never taught me anything. I can’t say they had a whole lot of money to manage, anyway, and definitely nothing in which to invest. It’s all enigma to me! So I’ve had to learn from scratch. Not easy.

Thank God for the Internet. Seriously, I don’t know what I’d do. I found a very cool website with a “virtual stock market game.” It’s pretty neat! You get fake cash to virtually invest in real companies on the real stock market. Build a portfolio, create investment goals, trade stocks, do everything you’d really do on the stock market.

We have a curriculum book that does something similar but the kids have to juggle note cards, write paragraphs, etc. Playing an online simulation game is much easier and much more fun. Mashable and Forbes gave it props and the game is partnered with Motley Fool, too. Definitely check this out! I know I can certainly improve my miniscule knowledge of how things work in the world of finance….

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The Hopeful Rise of the Entrepreneur

September 27, 2012

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I read a news article today that New York State is in $300 billion dollars in debt. $300 BILLION! It’s an unfathomable amount, absolutely horrible. How on earth do you ever pay something like that off? Truly, you don’t. You just pass it along to the next generations. It’s a form of slavery.

I have been traveling throughout New York State recently, chatting with small business owners at the establishments we visit. The conversations are all very enlightening. Here in New York, it’s notoriously difficult to do business. Much of the business environment is heavily regulated, and tight-fisted lenders are loath to part with their cash for cash-strapped companies. For the past 60 years, larger corporation have been leaving the state for fairer opportunities, too. That leaves us with no manufacturers, no big corporations. The demographics of the prosperous 1950s has completely turned over. There are no more big companies who will hire a person for life and give them employment perks like pensions, investment opportunities, health care and the like.

So we adapt. We create our own small businesses, and we diversify. Many of the small business owners talked about the necessity of diversifying their businesses and talents. For example, a motor inn can no longer support itself with business from that motor inn alone. It must also run a restaurant, hire out for snow plowing, and even join the ranks of eBay sellers to sell extra equipment or home-made crafts.

On top of it all, the recent economic downturn was hardest on the small business. Banks refused to offer loans to what they deemed as frivolous or small ventures. But that’s the only way the small business can cope! With so many avenues closing, small business must turn to online lenders for their online ventures, such as Kabbage. You can read CrunchBase’s write-up of the company at the link. Very interesting.

I like to watch patterns and movements. There is a distinct change in the small business demographics as more and more owners are diversifying their talents and going online for their resources, and to reach a larger market.

How is the business environment in your area? I tend to think that many regions are starting to suffer the similar downward spiral that afflicted New York n the late 1990s. I hope they don’t sit on their hands like NY has done. I guess the politicians believe in magic, that somehow spending more and more billions will generate income… It’s not going to be the politicians who get us out of this mess, but — as always — the small business owner.

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LED Lights: Expensive But Very Nice

July 12, 2012

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I’m fresh from writing an article (for SF Gate) about light bulbs, and it got me thinking about LED bulbs. I got one from Home Depot last year and I haven’t really used it much. But after that article and seeing how much energy LEDs save compared to incandescent, I’m very curious and eager to try more of these bulbs.

Home Depot has a terrific chart comparing incandescent, CFL (those “swirly” bulbs I always complain about) and LED bulbs. While I don’t care much for the CFL (they are so expensive and never last as long as they say), I rather like the LEDs. Look at the comparison!

Chart courtesy of HomeDepot.com.

Energy costs are very, very high in the Northeast so there’s been demand for.. well, for energy costs to go DOWN but that ain’t gonna happen here…. so we’re scrambling to get better bulbs and adjust our lifestyles to save money. That’s really the only choice we have. LEDs are still rather expensive, but the prices are starting to fall. Last year, this bulb I got cost $35. This year, it’s under $20. Other styles and brands are $10. It would still cost me a small fortune to rig up my home with LEDs, but I already pay a fortune in energy costs.

I’m seriously thinking of getting LEDS, at least for the kitchen which consumes the most lighting in the house. To do so would cost me about $180! But they also produce less heat, last longer and save energy. Hmmm.

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Whatever Happened to New and Improved?

November 22, 2011

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Remember the old days when companies in the United States wanted to build things bigger and better? Ever upward! Remember? EVERYTHING was “new” and “improved”!

American companies built products with exceptional quality, just because THEY COULD do it!!

I’m not so old that I can’t remember those days. It seems like a million miles away, now. How on earth did we get to where we are right now?

Stuff just doesn’t last anymore. It seems that companies are now backtracking. Instead of building products with better and better quality, they are making them as cheap as they possibly can and still get paid for it.

Our sump pump died last week. It was only FOUR MONTHS OLD. It’s the third pump we’ve been through in two years, and all those died in a matter of months. These aren’t inexpensive pumps, either– these babies cost hundreds of dollars. But they are made in China and they contain plastic parts. Needless to say, we were grossly disappointed when another pump failed this week and the basement flooded again. It was only a few inches so it’s manageable. But SHEESH.

