Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Short North spot aims for cosmopolitan vibe but affordable noshes

From the Columbus Dispatch
clipped from www.dispatch.com
On the level
On Restaurants

On the level
New Short North spot aims for cosmopolitan vibe but affordable noshes
June 23, 2009 3:02 AM

Level Dining Lounge, at 700 N. High St. in the Short North, presents itself on a number of
The former R.J. Snapper's has been retooled inside and out to be cosmopolitan, said Brent
LaCount of the Design Collective, yet evoking a sense of "old Columbus."
The facade has been pared down to the brick to lend permanence to the location, yet the removal
of awnings also brightens the space during the day and gives the mezzanine lounge views both into
the dining area and onto High Street.
And despite the deep contrast of white leather and green fabrics, mixed with dramatic lighting
and a high-tech DJ/VJ booth, the seating in the bar, dining room and lounge is comfortable and
<p>Dream Vision Inc.'s principals from left, Andre " />
 blog it

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cooper Stadium Racetrack Back in the News

Both the Dispatch and the Other Paper ran articles last week on the racetrack redevelopment being proposed at the old Cooper Stadium site. According to developers, it sounds like they’re now aiming for a more mixed-use purpose for the site, which could include BMX, motocross, and snowmobile events. They even stated that there may only be as few as 15 auto racing events per year, keeping the noisy days to a minimum. ROARColumbus doesn’t appear to have issued an update to their website since the coverage last week, but it seems that they’re still opposed to any type of racetrack concept entirely.

 blog it

Short North valets might be sent off-street

clipped from www.dispatch.com

If Columbus officials get their way, valet companies will be forced to park cars on off-street
lots by 2011.
That should ease congestion along Short North streets and prevent confrontations between valets
and visitors vying for on-street parking spots, the city officials say.
But some valet companies say such rules will hurt smaller companies that lack easy access to
lots in a neighborhood known for its lack of parking.
"That's going to be a real problem in that area. They already don't have parking lots
available," said Michael Nitenson, who owns Elite Valet Parking.
Valet companies and Short North business owners recently met with city officials to discuss
proposed changes to valet policies that were last updated in 1991.
One of the main changes would be that valet permits would require private parking agreements by
2011, giving valet companies and restaurants time to find private lots, said city public-service
spokesman Rick Tilton.
 blog it

Friday, June 19, 2009

Central Ohio Real Estate Market Data Released-CRITICAL

This is data for the ENTIRE Central Ohio Area. If you are thinking of buying or selling a home, this is critical market information. Send me an email and I can send you data for your neighborhood or your future neighborhood.

Click on the image to increase the size

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Report: Columbus holding its own amid recession

Good to know. Our real estate market should rebound before other markets in Ohio
Columbus is feeling the sting of the recession like any other metropolitan area in the nation, but a new report indicates it’s holding up better than other big cities in Ohio
The report placed the Columbus metropolitan statistical area 40th among those ranked for its strength
No other Ohio city made the top 50. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Akron and Dayton found slots from 61st to 80th. Toledo was ranked the 10th-weakest major metropolitan area nationwide.
To download the full report, click here.
Top and bottom of the list

Brookings’ 10 strongest cities:
1. San Antonio
2. Oklahoma City
3. Houston
4. Austin, Texas
5. Dallas
6. Little Rock, Ark.
7. McAllen, Texas
8. Baton Rouge, La.
9. Tulsa, Okla.
10. Omaha, Neb.-Iowa

Brookings’ 10 weakest cities:
100. Detroit
99. Cape Coral, Fla.
98. Stockton, Calif.
97. Tampa, Fla.
96. Bradenton, Fla.
95. Palm Bay, Fla.
94. Lakeland, Fla.
93. Modesto, Calif.
92. Jacksonville, Fla.
91. Toledo
 blog it

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Great News: Hilltop Home & Garden Tour June 13th 4-8pm

Sounds like a great time. Go early and then attend the annual HRC dinner. www.hrccolumbusdinner.com
West Side volunteers from three community organizations will present the inaugural Hilltop Home & Garden Tour, featuring the Westgate neighborhood, on Saturday, June 13, from 4 to 8 p.m. The tour will start at the Westgate Masonic Lodge, 2925 West Broad Street.
 blog it

Sponsored by Friends of the Hilltop, Friends of Westgate Park and the Westgate Neighbors Association, the tour features architecture, home renovations, and garden design at 12 Westgate homes and/or gardens. Included in the tour are an organic vegetable garden and a photography studio.

