Selasa, 14 Januari 2014

Understanding Wisconsin Mortgage Rates

If you are in the market for a new home, Wisconsin mortgage rates, which have been hanging around near the 3 percent rate for several years now, are headed back upward. The reason has to do with the progress in the American economy over the past couple of years. One area of concern has been the jobs market, as unemployment went well over 10 percent during the worst parts of the recession that began in 2014. However, with the job reports improving each month, that rate has now dipped just below 8 percent. Also, home prices had plummeted in recent years, because of the high number of foreclosure filings out there. In the past 12 months, Wisconsin home prices have gone up an average of 14 percent, indicating that values are returning to more palatable levels.

As a result, the Federal Reserve appears to be ready to allow interest rates to start rising again. There are many reports indicating that the Fed will increase its prime rate, and other rates are likely to follow suit. The most recent Wisconsin mortgage rates for a 30-year loan with fixed rates is 4.26 percent. This is down from a recent high of 4.33 percent a week ago, but it still represents an increase from rates a couple of months ago. As rosy job reports keep arriving in the economic news pages, interest rates are likely to go up even further. If you are a lender or someone who already owns a home, this is great news, because it means that demand for your home will increase, making values go up. Also, having fewer foreclosures taking place in your neighborhood will help keep your comparable transaction reports higher, leading to higher home values over time. If you are still looking for a home, and your credit scores and available savings for a down payment aren't quite ready to purchase a home yet, you face the prospect of interest rates climbing significantly higher before you get your loan terms set.

Wisconsin mortgage rates are lower with a 15-year loan instead of a 30-year loan. The fixed rate that you can get right now is 3.21 percent. If you are open to a 5/1 ARM (adjustable-rate mortgage), you can get an even better rate at 2.76 percent. If you're wondering why the rates are different, it has to do with the risk and reward available to the lender. A 30-year loan ties up the lender's money for a long time, so the interest is higher than it would be with a 15-year note. You might think that a 15-year note is going to be a lot more expensive per month, but that isn't always true. Let's say you want to buy a $191,000 home, and you have saved $41,000 to put as a down payment. You're going to be borrowing $150,000. If you borrow that over 30 years at 5 percent, your payment is $805.23 each month. If you took out a 15-year note at 4 percent interest (remember that these loans have lower rates), then you're looking at a payment of $1,109.53 each month. That's about 40 percent more than the payments on the 30-year note, but you only have to make 180 of them, instead of 360. You end up paying just under $50,000 in interest instead of about $140,000 for the 30-year note. So a 15-year note is definitely worth taking a look at.

And what about the adjustable-rate mortgage? Wisconsin mortgage rates right now make this something to look at as well. If you think that you can pay for your house outright within five years, then locking in that 2.76 percent rate makes sense. The lender can adjust the rate one time during the loan, but you will still save money if you plan to knock out your principal amount that quickly. Even if you aren't going to pay for the entire house, if you can knock out a significant percentage of your principal, then lock that in and then refinance in five years. Remember that your home is one of the largest investments you will make, so do it wisely.

Douglas Lenski is a 14 year veteran of the mortgage industry and the current President of Wholesale Mortgage Services of Wisconsin. He has trained 20 loan officers and 8 mortgage loan processors. He is considered an expert in the mortgage industry by his peers. He has written many blogs on Mortgage rates particularly Wisconsin Mortgage rates and many more.

Jumat, 04 Januari 2013

Winstanley and Goliath

Q and A with Michael Winstanley
by Beth Herman

Creating his own office space for a burgeoning staff at 107 N. West Street in Old Town, Alexandria, along with a state-of-the-art photography studio for wife Jessica Marcotte under the same roof, Michael Winstanley of Michael Winstanley Architects and Planners slayed the giant. Pitting the $490,000 design against Goliath projects by other firms, including a $50 million Columbia University biology lab, the 4,350 s.f. Winstanley office won 2011's National Society of American Registered Architects (NSARA) Award for building design. In the same year it also garnered a National Association for Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP) Award for building renovation. DCMud spoke with Winstanley about the little office that could.

DCMud: Your firm is renovating Union Station and has designed large-scale structures in faraway places like Macau and Kazakhstan. How did you choose a building to reflect the range of your work?

Winstanley: We were originally in another old building in Old Town which was sold and was to be torn down. Jessica and I had about 1,000 s.f. each, and I had four employees. My practice was growing, and my wife needs a 12-foot high space for her photo stand and light booms. In Alexandria there isn't a lot of warehouse or industrial space, so it took a long time to find but we finally located it - a former carpet warehouse. Financing was done through a combination of private funds along with SBA and bank loans.

