Howard County Healthiest, Baltimore City Least Healthy, Garrett Near Middle

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Howard County Healthiest, Baltimore City Least Healthy, Garrett Near Middle

Feb. 18, 2010

Howard County has the healthiest residents in Maryland and Baltimore City has the least healthy in the state, according to a new report released Tuesday by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The project is the first of its kind to rank the overall health of the counties in all 50 states – more than 3,000 total – by using a standard formula to measure how healthy people are and how long they live.
Garrett County’s residents fall near the middle of the list of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City, ranking 14th in health outcomes and 13th in health factors.

Maryland’s 10 healthiest counties, starting with most healthy, are Howard, Montgomery, Frederick, Queen Anne’s, Carroll, Talbot, Calvert, St. Mary’s, Harford, and Worcester. The 10 counties/city in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Baltimore City, Somerset, Dorchester, Allegany, Caroline, Wicomico, Cecil, Prince George’s, Kent, and Baltimore.

The healthiest of Maryland’s 24 counties are clustered in the north-central region of the state; the least healthy are sprinkled primarily in the southeast and northwest regions of the state.

“This report shows us that there are big differences in overall health across Maryland’s counties, because of many factors, ranging from individual behavior to quality of health care, to education and jobs, to access to healthy foods, and to quality of the air,” said Patrick Remington, M.D., associate dean for public health, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “For the first time, every person can compare the overall health of his or her county to the health of other counties in Maryland, and also see where the state needs to improve.”

The online report, available at www.countyhealth-rankings.org, includes a snapshot of each county in Maryland, with a color-coded map comparing each county’s overall health ranking. Researchers used five measures to assess the level of overall health or “health outcomes” for Maryland by county: the rate of people dying before age 75, the percent of people who report being in fair or poor health, the number of days people report being in poor physical and poor mental health, and the rate of low-birthweight infants.

The report then looks at factors that affect people’s health within four categories: health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. Among the many health factors they looked at were: rates of adult smoking, adult obesity, binge drinking, teenage pregnancy, number of uninsured adults, availability of primary care providers, preventable hospital stays, rates of high school graduation, number of children in poverty, homicide rates, access to healthy foods, air pollution levels, and liquor store density.

Garrett County’s best ranking – 6th – was in physical environment. The county ranked 8th in health behaviors, 14th in social and economic factors, and 19th in clinical care.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

GCAC Members Attend Md. Arts Day In Annapolis

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Feb. 18, 2010

Members of the Board of Directors of the Garrett County Arts Council along with staff, volunteers, and representatives of several other county arts organizations traveled to Annapolis on Feb. 9 for the 12th annual Maryland Arts Day, hosted by Maryland Citizens for the Arts (MCA) and the MCA Foundation.
This year’s theme was “Many Voices, One Song,” with the image of hundreds of voices together creating one song of support for the arts across the state, said Karen Reckner, executive director of the Garrett County Arts Council.

While the day was curtailed somewhat because of the inclement weather, Reckner said, a considerable crowd was still in attendance to demonstrate the importance of art in communities.

“Garrett County was the only county west of Frederick to make the trip,” she said. “We were recognized for the courageous spirit of the group.”

In addition to the county arts council, members of Garrett Lakes Arts Festival (GLAF) and Our Town Theatre also attended.

“Maryland Arts Day is the most important arts advocacy event of the year, bringing the many, varied voices of the artistic community together in support of state funding for the arts and the Maryland State Arts Council,” Reckner said. ” In addition, Maryland Arts Day acts as the only state-wide annual meeting for the Maryland arts community.”

Read the rest of the article here.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Deep Creek Lake pic featured on AccuWeather.com weather blog


“No comment necessary in Deep Creek Lake, Md. Photo by AccuWeather.com Facebook user Shelley Thompson.”

A cool pic found its way to the weather blog of Accuweather.com. I found it on Twitter and wanted to share. The blog basically says we are in for another big storm beginning next week:

“From there, you guessed it, the swath of heavy snow may roll into the central Appalachians and the mid-Atlantic Sunday night and Monday.

While a wedge of warm air will try to work northward along the Atlantic Seaboard with this storm, odds favor mostly snow verses mostly rain at this time of the year, due to the cold ocean, cold ground, etc.

While this does “not” appear to be a storm that produces 2 to 3 feet of snow, it will add more weight to the existing snow on the ground and on roofs, be it water or more snow.”

