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Garage Fire Safety – Common Sense Minimizes Risk

by Charles Furlough


For many homeowners, a shiny new car is as integral a part of the home as the roof and the door—and it’s often right next to both. That’s because many people go to great lengths to protect the beloved car from the elements, chief of which is garaging it rather than leaving it out in the driveway.

Garaging a car keeps it safe and snug—but, if the garage is attached to the home, some risks ensue. One major risk is fire. Most folks have plenty of combustible material in their garages, from gas and oil cans to cleaning products. Combine this with all the fuel and oil in your car, and one errant leak can ignite a devastating fire.

A less obvious, but just as dangerous, concern is carbon monoxide, which is potentially deadly. (In fact, now is the perfect time to check and make sure you have a CO2 alarm in your home and that it’s working). What makes carbon monoxide so scary is that it’s invisible—odorless, colorless, and tasteless—and it’s in your car’s exhaust. Always keep not only the exterior garage door open, but keep your car door open as well, when starting the car—the goal is to have as much ventilation directly to the outdoors as possible. Also, don’t idle the car in the garage; pull the car out of the garage as quickly as possible after starting the car. It sounds basic, but it’s easy to make mistakes and get distracted as soon as you get in the car.

Luckily, there’s no need to panic over these risks—you can minimize them. Just use common sense, and rest assured that you have a whole bunch of codes on your side. Those codes, and the builders who put them into practice, can help to greatly minimize the risk. Here’s a rundown of U.S. national fire codes for attached garages in single-family homes:

-Half-inch gypsum board is required on the garage side of any walls that the garage and house share, as well as any walls that support a ceiling in the garage that is connected to the house. This gypsum board helps prevent fire from igniting wall studs and quickly spreading to the house.

-Any garage ceilings common to the house must contain fire-resistant 5/8 Type X gypsum board.

-The door from the garage into the house must be fire-resistant; it must either have a 20-minute burn rating or, if not rated, must be solid and 1 3/8 inches thick. Lastly, this door must not open onto a room used for sleeping.

-The garage floor must be non-combustible.

-No supply or return air registers or ducts may be in the garage, under any circumstance. Any duct-work that passes through the garage with no openings (the only kind, as no openings are allowed) must be sealed with fire-stop caulking. The ducting material must be 26-gauge steel.

Note that these are national codes; many local codes, which usurp national codes where applicable, are even more stringent. And if you are worried about remembering the above when buying or selling a home, don’t worry—you don’t have to. Just choose a good home inspector, who will know all the rules regarding garage safety. Your only other job, besides exercising common sense, is to drive carefully and enjoy your new wheels.

By Charles Furlough  RISMEDIA

Secrets to getting a mortgage with so-so credit

by Les Christie

Getting a mortgage can be tough these days -- even people with near-perfect credit have been rejected for loans. But for some lucky borrowers, things aren't as bad as the doom-and-gloom crowd says.

At a recent press conference, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said lending standards for mortgages have tightened so considerably that "the bottom third of people who might have qualified for a prime mortgage in terms of, say, FICO scores a few years ago -- cannot qualify today."

Indeed, roughly one-in-four mortgage applicants was denied in 2010, up from about 18% in 2003, according to data from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council. And those are just the ones that apply -- many discouraged potential borrowers don't even bother to apply anymore.

Yet, there is money to lend. Bob Ryan, the acting commissioner for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, recently said that mortgage money "is flowing, it's stable, it's tightened from the boom years, but it's there."

And many of those potential home buyers sitting on the sidelines may just have a shot at it -- as long as they take a few crucial steps.

"The belief is that you can't get a mortgage at all -- but you can," Keith Gumbinger, of the mortgage information provider HSH Associates.

What you need for traditional mortgages:
Most of the major mortgage underwriters have only returned to the more prudent standards of the days before the housing bubble. Now, according to Tuck Bradford, a branch manager with lender Mortgage Master, borrowers usually must meet four criteria in order to get a mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the two government-run mortgage giants:

• The ability to make a 20% down payment, plus closing costs.
• A good credit score. Borrowers usually need a minimum credit score of 620.
• Enough income to afford payments. The general rule of thumb: no more than 28% of your gross income should go toward housing costs.

• A loan-to-value ratio of 80%. Lenders want the home value to far exceed the mortgage balance because if a borrower defaults, the bank sells the home to recoup the loss.
In today's market, however, even having all four of these factors in place doesn't always guarantee that you will get a loan.

Steve Habetz, a loan officer in Westport, Conn. had a client who was seeking to refinance but he had a single blemish scarring an otherwise spotless credit report. The client had a couple million dollars in assets, high income, ample home equity -- and a strong credit score of 700.
"This guy was a Boy Scout when it came to paying debts," said Habetz. "He had never been late."

