9th Annual Community & Business Leaders Breakfast Invitation

Posted by Susy Thielen on October 29th, 2013 — in Monadnock Region Coalition

On Friday morning, November 7 from 7-9 a.m., Heading for Home is hosting the 9th Annual Community & Business Leaders Breakfast at Heberton Hall, 60 Winter Street, Keene. Are you interested in knowing why Brady Sullivan is investing in Keene? Please join other community and business leaders at Heading for Home’s breakfast featuring a special presentation by the Brady Sullivan partners on the factors developers look for before they invest in a community and why Brady Sullivan chose Keene.

The program will begin with an update on local real estate trends, followed by the featured presentation.


The real estate trends presentation will be with Bill Arnott, President, Monadnock Region Board of Realtors.

The partners of the Colony Mill & Center at Keene, Brady Sullivan Properties, is a thriving real estate development corporation that was established in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1992 with real estate Brokers licensed in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Florida, Rhode Island and Vermont. Brady Sullivan holds a sizable share of both the commercial and residential real estate markets in New England, as well as owning and managing a diverse portfolio of over three million square feet of mill, office and industrial space.


There is a $10 registration fee. Registration for the breakfast and program is required. To register, click on the “Register Now” button below. For questions, contact Susy Thielen at susyt@headingforhome.org or 352-0971.

Sponsored by Heading for Home and the Savings Bank of Walpole.


Judge sides with Walpole Planning Board in development suit

Posted by Susy Thielen on May 2nd, 2013 — in Housing News

Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013
By Kyle Jarvis Sentinel Staff

WALPOLE — The Walpole Planning Board acted appropriately when it approved the largest apartment development in the town’s history, a superior court judge ruled last Thursday.

Cheshire County Superior Court Judge John C. Kissinger Jr. ruled that a group of residents who sued the board after its approval of the project “have not met their burden of persuading the court that the board’s approval was unlawful or that, by the balance of probabilities, it was unreasonable.”

In November, the planning board approved a proposal from the Avanru Development Group of Walpole to build an apartment development along Route 12 behind Tractor Supply Co. In December, several residents filed suit against the board, alleging it acted improperly when it approved the project.

The planning board approved Avanru in 2010 to build a 48-two-bedroom-unit condominium complex, but economic factors led the developer to pursue other options. It returned last year with a new proposal to build an apartment building with 60 single-bed units and seven two-bed units. Avanru says it plans to rent those units to people ages 55 and over. The group of residents suing the board claims that plan was a ruse meant to foster greater support from state and town officials.
Read the rest of this page »

Students in the ‘Hood: How Student Housing Choices Impact the Local Housing Market

Posted by Susy Thielen on March 9th, 2013 — in Uncategorized

You are invited to join us on Friday, March 22 from 7:30-9:00 a.m. to participate in a one-time presentation featuring the findings from a recent research project completed by Keene State College geography students. The study evaluated the impact off-campus student housing rentals are having on the housing market in Keene. A moderated discussion will follow.

Location: The event will be at the Keene State College Alumni Center next to the Main Street/Marlboro Street Roundabout. There is limited parking in the rear.


  • Amelia Armstrong, Kelley Levine and Samuel Rand, Keene State College Senior Geography Students, Researchers

Special Guests:

  • Jay Kahn, Interim President, Keene State College
  • Kendall Lane, Mayor, City of Keene

A free, light breakfast is included. Registration is required by March 20. Please forward this invitation to your friends and associates. We look forward to seeing you.

To register, click the “Register Now” button, below.


Zillow: Nearly a third of US homeowners mortgage-free

Posted by Susy Thielen on January 12th, 2013 — in Housing News

By Alejandro Lazo Los Angeles Times
What mortgage meltdown?

While millions of Americans have suffered the angst of lost homes, equity and pride, nearly a third of the nation’s homeowners have no mortgage at all, according to an estimate by real estate website Zillow.

The free-and-clear class includes, predictably, retirees who have chipped away at their debts for decades, but also a surprisingly high percentage of young people and those who live in relatively affordable regions.