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Deep Creek Lake & Garrett County Photo – White Tail Deer – Literally

Thanks to Mary Lou Rhorbaugh of Prosperity Mortgage for sending this pic of some Garrett County natives wading through the snow. Garrett County has received over 220 inches of snowfall this winter…and more is coming! It’s a safe bet that they are ‘white’ tailed deer…

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

School systems looking at how to make up for missed days

Megan Miller
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — School officials in Allegany and Garrett counties are struggling to piece together academic calendars and instructional plans wrecked by winter weather, but some help might be coming from the state.

In Allegany County, where students have missed eight days of school because of weather so far this year, officials haven’t decided how to handle make-up days.

Allegany County Superintendent David Cox said he’ll have more information about what the local board might do after a statewide meeting of superintendents scheduled for Friday.

“I  know that every school system in the state, practically, has been impacted by missing a whole week of school,” Cox said. “We will continue these conversations. As we learn about our options, we’ll let you know.”

For Allegany County students, the last day of school is scheduled for June 8, with June 9-11 and June 14-18 designated as snow make-up days. Last year, the board voted to use Presidents Day and Easter Monday as snow make-up days.

At Tuesday night’s board of education meeting, Allegany County High School teacher Evan West implored members not to extend the school year.

“It’s very difficult to maintain a high level of instruction in those last days of June going into July,” said West, who is also a parent. “And it would be a morale boost for the staff, also.”

Cox said he hopes winter will back off so that the school year can proceed. “We would like to resume some sense of normalcy.”

At the state level, education officials are also hoping to avoid extending school years into mid-summer.

On Tuesday, Maryland Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick will ask the state board of education to waive a few of the 180 days Maryland schools are required to complete in an academic year. If the board agrees, schools might not have to extend their class schedules as far into the summer as they currently expect.

“The waiver wouldn’t necessarily be for all of the days that students have missed, because we do think the 180-day requirement should be taken very seriously,” said Maryland State Department of Education spokesman William Reinhard. “But we’ve had a historic snow in Maryland, and this seems to be something that should be done so students aren’t in school until the Fourth of July.”

The board has approved similar waivers in the past, sometimes tailoring the number of days waived to conditions in individual counties. But Reinhard said Grasmick will probably request a set number of days to be waived statewide.

“The snow has pretty much affected every county,” he said. “Although some got a little less than others, most got a ton.”

As of Wednesday, Garrett County schools had missed 12 scheduled days of class. Without state intervention, Superintendent Wendell Teets said that will probably mean extending the school calendar well past the original last day of classes set for June 8.

“We normally build five days into the calendar as make-up days, and we have the option of using Easter Monday as well,” Teets said. “That will give us six days. The others, at this point in time, would be added on in June.”

Teets said the Garrett school system, too, would benefit from a state waiver, but it’s planning ways to solve the problem on its own, just in case.

“Right now that’s a nonissue for us,” he said. ”We’re just looking at ways to make up the days we have to make up.”

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Housing starts post sharp rebound | Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Housing starts rebounded more strongly than expected to their highest level in six months in January, while permits fell slightly less than forecast, pointing a mild housing market recovery.

Housing Market

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday housing starts increased 2.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 591,000 units, reversing the prior month’s weather-induced drop.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected housing starts to rise to 580,000 units. December’s housing starts were revised upwards to 575,000 units from the previously reported 557,000 units. Compared to January last year, starts surged 21.1 percent, the largest increase since April 2004.

“It’s a positive surprise on all fronts and shows that overall demand has moved higher. That’s an important element to watch as we move through a cycle going from incentive-based to more organic growth,” said Craig Peckham, equity trading strategist at Jefferies & Co. in New York.

U.S. stock index futures held gains, while Treasury debt prices extended losses on the report.

Groundbreaking for single-family homes rose 1.5 percent last month to an annual rate of 484,000 units after declining 3 percent in December. Starts for the volatile multifamily segment increased 9.2 percent to a 107,000 unit annual pace after rising 12.6 percent in December.

Housing, which is at the core of the most painful economic downturn since the Great Depression, is crawling out of a three-year slump, supported by government programs. New home construction contributed to economic growth in the third quarter of 2009 for the first time since 2005.

But activity slowed sharply in the fourth quarter and while homebuilder sentiment edged up this month, it remains at levels consistent with poor conditions.

Even with mortgage rates near record low, demand for home loans remains lethargic. Mortgage applications dipped 2.1 percent last week, while refinancings slipped 1.2 percent, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a separate report.

New building permits, which give a sense of future home construction, fell 4.9 percent to 621,000 units last month after rising to a 14-month high of 653,000 units in December, the Commerce Department said. That compared to analysts’ forecasts for 620,000 units.