Yet, Habetz couldn't get him a mortgage. The problem: an investment property the client had owned and tried to unload but couldn't (thanks to the housing bust). He eventually resorted to a short sale -- a deal in which the proceeds of the sale are insufficient to pay the amount owed on the mortgage and the bank agrees to forgive the losses.

Not only did the short sale lop 100 points or so off his credit score, but it also resulted in an automatic rejection of his refinance application.

"It's maddening," said Habetz. "Other than that one detail, he's very low risk. Because he had the short sale, he's out of the box for two years."

But, for every client like Habertz's who gets rejected, there are those who have been much luckier at landing mortgage loans. And typically, they have turned to the Federal Housing Administration for help.

"The FHA is just about as free and easy as it was in the go-go days," said Gumbinger.

Standards for these loans, insured by the FHA and issued by regular mortgage lenders, are flexible and aimed at making mortgage borrowing easier, especially for working-class Americans.

For years, the FHA had no minimum credit score requirement at all. Now though, it requires a minimum of 580 to qualify for a 3.5%-down loan and 500 for a 10%-down mortgage.

In practice, however, some banks will impose higher standards, according to Scott Sheldon, a loan officer with First California Mortgage in Sonoma County, Calif.

"We FHA lenders have to protect ourselves and we've been going with a 640 minimum for a 3.5% mortgage," he said.

How one high-risk borrower got lucky:
Sheldon had one client who seemed like an impossible case. The client was buying a home in Healdsburg, California, the heart of Sonoma's wine country. His credit score was just over 600, he was paying alimony and child support and he only had enough money for a small down payment. And there was one additional tiny problem: He had just emerged from bankruptcy in April 2009.

In other ways, he was low-risk borrower. He grossed $10,000 a month, ample enough to satisfy debt-to-income guidelines on the $315,000 home he was buying, and he was able to document a stable work history.

The client knew he had to raise his credit score above the 600 level in order to improve his chances. So he paid a credit repair service, Lexington Law, about $500 to find and correct errors in his records. That helped boost his score above 640.

The client got the loan and closed on a home a couple weeks ago. The bankruptcy made it tough -- but not impossible.

As Melanie Roussell, a spokeswoman for the FHA explained, the agency is willing to overlook a blemish on a credit report -- even a big one -- if other factors are favorable.
In today's unforgiving housing market, that's music to a borrower's ears.

Williamsburg on the Hudson

by Peter Applebome
google map to real pro systems

Call it the Brooklynization of the Hudson Valley, the steady hipness creep with its locavore cuisine, its Williamsburgian bars, its Gyrotonic exercise, feng shui consultants and deep clay art therapy and, most of all, its recent arrivals from New York City.

Jenifer Constantine and Trippy Thompson, bartenders in Williamsburg, found the adventurous loft life there a bit too precarious after the birth of their first child in 2007, and moved to New Paltz to open their own minimalist, Brooklynesque bar and restaurant in Rosendale, Market Market, with a locavore menu and weekly spoken-word slams.

Dave Lerner, a musician, found the Brooklyn life getting claustrophobic and moved to West Saugerties, a placed that seemed different but part of a familiar universe, where there was music and culture but you could bike, hike and breathe.
John Friedman, a lawyer who lived in Greenwich Village, fell in love with Hudson and went from making mostly telecom deals in Manhattan to making mostly agriculture deals in the Hudson Valley.

Kate Doris left her hometown of Kingston as it skidded downward after I.B.M. left in the ’90s. Now she’s back, plugged into the local art scene, amused at the number of her Brooklyn friends who have also moved up.

The greening of the Hudson Valley did not begin yesterday. It’s as revealing for what it’s not as for what it is. And given the comatose national economy, many grains of salt should be added to any rosy projections.

Still, in the best case, it adds up to more than refugees from the city, fair-trade coffeehouses in every far-flung town and unexpectedly cool places and culture — the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice, the Last Bite in High Falls, the Wassaic Project arts organization in a refurbished mill and animal auction house.

Instead, you could argue, it’s a new chapter in an old story — Henry Hudson’s voyage of discovery, the Hudson Valley School’s attempt to capture an American Eden, updated for the Twitter era and based around sustainable, human-scale agriculture; manageable towns that are neither giant cities nor cookie-cutter suburbs; a $4.7 billion tourism industry; and the mountains, valleys and rivers of one of America’s unspoiled places.