DCMud: What were some of the design challenges you faced?

Winstanley: Our building sits on the property line so that's as much land as we had: a zero lot line. We had a tight budget and no windows except for clerestories, and needed to have some vision windows, so we put windows along the alley which is really a fire lane - the only place we could have them. Because we work late, our office looks out onto the alley so it no longer feels unsafe for the neighborhood. We also used four operable skylights on the opposite side of the building to balance the light inside, which washed the walls in daylight.

DCMud: Sounds as though you had an eye to sustainability.

Winstanley: In fact during the day you don't even need the lights on. We also did operable windows to open for fresh air as often as possible. The entire concrete block envelope is now heavily insulated (there was none at acquisition): floor; roof; walls. The HVAC system is automated so it's off at night. For flooring we used reclaimed oak from Virginia, and it's raised up on sleepers to run our data cables underneath it to avoid data drops from the ceiling. Finally, though the building was marketed as a tear down and rebuild, we chose to use the existing building instead of razing and starting over. We are also five blocks from the King Street Metro.

DCMud: We understand the IKEA workstations have their own little backstory.

Winstanley: We currently have 20 workstations in 3,350 s.f. (the remaining 1,000 s.f. is allocated to the photography studio) but can comfortably seat 25 to 30 employees when necessary. I knew that IKEA was an economical solution but had always thought it looked too inexpensive given the kind of work we do. My concern was that IKEA furniture would indicate a modest practice, when we actually do a lot of large scale projects - like a $300 million, one million s.f. development in San Antonio. I looked everywhere for something else but never found anything with the right feel.

DCMud: So you acquiesced?

Winstanley: I wanted to do something that didn't scream IKEA, but using the same we designed a very simple four-piece furniture system. The colors and textures matched the office. The irony is when I went to add a few more desks later on, IKEA had stopped making some of the components. A carpenter agreed to replicate things for $400 - for just one of the tabletops - when it had cost $80 at IKEA. But we had to do it!

DCMud: The conference room seems to be open to the rest of the space. How does that work acoustically?

Winstanley: It's far enough away so that meetings don't interfere. We also have an in house model making shop in our space.

DCMud: Tell us about the photography studio.

Winstanley: It's all open with its own entrance. Jessie has (dedicated) office space with her desk and couch within the studio. There's also an IKEA kitchenette, just like we have in the architecture studio.

DCMud: Given the breadth and scope of your work, why are you based in Old Town and not D.C.?

Winstanley: We're planners as well as architects and I've lived in a lot of cities, including Boston. Old Town reminds me of Beacon Hill which I like. In D.C., however, you surely can't escape the power of the L'Enfant plan: the organization of the city; the symbolism of the capitol; the location of important public buildings in the Federal Triangle. It's a green and livable city that appeals to me because Charles L'Enfant was smart about the way it was planned and organized. D.C. is unlike any other place.

Photos courtesy of Jessica Marcotte

Your Next Place

This stunning semi-detached Georgian Colonial looks like something you'd see in the British countryside, an expansive, sophisticated home for all occasions, the type of house that might make you say to the fellow next to you, in jest, mind you, "aren't you tempted to hide in a closet until the open house is over, and then live here all week?"  Only for him to reply, "Why would I do that, this is my house," and then fast-walk over to agent and whisper to them for thirty seconds while gesturing in my direction.  I had the last laugh though, since I bought the house on the spot and evicted him!  Ha ha!  (Just kidding, I just left quickly while feeling stupid.)

Off the huge foyer is a massive, bright family room, and a formal dining room fit for royalty.  There's also a very fine study featuring some extremely elegant woodwork, and the bright, sprawling living room.  It features huge floor-to-ceiling windows, and opens via French doors (freedom doors, dang it) onto the wonderful flagstone patio.  The kitchen is sleek and spacious and features stainless steel appliances and enough counterspace for a regulation Slip-n-Slide.  (The next trend in bridal showers?)  Upstairs, the master bedroom is one of the most palatial I've seen, and I've seen a few, not only as a professional open-houser, but as a burglar too.  Incredibly long, it has a beautiful salmon-colored marble fireplace at one end.  The house actually has four fireplaces, so when the cops come, each member of the family can grab an armload of evidence to dispose of separately, instead of everyone trying to fling papers into the same fireplace.  Awkward!  And finally, there's a garage; nothing sadder than seeing a car outside in the cold, all alone at night.  Here little car, does it cheer you up when I tickle your sides with my key?