Economists and housing analysts said Zillow’s estimates are in line with historical norms. But the proportion of these owners is likely to grow as the nation’s baby boomers reach retirement. The fact that they can pay cash when they move will make them increasingly important players in a recovering housing market.

Read the rest of this page »

Heading for Home Business Leaders Breakfast Invitation

Posted by Susy Thielen on October 18th, 2012 — in Housing News, Monadnock Region Coalition

Join area business leaders at Heading for Home’s 7th Annual Business Leaders Breakfast from 7:30-9 a.m. on Friday, November 2 at Stonewall Farm.

The economy is beginning to turn the corner. Get the inside scoop on the early signs of recovery.

The event will feature:

  • A presentation by Jack Dugan on regional economic development projects as well as his insights into the symbiotic relationship between adequate, affordable housing and economic development. Jack is the President of the Monadnock Economic Development Corporation. He has developed over $105 million worth of real estate and 1.3 million square feet of commercial and industrial space as well as helped to create and retain thousands of jobs, and he continues to play an integral role in the revitalization effort of Downtown Keene.
  • An update on local real estate trends with Cindy Westover , President, Monadnock Region Board of Realtors and Primary Broker at Galloway Real Estate. She has been a Realtor® since 1991.
  • An overview on the Monadnock Region Future Project, a three-year project to develop a plan for the future of the Region with Tara Germond, Regional Planner, Southwest Region Planning Commission.
  • A full, delicious breakfast.

The $10 registration fee includes the cost of breakfast.

To register, click on the blue “Register Now” button below. For questions about the event, contact Susy Thielen, <susyt@headingforhome.org>.

This event is made possible through the sponsorship of the Savings Bank of Walpole.


Home sales continue to rise in county, state

Posted by Susy Thielen on September 26th, 2012 — in Housing News


Home sales numbers continue to improve, both in Cheshire County and statewide.

August residential sales came in at 80 homes sold in Cheshire County, up more than 19 percent from a year ago. For the year so far, sales are up by a third.

The August figures from the N.H. Association of Realtors were up from July in the county, both in homes sold and, perhaps more importantly at this point, in median price.

July saw 71 sales, up from that month in 2011, but down from the 78 homes sold this June.  But the median sale price in August was $159,950 — up from $141,000 in July. For the year so far, the median sale price is flat over last August’s figure.

Statewide, sales were up more than 21 percent over August 2011, though prices were stagnant.

It marked the eighth time in eight months that sales were at least 15 percent ahead of last year’s pace statewide, and brought the total number of 2012 sales to 8,413, 21 percent ahead of the 6,973 in the first eight months of 2011.

Habitat for Humanity building a model of efficiency

Posted by Susy Thielen on September 10th, 2012 — in Housing News

In Minnesota, Habitat for Humanity is building an Eco-Village, a housing development that will produce all its own power.

By Jim Buchta

September 4, 2012
MINNEAPOLIS — Nakeia and Ramell Dismond are like most working-class families: After the rent is paid, they have no money left in the budget for their kids’ activities or vacations.

That will change in a couple of months when they purchase a new home on the west edge of River Falls, Wis. Crews there are building a housing development that will produce all its own power, saving homeowners hundreds of dollars each month.

The project is the largest of its kind in the nation for Habitat for Humanity, the sixth-biggest U.S. home builder last year. The nonprofit says the development will create affordable housing at a time when mortgages have become tougher to get. It will also serve as a national model, showing for-profit developers that homes can be energy-efficient and economical on a large scale.

“A project of this size helps propel us further along that green and sustainable path,” said Matt Clark, director of construction technologies at Habitat headquarters in Atlanta. “As an industry, we all need to be moving toward green and sustainable solutions.”