Because we are in “winter preparation mode,” I’m having to buy expensive things, things beside the regular cheapo pair of $10 Chinese-made sneakers or the $5 cheapo umbrella that fails after one gust of wind. No, I have to buy snow tires! $500 for snow tires, that we use for only half the year! The time my husband got snow tires, they only lasted half a year. The treads wore down very quickly.

So I don’t get it. Why are products more and more expensive and less and less durable? I can only conclude that the companies are skimping on their manufacture. And what can the consumer do? Can we petition the companies, perhaps? Think they will listen? Hmmmm…

Maybe this is a sign of getting older, LOL. I’m remembering the “good old days” when stuff lasted, sheesh, at least a year or two or more…..

I would think that the “green” movement would help with this situation, but it has been strangely silent. You’d think that someone would protest the rising junk dumped into landfills, as Americans clog the land with discarded, broken junk. It would be more productive to pressure companies into making more durable products than forcing Americans to use one toilet paper sheet at a time. Weird.

What do you think? Do you think products are better made today, worse made or no difference? Am I alone in thinking that we CAN manufacture better, more efficient products at affordable prices? We did it once before! Why can’t we do it again?

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Is Emergency Preparedness A Pipe Dream?

November 5, 2011

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I’m reading this very old book, Historic Storms of New England. It was written by Sidney Perley and published in 1891. His narratives go back to the first recorded natural disasters of the year 1635, a mere 15 years after the Separatists (English Pilgrims) landed on the shores of Massachusetts in 1620. The book is amazing, it tells of earthquakes, strange appearances in the heavens, blizzards, hurricanes (although they were not called hurricanes back then), meteorites and other strange events and storms. Some of the stories include eyewitness accounts (one family’s devastating shipwreck is heart wrenching). In most cases, such natural catastrophes drew people closer to God.

As I’ve been reading the book, oddly enough, New York and New England have suffered a year of unusual weather and natural disasters. This year alone, we’ve had THREE devastating floods, an earthquake, two hurricanes, innumerable tornadoes and — a mere week ago — a freak October Nor’Easter that dumped 32 inches in Maine. I was shocked to read the blog of one of my friends. who reports that in Connecticut they STILL have no electrical power. Cindi at moomettesmagnificents.com/blog/survival-guide-102-in-connecticut-irene-was-a-dress-rehersal-for-alfred-day-5 has had to throw out all the food in her two refrigerators and freezers. News reports say the storm killed 8 people and cut power for at least 4 million households. Wow. Cindi said she has a generator, but there is no gasoline available, so they are out of power completely. Because of the immense snow and downed trees, travel out of the area is impossible, So they are stuck in the disaster zone. Wow.

Backyard Snow2

It won't be long....

And that got me thinking.

My husband and I have discussed “emergency preparedness” before. We have two sump pumps that work day and night to keep water out of our basement. We’ve experienced numerous floods (so many I can’t count anymore), but only once did we lose power in all our years here. If we lost power — especially during a heavy rainfall or hurricane — we’d be inundated with flood waters. So we discussed getting a generator, thinking this would solve our problem. But after reading Cindi’s situation, I wonder if that’s really the cure-all we originally thought. In a natural catastrophe, the gas stations may not pump gas. Then what?

So I don’t know what to do. I feel rather frustrated because everything in our society is SO reliant and integrated with the electrical grid. It makes me feel uneasy. I like to have a contingency plan, but there really isn’t anything. And I thought, “Well, we could get a wood-burning generator, right?” But our chainsaw needs gas to cut that wood. We have SOME wood in the back, but I don’t think we would have nearly enough. And where would I store it? If another flood rages across my land, all the wood is down the pike.

I’m beginning to think “emergency preparedness” is a pipe dream. There’s only *so much* you can do, because no matter what, you are reliant on other people and groups in the community being prepared, too. Which, as we see with the numerous disasters this year, few communities are. I do wonder about my own community. Are they so busy building sidewalks and shopping centers that they forget the other things, too? Like BOATS, lol.

Hm. What do you think?

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Save Some Bucks With a Refinanced Mortgage

August 3, 2011

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When I was a kid, I remember seeing TV show episodes in which the characters would burn their paid-off mortgage papers in a “mortgage party.” I remember thinking “Wow, this must be something very significant!” and then also thinking, “What the heck is a mortgage?” Hoh boy, do I know what a mortgage is, now. :-p

With the current economy crunch, there’s no time like the present to reduce money outflow and work toward eliminating debt. Even though we have done all the home renovations ourselves, we have had to borrow money to pay for the materials. Home products are horribly expensive, did you know that?! I really don’t see how people can afford both materials AND labor costs. I managed to slash the labor costs, but still, the debt is relatively large. We refinanced the debt into a home equity loan, but eventually we may refinance the entire mortgage together with the home equity loan. Of course, that will take a LOT of planning. I know very little about the financial aspects of this and will have to rely heavily on advice. That site has some great information and updated news about the current status on mortgage interest rates. Honestly, I’d rather be installing light switches than wading through all the complicated financial puzzles. Ugh.