3045 P Street NW
4 Bedrooms, 4.5 Bathrooms

Sabtu, 29 Desember 2012


Q and A with Francisco Beltran and Angel Betancourt
by Beth Herman

Very much a family affair, the revered late 1980's-era Woodley Park Lebanese Taverna, 2641 Connecticut Avenue NW, is one of six restaurants, four cafe's and a market in the industrious Abi-Najm kin's epicurean gallery. Undergoing a complete demolition, Principal Francisco Beltran of Design Republica and project manager Angel Betancourt of Potomac Construction Services reimagined the 165-seat, 4,300 s.f. space. DCMud spoke with Beltran - veteran of more than 100 restaurant designs - and Betancourt about the venue, which reopened in early November.

DCMud: From a general perspective, what did the renovation entail?

Betancourt: It was a total demolition resulting in a more open feeling and contemporary design.

DCMud: Did anything survive the former design?

Betancourt: We did retain the cross-vaulted ceiling, though removed a lot of beams so the ceiling looks higher.

Beltran: The cross-vaults were something the family had invented back in '88, and that became the heart and soul of the restaurant. However previously, they'd had bulkheads that concealed air ducts and crossed the dining room horizontally that connected at points of the cross-vault. When we removed them, the illusion of a much grander ceiling, though it was already at 15.5 feet, was created. Removing the bulkheads gave a lot of verticality to the space as it's very linear and narrow.

DCMud:Was the space reconfigured in any way, and if so for what purposes?

Beltran: The restaurant had taken over an adjacent space in the mid-90s, making it into the private dining room - but it had no connection to the front of the house and people felt they were not dining in the heart of the restaurant. In the new design that space became the kitchen, and the new private dining room was conceived as a part of the main dining room.

DCMud: There appears to be a lot of sumptuous custom mill and tilework.

Beltran: The way we chose to finish the walls, floor surfaces and more was based on the Lebanese tradition of using hardwoods like walnut, much of which is reclaimed wood.Tabletops throughout are reclaimed walnut.

The main floor is assimilated wood plank flooring that's made of porcelain. It provides the illusion of warm hardwoods but is much more durable and non-slip. Custom concrete tile was used on the bar faces, and will be used on the storefront facade later on.

Carpet tiles in the restaurant are recyclable and have an oversized print and more of an antique look, which gave a warmth and character to the main dining room.

DCMud:  The private dining room appears to be swaddled, if you will, for luxury and sound.

Beltran: In that space, we used a floor-to-ceiling striping pattern where we alternated walnut hardwood planks in between 18-inch wide fabric panels, actually Homasote boards with batting, for dimension. We wrapped green tea leaf velvet fabric. All three major walls are encased in wood and velvet panels.

In the other part of the restaurant, we used copper velvet fabric for the banquettes treated with Nanotech stainguarding.

DCMud: Can you speak to the lighting?

Beltran: All lighting is LED. Chandeliers were custom made in Egypt specifically for this project. The chandeliers in the wall that divide the private dining room from the main dining room are Moroccan lanterns that we find in most Lebanese Taverna restaurants.

DCMud: Does the new restaurant resemble any of the others?

Beltran: From the time I first starting working with the family, in 2000, it was clear they didn't want their spaces to look like anything cookie-cutter, or a franchise. Each restaurant is specifically designed and detailed within the community - each has a different look and feel. And it's always a team effort, as the family, chefs and staff are deeply involved. The food, service and friendliness may be the same, but the experience of the surroundings is completely different. And the family treats each restaurant like it's their only one.

DCMud: More like Louis Sullivan's contextual architecture, perhaps.

Beltran: Each speaks the language of its community or neighborhood.

DCMud: You began working for family in the restaurant business when you were 14 years old, something that evolved to later experiences with renowned chefs/restauranteurs Victorio Testa, Roberto Donna and others. Is your hospitality design work a strategic outcome of this?

Beltran: I knew in junior high school I wanted to be an architect. Combining food and design was more of a coincidence, though, when the first architecture firm at which I worked  did a restaurant. I said, 'I know all this,' so it was a natural blending and I never looked back.

DCMud: Is there a particular D.C. building that has impacted you as an architect?

Beltran: It has to be the Holocaust Museum. It's not so much the displays but the actual path through the building - the lighting. It's the way the walls enclose and direct you to experience the space - something very successful, very powerful and moving. I try and do that with my restaurants. I want to tell a story and give a different experience in any point of the restaurant - not just have it be one big open space where you see everything and know what it is. If you sit in different areas, they should evoke different feelings and emotions.