The Eco-Village will create its own power through a combination of solar panels, geothermal heating and other energy-saving measures, then sell the power back to the utilities. When finished, the development will have 18 single-family and attached homes as well as a park. The St. Croix Valley Chapter of Habitat is building the Eco-Village on a once-neglected site along the edge of downtown River Falls, about 40 miles east of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
Read the rest of this page »

Local housing sales showing signs of rejuvenation

Posted by Susy Thielen on August 14th, 2012 — in Housing News

By Garrett Brnger Keene Sentinel Staff


Local housing sales showing signs of rejuvenation

The local housing market is showing fresh signs of vitality, mirroring national trends.

Sale figures from the N.H. Association of Realtors June report show Cheshire County doing exponentially better than the rest of the state compared to last year. June residential sales were 122.9 percent of what they were during the same period last year, and sales so far this year are up 42.6 percent.

Compared to last year, all of the state’s counties are doing well. Statewide sales in June were up 17.7 percent over the same 30-day period last year, and year-to-date sales are even better, having increased 20.3 percent from what they were at the same time in June 2011.
Read the rest of this page »

Have vacancies

Posted by Susy Thielen on July 23rd, 2012 — in Housing News

❑ Apartment occupancy rate in Keene lower than state average

By Jacqueline Palochko Sentinel Staff

More apartments have been available for rent in Keene in recent years, despite a statewide trend that shows vacancies are decreasing.

Some local landlords attribute the increase to the recent development of housing targeted for certain groups, such as students and senior citizens. They also suggest that fewer Keene State College students are living off-campus.

But those affiliated with the new housing in the city and the college say the numbers are small, and should have no effect on vacancies.

Right now, it’s hard to determine the exact reasons for the city’s high vacancy rate, said Susan R. Thielen, coordinator at Heading for Home, a regional housing coalition.

But it is there, she said.

“If you drive around Keene, you see a lot of houses for rent.”

The N.H. Housing Finance Authority’s annual Residential Rental Cost Survey shows the state’s vacancy rate has been decreasing for the past few years. But during the same years, Keene’s number has been rising. For example, in Keene, the vacancy rate stands at 8 percent this year, when in 2009, it was 3.6 percent. That’s compared to the state, which is at 3.2 percent; in 2009, it was at 5.3 percent.

Vacancy rates are low in the state because most communities have not seen much development of apartment buildings, said Jane Law, director of communications for the housing finance authority.

But in Keene, “we have seen quite a bit of development since 2006,” said the city’s planning director, W. Rhett Lamb.

Different views on a cause

For the first time in 11 years, Wright Properties has a vacancy.

The company has 16 units across the city that are rented primarily to college students.

Manager Regina M. Wright said she’s noticed empty apartments on the rise in the past few years.

“It started to get shaky last year,” Wright said. “But this year was significant.”

Her son, Adam Wright, owner of the company, believes the vacancies are caused by private student housing and affordable and senior housing.

Private developers have focused on off-campus student housing, such as the Davis Street Apartments that opened last August and have 51 beds, and Arcadia Hall, a four-story building that will have 137 beds when it opens later this year.

Keene-based Southwestern Community Services completed a workforce apartment building within the last year, CitySide-Keene, on Water Street. All 20 units are occupied in that building.

In recent years, Southwestern also built two senior housing buildings — Keene East Senior Housing on Railroad Street and Railroad Square Senior Housing. There are 54 units for those 55 and older in the two buildings combined.

Bentley Commons, privately developed senior citizen housing, also opened in 2008 on Water Street.

William A. Marcello, chief executive officer for Southwestern, said the occupied units should not have an effect on the city’s vacancy rate because the number of apartments is small.

Adam Wright disagrees.

“You’re taking people out of the other units,” he said.

But for tenants — especially college students — the vacancy rates give them more apartment options.

That doesn’t mean rent is going down for all apartments, though. The median gross rental cost for a unit has mostly increased for the past 10 years. And this year, Keene’s median gross rental cost — at $1,014 — was slightly higher than the state’s $1,005.

Wright said his company decreased rent for three two-bedroom apartments this past year. Previously, rent was about $600 and did not include utilities. Now, rent is still about the same price but includes utilities.

“You decrease rent and hope you get somebody,” Wright said.