“We’re in the early stages of a green economic revitalization of the Hudson Valley,” said Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, which half a century ago was at the heart of a battle to save Storm King Mountain, spurring on modern environmentalism.

“The land is being preserved,” he said. “Waterfront parks are being created. Water supplies are being protected. There’s a green economy that’s being born.”

IN the beginning was the river, which the Indians called Muhheakantuck — “river that flows two ways” — because for about half its 315 miles it is also a tidal estuary, where salty water meets fresh.

Life on the shore has flowed two ways, too, through culture and commerce. For almost a century, beginning around 1825, the Hudson Valley was the nation’s first industrial heartland, an incessant bustle of shipbuilding, ironworks, railroad lines, shipping docks, cement, stone, iron, lumber, weaponry and even whaling industries.

The valley was also a seminal creator of American culture, from Washington Irving, who became America’s first international literary celebrity, to the Hudson Valley School and later to artist colonies and the Woodstock Festival. The factories are almost all gone. The cultural buzz remains.

You can pick your favorite current image of industrial past and creative present. The stunning Dia: Beacon collection of massive modernism in an old factory on the Hudson? The exhilarating Walkway Over the Hudson that turned an abandoned railroad bridge into the world’s longest pedestrian bridge? The industrial spaces turned into artists’ studios in uptown Kingston?

But the Basilica Hudson seems as good a snapshot as any. Built in 1884 as a foundry and forge for manufacturing steel railway wheels, it finally shut down as a glue factory using rabbit hide in the ’90s. Almost a decade ago, its 18,000 square feet were reimagined as a local gathering and performance space for ska concerts, avant-garde movies, art exhibits, filming and recording.
Like almost everything in the Hudson Valley, it’s still a work in progress. But its owners, Melissa Auf der Maur, a seriously glamorous Montreal native who has played bass for bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Hole, and Tony Stone, a filmmaker, come from central casting as exemplars of the new, hip Hudson Valley.

The Basilica is the kind of space and scene that the artist and musician Patti Smith (no stranger to Hudson) had in mind a few months ago when she advised young artists that “New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling” and that they should find their futures someplace else, like Poughkeepsie.

“A bunch of my friends from Montreal came to visit and they said, ‘You told us you moved to a small town, but you didn’t tell us you moved to a magic David Lynch town. What is this place?’ ” Ms. Auf der Maur said.

Hudson, she added, has the feel of SoHo decades ago. “There’s the sense that it’s manageable, it’s beautiful, it has infrastructure that can inspire you and facilitate your needs and get you to feel like you’re part of a moment of discovery.”

Not long ago, Hudson was notorious for drugs, prostitution and post-industrial torpor. Now, Warren Street, with its antique stores, galleries and hip restaurants, is a vision of the Hudson Valley reborn. And it was the scene of perhaps the last great battle between the old industrial Hudson Valley and the new one, when a coalition of interest groups came together to defeat a proposed coal-fired cement plant with a 40-story smokestack capable of producing two million tons of cement a year. Opponents said it would be an environmental disaster that would cut off access to the river and go against everything Hudson was becoming. They made an overwhelming case. But in the housing projects and poor neighborhoods just off Warren Street, strangers in the new landscape, it doesn’t seem so clear.

Sitting in a downtown park, Calvin Wilson Sr., 63, said it was nice to see the revival on Warren Street, but it didn’t offer much for him or for young people growing up in a town whose population is almost a third black and Latino, and in which one in five residents is living below the poverty level. “All those old factory jobs, they’ve all dried up,” Mr. Wilson said. “So, where those people going to work? Me, I wished they’d built that cement plant.”

THERE is a parlor game people sometimes play, comparing Hudson Valley towns with New York neighborhoods, said Sari Botton, a freelance writer in Rosendale.

For instance, Rhinebeck might be the Upper East Side, Woodstock the West Village, New Paltz the Upper West Side, Beacon the East Village, Rosendale and High Falls different parts of Williamsburg. Tivoli could be compared to Greenpoint, Hudson to Chelsea, Catskill to Bushwick, Kingston to a mix of Fort Greene and Carroll Gardens.

The migration north began with the weekender incursions in the ’80s and ’90s, gained a more urgent and permanent tone after 9/11, stumbled during the real estate bust and is now finding its way again. But, for all the images of upstate decay, the population of the Hudson Valley is growing more than twice as fast as that of the rest of the state — 5.8 percent over the past decade, compared with 2.1 percent for New York State and New York City. (While there are no universally accepted boundaries to the Hudson Valley, this reference includes the counties north of suburban Rockland and Westchester and south of the capital region: Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia and Greene.)