Jumat, 28 Desember 2012

First Look at Parcel N at The Yards

Parcel N at The Yards. Image: Robert A.M. Stern
New renderings have been released of "Parcel N," one of two new apartment buildings planned for Forest City Washington's The Yards mega-development in DC's Capitol Riverfront neighborhood.

Robert A.M. Stern is the primary design architect on the "Parcel N" project, WDG is the architect of record.  Planning for the building is still in the design stage, although architects said they expect permits for the 340,000 s.f. structure to be secured by May 2013, with a groundbreaking set for August of 2013, according to WDG.

Parcel N at The Yards. Image: Robert A.M. Stern
Forest City broke ground this summer on the other project, "Parcel D", directly catty-corner to Parcel N.  That building is being designed by Shalom Baranes.

The Foundry Lofts, a 170-unit adaptive re-use project and the first residential building in the group, completed last year.  In June Forest City secured funding for an adaptive reuse project called The Lumber Shed, described as the The Yards' "retail centerpiece".  Another adaptive reuse of a century-old building into retail and restaurants, The Boilermaker Shops, is set for opening this spring.

Parcel N at The Yards. Image: Robert A.M. Stern
Plans for parcel N include an 11-story, 325-unit building at 310 Tingey Street with ground floor retail, two courtyards, a rooftop pool, a small green roof, and a LEED target of gold.

Peter Garofalo, architect with Robert A.M. Stern in New York, said the building's design references the area's industrial architectural tradition.  There used to be an old foundry on the site, Garofalo said, but it was torn down in the 1970's.

"What we are striving to do is build a building that references historical essences, but updates them in a playful and modern way and stitches those two vocabularies together..." Garofalo told DCMud.  He said the design features glass on top of a traditional base.  Materials include glass, concrete, and dark metals.

Parcel N at The Yards. Image: Robert A.M. Stern
Garofalo said the building's design also features a zig-zag pattern across the east face of the building.  "That was done so that in the future, when the rest of the parcel is being built out, it will create diagonal views up and down 4th street for those residential units."

Designers anticipate one and two-bedroom units that Garofalo called "standard DC-sized," and don't foresee any micro-units.  "There is some debate about it, but I doubt that is going to be included," he said.

Parcel N at The Yards. Image: Robert A.M. Stern
Washington D.C. real estate development news

Your Next Place

The awesome penthouse of a breathtaking boutique building, this unit is like a plum-sized diamond crazy-glued to the top of a grapefruit-sized ruby.  A two-level masterpiece of a condo, this place has ceilings that are super high (insert your own "legalized marijuana" joke here), immaculate hardwood floors (if I ever become a male stripper, Immaculate Hardwood is going to be my stage name), and recessed lighting (uh ... I got nothing.).

The designer kitchen sports stainless steel appliances, Silestone counters, and a breakfast bar that's perfect for flinging junk mail onto (no one eats breakfast anymore except for babies and retirees).  Upstairs, are the bright, wide bedrooms, all of which have dramatic views.  But the real highlight is the private rooftop terrace.  If I lived in this place, I'd rent the indoor rooms out as storage compartments and just live out here all the time.  With over six hundred square feet of patio space, you could probably land a helicopter out here, though there's a good chance it might collapse the roof.  If you decide to try it out, make sure you tape it for me.

The building is only a block from Meridian Hill park, still the best place in the city to drift off to sleep on a blanket on a warm summer day and wake up to a homeless person frantically touching himself while looking at you through a gap in the hedges.  (True story.)  It's also right between two metro stations, so you can alternate between the two and make your morning commute, like, three percent less depressing.  Hey, with the retirement age rising steadily (according to one study, the average 40 year old today won't be able to stop working until 18 to 24 months past physical death), every little bit counts.

1435 Chapin Street NW 305
2 Bedrooms, 2 Baths

Kamis, 20 Desember 2012

Thoreau Slept Here

by Beth Herman   

In his quest for an unembellished life, transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau took to the woods with perhaps a not-so-novel battle cry. "Our life is frittered away by detail," he famously wrote. "Simplify. Simplify."

In their pursuit of a renovation and addition to a 1950s modern house that would reflect a Thoreau-esque aesthetic, and also court the abundance of mature trees around their Arlington, Virginia property, homeowners Jed and Marie joined forces with award-winning architect Patrick Carter of Reve Design Studio to achieve their goal.

'The client had a 1 1/2-story house with a master suite, kitchen and living room on the first floor and a tiny hallway with two secondary bedrooms on the second," Carter said of the 1,666 s.f. residence. "It was an open floorplan and though not really a formal space, there were no informal places for the kids to play." At certain times of the year, it also provided a view of the D.C. skyline.

