Santa Claus: The Man, The Myth, The Legend… (the post where we de-bunk the myth of Chanukah Harry)

santa-15In the spirit of the upcoming holidays we thought we’d have some fun and look into who this Santa Claus guy really is.

The Fat Man certainly has enough aliases to fill up a rap sheet worthy of a guy who’s spent hundreds of years climbing down chimneys in to other people’s houses. There’s Santa Claus, Old St Nick, Pere Noel, Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, Papai Noel, Der Weihnachtsmann and St. Nicolas to name a few.

220px-ST_NICHOLASSo who was this Saint Nicolas and how did he get those Reindeer to fly?? The original Saint Nicolas was probably more familiar with sheep than he was with Reindeer. He was born in a city called Myra Lycia, which was then Greece and is now Turkey. Orphaned at a young age he went on to become a priest well known for his acts of charity, two legends prevail:

Once upon a time there were three young girls who were so poor their father could not afford a dowry, dooming them to lives as medieval singletons, as this was way before in advent of Cosmos, self-help books and Haagen Daz, so it was quite a dismal future. St Nicolas, wishing to help the girls without embarrassing their father by offering him a handout, slipped by in the dead of night and tossed 3 gold coins down the chimney, the coins landed in the stockings the ladies had hung to dry by the fire and a modern tradition was born.

During a widespread famine, stnicolasthree little boys were lured into a butcher shop by an evil butcher who chopped them up and made them into pies, St Nicolas happened to be in the neighborhood, heard about this and magically brought the boys back to life and returned them to their families…thus he became the patron saint of children.


The Santa Claus that we know and love first began in Dutch countries as Sinterklaas, a derivation of St Nicolas, a bearded man who kept track of children’s naughtiness, niceness etc in a big book. Those children who were not so naughty got presents and treats and those who were very naughty would get thrown in a sack and drowned by one of Santa’s associates.                                                            perefoettard                                                                  Yes, the rolly polly jelly bellied St Nick has henchman that do his dirty work, and it’s not just handing out lumps of coal (or onions depending on where you’re from). Sweet little toy making Elves these guys are not.

In Dutch countries SC’s sidekick is known as Schwartz Piet, a mischievous chimney sweep who kidnaps bad children, in France Pere Foettard doles out coal with a side of whuppass in the form of a whip to bad boys and girls.

Christmas Krampus Style

Christmas Krampus Style

In parts of Germany  Krampus comes to town the first week of December. Krampus aka The Claw is a foul-smelling goat headed demon who runs through the streets with chains seeking out poorly behaved children to beat or eat depending on how he’s feeling that day.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.....

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…..

Krampusnacht is still celebrated in Bavaria, hordes of intoxicated young men dressed as ghoulish evil demons drunkenly run through the Christmas Markets scaring the beejesus out of children and hopefully getting them to behave themselves until Christmas. In other parts of Germany he is known as Knecht Ruprecht or Aschenklas a raggedy man with a bell and a stick. He rings the bell announcing his arrival and readiness to whip children (literally) into shape.


Bellsnickel another raggedy bearded man who visits the The Pennsylvania Dutch around Christmas time does double duty, scaring the kiddies into behaving and handing out treats to the nice ones who finished their chores and didn’t hit their sister.

Belsnicklers in Appalachia

Belsnickelers in Appalachia

The English Custom of Mumming and the Pennsylvania Dutch Belsnickel came together to create the practice of belsnickeling in parts of the US. Belsnickelers with bells and whips dress up in rags and overcoats and hide their faces with masks or soot . They put on shows for families in return for food & drink, often leaving sweets for the children who dared face their whips.  


In Latvia they wear elaborate woven masks, hiding their faces and disguising their voices, neighbors try to figure out who is who, and if your identity is discovered you are unmasked. (one has to wonder what other kind of mischief they might have gotten into…hmmm)

Manchurian Mummers

Manchurian Mummers

Variations of Mumming, which derives from the Greek word for mask, Mommo, take place all over the world from Russia to Wales to New South Wales. During this widespread winter tradition masked individuals sing, dance and play tricks, creating levity and fun in the longest darkest nights of all winter nights.


