Archives for June 2012

Walt Disney’s Birthplace Draws Interest, but No Buyers

waltNot only do prophets lack honor in their native land, some don’t do much for real estate values — at least to judge by Walt Disney’s childhood home on Chicago’s Northwest Side.

On the market for more than a year, it offers prospective buyers a two-flat with new windows, hardwood floors and built-in nostalgia for fans of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. It was built by Disney’s father, a carpenter who worked on the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the world’s fair that reportedly inspired Disney’s theme-park ventures.

Some see the failure to sell the home, at 2156 N. Tripp Ave., as a case of good news and bad news, among them Fred Seidel.

“The city of Chicago should buy it and charge visitors for admission,” says Seidel, a construction worker who grew up nearby. “I’m interested in the arts.”

The upside, Seidel says, is that lacking a private buyer means it won’t be knocked down for new construction, a common fate of older buildings as Chicago gentrifies. The Disney home lacks a historic landmark designation, a campaign by preservationists having stalled years ago.

Walt Disney was born Dec. 5, 1901, on the second floor of the house in the Hermosa neighborhood, then a newly developed section of Chicago and now a largely Hispanic community. He attended McKinley High School, now a primary grades facility, and took classes at the now-defunct Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.

With his brother Roy, Walt Disney went to Hollywood and, in 1923, started making the animated cartoons audiences quickly embraced as part of the movie-going experience.

Even without a bronze plaque, the Tripp Avenue house attracts Disney buffs, reports its owner Radoje Popovic.

“Some came from Madrid to see it,” Popovic says. “A camera crew from Germany took pictures.”

Popovic, a real estate dealer himself, bought the building from a previous owner, June Saathoff, who had lived there for many years and resolutely opposed landmark designation.

“She was holding the windows together with duct tape,” he says. “She was an older woman living on a fixed income.”

In 1991, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks proposed the Disney home for landmark designation, inaugurating the drawn-out process often involved. When a City Council committee took up the issue six years later, Saathoff protested that landmark status could make her property hard to sell. Potential buyers would be scared off by the prospect of having to get the city’s approval for changes to the facade.

In fact, the frame structure where Disney was born had been remodeled, but the president of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects argued that it was nonetheless worthy because Disney was a worthy man, quoting President Dwight Eisenhower: “We shall not see his like again.”

Several aldermen said a world without another Disney would be just fine with them. They alleged he had a reputation for anti-Semitism and racism.

“Walt Disney was a bigot, and I’m not going to sit here on a panel and create a historical landmark for a bigot,” said Alderman Bernard Stone, just before the Committee on Historical Landmarks voted down the proposal.

Popovic, who acquired the property in 2002 for $195,000, offered it on eBay, four years later for $280,000. Subsequently, he wanted to honor its heritage by turning it into a community center where neighborhood young people could take art lessons. The project failed for lack of funding.

It’s a tough season for finding support for projects at the intersection of architecture and history: the Ernest Hemingway Foundation, unable to finance the conversion of the author’s boyhood home into a cultural center, recently sold the Oak Park, Ill., property to private owners for $525,000.

Disney’s home is on the market for a reduced asking price of $179,000.

Popovic had several nibbles, but would-be owners couldn’t get financing. Popovic says he’s not opposed to landmark designation, should the issue be revisited, a long-shot possibility under Chicago’s landmark ordinance. Disney characters were part of his Serbian childhood, just as they were to countless others worldwide. An experienced landlord, he is not intimidated by landmark regulations.

“I’ve property in Wicker Park,” Popovic says, referring to a landmarked Chicago neighborhood. “I know about planning boards and community groups.”

Meanwhile, he’s content to be the default owner of the birthplace of the great genius of the animated cartoon.

“It’s no problem,” he said. “I got good tenants.”

©2012 Chicago Tribune

6 Reasons You Should Be Using LinkedIn For Your Marketing [infographic]


source: LinkedIn Ad Platform

Record low mortgage rates

mortgage-ratesThe latest Freddie Mac report shows all-time low mortgage rates, reports the Los Angeles Times. Lenders were offering 30-year fixed loans to credit-worthy buyers at 3.66% and the 15-year fixed mortgage at 2.94%, on average. Here are the specific figures for the week ending June 28, 2012.

Foreclosures were also down by 2% in the first quarter of this year as compared to the previous quarter, according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Year-over-year, the rate fell by 8%. Overall, about 4.5% of all home loans were 60 days or more behind on payments, said the OCC, which is 10% lower than the previous quarter and 6% from one year ago.