William A. Beauregard, owner of Colonial Rental Management, said his company has also seen more vacancies than usual, and he also thinks some of it is because of development.

“We’ve seen a little bit of softening in this market,” he said.

It doesn’t surprise Beauregard, he said, if college students are opting to rent from the newer student housing buildings rather than apartments that have been available in the past. Apartments that used to be rented by students or senior citizens are now empty, he said.

Some property managers say a decline in students living off-campus is also to blame for vacancies.

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and this is the biggest vacancy I’ve seen,” said Rick Grauer, a landlord with Keene Cribs, a family-run business that rents apartments to students. “This year has been a tough one.”

In an effort to create more of a connection to the college, Keene State College is requiring this year’s sophomore class to live on campus, according to Kent Drake-Deese, director of residential life and housing services at the college. There will be 976 sophomores living on campus; typically, Drake-Deese said, that number is about 100 less.

Last year, the college instituted a requirement for freshmen to live on campus. The current freshman class is about 1,200 students, which is similar to last year’s.

Although upperclassmen are not required to live on campus, there will be 425 living at the college this year, Drake-Deese said. That number has fluctuated in recent years.

Drake-Deese disagrees that the current vacancy problem is because of more students living on-campus. It was always a small number of freshmen and sophomores who chose to live off-campus, he said.

Not all think the increase in empty apartments is such a bad thing, though.

Both Thielen and Marcello said it could increase competition among landlords, creating nicer apartments, both said.

Or maybe, Thielen suggested, some of those homes typically rented to students can be sold for a lower price to young professionals.

In a few years, it might be easier to determine why the vacancy rate has been high, she said, but all anyone can do now is watch and speculate.

Jacqueline Palochko can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or jpalochko@keenesentinel.com.

Why Housing Affordability Is a Mirage

Posted by Susy Thielen on June 15th, 2012 — in Housing News

Home prices and mortgage rates have made monthly mortgage payments lower than at any time in the past decade. But housing isn’t any more affordable than it was five years ago, during the go-go lending days, after factoring in down payment requirements and other financing terms, according to a new paper.

The National Association of Realtors and other housing economists typically measure housing affordability by looking at home prices and mortgage rates. Prices of course have fallen to nearly 10-year lows nationally, while rates have never been lower. Freddie Mac on Thursday said rates stood at 3.71% this past week for the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

But the total cost of homeownership, as a share of a borrower’s income, is the same today as it was during the height of the housing mania, according to the study by Andrew Davidson and Alexander Levin of mortgage consulting firm Andrew Davidson & Co.

The reason: borrowers have to put more money down to get a loan, and the exotic lending products that allowed borrowers to make low initial payments have gone away. That means while the absolute monthly payments are lower, the all-in costs of homeownership haven’t become more favorable.

Today, most lenders require minimum down payments of 20%, though loans with down payments of just 3.5% are still available through the Federal Housing Administration. During the peak of the housing boom, borrowers could bypass pesky down payments by taking out second mortgages or obtaining mortgage insurance.

“Home affordability needs to be considered in light of the full financing package,” said Mr. Davidson. “During the bubble the low all-in cost of mortgage financing allowed borrowers to purchase homes, even at inflated prices.”

The erosion of down-payment requirements from 2000 to 2006 reduced borrower costs by around 15%, according to Messrs. Davidson and Levin, while tighter down-payment standards since 2006 have raised borrower costs by 22%. That more than offsets the benefit of a drop in interest rates from around 6% to less than 4%.

At the peak of the housing bubble, loan payments were the only cost that borrowers had to consider given the ability to take out no-money-down loans. But today, loan payments constitute roughly 50% of the total cost of ownership “and are rather modest by historical standards,” the paper says. “This explains why the record-low interest rates do not impress borrowers and do not propel home prices up.”

The authors estimate that the all-in cost of a home purchase stood at more than 9% of the property value in 2011, compared to around 7% in 2006. The gap is even wider in states like California, where borrowers took advantage of exotic loan products during the boom. As a result, rising interest rates could be more than offset by more flexible underwriting standards.

  • higher