The inventory of total houses under construction fell 2.3 percent to a record low 503,000 units last month, while the total number of units authorized but not yet started eased 0.9 percent to 94,300 units.

A separate report from the Labor Department showed import prices rose 1.4 percent in January, led by a jump in prices for natural gas and other fuels. Export prices gained 0.8 percent in January after a 0.6 percent rise in December.

Analysts surveyed before the report had expected a 0.9 percent rise in import prices and a 0.4 percent rise in export prices.
If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

High Lumber Prices Threaten Housing Market – WSJ.com

Bad news for new construction, but this may be a blessing in disguise for existing home inventories that are priced more affordably than ever.

The long-ailing U.S. housing market is facing a new headwind—a jump in the cost of lumber.
[COMMOD]

Lumber prices have climbed 32% on the futures market this year, a sudden and unexpected surge that could raise construction costs or force builders to swallow an added expense.

“That’s the last thing we need right now,” Stephen Melman, director of economic services at the National Association of Home Builders, said of the recent price hike.

Lumber’s price rise contrasts with a decline in most other commodities, such as fossil fuels and industrial metals. Those are dragging due to fears of weaker demand amid a fragile recovery from the financial crisis.

But lumber prices shot up because of a shortage of supply. When the housing market cratered, mills in the U.S. and Canada slashed production; output plummeted about 45% between 2005 and 2009, according to Random Lengths, an industry data provider.

Wholesalers shrank their own inventories and had little incentive to build them back up last year. Housing is the largest single source of demand for lumber, and new-home sales fell 7.6% in December from the prior month, to 342,000 units.

So when builders began their annual re-stocking for the spring construction season, there was little slack in the supply chain, causing a squeeze on prices. Some firms also stepped up speculative construction in the hope that an expiring federal tax credit would boost the market.

“Any increase in demand is going to allow the mills to raise their prices,” said Gary Vitale, president of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association.

On Jan. 5, lumber buyers got an added incentive to lock in shipments. Canfor Corp., a major Vancouver-based lumber producer, announced a temporary but indefinite closure of one mill that took 255 million board feet out of production, on an annualized basis—equivalent to roughly half-a-percent of total output from the U.S. and Canada in 2009.

The day after Canfor’s announcement, lumber futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange closed up 5%. Prices kept rising that month and hit a peak for the year of $279 per thousand board feet on Feb. 4, according to Thomson Reuters. Prices settled Friday at $270.90.

Industry insiders described a buying frenzy somewhat detached from actual economic activity.

“It’s a bit of a herd mentality” in which people conclude, “If someone’s gonna buy, I better buy, too,” said Jamie Greenough, a broker and analyst at Global Futures Corp. in Vancouver.

Home builders are wrestling with the consequences. Steve Petruska, chief operating officer of Pulte Homes Inc., told investors on Feb. 9 that the nation’s largest home builder is responding to the price hike by trying to hold down labor costs. He predicted the situation “isn’t going to be so bad.”

But the January price increase was welcome news for Weyerhaeuser, the forest-products giant, which reported a $175 million fourth-quarter net loss on Feb. 5. Tom Gideon, a high-ranking executive, told investors the firm was “pleasantly surprised.”
[COMMOD_jmp]

It is difficult to gauge how much the recent price increase would affect the price of a home, because various factors affect the bottom line. At the peak price for the year in early February, the rise would have added about $1,000 to the price of a typical new home, said Henry Spelter, U.S. Forest Service economist.

Mr. Melman, of the home builders’ group, said the impact on a more expensive house could be greater. “Builders don’t have a lot of inventory sitting around,” he said. “So when the price goes up, it really does go up, and that could have an immediate impact.”

The supply crunch is striking because, just a few years ago, the North American lumber industry was able to supply enough wood to start more than two million homes a year. That was nearly four times the pace of home starts in December.

The ongoing recession will keep production light, said Matt Layman, publisher of Layman’s Lumber Guide in Belmont, N.C., who called this the only sustained supply-driven rally he has seen in 30 years of trading lumber.

Mills lost too much money in the lean years before finally cutting shifts and idling plants, and they don’t have the necessary capital to restart shuttered operations now, Mr. Layman said.

The industry is also waiting to see whether lumber demand is actually rebounding, beyond the annual re-stocking. Dan Fulton, chief executive officer of Weyerhaeuser, told investors on Feb. 5 that it was “too early to tell.”

The expiring tax credit may have boosted home builders’ annual effort to fill their lumber stocks before the onset of spring makes building more practical. The measure was initially set to expire on Nov. 30, but it was extended and now offers first-time buyers an $8,000 tax credit if they sign by April 30 and close by June 30.