These homes are on the tour:

*38 Binns Blvd., a remodeled 1920s home with a rock garden created with pieces from the old Ohio Penitentiary.

* 351 Binns Blvd., an ornamental garden with papaw trees, and organic vegetable and flower gardens.

* 104 S. Roys Ave., a 1928 home featuring artwork inside and out, and a garden.

* 366 S. Roys Ave., garden featuring roses and a pond.

* 175 Powhatan Ave., with English-inspired beds in front and a variety of plants in the backyard.

* 2977 Palmetto St., a wood-frame house featuring original hardwood floors, a sunroom, and interior shutters.

* 3011 Palmetto St., a 1927 all-brick home featuring a front sunroom and an eclectic perennial garden.

* 144 S. Brinker Ave., a 1925 home with a blown-glass fountain and a backyard retreat.

* 286 S. Brinker Ave., an English country garden.

* 291 S. Brinker Ave., a remodeled 1936 stone house with original hardwood floors and cherry cabinets.

* 292 S. Brinker Ave., a 1940s home with two fireplaces, a stone-walled screened-in porch, and a landscaped backyard with a stone pond.

* 235 Letchworth Ave., landscape features a buckeye tree, painted Japanese fern, annuals, rosebushes, and more.

View Westgate Home & Garden Tour 2009 in a larger map

Tickets may be purchased the day of the tour at the Masonic Lodge for $10, or $8 in advance at the following locations:

* Gearhart’s True Value Hardware, 2885 W. Broad St.
* Growing Solutions, 1040 Georgesville Road
* Haldeman Cleaners, 3117 W. Broad St.
* Tigertree, 771 N. High St.
* Wallpaper Outlet, 3770 W. Broad St.
* Westside Messenger, 3500 Sullivant Ave.

The tour is the first in a series of annual home and garden tours spotlighting the undiscovered neighborhoods of the Hilltop.

“We want to share the charm of our neighborhood with others and let people know that there is a lot to offer in the quality of the housing, its affordability and the creativity of its residents,” said Lisa Grazier, president of Friends of Westgate Park. “This is a great place to live and an interesting place to visit, with a wonderful city park and other unique points of interest.”

The neighborhood of Westgate is currently being discovered by young professionals looking for affordable and unique housing. It began in the 1920s on land that had been on the edge, or the west gate of Camp Chase, a Civil War Union installation and that became a prison housing Confederate soldiers during the war. More than 2,000 Confederates are buried at the federally operated Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery on Sullivant Avenue, at the southern edge of today’s Westgate neighborhood.

For more information on the tour, visit FriendsOfTheHilltop.com.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My friends Chad and Tim are opening J. Gumbo’s on Gay Street soon.

It should be great!!
The former Skambo location at the corner of Gay Street and Pearl Alley has sat empty for over two years, but that should be changing soon. New signage in the windows indicates that the space will soon be the new home of J. Gumbo’s, a Louisville-based cajun and creole restaurant. Their menu includes a variety of soups, stews, and chilis including Jambalaya and Etouffee as well as salads, appetizers, po’ boys, and muffalettas. No opening date has been announced as of yet, but we’ll provide more updates and information soon.
 blog it

Monday, June 8, 2009

If you are near Campus, fast-growing Five Guys burger chain sticks to basic, fresh food.

Nice article. Click on the link to read the entire story.

I first tried them in the USAirways Concourse at Washington National Airport.

If you are near campus.....stop by:
South Campus Gateway
1603 N. High Street
Columbus, OH 43201
Tel: 614-299-5555
clipped from www.usatoday.com

More than 20 years after the first restaurant, the menu remains virtually unchanged despite pressure from some franchisees to add items, such as milkshakes. "We're the only burger chain that doesn't have milkshakes. But we couldn't possibly have a milkshake that comes of out of the machine," Jerry says.

