Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: Home-price index falls to lowest point since 2002

Home-price index falls to lowest point since 2002

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An index of home prices in big metro areas has reached its lowest level since 2002, driven down by foreclosures, a glut of unsold homes and the reluctance or inability of many to buy.

Prices fell from February to March in 18 of the metro areas tracked by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city index. And prices in a dozen markets have reached their lowest points since the housing bubble burst in late 2006.

The nationwide index fell for the eighth straight month. Prices have now fallen further since the bubble burst than they did during the Great Depression. It took 19 years for the housing market to regain its losses after the Depression ended.

Prices rose last summer, fueled by a temporary federal home-buying tax credit. But they've plunged since then. This month's report marked a "double dip in home prices across much of the nation," said David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor's.

After adjusting for inflation, the home-price index has sunk to a level not seen since 1999.

Many economists think prices nationally will drop at least 5 percent more by year's end. They aren't likely to stop falling until the glut of foreclosures for sale is reduced, employers start hiring in greater force, banks ease lending rules and would-be buyers regain confidence that a home purchase is a wise investment.

"Folks are having so much difficulty in getting financing for a home," said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo. "It may be early next year before prices hit bottom."

Another obstacle to a rebound in prices: A delay in processing foreclosures. Homes in foreclosure sell for, on average, 20 percent discounts. When they do, they pull prices down further. But many foreclosure sales have been delayed while federal regulators, state attorneys general and banks review how those foreclosures were carried out over the past two years.

Once those homes are eventually foreclosed upon, they will trigger a further price drop in many markets. Those declines are "etched in stone," said Patrick Newport, U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.

The 12 cities now at their lowest levels in nearly four years are: Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix, Portland, Ore., and Tampa.

Minneapolis fared the worst in March; prices there fell 3.7 percent. They dropped 2.4 percent in Charlotte and Chicago and 2 percent in Detroit. But prices rose 0.1 percent in Seattle and 1.1 percent in Washington, D.C. The nation's capital is the only metro area in the index where prices have risen in the past year.

The Case-Shiller index measures sales of select homes in the 20 largest markets compared with January 2000. For each metro area it reviews, the index provides a three-month moving average price. By measuring sales prices of the same homes over time, the index seeks to pinpoint market values and conditions.

The housing sector is struggling even as the overall economy is in the midst of a steady but slow recovery.

That won't change soon. Roughly 92 percent of homeowners say it's a bad time to sell their home, according to the latest Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment.

But housing also affects the broader economy. Homes account for about a third of household wealth. So when prices fall, they have "important spillover effects on other sectors of the economy," said Yelena Shulyatyeva, an analyst at BNP Paribas. Those sectors include consumer spending and state and local property tax collections.

Some of the sharpest price declines have occurred in cities hit hardest by unemployment and foreclosures, such as Phoenix, Tampa and Las Vegas. They are flooded with homes sitting vacant, awaiting buyers. Many banks have agreed to allow homes at risk of foreclosure to be sold for less than what is owed on their mortgages. That trend has pulled down prices.

Coastal areas, such as San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Washington and Boston, have fared comparatively better in the past two years. They have been aided by healthy local economies and low unemployment, desirable city centers and limited space for new housing.

But the damage is now spreading to areas that had long escaped the worst of the crisis. They include Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis and Cleveland. Economists regard them as housing bellwethers - metro areas that are reliable indicators of where national prices are headed.

Denver and Dallas are on pace to hit post-housing bust lows in the next few months.

In the seven years before its peak in July 2006, the home-price index surged 155 percent. Since then, it's fallen 33 percent.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: Coach Jim Tressel out at Ohio State

The story and more information is here

Monday, May 30, 2011 07:55 AM

Updated: Monday, May 30, 2011 08:58 AM

The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel has resigned, university sources told The Dispatch today.

Less than three months after President E. Gordon Gee and Athletic Director Gene Smith said they fully supported their embattled coach, mounting pressure, a pending NCAA disciplinary hearing and new revelations about the culture of the program forced the university to act on their once-revered coach, sources said.

Neither Gee, Smith nor Tressel could be reached immediately for comment.

Sources said assistant coach Luke Fickell, who had been named to coach the first five games of the season while Tressel served his suspension for withholding information from the university compliance office and the NCAA, will serve as interim coach of the Buckeyes all of next season.

The Dispatch has obtained a memo Gee sent to OSU trustees this morning:

"I write to let you know that later this morning we will be announcing the resignation of Jim Tressel as head coach of the University's football program. As you all know, I appointed a special committee to analyze and provide advice to me regarding issues attendant to our football program. In consultation with the senior leadership of the University and the senior leadership of the Board, I have been actively reviewing the matter and have accepted Coach Tressel's resignation.