If the home builders’ wager on the tax credit doesn’t pay off, and home sales remain tepid, lumber prices could suffer. “The sustainability of this rally is in question, because the amount of true demand is not clear,” said Joshua Zaret, an analyst at Longbow Research.

And Mr. Petruska, of Pulte Homes, said the company wasn’t locking in prices for future delivery, a move which could backfire if prices fall again.

“Obviously, in this demand environment, that’s very risky,” he said.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Decoding Housing Market Data- Deep Creek Lake

Great article from Zac Bissonnette @ WalletPop. His ultimate conclusion is to contact a local Realtor who can assist in decoding housing data for your community/area. I am always happy to try and assist buyers or sellers with statistics that matter most to them, so feel free to call me or email me if you want more information about the Deep Creek Lake real estate market.

The problems with housing market data: What does it all really mean?
Zac Bissonnette
Feb 16th 2010 at 7:00AM

Housing data contradictory

We’re inundated with data on the housing market every day, and the stock market moves rapidly in either direction depending on the perception of the moment: Are things getting better or are they getting worse?

One of the problems with studying the housing market is that it’s nearly impossible to draw any useful conclusions from the data. Consider the following data points:

* The USA Today reports that existing home sales “skyrocketed” 27% in the fourth quarter of 2009 versus the prior year period, and the “national median price for an existing single-family home was $172,900, or 4.1% below the median price in fourth-quarter 2008.”
* On a more local level, Trulia reports that the “Median sales price in Boston, MA went up 5.55% to $532,500 from prior quarter.” Furthermore, “Average price per square foot in Boston, MA went down 5.41% to $612/sq ft from prior quarter.”

The problem is that relatively minor changes in the mix of homes being sold can have a dramatic impact on the data, making apples to apples comparisons absolutely impossible.

As the jumbo mortgage market continues to struggle and investors pick up bargain-priced income properties, the median sales price skews lower because such a high percentage of the homes that are selling are low-end properties: million dollar listings just aren’t moving these days.

So, you say, no problem: looking at the “average price per square foot” will solve that problem. That irons out the differences in product mix, right?

Nope. The problem is that larger homes typically sell for a lower per-square-foot price than smaller homes of comparable quality in similar areas. A two-bedroom condo might have 900 square feet compared with 600 square feet for a one-bedroom condo in the same complex, but the two-bedroom is unlikely to sell for 50% more money. The 300 square feet represents an extra bedroom, but the greatest cost of the property comes from factors like bathrooms, kitchens, heating systems, etc., which do not rise proportionately with square footage. The extra bedroom is relatively cheap square footage, and that’s why smaller properties tend to have a higher per-square-foot value.

Take the Boston market for example: median sales prices are rising while prices per square foot are falling. That seems like a contradiction, but it could make perfect sense: if the market for larger homes has strengthened that would explain the jump in median sales price and the fall in price per square foot. But, and this is the problem, it tells you absolutely nothing about home values. It just tells you what kinds of homes are selling.

If you’re trying to get a handle on the real estate market in your area, looking at broad data points like this is probably not the way to go. Instead, look at a certain property and then see what prices comparable properties sold for last year and the year before — and note changes in the days on market too, to get an idea of liquidity. A local realtor can supply you with all this information, or you can find much of it yourself online.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

News Room – Trulia.com – Press Releases

From Trulia.com – some interesting analysis of the real estate market.

PRICE REDUCTIONS LEVEL-OFF SHOWING SIGNS OF STABILITY RETURNING TO U.S. HOUSING MARKET
Major Metros in California Experience Biggest Decreases in Home Price Reductions

SAN FRANCISCO February 16, 2010 – Trulia.com (www.trulia.com), smart real estate search to help you make better decisions, today announced that 21 percent of homes currently on the market in the United States as of February 1, 2010 have experienced at least one price cut. This represents the second straight month of home price reductions at this level, the lowest level since Trulia started tracking price reductions in April 2009, and a significant decrease since November 2009, when 26 percent of homes had at least one price reduction. The total dollar amount slashed from home prices dropped to $22.6 billion compared to $28.1 billion in November, a 19 percent decrease. The average discount for price-reduced homes continues to hold at 11 percent off of the original listing price.

California Seeing Less Reductions

Of the top 50 major U.S. cities*, only seven had price reduction levels at 30 percent or higher in February 2010, down from 21 in November 2009. Eight cities have seen a decline by more than one-third, and five of those cities are from the state of California: San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose, and San Diego.