The restaurant concentrated on the items it knew best — burgers using 80% fat-free patties made from a blend of sirloin and chuck, hot dogs and fresh-cut fries cooked in peanut oil. The family hired a local bakery to supply their own buns. No detail was too fine for the Murrells, with the brothers arguing over the choice of ingredients and the proper order of toppings: The pickles go under the tomatoes. And 13 different toppings can be customized for each order, including sautéed mushrooms, jalapeño peppers and grilled onions.

President Obama orders lunch May 29 at a Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Washington, D.C.
President Obama orders lunch May 29 at a Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Washington, D.C.
 blog it

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Handke’s Cuisine is Closing on June 20th

Sad news!
I’m sad to announce that Handke’s Cuisine will be closing it’s doors on Saturday, June 20th after 18 years of operation. The award-winning restaurant was opened in 1991 by nationally-recognized Chef Hartmut Handke, and was sold last year to T & L Cuisine.

Columbus Underground is still hosting a happy hour event tomorrow at Encore, located in the adjacent bar area of the restaurant. Come on out and join us for a final hurrah.

 blog it

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

HUD releases more information about how a buyer can use the $8,000 tax credit as a downpayment

Click here to go to the story on HUD's website

HUD No. 09-072
Lemar Wooley (202) 708-0685

For Release
Friday May 29, 2009


FHA plan will stimulate new home sales and help stabilize housing market
WASHINGTON - Speaking to the National Association of Home Builders Spring Board of Directors Meeting, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan today announced that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will allow homebuyers to apply the Obama Administration's new $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit toward the purchase costs of a FHA-insured home. Donovan said that today's action will help stabilize the nation's housing market by stimulating home sales across the country.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 offers homebuyers a tax credit of up to $8,000 for purchasing their first home. Families can only access this credit after filing their tax returns with the IRS. Today's announcement details FHA's rules allowing state Housing Finance Agencies and certain non-profits to "monetize" up to the full amount of the tax credit (depending on the amount of the mortgage) so that borrowers can immediately apply the funds toward their down payments. Home buyers using FHA-approved lenders can apply the tax credit to their down payment in excess of 3.5 percent of appraised value or their closing costs, which can help achieve a lower interest rate. To read the FHA's new mortgagee letter, visit HUD's website.

"We believe this is a real win for everyone," said Donovan. "Today, the Obama Administration is taking another important step toward accelerating the recovery of the nation's housing market. Families will now be able to apply their anticipated tax credit toward their home purchase right away. At the same time we are putting safeguards in place to ensure that consumers will be protected from unscrupulous lenders. What we're doing today will not only help these families to purchase their first home but will present an enormous benefit for communities struggling to deal with an oversupply of housing."

Currently, borrowers applying for an FHA-insured mortgage are required to make a minimum 3.5 percent downpayment on the purchase of their home. Current law does not permit approved lenders to monetize the tax credit to meet the required 3.5 percent minimum down payment, but, under the terms of today's announcement, lenders can now monetize the tax credit for use as additional down payment, or for other closing costs, which can help achieve a lower interest rate. Buyers financing through state Housing Finance Agencies and certain non-profits will be able to use the tax credit for their downpayments via secondary financing provided by the HFA or non-profit. In addition to the borrower's own cash investment, FHA allows parents, employers and other governmental entities to contribute towards the downpayment. Today's action permits the first-time homebuyer's anticipated tax credit under the Recovery Act to be applied toward the family's home purchase right away. Unlike seller-funded down-payment assistance, which was a vehicle for abuse, this program will allow homebuyers to shop for the best home price and services using their anticipated tax credit.

According to estimates by the National Association of Home Builders, the Administration's homebuyer tax credit will stimulate 160,000 home sales across the nation - 101,000 of which will be first-time buyers who will receive the credit. Another 59,000 existing homeowners will be able to buy another home because a first-time buyer purchased their home. Given FHA's current market share, it's estimated that thousands of families will be able to purchase a home by allowing the anticipated tax credit to be applied toward their purchase together with an FHA-insured mortgage.

Homebuyers should beware of mortgage scams and carefully compare benefits and costs when seeking out tax credit monetization services. Programs will vary from organization to organization and borrowers should consider whether the services make sense for them, as well as what company offers the most suitable and affordable option.

