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Christmas light display could cost homeowners $75K in fines

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) After years of delighting locals, one New Jersey city is slapping homeowners with thousands of dollars of fees to keep their lights up.

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What do you get when you cross crabby New Jersey-ians with 70,000 bulb Christmas light display? If you guessed a $75,000 fine, you guessed right!

In the Old Bridge community in New Jersey, one particular Christmas enthusiast is making the naughty list. Tom Apruzzi, the aforementioned enthusiast, has been creating a light display of epic proportions for 15 years. He’s also likely been the least favorite neighbor for just as long.

The automated display in Apruzzi’s front yard synchronizes to music from speakers in the yard and has been known to attract up to 1,000 spectators a night.

Talk about a traffic jam.

In November, the Apruzzi family was given the go-ahead to proceed with their light display with no stipulations or clauses.

However, now the New Jersey Township is telling Apruzzi that if he wants to keep his display going, he will need to pay $2,000 a day, a steep price for some yuletide cheer.

That mandatory $2,000 covers police security at the DIY light show. But it’s not a standard police security rate, it is for officer overtime for the evening shift, moveable lamp posts to illuminate the regularly suburban 24-foot-wide street and the fuel it will take to run said lampposts.

There’s also an additional $1,000 a night fee for shuttling light lookers to the display from a local school.

In years past, auxiliary officers — who were not trained in crowd control — kept an eye on the situation at no charge, but the Santa’s Bootstrap efforts won’t work this year as crowd attendance is expected to best years past.

Apruzzi has called the whole ordeal “bureaucratic baloney” and a pal of his started a gofundme campaign on behalf of Apruzzi to help pay the impending fines.

‘Tis the season for “bureaucratic baloney,” fa la la la la la la la la.

Kiri Isaac is the Web Producer at The American Genius and studied communications at Texas A&M. She is fluent in sarcasm and movie quotes and her love language is tacos.

Homeownership

Start up creates online platform to make building homes easier

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) Atmos wants to help simplify the dream home building process by moving it online. Their platform will help you find builders, designers, and financing options.

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A start-up plans to bring together people, processes, and tools into one digital place for buyers to design and build their homes from start to finish. Co-founder and CEO of Atmos, Nicholas Donahue, grew up in a homebuilding family and always wondered what it would look like to use technology to rebuild the industry.

“Nearly everyone used to want to build a home; it was the American dream, but most people choose not to do it because of the complexity,” Donahue said, “While everything else has moved fully online, homebuilding is still the same in-person process. We are making the process simple enough that anyone can build the home of their dreams, modernizing and revitalizing the American dream.”

The way Atmos works is that they partner with local home builders that they claim to vet based on accreditation, reputation, proof (insurance + funds for construction loans), and pricing. Customers input their desired location and floor plan for the site on the platform. Atmos finds builders that best match the plan and coordinate the rest of the tasks to get the home built, including design, fixture packages, and financing. The company partners with local real estate agents to help sell a client’s existing home, or allows customers to use their own real estate agents if they prefer.

Atmos is participating in the California-based Y-Combinator accelerator, most known for launching companies like Airbnb, DoorDash and Instacart. The company has raised more than $2 million in VC seed round funding from Sam Altman of YC/ OpenAI, Adam Nash of Wealthfront, JLL Spark, and others.

According to Donahue, the rise in demand for housing in emerging cities coupled with low inventory makes building a more attractive option for buyers. He said “homeowners are converting from buying to building and when doing so are being forced to go online because of in-person restrictions. This has provided a huge opportunity for an online alternative to come into the space.”

Additionally, an increasing number of remote workers have come to envision their homes as combined office, schooling, and family spaces. In response, real estate agents report more requests for larger homes with outdoor space and dedicated offices, particularly for homes in the under $400k price range.

Atmos is currently focusing on Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte markets as they continue to refine their business model. Long-term, Donahue says the goal is to “redefine the way people live by enabling the next generation of homes and neighborhoods to exist.”

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Homeownership

FHFA extends rent moratoriums through August

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) Don’t freak out about the FHFA extending the moratorium, while many in the pay chain are affected, here’s what it means for Real Estate.

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As millions of Americans lost their jobs at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, the FHFA announced a temporary prohibition of evictions and foreclosures that was set to expire on June 30. After reevaluating the job market and the record low unemployment rate, the FHFA extended this moratorium through August 30.

However, never did the FHFA nor the federal government put a hold on the rent, utility bills, or car insurance. Instead, most peoples’ bills have become endless. It’s a full circle here, those who can’t pay their rent impact their landlords ability to pay rent, so on and so forth.

The FHFA moratorium extension allows Americans to attempt to catch up on their bills as their jobs open back up. That said, there will be a glut of rental inventory as thousands of residents have been laid off or furloughed and can’t possibly come up with several months’ worth of rent. The long term effects will ripple through the sector, from rent decreases in some areas, to vacancy levels plummeting in others.

That said, industry experts maintain that while the industry will slow due to the global pandemic, the housing sector will be revived toward the second half of the year. It is not expected to be at full steam within this calendar year, however.

NAR President Vince Malta recently commented on existing home sales, “Although the real estate industry faced some very challenging circumstances over the last several months, we’re seeing signs of improvement and growth, and I’m hopeful the worst is behind us.”

But landlords are in a different boat than the rest of the sector, and have a certain struggle ahead. Some refused to be flexible with renters, while others have sought ways to retain residents without having vacancies or having to invest in turning a unit. This moratorium helps many renters, but landlords, particularly private landlords (not multifamily) will be hard hit.

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Homeownership

4 million homeowners skip mortgage payments as forbearance requests slow

(REAL ESTATE) It is no surprise that mortgage payments are being skipped across the nation, but it’s not all a total loss…

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Over 4.1 million American homeowners are currently skipping their mortgage payments on a temporary basis as COVID-19 keeps the economy shut down, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).

Meanwhile, forbearance requests have slowed – the MBA’s weekly survey indicates that 8.16 percent of total loans are now in forbearance plans, up from 7.91 percent the week prior, and while the share of loans in forbearance is rising, the trend is toward requests decreasing.

Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, said in a statement, “There has been a pronounced flattening in loans put into forbearance – despite April’s uniformly negative economic data, remarkably high unemployment, and it now being past May payment due dates.”

Congress passed the $2.22 trillion CARES Act (the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), under which homeowners holding a federally backed home loan may delay mortgage payments for up to a year, but politicians are quick to remind folks that the money is still due, and fees may still apply during the forbearance period.

This relief effort is the primary reason so many did not pay their mortgage this month. People are still unsure of whether or not they will be employed in the near future, and are managing their finances accordingly, particularly while lenders are still in the mood to negotiate. Economists believe that difficulties will be ongoing, and homeowners will continue to struggle as a whole.

While our economy hasn’t been hit this hard since the Great Depression, and unemployment numbers reveal widespread economic devastation, slivers of hope remain. Forbearance requests slowing isn’t the only housing hope – new home construction levels are down, but nowhere near at the same pace as other sectors harder hit.

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