Declining interest rates coupled with lower prices may encourage borrowers to purchase homes now rather than later, when the market begins to support higher sales prices. The National Association of Realtors expects the median existing-home price to rise 3% this year and another 5.7% in 2013.

11 things to never put in the dishwasher


A dishwasher is a beautiful thing, so handy and convenient, so wonderful for preventing a pile of moldy dishes when life loses all inertia, but there are certain things that should never enter that cave of convenience if you want them to live to serve another day.

Crystal/Hand-blown glass

Crystal and hand-blown glass are sensitive to heat so they run the risk of cracking in the dishwasher; but that’s not the only risk. Detergents can chip at them, causing them to lose their shine.

Good knives

Good knives should never be put in the dishwasher — they’re more fragile than you might think. The agitation of the dishwasher’s cycle turns the blade dull; and it can get dings and scratches from hitting other objects.

Bottles and cans

If you want to rinse cans and beans to recycle or reuse, it’s best to wash them by hand. Labels attached with glue can loosen and clog the spray arms or pump and affect dishwasher performance.

Full story at Huffington Post.

Couple Refuses to Let $4.2M Mansion Block Their View

view home 2A couple in the San Francisco Bay Area wasn’t happy that a $4.2 million mansion next door was blocking their view of the Golden Gate Bridge and water. So they purchased the mansion — and are having it demolished. 

Clark and Sharon Winslow purchased the home at a foreclosure auction, after owners of the five-bedroom, five-and-a-half bathroom property had fallen into foreclosure and vacated the home about two years ago. The home, originally built in 1909, had previously sold in 2004 for $7 million. The couple had to get the city’s permission to tear down the house. But even though the home is more than 100 years old, the city found that it didn’t hold any historical significance and allowed the couple to demolish it.

view homeThe Winslows say they plan to use the vacant space of the former home as expansive gardens for their home, which is an 11,200-square-foot, $19 million mansion, featuring 5,000 square feet of stone terraces and a 60-foot pool.

Neighbors say they are happy the couple is demolishing the home because it’s helped improve others’ views too.

“The view is really nice now!” neighbor Roger Snow told NBC News.

Source: “Marin County Couple Pays $4.2 Million to Demolish House That Blocked View,” San Jose Mercury News

Septic Systems: It’s A Dirty Business


FUNCTION OF THE SEPTIC TANK While relatively simple in construction and operation, the septic tank provides a number of important functions through a complex interaction of physical and biological processes.

Septic Systems

The essential functions of the septic tank are to: receive all wastewater from the house separate solids from the wastewater flow cause reduction and decomposition of accumulated solids provide storage for the separated solids (sludge and scum) pass the clarified wastewater (effluent) out to the drain field for final treatment and disposal.


Primary Treatment

As stated, the main function of the septic tank is to remove solids from the wastewater and provide a clarified effluent for disposal to the drain field. The septic tank provides a relatively quiescent body of water where the wastewater is retained long enough to let the solids separate by both settling and flotation. This process is often called primary treatment and results in three products: scum, sludge, and effluent.

Scum Substances

Scum: Substances lighter than water (oil, grease, fats) float to the top, where they form a scum layer. This scum layer floats on top of the water surface in the tank. Aerobic bacteria work at digesting floating solids.

Sludge and Effluent

Sludge: The "sinkable" solids (soil, grit, bones, unconsumed food particles) settle to the bottom of the tank and form a sludge layer. The sludge is denser than water and fluid in nature, so it forms a flat layer along the tank bottom. Underwater anaerobic bacteria consume organic materials in the sludge, giving off gases in the process and then, as they die off, become part of the sludge. Effluent: Effluent is the clarified wastewater left over after the scum has floated to the top and the sludge has settled to the bottom. It is the clarified liquid between scum and sludge. It flows through the septic tank outlet into the drain field.

Is it me, or is it getting hot in here?!

Social Media Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing


The Cost of Owning a Home (Last 20 Years)


Notes from the report: Prices and mortgage payments are based on the median existing single-family home price, averaged from quarterly data to obtain annual prices. Mortgage payments are calculated using the interest-rate average for that year and assume a 20% downpayment and fixed 30-year term. Rent is the median gross monthly rent from the 2010 American Community Survey, indexed using the CPI for rent of primary residence. Income is median household income.

Sources from the report: JCHS tabulations of National Association of Realtors®, Composite Affordability Index (NSA) and Existing Single-Family Home Sales via Moody’s Analytics; Freddie Mac, Primary Mortgage Market Survey; US Census Bureau, American Community Survey; Moody’s Analytics, median household income estimates.