Add in disparate institutions with some shared sensibilities — Bard, Vassar and SUNY New Paltz; the Culinary Institute of America and the sustainable agriculture Glynwood Institute; the New Age Omega Institute, Dia:Beacon, the Storm King Art Center, the green, hip and upscale Chronogram Magazine — you can posit a synergy that is gaining critical mass.

Some of the growth is an extension of suburban New York into Putnam and Orange Counties. The rest is an exurban phenomenon facilitated at least in part by new technology, the limitations of space and cost in the five boroughs and the natural search for something new.

For some it’s generational. The Hudson Valley seems a cooler and more affordable alternative to the suburbs. David Clark moved to Beacon seeking space for his ceramic tile business, ModCraft, in a place that felt familiar and creative. At 43, he also felt he had outgrown Williamsburg. “At some point you look around and find yourself surrounded by club kids and feel, well, maybe I’ve done this already,” he said.

For others, the Hudson Valley just seemed a natural fit. Amber Rubarth, 28, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter who used to carve wood sculptures with chainsaws, figured she could make music and live a creative life just as easily in Rosendale as in Brooklyn, and more sanely. “I go into the city once or twice a week,” she said, “but there’s nothing I can’t do living here, and it’s nice to fall asleep and wake up to birds singing rather than trash trucks rolling down the street.”
Still, as with everywhere else in America, the question remains: All right, but where are the jobs? Mr. Sullivan of Scenic Hudson said one answer could be the abandoned I.B.M. complex now called Tech City in Kingston. Its 258 acres, 28 buildings and 2.5 million square feet of industrial and office space are envisioned as a state-of-the-art locale for solar, green energy and sustainable agricultural businesses, like bakeries and fish hatcheries. Across the street is the ambitious nonprofit Solar Energy Consortium, formed in 2007 to assist and incubate solar and green companies. It’s an alluring vision.

Whether it becomes reality is another matter. Todd Roberts, chief executive of one of the firms there already, Solartech Renewables, is enthusiastic about the site and the industrial solar panels his company makes, but realistic about the obstacles ahead.

“We know it’s going to take root somewhere, but if the market doesn’t grow here, and the subsidies don’t change in China, that’s where it’s going to be,” he said.

If you were an investor wagering on any Hudson Valley city, it might be Beacon, with a world-class attraction in Dia:Beacon, its walkable downtown, and an emerging art scene a 90-minute train ride from Grand Central Terminal.

But you would still be hoping for the best, as you would with almost every place in the area. Maybe the Roundhouse at Beacon Falls, a proposed 58-room hotel and spa, with a fancy restaurant and living and work space for artists, will succeed, and revitalize an area of shuttered factories and warehouses. Maybe the historic downtown theater will reopen, and the old incline railroad will be rebuilt. But maybe not.

On a summer Tuesday afternoon, it’s still a ghost town.

Tim Davis, 48, in Chicago Bulls cap and colors, has lived in Beacon almost all his life, but he is moving to Atlanta. “There’s no work here,” he said. “Basically they’ve turned this place into Antiqueworld. When we had the factories, this was a money-making town. Now it’s not. Everyone I know is moving to the South.”

At the Morphicism gallery, the proprietor, Jay Palefsky, offered a cheerful greeting: “A customer! In Beacon!”

So many people have moved to Beacon from Brooklyn that people now call it NoBro, he said. He would like to buy into the hype, but he doesn’t see it. The economy is dead. The Internet has killed downtown commerce. He has seen well over a dozen businesses come and go in the five years he has been in business. “People want the access to the city without the craziness of the city,” Mr. Palefsky said. “But this just needs a lot of variables to make it work. One is the economy, and I don’t think that’s going to happen. Sorry to be so negative. I just don’t grasp the optimism.”

But optimism is one thing you find in the Hudson Valley, to an extent not seen elsewhere. It is true that, even here, it takes more than art, farm stands and caffeine to make an economy work — especially for those who don’t make a living with a laptop or a paintbrush. But in a culture sometimes whipsawed between a desire to be in the middle of the storm and to be a million miles away, the Hudson Valley offers the promise of both, the upstate hills and quirky towns just 90 minutes from Manhattan, said Bradley Thomason, who moved his small technology and organizational development consultancy, Miraclelabb, from Manhattan to the mighty metropolis of Accord last year.

“This isn’t like the tech revolution,” he said. “I’d be worried if there were some big kaboom Hudson Valley moment. But I think what you’re seeing is a slow progression toward something that can sustain itself.”


 

By Peter Applebome, The New York Times

 

Displaying blog entries 1-3 of 3

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Laurel Sweeney
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nutshell Realty
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