Our modern-day Philadelphia Mummers were born of this tradition and still roam the streets singing, dancing are causing mischief of one kind or another.


So where’d the reindeer come from? Well, not everyone’s Santa rides a sleigh pulled by reindeer, Papa Xmas has been known to ride a donkey, a goat, a horse, and sometimes he just walks .

The Modern American Santa Claus, (this moniker was first used in the US in 1773), made an appearance in Washington Irving’s History of New York in 1809. His reindeer finally arrived in 1821 in an anonymous book entitled  A New-year’s present, to the little ones from five to twelve III and  in 1823 a man named Clement Clarke Moore penned the well-known poem The Night Before Christmas..and our Modern Santa est Arrive..replete with red nose, Ho Ho Hos and eight tiny Reindeer.

rudolphAnd Rudolph, where was he? Are there any century old traditions of flying reindeer with bright red noses leading Krampus through the Black Forest??? No, not really in fact Rudolph is the mind child of an advertising executive from the retailer Montgomery Ward. Each year Montgomery Ward would buy and give away a coloring book to children for the Holidays, and in 1939 they decided it would be better (cheaper) to create their own and assigned  Robert May to the task….he created a red-nosed reindeer, with a story based partially on the Ugly Duckling and named him Rollo, Reginald, RUDOLPH!!!. Montgomery Ward distributed 2.5 million copies of the coloring book in the first year! Ten years later May’s brother in law Juan Ramirez aka Johnny Marks adapted the story to a song, Gene Autry sang it and there we have it, the last piece of the puzzle.

Father Christmas

Father Christmas

What about Chanukah Harry…where does he fit in?

JoLo-Hanukkah%20HarryWell quite frankly he doesn’t,  Chanukkah Hanukkah Hanuka Chanukah Harry is the creation of Saturday Night Live and has nothing to do with Chanukah, the hero of Chanukah is Judah Macabee, a rebel and a great warrior.  judahChanukah is known as the Festival of Lights, and commemorates a great miracle. This mirrors many of the world’s winter Holiday traditions, many of which have been around for as long as there has been winter.Gifts are given and received, special food is eaten and games are played. .

There are several countries that don’t even have a Santa Claus. In parts of Italy La Belfana, a witch on a broomstick is the one who knows who’s naughty & who’s nice. Why a witch?

befana1gv3The Vatican could not prove the existence of Santa Claus, but apparently they could prove that witches on broomsticks existed and so they remembered La Belfana, a wandering witch who came upon the magi on their way to find the baby Jesus, she could not accompany them on their journey because she had chores to do, and though she changed her mind later, she could not find the manager. So now she keeps looking for the baby, leaving candies and treats in the shoes of good bambinos and bambinas, and garlic for the naughty ones.


In Catalonia it is not Father Christmas who brings presents but Tio De Netal or Cagatios, a Log, who has a rather unorthodox delivery system, click here to find out more.

The Swedish Christmas Goat, Swedes dress as elves and Santa and try to be the first to burn the goat

The Swedish Christmas Goat, Swedes dress as elves and Santa and try to be the first to burn the goat

So, yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He has many faces around the world not all of them Jolly, in fact some downright creepy but regardless his message rings as clear as sleigh bells , you better not pout you better not cry or Santa’s gonna whip you with chains and throw you in a sack,

Faith, Hope and Charity are what this Holiday season is all about, no matter if you are hiding from Krampus, setting out sugar cubes in your shoes for Santa’s donkey, beating a log with a stick, following Santa via NORAD or lighting a menorah.

All around the world this is a season of miracles, of lights in the darkness, and a time to reach out and embrace family, friends and community.

Peace on Earth

Peace on Earth

Wishing all a Peaceful Happy Holiday Season!



When we’re not buying and selling homes, we like to take advantage of everything Philadelphia has to offer. Here’s list, in no particular order, of our favorite fall activities in and around the city of Philadelphia.