"My public statement will include our common understanding that throughout all we do, we are One University with one set of standards and one overarching mission. The University's enduring public purposes and its tradition of excellence continue to guide our actions," Gee wrote.

Ohio State's football program came under fire in December when six players were suspended by the NCAA for selling or trading uniforms and other memorabilia to a Columbus tattoo-parlor owner. The NCAA also drew criticism for allowing the players to participate in the Sugar Bowl instead of serving their suspensions immediately.

Tattoo-parlor owner Edward Rife was under investigation for drug trafficking when his unrelated trading for OSU memorabilia came to light. It was revealed in federal court on Friday that Edward Rife, owner of Fine Line Ink Tattoos on Sullivant Avenue on the Hilltop, agreed in December to plead guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering. As part of the agreement, Rife must forfeit all of his OSU memorabilia if he does not come up with $50,000, the amount federal investigators say he made in profit selling marijuana.

Tressel expressed surprise in December at the revelations of his players being involved with the tattoo-parlor operator, but the university learned in January that Tressel was told of the relationship last April in an email from a former OSU player. The coach did not share that information with the university as his contract requires, nor did he reveal it when he signed an NCAA compliance form in September verifying that he was unaware of any possible violations.

He was suspended two games and fined $250,000 for his actions. He requested that his suspension be increased to five games to match the penalty his players received. The university obliged.

Tressel's contract was renewed last spring through 2014. He earns about $3.7 million annually in salary and other incentives. He leaves Ohio State with an impressive coaching resume, having led the school to its fifth national title as well as directing impressive runs of Big Ten championships and victories over archrival Michigan.

The coach who came to Ohio State from Division I-AA Youngtown State University leaves OSU as one of the most recognizable figures in college football and all sports with a record of 106-22 at OSU. His winning percentage of .828 was better than the legendary Woody Hayes (.761).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: Boutique hotel for Short North gets conditional OKs

An artist's rendering of the Joseph, the Pizzuti Cos.' planned 135-room boutique hotel in the Short North

The story is here

Boutique hotel for Short North gets conditional OKs

Sunday, May 22, 2011 03:19 AM


A long-planned Short North boutique-hotel project from the Pizzuti Cos. has taken an important step forward.

The Italian Village Commission last week gave conditional approval to the conceptual plans for the hotel, called the Joseph. That followed a similar thumbs-up from the Victorian Village Commission a few weeks ago.

Final approvals will be sought later this year from the commissions and the city zoning office before Pizzuti can begin construction. If all goes well, the hotel could open in 2013.

The $50 million project is to produce a 135-room hotel on the east side of N. High Street and, across N. High, a building offering about 55,000 square feet of office space, plus retail space on the ground floor and a parking garage. The hotel project is planned for property just north of the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Pizzuti originally announced plans for the hotel in early 2008. It faced neighborhood concerns about its size and parking issues; then it was shelved for a time as the recession made it unrealistic to move forward.

"We don't typically underwrite 31/2 years of development," said Joel Pizzuti. "To be fair," he said, "if the recession hadn't occurred, it wouldn't have taken this long."

He considers the project as it stands now - slightly scaled back from what originally was envisioned - as "better today than when we started."

The plan also preserves the majority of a limestone-faced United Commercial Travelers building that fronts Goodale Park; neighborhood preservationists had wanted it to remain. It will house a collection of art assembled by the Pizzuti family over the years.

Pizzuti said the Joseph, named after his late grandfather, is being designed for a clientele different from that of the publicly financed Hilton Columbus Downtown, which is being built directly across from the convention center. That hotel is expected to open in September 2012.

"We're not going after convention business," Pizzuti said. "We're targeting the individual business traveler, the leisure traveler, people coming to Columbus for work and pleasure."

Pizzuti said he's seen real-estate financing loosen up in 2011 compared with the clamp-down that occurred after the recession hit. He said his company is talking to "a number of capital providers" about financing the Joseph.

Another Downtown boutique hotel, this one across from the Statehouse, remains in the planning stages. Rob Willard of Indiana-based Midas Hospitality said he remains optimistic about striking a deal soon to renovate two historic Broad Street buildings into a Hotel Indigo-branded hotel with the aid of tax credits.

"Hotel financing is difficult in general, (but) Columbus' Downtown is a great hotel market, especially for the size and type of hotel we are building," Willard said.

Matt MacLaren, executive vice president of the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association, agreed that financing for new hotel projects "remains difficult for the whole state of Ohio."

He, too, is hopeful that there is room for several new hotels Downtown.

