The housing market report from the third quarter of 2017 found 38,475 homes sold in New York.  That is the second best number for the third quarter just behind 2017’s third quarter of 39,963.  The number of homes listed for sale at the end of the quarter was 71,930, a drop of 7.7% compared to the same time in 2016.  “Home sales remained strong across the empire state through the third quarter constrained only by the ongoing decline in the number of home available for sale” according to Duncan Mackenzie, the states Association of Realtors Chief Executive Officer.

In an article in The Journal News on October 23, 2017 entitled “Home Sales just miss N.Y. Record” by Natasha Vaughn.  The total number of closed sales for the first nine months of 2017 was 98,176, a 1.7% increase over 2016.  The cost of homes in New York has also gone up.  The median sales price during the third quarter of 2017 was 261,000, a 5% increase over the median price over 3rd quarter of 2016.

“It’s a sellers housing market” is the title of an article in The Journal News on December 13, 2017 by Akiko Matsuda where he explains that the United States housing market has been branded a seller’s paradise with limited home inventories pushing up the prices.  Thight housing supplies create faster price increases and plentiful inventories keep a lid on value.  The lower Hudson Valley homes with access to New York City priced under $1 million drew the most buyers to Westchester County has been having record sales volume and record low inventory because of the buyers who have been priced out of New York City.  Westchester’s northeast town of Bedford, Byram Hills, Pleasantville and Sound Shore, Blind Brook, Harrison, Mamaroneck and Rye markets where housing have been historically higher than other areas are showing some weakness. “We service significant outflow of buyers from New York City to Westchester and Putnam searching for affordability.  Holly Millstorm, a real estate agent with Julia B. Sotheby’s in the Pelham area states “medium to low price range has been very hot” with those buyers who want to down size as well as first time home buyers haven flocked to relatively small homes priced below $1 million.

As a result of the snow storm/blizzard on January 4, 2018, and the freezing temperatures and wind child below zero for seven days, we are reporting our snow and ice checklist of March 16, 2017.

If you are a victim and sustained physical injuries as a result of a fall on snow & ice, the following should be done:

  1. Do not move before making sure you haven’t sustained a fracture or a serious injury;

Since July 31, 2015, we have been blogging about cyclists and bike lanes.  The July 31, 2015 blog gives you the rules of the road for “Cyclists & Cars”.  On September 28, 2015, we specifically blogged on bicycle lanes and various municipalities. On July 29, 2016, we blogged about bicycle safety.  On November 11, 2016, we blogged about bike lanes being delayed in New Rochelle.  Our last bog on bicycle lanes was on June 30, 2017 dealing with bike laws in the Town of Mamaroneck.

Today, we are going to blog on bike lanes on Route 9 and the cooperation of five villages in creating bike lanes along Route 9. Pedaling alongside cars and trucks along Broadway is unthinkable.    The car and truck lanes are full and without a bike lane, it is almost impossible to bike on Route 9.

According to an article on the front page of The Journal News on October 25, 2017 by Richard Liebson, a steering committee of five villages, consortium are working for the connection of a bike lane along Route 9.  The Route 9 active transportation conceptual design plan is bringing together residents, merchants and government officials from Hasting-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow.  They are looking into ways to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety along Route 9.  One of the members of the steering committee is Daniel Convissor who said “there’s a lot of potential here but right now, it’s a system that was built for cars not people.  If we create a system that makes biking convenient and safe for cyclists, people will do it”.  Earlier this year the steering committee used a $150,000 grant from the State Bridge Community Benefits Program to hire traffic consultant, Nelson Nygaard who is developing a plan using research data from a series of committee meetings.  The result of their work will be available in the Spring, 2018. Their final report will be presented to the Villages along Route 9 which will decide how to proceed.

Volkswagen took a $2.95 billion charge in the third quarter of 2017.  The cost to retrofit or buy back U.S. diesel vehicles that was part of the emissions cheating scandal.  This added cost pushes Volkswagen’s total cost for the scandal past $30 billion.

One of the reason for the cost of the scandal is “proving to be far more technically complex and time consuming than originally thought, according to an article in The Journal News on September 30, 2017 by Kevin McCoy.  This added cost could erase more than half of Volkswagen’s $5.3 billion earnings for the third quarter.  Volkswagen share closed .07% lower.