Till November 8,  Longwood Gardens

Ochre, Sage, Bronze, Russet, Bayberry, Maize, Marigold, Mahogany, Cinnamon, Fawn, Flame, Goldenrod, Henna, Honey -Gold, Amber, Garnet, Persimmon, Oak Brown, Mustard, Vermillion, Terracotta, Gamboge, Scarlet, Crimson, Amaranth… These are only a few of the colors you’ll find strolling through the crisp air surrounded by the scent of crushed leaves.


Way back in the 4th Century Qu Yuan, a poet and advisor to the king was exiled for telling the king something he didn’t want to hear.  Feeling dishonored he threw himself into the torrential Milou river. Local fisherman  desparate to save him from being eaten by the fierce Water Dragons beat their drums and slapped their paddles against the water, until he swam to safety.

Over the centuries the re-enactment of the saving of Qu Yuan has developed in to the modern Dragon Boat Race. Amateur Dragon Boat teams compete against each other on the Schuylkill every year. ( The race is open to everyone, so next year keep a look out a few weeks ahead of time for teams looking to fill empty spot)


Attention CINEPHILES! There are over 100 films from 35 countries to screen during this 11-day event, which runs from Thursday, October 18 – Sunday, October 28, 2012. Films can be seen at Movie Theaters all over Philadelphia!


We’re not ashamed to admit that we are sartorially minded when it comes to fall, it brings us back to shopping for new school clothes and taking sweaters out of storage. Getting to feel a bit of chill in the air just makes us feel perky! Fall Fashionistas in the know check out all the shops in Old City, Center City and the newest/oldest shopping destination in Philly, East Passyunk Avenue.


Oddly many Oktoberfest celebrations take place in September, but we’ve found a few that actually are happening in Oktober or October as it’s known here is in the US. Most notably the  GRUMPLETHORPE FESTIVAL… a traditional Oktoberfest in …wait for it…. Yes Germantown! On Oktober 6 Historic Germantown will be filled with german folk music, wursts of all shapes & sizes  plus a Beirgarten (that’s German for Beergarden!) or six  so grab your Leiderhosen and on head over.

If you’re looking for  something less traditional and more beer focused Polka on over to Memphis Taproom On Oktober 27

Located Northern Liberties, Memphis Taproom  is having it’s own version of Oktoberfest, named Thirstoberfest featuring 25 flagship & limited release beers, plus special Thristoberfest hot dogs from a truck!


Why is it when you pay to pick your own apples it’s fun, but when you get paid to do it it’s just awful… one of the mysteries of life, we suppose. Regardless head out of the City  to Highland Orchards and pick enough apples and pumpkins for a month’s worth of pies. Highland Orchards offers much more than a chance to pick your own apples & pumpkins there are hay rides, a corn maze, a petting zoo (with a lovely llama) and a general store stocked with assorted jams & jellies, local cheeses, handmade fudge, a variety of fruits, veggies & decorative gourds plus fresh hot Apple Cider donuts. (the Deli has a great meatloaf sandwich) Fabulous way to spend the day with the kids!


After a long day of picking apples, petting goats and getting lost in a corn maze you deserve a cocktail, and one of our favorite fall cocktails features a rare and fleeting item called Asian Pear Cider, available at the Fair Food Market at Reading Terminal in Philadelphia through Northstar Farms. Asian Pear Cider is more delicate than regular apple cider with a bit of florally- caramel-like afternotes…and it pairs STUNNINGLY with tequila.

Asian Pear Margaritas  for 2

3 parts fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 parts asian pear cider
3 parts premium silver tequila
1 part Ginger Liqueur or Cointreau

put 5 or 6 ice cubes in cocktail shaker,
pour in above ingredients,shake vigorously until ice cold; pour thru strainer.  Garnish w a slice of Asian Pear

Serve  with:

Goat Cheese & Pumpkin Seed Queso Fundido

  • 8 Oz Fresh  Goat Cheese
  • 1 Cup Toasted Salted Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1 Tsp Cumin
  • 1 Tbls Ancho Chili Powder
  • ¼ Cup Olive Oil
  1. Add Pumpkin Seeds, Cumin & Ancho Chile Powder in Blender or food processor
  2. Pulse twice, Then add Olive Oil, Pulse 4 more times
  3. Place goat cheese in an oven proof dish, pour pumpkin Seed mixture over goat cheese
  4. Broil till bubbly
  5. Serve with warm corn tortillas, tortilla chips or toasted baguette.