"If the marketing is done right, we'll grow the market overall," MacLaren said. "If we're able to grow the number of visitors, even with a few new hotels coming, occupancy overall will go up."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: Fewer homes for sale in April [in Central Ohio]

Fewer homes for sale in April

Experts hope lower inventory means prices will start rising again, but they haven't yet

Friday, May 20, 2011 03:07 AM


Central Ohio home sellers have vanished with the sun this spring.

In April, 3,940 central Ohioans put a for-sale sign in front of their home, a big drop from the 4,640 who did so a year ago.

Those who track the central Ohio housing market are glad those 700 stayed home.

As the string of discouraging housing news continued yesterday, the only bright spot is the declining number of unsold homes.

Slightly more than 15,000 homes are for sale in central Ohio, compared with almost 19,000 a year ago. Experts hope home prices will finally start to rise again as inventory continues to decline.

"Housing follows the basic economic principle of supply and demand," said Columbus Board of Realtors President Rick Benjamin. "If inventory levels continue to drop, we'll see the price of homes begin to rise again."

Benjamin and others believe "recreational sellers" - those simply exploring the idea of a sale - have largely left the market, contributing to a decline in for-sale signs.

"You're going to see only the serious people out there right now," he said. "The recreational listers are underground. They're not doing anything."

In addition, some buyers have been scared from the market because of what they think their home will fetch. Average sale prices for central Ohio homes are down more than 13 percent from the $177,978 peak in 2007.

"There are sellers who have maybe tried over the past two years to sell who have just given up and are staying put," said Real Living HER agent Terry Penrod.

"And there are probably a certain number who are saying, 'It's just not a good time to sell, so I'm not going to bother.' And then there are a number of others, like those I see all the time, who aren't going to be able to sell without bringing money to the closing."

The inventory figures were released with April housing statistics that otherwise showed Ohio's long housing slump continuing.

In the Columbus area, home sales fell 25.9 percent to 1,620 units from the previous April. The average sale price fell 2.7 percent, to $154,205.

Statewide, sales were down 12.5 percent, to 9,119 units. The average sale price declined 4.6 percent, to $124,219.

Nationally, sales of previously occupied homes in April fell 12.9 percent from April 2010 and 0.8 percent from the seasonally adjusted March total, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Last year's sales were boosted by the federal home-buying tax credit.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Positive Signs For Central Ohio Housing

Home Prices rise as inventory drops - positive signs for Central Ohio housing

(May 19, 2011) The number of homes listed for sale this year is lower than the previous year suggesting the central Ohio housing market is continuing its steady recovery. The 3,940 homes added to the market in April represent a 15.1 decrease compared to April of 2010 and the 3,886 new listings in March were almost 22 percent lower than the previous year according to the Columbus Board of REALTORS®. The number of new listings January through April (13,247) is almost 20 percent lower than the same period last year.

“Sales prices have reflected the surplus inventory on the market for the last few years,” says Rick Benjamin, 2011 President of the Columbus Board of REALTORS®. “And housing follows the basic economic principal of supply and demand. When there are more homes on the market than buyers, the price of the home may have to drop to compete.”

“However, if inventory levels continue to drop, we’ll see the price of homes begin to rise again. For instance, the median price of homes added to the market last month - $157,900 – is 5.3 percent higher than inventory added in April of 2010.”

Currently, there are approximately 15,146 residential homes available for sale in the central Ohio area – 12,322 single family homes and 2,824 condominiums.

Home sales in April were 8.9 percent ahead of the month prior (1,487); but trailed last year by 25.9 percent. Year to date sales (January through April) are 13.2 percent lower than the same period last year.

“We didn’t expect April sales to come close to that of last year,” offers Benjamin. “Last year, the home buyer tax credit deadline was April 30 so buyers were breaking down the doors to get an approved contract.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 4.84 percent in April which is the same rate as March; the rate was 5.10 percent in April 2010.

Click here to view the March sortable housing market report by area.

Click here to view the entire central Ohio Local Market Update.

The Columbus Board of REALTORS® Multiple Listing Service (MLS) serves all of Franklin, Delaware, Fayette, Madison, Morrow, Pickaway and Union Counties and parts of Champagne, Clark, Hocking, Licking, Fairfield, Knox, Logan, Marion, Muskingham, Perry and Ross Counties.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

USA Today: Construction of new homes falls in April; factory production dips

The story is here

WASHINGTON (AP) — Construction of new homes in America plummeted in April, dragged down by a major drop in apartment building, and U.S. factories in April produced fewer goods for the first time in 10 months, as a shortage of parts from Japan forced automakers to cut output.