The scandal involved cheating technology installed in Volkswagen’s diesel powered vehicles to circumvent U.S. clean-air emissions standards.  In June, 2016, Volkswagen agreed to a $14.7 billion settlement for claims over its U.S. cars with 2 liter diesel engines three months ago.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency approved planned fixes to Volkswagen’s 2 liter diesel cars from 2009 through 2014, including the Jetta, Jetta SportWagen, Golf, Beetle, Beetle convertible and Audi A# models.

New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee has been studying “textalyzer” technology since July, 2016.  The technology has the potential to determine if a driver had been using their phone in the moments leading up to a car accident.

According to an article in The Journal News on September 21, 2017 by Natasha Vaughn “this year New Yorkers set an all-time record for seatbelt use. But many of those same motorists who are saving lives by buckling up are still texting behind the wheel putting countless lives at risk” said Terri Egan , Executive Deputy Commissioner of New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.  Texting while driving has become increasingly perilous on the roadways.  New York has bolstered laws to crack down on the habit between 2011 and 2015.  678 people died from distracted driving car accidents in New York.  During the same time, 2,784 people were injured as a result of cellphone related car crashes.  In 2015, New York issued 217,021 tickets for cellphone violations.  39% of these tickets were for texting while driving.

In 2015, New York increased the penalty for texting while driving from 3 points to 5 points and made it up to $200 fine for the first offense.  Young drivers under 21 with a junior license can get their license suspended for a first offense.  The ongoing study of textalyzer technology has been looking into variations of the product.

The shortage of houses on the market has brought about some long expected price increases in most areas of the Mid-Hudson.  In Westchester County, the second quarter of 2017 single family homes had a median sale price of $670,000.  An increase of $20,000 or 3.1% over last year’s level.  According to an article by Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, the mean sales price of $900,000 was 7% more than last year indicating that the high end sector is reinserting itself into the sale prices.  Westchester condominiums and cooperative saw an increase of 5.3% & 3.9% respectively.  Orange County which has had high sales volumes but flat prices saw a second quarter single family median prices of $235,000, an increase of 5.6% from 2016.  Rockland County’s median price at $441,387, a 2.6% increase and Putnam County median price at $345,000 was a 9.9% increase over last year.  Buyers are operating in a market that has seen tremendous reduction in the supply of housing over the past four years.  At the end of 2014, there were 12,153 listings posted with Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service.  By the close of the second quarter of 2017 had plunged by 344 units to 8,713 or 28.3% fewer listings.

The article in The Somers Records on July 27, 2017 by the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors states Westchester posted 2,642 sales for an increase of 1% over 2016.  Orange County posted an impressive 1098 sales, an increase of 13.8%.  Almost all in the single family housing sector.  Rockland County had a 3.8% increase in single family sales.  Rockland’s condominiums sector had an increase of 33.6% in sales.  Putnam County reported a decrease in single family sales of 5.4%.

In an article in USA Today – The Journal News on August 11, 2017 entitled “number of homes for sale sinks to a 20 year low explains one reason for the shortage of single family homes on the market.  The article by Roger Yu and Paul Davidson states that the baby boomers grow increasingly reluctant to trade up or down from their existing homes.  More than half of its survey respondents or 59% said they do not plan to sell their houses in the next year. This crunch has driven home price index up nationally by 5.6% in May from a year earlier.  The housing shortage forced many first time buyers to consider smaller homes and condos.

Some self-driving vehicles need sophisticated sensors producing data being analyzed by powerful computers.  An article in The Journal News on June 25, 2017 by Marco Della Cava writes “it seems the success of this transportation revolution hinges on decidedly low tech material: Paint”.   The most critical upgrade of infrastructure amounts to making sure the lines on 4 million miles of roads are solid, bright and preferably white so they can be picked up by computer vision gear.

A USA Today network survey of nearly a dozen states hoping to lead the way in self-driving cars and trucks reveals varying degree of readiness as officials balance anticipating a high shift in mobility with a reluctance to spend infrastructure funds.  Some states such as California, Michigan, Arizona and Ohio are eagerly welcoming self-driving vehicle tests and beginning to make upgrades to roads to accommodate self-driving vehicles.

Two factors make it difficult for states to dive headlong into concrete infrastructure, improvements whether that is painting lane stripes or embedding sensors in road and traffic signs. The first according to the article is a lack of national vision for self-driving vehicles.  President Trump promised to spend upwards of 1 trillion on infrastructure needs.  But so far there is no road map for securing such funds.  The second factor causing some states to put the brakes on is the sense that tech companies such as Uber & Google.  Waxmo and automakers such as Ford, General Motors and others are developing self-driving cars that will have sensors and mapping systems that will not rely on roadway upgrades.