Fall is a great time to give back. Local food banks always need a helping hand and a donation or two or three …If you have the time organize a canned food drive or a toy/school supply drive for families less fortunate. Put in some time volunteering, deliver meals to homebound seniors, cook in a soup kitchen or just spend time with people who need it.

Here’s short list of organizations in the Philadelphia Area.







What’s not to love about Halloween, unless you don’t like candy, costumes or fun…then BOO on you Honey Boo Boo.  Even though we are all grown up now and far more likely to hand out candy and take our kids trick or treating  than go to the bar dressed up as a sexy pirate-cat-nurse, Halloween is still loads of fun!. Can’t wait till parades of princesses ghosts and goblins come a knockin’! (how freakin’ cute are these baby costumes!!!!)


Lattes, beer, muffins, pies, cookies, cream cheese, oatmeal, ravioli, even pop-tarts….Yay for fall and lovely warm spicy Pumpkin Lattes and Pumpkin Beers and all things Pumpkin-y !

Top 10 within a Top 10- PUMPKIN

  1. Weyerbacker Imperial Pumpkin Ale
  2. Black N Brew Pumpkin Latte
  3. Pumpkin Ravioli At Chloe
  4. Pumpkin Blendini w Nilla Wafers at Ritas (like frozen pumpkin pie!)
  5. B.T Baking Pumpkin Brownie
  6. Capogiro Pumpkin Gelato
  7. Severino Pumpkin Stuffed Gnocchi
  8. Beiler’s Bakery Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
  9. Pumpkin /Chicken Soup at My Thai
  10. Kauffman’s Pumpkin Butter

$15,000 in Down Payment Assistance…Wha what????

We are totally not kidding. Wells Fargo, the bank that built California is launching a downright FANTASTIC mortgage assistance program in Philadelphia.

In a collaborative effort between The Wells Fargo Foundation and Local Non-Profit Organizations the CityLIFT program offers

  • Down Payment Assistance
  • Financial Education to help buyers prepare for homeownership
  • Events to showcase  homes for sale

Qualified Homebuyers can apply for down-payment assistance of up to $15,000….that’s some serious assistance, and the best news is that the program is for mid-income singles & families: A Single Person with a Yearly Income of $65K and a Good Credit Rating may qualify.

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, I’m  seeing a lot of “cans”, “coulds”and “mays” here, well yes it’s true, everything is contingent on qualifications and timing… Wells Fargo isn’t just handing out bags of Money…they are a bank after all. So what we say is…

This is a rare opportunity and it is worth applying, if you want to be a homeowner, this is a fabulous first step!

This is a limited time offer.


Click here to register for the CityLIFT Event September 21-22

(For Information on More Programs designed to help future homeowners join our mailing list:  Email  us at adassistant.vailteam1212 at gmail dot com)

Can the CityLIFT program help sellers?

Why yes it can! If you are interested in selling your home, we maybe able to get it in the CityLIFT program, that’s immediate access for Tons of Qualified Buyers ! We’re compiling our qualified listings for Wells Fargo, so give us a call and find out if your Home can qualify.

Here’s List of HOMEBUYER Qualifications:


Regrets, I’ve Had a Few…

We recently read an article on the top 5 Home Buyer regrets, and it made us sigh, if only we’d been there to help, if only those future homebuyers  knew what to look for.

Fortunately we can help out those regretful buyers, and turn those frowns upside down, by helping them sell their home, moving out of that house of Regret and into a new one, the right home.  We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, we’re not just interested in selling properties, we are looking to sell homes that people will love and, just as importantly, can  afford to live in for as long as they wish.