Builders broke ground on 10.6% fewer new homes last month from the previous month. The seasonally adjusted rate fell to 523,000 homes per year, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That's less than half the 1.2 million homes per year that economists consider a sign of a healthy market.

Single-family homes, which make up roughly 80% of home construction, fell about 5% in April. Apartment and condominium construction plunged more than 28%.

Building permits, a gauge of future construction, fell 4%.

In a separate report, the Federal Reserve said that manufacturing production fell 0.4% in April. That followed nine straight monthly increases. But excluding the drop in activity at auto plants, factory production rose 0.2% last month.

The decline in factory production, the single biggest slice of industrial activity, blunted increases in mining and utilities output. Overall industrial activity was flat in April.

Overall industrial production has risen nearly 11.5% since hitting a recession-low in June 2009. But it remains about 7.5% below its pre-recession peak in September 2007.

The weak home construction data provided further evidence that the housing industry is far from recovering, analysts said.

Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said the late Easter may have had some impact. He noted that the pace of construction rose in March before dropping in April.

"The underlying trends, as far as we can tell, are about flat, at a very low level," Shepherdson said.

Tighter lending standards and high unemployment are weighing on the housing sector, which is in the midst of one of its worst years in history.

Builders are also struggling to compete with millions of foreclosures, which are forcing down prices for previously occupied homes. The median price of a new home was about 34% higher in March than the median price for a re-sale. That's more than twice the markup in healthy housing markets.

In some cities, prices are half of what they were before the housing market collapsed in 2006 and 2007. Many potential buyers who could qualify for loans are worried that prices will fall further. Others are hesitant to put their own homes on the market when prices are dropping.

The weak housing market is weighing on the overall economic recovery. Each new home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the builders' group.

In past modern-day recessions, housing accounted for 15% to 20% of overall economic growth. In the first post-recession year, between 2009 and 2010, housing contributed just 4% to the economy.

On Monday the National Association of Home Builders said its survey of homebuilder sentiment was unchanged at 16. That's the same level it has been for six of the past seven months. Any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the market. The index hasn't been above that level since April 2006.

And when asked about where they see sales of single-family home heading over the next six months, the builders surveyed offered their most pessimistic outlook since September.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Italian Village Street Cleaning. Don't Get Towed!

Tri-Annual Street Sweeping

To keep debris and foreign objects from entering the aging sewers, the City of Columbus Street Maintenance Division sweeps the Italian Village three times each year. Street parking is prohibited and strictly enforced during the sweeping.

Block Watch members post windshield reminders on each vehicle in affected areas and yard signs the weekend before each sweeping. Click here if you'd like more information about volunteering to help distribute flyers.

You can also sign up for text reminders from the Block Watch here.

Ticket & Tow Statistics

A 55% decrease in tickets and a 48% decrease in tows were recorded in August; the first month the Block Watch distributed flyers. Additional decreases in tickets and tows were recorded in subsequent months as well.

Italian Village Street Sweeping Schedule

Sweeping occurs the third Tuesday and Wednesday of May, August, and November.

Parking restrictions are from 8am - 4pm Tuesday for the north and east sides and 8am - 4pm Wednesday for the south and west sides of the street.

What happens to vehicles not moved?

Vehicles not move in street sweeping areas are subject to ticketing and towing at owner's expense. A 'No Parking Zone' ticket is $50 and towing is $125 plus $18 storage for each 24 hour period (verified as of 3/22/10). Towed vehicles may be retrieved from the City of Columbus Impound Lot at 2700 Impound Lot Road.

View Italian Village -- Street Sweeping Flyer Distribution in a larger map

Don't get towed! "Text Message Reminder" Enrollment

Yes, I'd like to receive text message reminders on Italian Village street sweeping. Three messages will be sent each week of street sweeping (May, August, November). One Monday evening as a reminder and then Tuesday and Wednesday before the 8am restrictions begin. Standard incoming text message charges may apply. You're mobile number will not be used for any other purpose.
* Required

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: City closes Clintonville bridge for repairs to pillars

City closes Clintonville bridge for repairs to pillars

Timeline to fix span unclear for now

Friday, May 6, 2011 03:06 AM


Columbus officials closed the Calumet Street bridge in Clintonville yesterday after contractors became worried about the condition of its concrete pillars.

"We decided not to take any chances and err on the side of caution," said Rick Tilton, assistant director for Columbus' public-service department.

Contractors were doing routine maintenance on the bridge at Cliffside Drive, immediately north of Arcadia Avenue, yesterday when they noticed that several pillars appeared to be deteriorating more rapidly than they should, Tilton said.