New York has been talking about self-driving vehicles for the last four years.  The first obstacle was a New York Law that requires to have at least one hand on the wheel while the car is in motion.  In late April, 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped in and set aside that law to jumpstart a one year pilot program that gives self-driving companies access to New York roadways.  New York began accepting applications for companies in testing autonomous vehicles.  Audi was the first to receive approval.  Self-driving cars are the next frontier in transportation with potential to vastly improve traffic safety on New York roadways.

According to an article in The Journal News on June 25, 2017, by Thomas C. Zambito and Nathan Bomey self-driving cars are likely to disrupt business models.  (See our blog of October 4, 2016).   Disruption on that scale could represent one of the more dynamic changes to the American economy in the 21st Century.  Twenty-two states have passes legislation related to self-driving vehicles.  The patchwork of rules being created by states could play havoc confusing owners of self-driving cars.  With autonomous vehicle technology changing quickly, no on e

Knows how these cars will evolve.  That is why it is important to develop regulations that are adaptive and flexible.

New cars have cameras, computers and warning signals to make driving safer.  However, all cars have outdated 20th century technology for headlights.  On May 26, 2017, an article in USA-Today The Journal News by Nathan Bomey entitled “Vehicle headlights are stuck in tech’s dark ages”.  According to the article, 250 pedestrians are killed at night every year crossing the road and many cases it is because drivers can’t see them because their headlights don’t shine bright enough.  These findings are backed by headlight expert Michael Flanagan at The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded last year that two-thirds of lighting packages available on 21 small SUV models including Jeep Wrangler, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and the Nissan Rogue deliver poor performance.  Ten midsized car headlights systems were poor including Buick Verano, Hyundai Sonata and the Mercedes Benz C Class. The headlights of seven pickup trucks were rated poor including the Ford F-150, the GMC Canyon and the Toyota Tundra.

The cause of these poor headlights is outdated federal rules that have blocked automakers from introducing head lamps that automatically adjust to oncoming traffic to reduce glare even though the technology is available in Europe and Japan.  According to AAA “there’s technology available today that could potentially reduce some fatalities and it would be simply a matter of regulation change to allow that in the U.S.”

It has now become a sellers’ market because demand for single family homes is up and prices have not reached pre-recession levels.  In an article in the Putnam-Northern Westchester Express of the Journal News on May 11, 2017 by Akiko Matsuda, points out that at a recent open house on North Ridge Street, Rye Brook, New York, 26 group of visitors (young families with young children) toured the 1,797 sq. ft. home put on the market for $699,900.  A day later, the listing agent reported that they had received multiple offers.  Bidding wars were already common place for move-in ready homes in river towns and southern Westchester that offer easy commute by Metro North to Grand Central station.  The inventory is not keeping up with the demand.

Joseph Rand of Better Homes & Gardens Rand Realty states “the story of the real estate market is lack of inventory”. The market is hot and buyers’ demands are very strong.  “We need more listings coming on the market”.  The tight inventory has started driving prices up.  The volume of home sales has been rising in both Westchester & Rockland Counties.  The buyers are young couples with families that left New York City looking for more space.  Single family home sales in the first quarter of 2017 was the highest first quarter in a decade according to Jonathan Miller, President of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants.  “The single family homes inventory was the lowest first quarter in 13 years”.  The number of single family homes for sale in the first quarter of 2017 was down 17% from 2016 in both Westchester & Rockland Counties.  According to Kenyatta Jones-Arieta of Nyack based R2M Realty “when properties come on the market, especially in our area, if they are priced right they get offers and don’t last.  They go within a first week if not the first few days”.  Rand states the levels of sales activity is back where it was in the pre-recession era.

The median sales prices wildly vary in different communities in the region, but the most desirable prices seem to be between $400,000 and $600,000. A majority of first home buyers that are flocking to the lower Hudson Valley aren’t looking for something fancy.  Dorothy Jensen Realty in White Plains states “a lot of people are just looking for a basic house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms”.  They do not want homes that are basic and dated.  They do want their home to be pretty much move in.  If the buyers are spending $400,000 and it is their first home, they do not have a lot of money saved to do major renovations.