Below here are the top 5 Buyer Regrets according to Philadelphia Weekly reporter Tara- Nicholle Nelson.

Premature Buying

Some people get really excited about buying a home, and buy before they are financially ready, and sometimes even before they are emotionally ready. The market looks good, they have some money and they BUY, without considering long-range possibilities. This is not an insurmountable issue, a good Realtor can help you figure out how to unload the burden and get you settled on your righteous path.

Too Small

Maybe when you bought your home you were a determined Singleton,  and then Cupid intervened and you fell in love……

and then you got married and had babies and now you have nowhere to put those babies because the perfect  Singleton Home with it’s adorable little home office is just not big enough for a family. Well then, looks like you need a bigger home, and most likely are nervous about affording a bigger home plus allowing your children the luxury of food and a college education, have no fear…The Kate Vail Team is here , we’ll help you find a way.

Just Can’t Afford It

Sigh, a few years ago, so many many people bought homes they couldn’t afford, they couldn’t afford them when they bought them and they can’t afford them now. Can  you afford to Sell? That’s a question best put to a Realtor. Recently revised short sale guidelines can offer some relief, the  FHFA, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac are making it easier for homeowners to  get themselves right side up.

Co-Buyer Conflicts

Well, maybe it did seem like a great idea to buy a home with your sister, but now she wants to move to Bali (she’s always been flighty) and you want to stay right where you are, do you buy her out? Do you sell? What to do?  Can you afford it on your own, do you really love it or was she the one who thought the attic bedroom was the greatest thing ever? Of course buying with a relative is one thing,  but more traumatically couples who buy together and break up can leave some bad vibes lying around. Buy, Sell, Stay, Go…Talk to a Realtor, educate yourself on your options in regard to the property, knowledge is power.

Repairs Beyond Skill or Resources

Ahh the lure of the Fixer Upper, we can’t tell you how many homes we’ve come across that are half remodeled, not everyone can be Bob Villa and not everyone can afford a contractor. What we can say is that if you are considering  buying a home that needs extensive work, be realistic, see our previous post   for some guidelines, and if you are living in a Money Pit, lets see if we can get you out from behind that pile of un-hung drywall.

What can be learned here?  Educating  yourself on the buying process, being  realistic about your finances and your future, and working  with a realtor who you trust  are the keys to avoiding  a regretful purchase.

If you or anyone you know is interested in selling their home, please give us a call, we’d love to show you what we can do.

More Real Estate News! Philadelphia Zoning Laws Simplied, Bad News For Raccoons

The new Philadelphia Zoning Laws went into effect yesterday, this is the first time since 1962 that changes of this magnitude have been made.

Some of our Zoning Laws were put on the books when Philly still looked like this!

Here is an excerpt from the Official Press Release:

“Designed to preserve the past and anticipate the future, the new zoning code  updates and codifies the City’s regulations for development and sets  expectations regarding land use. After the ZCC’s exhaustive and  inclusive effort to shape the code based on thoughtful input from the  community, City Council voted unanimously to adopt it.  The code was  signed into law by Mayor Nutter on Dec. 22, 2011, and it goes into  effect today.

Among the changes to the City’s development regulations and approval procedures are:

• A reduced number of zoning classifications

• Incorporation of a civic design review process

• Establishment of the role of citizens in the zoning approval process

The result is the 384-page Code is more user-friendly for everyone,  including developers, community groups and individual homeowners.

By streamlining antiquated regulations that dated back to the early  1960’s, the new code also transforms the way developers and community  groups work together toward a common goal: smart, job-creating and  sustainable growth that preserves Philadelphia’s vibrant neighborhoods.”

We’ve looked into the codes and found a few interesting facts:

There 10 less Chapters in the New Code, that alone is an amazing feat of government self control!

It is no longer prohibited to produce both pasta and plaster of paris figurines in the same district (and one presumes location) , nor is it prohibited to pickle vegetables next door to a radio station. The multiple and complicated  Industrial Districts originally laid out in the City of Philadelphia have been vastly simplified, no one knows why one could process cheese near a glove manufacturer but not near a vinegar factory, but it’s not something we need to worry about anymore. LET FREEDOM and  CREATIVE CAPITALISM RING!