“Seeing lower levels of price reductions nationally is an early indicator that we may be getting closer to a healthier real estate market. So far this year, we’ve seen more engagement by home buyers than we’ve ever seen before on Trulia and it shows no sign of slowing down,” said Pete Flint, Trulia co-founder and CEO. “However, the tax credit extension is scheduled to expire soon and last year’s experience indicates that sellers may begin to panic by reducing prices ahead of the deadline. We will be tracking this closely during the next few months to determine the overall health of the real estate market heading into the traditional summer buying season.”

The Tax Credit Effect

National price reduction levels peaked toward the end of last year, corresponding to the timing of the original November 2009 deadline for the Federal Housing Tax Credit. In the months following the extension of the tax credit we’ve seen the lowest levels of reductions since the report started in April 2009. National price reduction levels by month:

* February 2010 – 21%
* January 2010 – 21%
* December 2009 – 22%
* November 2009 – 26%
* October 2009 – 26%
* September 2009 – 26%
* August 2009 – 25%
* July 2009 – 25%
* June 2009 – 24%

Luxury Market Still Hardest Hit

Luxury homes (those listed at $2 million and above) continue to be hit the hardest by price reductions with an average discount of 14 percent. Additionally, luxury homes represent less than two percent of all current listings on Trulia, but are responsible for 25 percent of the $22.6 billion in home price reductions. The average discount for homes priced less than $2 million continues to hold at 10 percent.

February 2010 Price Reductions – Top 50 U.S. Cities – see graphics for data table.

Customized data for every state, county, city and ZIP across the US is available for the media by contacting pr@trulia.com.

Learn more about Trulia Price Reductions and our methodology here: http://www.trulia.com/info/february10pricereductions

About Trulia, Inc.

Trulia.com is the most comprehensive real estate site focused on empowering you with smarter tools to help you find the right home. Whether you are an active buyer, seller or real estate enthusiast, Trulia gives you all the information you care about from rich property data to a personalized search experience. We are focused on helping you find the home that truly meets your needs, and delivers on what’s most important for you. Ultimately, we built a smart real estate search experience bringing together local information, community insights, market data and national listings all in one place, all for you.
If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Dunkers hitting Deep Creek Lake for good cause

Dunkers hitting lake for good cause

12th annual Deep Creek Dunk Feb. 27; proceeds benefit Maryland Special Olympics
Megan Miller
Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — It’s that time of year again — when a group of brave men, women and children leap into a frigid Garrett County lake, all in the name of philanthropy.

The 12th annual Deep Creek Dunk will be held on Feb. 27 at 2 p.m. behind the Uno Chicago Grill at Deep Creek Lake.

Dunkers pay a minimum donation of $50 for the dubious privilege of jumping into the lake in February, but it’s all for a good cause — the money goes to support the Maryland Special Olympics, explained spokeswoman Kelley Schniedwind. The event kicks off the Maryland Special Olympics Winter Games, which will be held at Wisp Resort from Feb. 28 to March 2.

Schniedwind said her organization relies on the fundraising efforts of individual participants to make the dunk a success.

“We have great corporate support, but the majority of the funding that comes in is from people saying ‘I’m going to go to my neighbors, my friends, my family, and ask them to support me and this cause,’” she said.

Schniedwind said the Maryland chapter of the Special Olympics began holding fundraising dunks in Annapolis, and when that proved successful, decided to hold another in Western Maryland.

“We thought hey, let’s take this show on the road,” she said. “We have this perfect spot with Deep Creek Lake, and great sponsors and partners in the area.”

Last year’s Deep Creek Dunk raised about $160,000, Schniedwind said. The official dunker turnout was 799, with an additional 1,000 or more spectators coming out to watch from dry land.

“People come out to watch because it’s such an amazing spectacle,” she said. “A lot of dunkers turn up in costume. There was a group of ladies from Dunkin’ Donuts who dressed up as a box of doughnuts.”

The dunk has become an all-day event, complete with lunch for dunkers courtesy of the Uno Chicago Grill and an after-dunk party at Black Bear Tavern.

“It’s a great day of fun and excitement and great energy,” she said. “But at the end of the day, you’re enduring this moment of cold for a lifetime of opportunities for Special Olympics athletes.”

For prospective dunkers, it’s never too late to register to participate, either online at www.dunkmd.com, or in person on dunk day, starting at noon. Kids can participate too, but dunkers under 18 have to have a consent form signed by a parent or guardian.

For further information, contact Special Olympics Maryland at plunge@somd.org or call (410) 789-6677.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350