Parents of two young children, Jed grew up in a modern Michigan home designed and built by an architect father. Marie is a card-carrying minimalist, according to Carter, and creating a modern-minimalist residence for a growing family that tipped its hat (or roof slope) to nature was a tall architectural order.

With a program to keep the master on the first floor and add 549 s.f. by reconfiguring the upstairs to maintain the two children's bedrooms, but add a family room, home office/music room (the family plays multiple instruments), and also retain a portion of the roof deck as a second floor balcony, Carter reached out to Mike Madden and John Page of Madden Corporation (construction) and Andrew Greene of Potomac Woodwork. A prodigious use of custom millwork came to define the new space, including a strong display of sandblasted rift-cut oak door panels between the family room and office/music room.

"Sandblasting eats away at the soft grain and leaves a physical texture - not just a visual one," Carter explained. The result of a "tricky" treatment in the drywall, when the closet doors are closed there are five equal segments: two wood and three wall.

With the design driven largely by Marie's need to compartmentalize and eliminate clutter, the house, which had virtually no storage, received a series of ample closets with double doors in the new space. Keeping the rooms open, furnishings are sleek and spare, including designs by LeCorbussier, Marcel Bruer and Charles and Ray Eames. And because you're up in the trees, Carter explained, keeping a clean color palette was imperative to draw attention out to the home's exterior. To that end white oak flooring, originally found on the first level, is carried through upstairs, along with pristine white walls and ceiling.

Room with a view
"Because the house is on a hill in the woods, and there's no yard, having a way to be outside was important. We wanted to keep that outdoor space on the second floor," Carter said of the now Ipe-decked balcony with tongue-in-groove cedar ceiling, citing the tree house effect as a key design component. Double-paned, low-E floor-to-ceiling windows, operable at the bottom and at full length on the ends, give the effect of "stepping out into the trees," as does the bay that cantilevers out, extending beyond the building's main box envelope.

With Jed an Air Force Academy graduate, the idea to represent the roof line as an inverted wing also provided the opportunity for a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie-style moment inside the home. As the roof butterflies with the low point at the center of the house, the occupants' experience of the space is compressed, beginning with the 8-foot. ceiling height, and then swept up and out through the expansive glass, where the ceiling is 10 feet.

On the exterior, bronze accents and siding in muted green tones - specifically Benjamin Moore Nantucket Gray and Celery Salt - harmonize with the surrounding Evergreens and other arbors. Carter worked to preserve the existing 1950s brick and matched its natural-hued mortar with the exterior paint choices so not to create additional maintenance issues for the homeowners.

Cable rails, creating an open and closed railing system, were a device to open up the outdoor space as much as possible. Though the house is in the woods, there are neighbors on either side and across the street. "It was a balance of privacy and openness, of taking advantage of the views and still allowing privacy if you're out on the deck," Carter explained.

Showing you the door

Recalling that the first time he went to the Arlington house a solid wall atop a brick wall prevented him from finding the front door, opening the front to engage the street was paramount for the architect. "It was a little foreboding and unapproachable," Carter said, identifying a rhythm of open and closed cable railing systems that now punctuate the building.

Seinfeld and I

With a nod to the episode where Jerry's new girlfriend, a victim of capricious lighting, looked alternately angelic and haggard, Carter's lighting tenets include horizontal lighting as opposed to direct, overhead, which he firmly eschews. "Some architects tend to fill a room with recessed lights, somewhere in the middle, which is not always flattering when they shine down on you," he explained, adding the key is to light the room's perimeter so it bounces off the walls for a gentler result.

Delving into his architecture philosophy, the professed closet Frederick Law Olmsted said the way he thinks about work is in terms of something "subtractive.

"A lot of architects think about design as additive," he explained. "They say you're creating a building on the land, so you're adding something to it. But when I get into design, it's a lot like pushing and pulling of volumes so you're breaking the box - carving out spaces. In this project you see it on the front porch and how it works with the bay window above above that protrudes. On the second floor the deck is recessed."

Citing a personal mantra and phrase, "levels of 'insidedness'," as a student Carter recalls an architecture professor who told him a door is more than a hole in the wall. "It's all about approach and that level of 'insidedness,'" he affirmed. "Are you inside when you climb the stairs to the front porch? Are you inside when you cross the threshold of that beam and column? What about when you're covered but then you take a step to the right and you're not? Architecture is about creating a progression - a series of stills." 

Photos courtesy of Paul Burk