They called city officials, and the bridge was closed as a precaution until repairs can be made, he said. The crew had been working on the bridge for a couple of weeks before noticing the problem.

It was open to traffic while the work was being done.

The bridge was inspected last summer, and no issues were reported, Tilton said. City bridges are inspected annually.

He said the bridge will remain closed until further notice. He couldn't give any estimates about how long the work would take.

Clintonville Area Commissioner James Blazer II said he didn't learn about the problem until city officials sent out a news release yesterday afternoon.

"I drove on the bridge yesterday, and it seemed fine," he said. "But it is best to leave these kinds of things to the structural experts."

Blazer said the closure would be an inconvenience to residents, but that he's glad the city is on top of the issue and will make the necessary repairs.

Motorists are advised to use the following detours:

• Eastbound traffic on Arcadia Avenue: Take Indianola Avenue to westbound Weber Road.

• Westbound traffic on Arcadia Avenue: Take N. High Street to eastbound Weber Road.

• Eastbound traffic on Weber Road: Take Indianola to westbound Arcadia Avenue.

• Westbound traffic on Weber Road: Take N. High Street to eastbound Arcadia Avenue.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to come to Gallery Hop this Saturday, May 7th...

Gallery Hop Logo

Top 10 Reasons to come to Gallery Hop this Saturday, May 7th...

Reason #1

Valvoline NextGen is sponsoring May Gallery Hop

Valvoline Bottle

Valvoline NextGen is committed to educating consumers on the importance of recycling oil and the carbon footprint that is left on this planet from mass drilling is vital. Please stop by Hop Hub at 663 N High this Saturday and see how they can help you be GREEN. You will receive coupons off your next GREEN oil change. Learn more at www.valvolinenextgen.com

Reason #2

AICUO Art Awards

Walking Exhibition

The 2011 AICUO Awards have added a brand new exhibition to the program. This May, each of the six AICUO Award finalists will be showcasing their work at Gallery Hop in the following locations:

Brandt-Roberts Galleries

Ken Aschliman

Grid Furnishings

Wendy Birchfield

pm gallery

Rose Hermalin

Sherrie Gallerie

Katherine Richards

Studios on High Gallery

Rachel Shelton

Terra Gallery

Anh Hoang Vu

Reason #3

Roy G Biv Gallery Exhibit

Roy G Biv May 11

Reception: 997 N High Street

Exhibit Title: Matthew Cherubini and Doo-Sung Yoo

Art Media: video, robotics,dance, installation, animal organs, performance

About the Exhibit: Matthew Cherubini creates videos with alternate characters and personalities. Doo-Sung Yoo explores the boundaries between art and science by exploring the technical augmentation of the human body.

Reason #4

Shop Substance for Mother's Day

Artisan Necklace

Artisan Necklaces for Mother's Day + $15 Off Purchases of $100 or More at Substance for FASHION CONSCIOUS PEOPLE!

Reason #5

Rose Bredl Flower & Garden

Rose Bredl herb hydrangea

Stop in at 664 N High St for the Herb Promotion of buy 2 get 1 free. Also, a reminder that if you buy a plant and a pot, they provide complimentary potting. For those ready for Spring, they have new hydrangeas and garden roses.

Reason #6



Stop near Global Gallery for Genuine Jewelry- Fabulous- Affordable- Handcrafted. Empowered designs that fit everyone and can be worn differently everyday. Fairly traded and committed to supporting causes that empower women and emerging entrepreneurs. Designed in the USA.

Reason #7

Bloomsbury Loft offers mother's day specials

Bloomsbury Loft Inside

All mothers receive a free complimentary gift with any purchase! Also we will be having a mother, daughter class in the near future and if they sign up on Mother's Day they can a bogo price.
Stop by
745 N High St.

Reason #8

Jacob Neal Salon would like to help you celebrate Mother's Day...

by offering a gift certificate promotion. For every $100 gift certificate purchased you will receive a $25 gift certificate. We invite you to stop in the salon at 650 N High St. from now until Mother's Day for the perfect gift for your special mom!

Jacob Neal Salon inside

We also have a new spring collection of jewelry in stock that would also make a great Mother's Day gift. We have a variety of necklaces, earrings and bracelets for all different tastes. Don't miss out on these fabulous deals to make her mother's day special!

Reason #9

Bernard's Tavern

Bernard's Tavern inside

Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy on tap now, stop by 630 N High St during your Gallery Hop stroll.

Reason #10

Homage - Surf Ohio Gradient

Homage Surf Ohio

Stop into17 E Brickle St. and take home a new take on an old favorite, Silk screened with a beautiful, natural gradient so that no two pieces are exactly alike.