For every FHA borrower who is assisted through the tax credit program, FHA will collect the name and employer identification number of the organization providing the service as well as associated fees and charges. FHA will use this information to track the business closely and will refer any questionable practices to the appropriate regulatory agencies, as necessary.


HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to sustaining homeownership; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.

NPR Story: Short Sales Of Homes Bring Hope And Frustration

You can listen to the story here:


Morning Edition, June 2, 2009

In so many ways, so-called short sales of homes hold a lot of appeal.

For the homeowner who must sell for less than what's owed on their mortgage, it can be a way out without sustaining as much damage to their credit as they would in foreclosure. For the mortgage lender, it means taking less of a loss than if the property goes into foreclosure. And for the buyer, a short sale represents a good deal on a house.

Some homeowners need to sell because of a financial hardship or other circumstance, but end up "short" because they're unable to pay off the full amount of the mortgage from the sale proceeds. To qualify for a short sale, homeowners cannot already be in foreclosure. They also must get approval from their lender or lenders — if they have more than one lien on the home. That's because the lenders stand to recover less than the original loan amounts.

But in most cases, short sales end up keeping buyers and sellers in protracted limbo.

Despite the difficulties in making it work, short sales now make up a huge percentage of sales in some areas of the country. Foreclosures and short sales made up nearly half of all homes sold during the first quarter, according to a survey released recently by the National Association of Realtors.

Fannie Mae, which owns or controls a third of the nation's home loans, said the number of pre-foreclosure, or short sales, on its properties increased to 5,971 during the first quarter, from 4,668 during the previous quarter.

Many people in government and real estate argue that making it easier to get distressed homes off the market and occupied by new owners is critical to achieve a housing recovery.

A Family's Ordeal

Two months ago, Jack Archer and his family put a $500,000 bid on a home in Manassas, Va. It could be a great deal, considering the same house sold a few years ago for more than $600,000. But a number of factors make closing the deal uncertain.

In order for the current homeowners to sell, their mortgage lender first needs to agree to recoup less money than the original loan amount. Since the owners also have a home-equity loan, their second lender also needs to agree to take a loss. Finally, the homeowners have mortgage insurance, which means the lenders could simply kill the deal if they think they stand to recover more by letting the property go into foreclosure than by agreeing to a short sale.

Archer says he has no idea which party is holding up his offer.

"We're getting a little tired at this point," he says. "We're giving it two more weeks" before deciding whether to walk away and just renovate their current two-bedroom home in Falls Church, Va.

"It's pretty painful, but sometimes you just don't have much choice," he says. "There's just not that many normal sale homes in some areas." He knows this from poring over real estate Web sites and listings every night. Every other home close to the one he bid on is also in short sale — meaning they might be equally time-consuming to buy.

Short-Selling Woes

Ron Phipps, a real estate agent in Rhode Island, represents both buyers and sellers in short sale deals, which now make up about a third of his overall business. He says the primary problem is that lenders are overloaded with requests, and many are unwilling to sign off on short sales. The problem is worse when the seller has a second loan on the home.

"It used to be all the qualification was based on the buyer," he says, but now real estate agents dealing with short sales spend far more time assessing whether the seller is likely to get lender approval on a deal.

One thing greatly improved how many deals closed, Phipps says: Several months ago, he hired a lawyer to coordinate between all the parties — the borrower, the lenders, the insurers and the agents. That has meant that about half of all short sale deals are going to settlement, up from only 10 to 15 percent previously.

Forthcoming Standards

Earlier this month, the Obama administration said it wanted to make the short-sale process more uniform by creating standards around the application and approval process. The administration is expected to release details of its plan within a month.

That will come too late for Jason Hall, a federal contractor who walked away from a protracted wait for a short sale late last year.

Hall and his wife bid on a condo in Arlington, Va., then waited for weeks without any guidance on whether they were close to a deal.

"I mean, I was calling people up saying, 'Listen, buddy, you know you're ruining my life here.' "

Hall said they finally pulled their offer and paid more for a different condo down the street, which was not in short sale. Meanwhile, the condo they bid on, he says, remains for sale — at a reduced price.