Have any of you refinanced your mortgage? Was it worth it? I have heard (from Clark Howard) that a refinance should ALWAYS be with a fixed, and not variable, mortgage rate. That makes sense. Any of you have any advice or personal testimonies to offer?

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How to Keep an Old House Cool in the Summer

May 27, 2011

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Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…. before the 1970s malaise and even before the Industrial Revolution, most homeowners focused more on keeping their homes cool in the summer than warm in the winter. Back then, wood and coal were plenteous, and labor was cheap (not to mention that families had dozens of kids back then), so heating the house was relatively easy. Houses were built to release heat. High ceilings were the repositories of warmed air; thin glass windows– the bane of our modern homes– and drafty rooms kept the house well ventilated. I’d even heard that the reason for all the decorative gingerbread features in Victorian homes was not for aesthetic reasons, but to give the impression of icicles and therefore the illusion of coolness. I am not sure if this is 100% true, but it’s what I’ve heard.

4snow2011

That's the closest I'll ever get to gingerbread on this house...

At any rate, the world is turned upside down, now. Thanks to the energy crunch, we homeowners must seal every crack, plug every hole, lower ceilings, install thicker windows with better quality glass…. and while there’s great benefit, in hot or cold weather, to insulating walls and sealing every crack, it does make the interior of the house rather airless during summers. Airless homes are not healthy. Mold and mildew love homes with temperate, stale air. Toxins within the home, such as natural gas and small traces of carbon dioxide, reach poisonous proportions in tightly-sealed homes. And since we are in our homes more frequently than previous generations, ventilation is all the more important for our health and well-being.

Close Up

Our old wiring could never have supported the large electric load of an air conditioner.

I have lived in old homes all my life. Old homes aren’t really built for the power-sucking, window-filling air conditioning systems of today. My old homes had outdated electric, unable to withstand the kilowatt slurping window-installed air conditioner. And unless we gutted the walls or purchased new fangled cooling units, we couldn’t install central air, either. So I grew up learning the passive methods of keeping a house cool in the summer. I remember my mom waking up very early on summer mornings to “batten down the hatches” before a particularly sultry summer day dawned. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years:

1. Open the windows at night.
Summer nights are obviously cooler than summer days. I place fans in the windows, blowing cool night air in at night. I sleep better when it’s cool, too.

2. Close the windows before the sun rises.
After encouraging the cool summer night air to enter the house through open windows, I basically seal the cool air in for as long as possible by closing off the source of the heat– the summer day. All windows are closed and curtains are drawn. I may have one upstairs window open, with a fan blowing out.

3. Know the natural air flow of your home.

Every home has some kind of natural air flow to it. I have studied the flow of the drafts in my home, so I know what directions the air naturally travels downwind. If I work WITH instead of against the flow, I can save energy (and money). This helps me to position fans in the right areas, especially that upstairs “out” fan I mentioned in #2. There’s one room in the house upstairs where all the air goes into. I open the window in that room and point the fan out. The fan will blow the heated air that is rising up from the first floor out the window. This does two things: it removes the heated air, and provides a constant draft that makes the house feel cooler.

4. Hang heavy drapes.

Solar energy is a marvelous thing, but when it’s making you sweat buckets, it stinks. I close all windows and blinds during the hottest time of the day (from 11am to 5:30 pm). My current home is situated in the middle of a small business district, with large sections of heat-pumping asphalt all around me. Heavy drapes are my only barrier between comfort and that nasty, heat-belching asphalt.

Whew Exhaustion

ISSOHOT

5. Reduce heat-producing appliance use.
Obviously, the clothes dryer is a biggie here. If you have a laundry area right in the living quarters, it can get pretty hot, running that thing. Hang clothes or relocate your dryer to the basement. Don’t use the stove at ALL (you’ll really regret it!)– get a grill and cook outside. Computers generate a lot of heat, so turn off the ones you are not using. Lower your hot water tank thermostat. Use the “air dry” cycle on the dishwasher. Turn off lights. Regard anything that produces heat as an impediment to your goal.

6. Plant deciduous trees on the south and west sides of the house.
Deciduous trees will provide shade for your land during the hot summers. The nice about deciduous trees is that they will drop their leaves by winter, giving your home access to the warm sun that is welcome in the winter. Don’t plant them too closely to the house, or you may have roof and/or gutter problems when the leaves drop in the autumn.

7. Plant evergreen trees on the north side of the house.
Much like deciduous trees on the south, evergreens offer your home a little barrier. But while deciduous trees provide a barrier from the hot sun in the summer, evergreen trees provide a barrier from the cold north winds in the winter.

8. Install light colored roof shingles.
Black asphalt shingles retain heat and continue radiating it. Shingles in white, gray, or even red absorb less of the sun’s sweltering rays.

9. Insulate the attic.
And seal all holes and cracks from the attic to the living areas. In my old home, the insulation is both insufficient and disgusting. It’s the old cellulose crap– loaded with dust and it stinks like all get-out. Oh, how I hate cellulose insulation!

Attic2

How I HATE this attic!

 

Well, anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, seal the holes! In my home, the roof heats up and the backyard heats up thanks to all that asphalt, and the heat builds up to epic proportions in the attic. And I know all about physics, but in my house the heat actually DROPS. Must be wacky airflow. But the house sometimes smells like the attic and the upstairs gets really hot. When we gut the upstairs, I’m going to seal that blasted attic.

10. Open the basement door.
Before we had our sneaky cat who is always trying to get outside, we would open the basement door and place a fan in the doorway. I really can’t believe how wonderfully cool the basement is. When the weather gets really oppressive, I sometimes go down there to cool back down to 98.6.

FTK 3.26No2

Of course, sitting in the refrigerator is a great way to cool off...

11. Install awnings over south-facing windows.
Believe me, this works. My new kitchen window at 4 feet by 5 feet is so wonderful, but it faces south and receives the full brunt of the hot summer sun and asphalt.

So there ARE ways to keep the house cool without busting your energy bill. After all, you’ll need to save every dollar you can for the winter’s heating bills!

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Get Rid of It. Yeah.

May 26, 2011

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WHAT IS IT with all this crazy weather?? Will someone please tell me?! Flooding here, flooding in the Mississippi?? Vicious tornadoes and I saw that they even had snow in Colorado?? In late MAY, for pete’s sake.

:(

My area is still cleaning up from late April’s flash flooding. Everything is just so messy. Like everyone else, we’re chipping away at the messes, but we really don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to cleanup.

I recently heard about a very nice junk removal business– Getridofit.com – Affordable Junk Removal and Hauling. These guys look amazing! They solve the problem of junk removal, which, as you might suspect, can be very painful on the budget as well as on the emotions. Many people think their only recourse for removing junk is to hire a (very very) expensive professional hauler. We paid THROUGH THE NOSE last year for dumpster service. Ouch.

Well, the guys at GetRidofIt.com give you the ability to find more affordable junk removal teams in your area. GetRidofIt.com has a list of companies with excellent ratings based on price and customer service. It’s pretty easy to find junk removers in your area– just visit the GetRidofIt.com website and type in your zip code. And if you are an ambitious entrepreneur looking to start up a junk removal business (and it’s looking like a pretty lucrative career, these days!) you can sign up your company to get on the GetRidofIt.com’s list! Check out more information on the website. This is a good website to bookmark, too. Because even if you don’t have a natural disaster or renovation going on, you’re going to always need a helping hand to get rid of the old furniture, barbeque, busted bicycles, broken lawn furniture……

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Tax Time Draws to a Deadline….

April 4, 2011

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Oh my gosh, it’s April already. APRIL! We haven’t got our taxes done yet. Usually the husband gets them done in the first few weeks if February. But this year, we might actually owe money. So, haha, we’re putting it off until the bitter end.

Because I am self-employed, the sheer amount of paperwork is overwhelming. Then there are the deductions, the interest calculations, the child credit, the charitable giving, the blahblahblah and blahblahblah. WHY does it have to be so stinkin’ complicated?! I am all in favor of a flat tax, across the board. It would simplify everything and would enable each citizen to be an active part in the government. Plus, it would lower taxes. And federal salaries. It’s just a good thing all around! lol!

Here in New York State, we are taxed to the hilt, several times over. We’re taxed on our income. Then if we buy something with the income we have left over, we have to pay sales tax. And if we buy a service with the product we purchased, we have to pay tax on that. So when all is said and done, we’ve paid taxes multiple times on the same chain of products or services. There’s something evil about that….

My area of Upstate New York is a popular “senior citizen” hub. I’m not sure why– winters are bad here and you figure they’d all move to warmer climates. It sure isn’t for the weather or the political climate…. I don’t know much about the quality of life for the older folks here. Eons ago, when my husband was working in insurance, there was a new kind of insurance marketed to folks– extended care insurance (I think that’s what it was called). It was insurance for when you had to go into a nursing home. It was REALLY popular at the time.

But senior citizenry for me is a long way off. If I make it that long. Because I have to get through the income taxes first…. *sigh*

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