It still ain’t easy to be a Raccoon in the  City of Philadelphia, there are no less that 4 ordinances against certain Raccoon behavior including ” disturbing the peaceful enjoyment of the property by anyone inhabiting or visiting the property.”.


The Trailer Camp District has been eliminated.

The new codes include modern updates like ordinances regarding Bicycle Parking ratios  and Yoga Studios, and a list of expanded Home Office uses to include artists,  artisans, and personal trainers.

Diameter Breast Height is not what you think it is

(Diameter Breast Height (DBH): The standard measure of a tree’s diameter at four and one-half ft. above ground level.)

Just for the Fun of it Here’s a list of past Weird Philadelphia Laws, that we hope have been amended and or abolished:

1. In an act of 1760 it was illegal to sell Pretzels in bags

2. It may currently be illegal in Philadelphia to sleep on top of a refrigerator while outdoors

3. Men once needed written consent from their wives to purchase alcohol

4. Any dwelling with more than 16 unmarried women was once considered a brothel

5. Fire Hydrants require inspection 1 hour before a fire

6. It may also currently be illegal to sing in the bathtub, juries out on the shower

7. A special cleaning ordinance bans housewives from hiding dirt and dust under a rug in a dwelling.

That’s all for now…….

Big NEWS from the Big MAC! Frannie, Freddie & FHFA Announce Changes to Short Sale Guidelines



FHFA Announces New Standard Short Sale Guidelines for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac;

Programs Aligned to Expedite Assistance to Borrowers

Washington, DC – The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) today announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are issuing new, clear guidelines to their mortgage servicers that will align and consolidate existing short sales programs into one standard short sale program.

The streamlined program rules will enable lenders and servicers to quickly and easily qualify eligible borrowers for a short sale.

The new guidelines, which go into effect Nov. 1, 2012, will permit a homeowner with a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage to sell their home in a short sale even if they are current on their mortgage if they have an eligible hardship. Servicers will be able to expedite processing a short sale for borrowers with hardships such as death of a borrower or co-borrower, divorce, disability, or relocation for a job without any additional approval from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

“These new guidelines demonstrate FHFA’s and Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s commitment to enhancing and streamlining processes to avoid foreclosure and stabilize communities,” said FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco. “The new standard short sale program will also provide relief to those underwater borrowers who need to relocate more than 50 miles for a job.”


The Federal Housing Finance Agency regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks.

These government-sponsored enterprises provide more than $5.7 trillion in funding for the U.S. mortgage markets

and financial institutions.


The Federal Housing Finance Agency has directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to align existing short sales programs into one standard short sale program and issue clear guidelines to mortgage servicers. With these changes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow homeowners with eligible hardships to sell their home in a short sale even if they are current on their loans. FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are making these changes to help more homeowners avoid foreclosure, keep homes occupied and help maintain stable communities. The streamlined program rules will enable lenders and servicers to quickly and easily qualify eligible borrowers for a short sale.

The programs being aligned are:

Fannie Mae’s Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative (HAFA) and proprietary short sale programs,

and Freddie Mac’s HAFA and proprietary short sale programs.

The current Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac HAFA programs are modeled on the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative program, but with this guidance, there will be one program offered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – the Standard Short Sale/HAFA II.



Guidance will be issued by Freddie Mac August 21 and by Fannie Mae August 22 and will be effective by November 1.



• The existing mortgage must be owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

• The person must have a demonstrated hardship which includes:

• Death of a borrower or death of the primary or secondary wage earner in the household

• Unemployment

• Divorce

• Long-term disability

• Distant employment transfer/relocation (more than 50 miles one way)

• Increased housing expenses

• Disaster (natural or man-made)

• Business failure






• Offer a streamlined short sale approach for borrowers most in need.

• Enable servicers to quickly and easily qualify certain borrowers who are current on their mortgages for short sales.

• Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will waive the right to pursue deficiency judgments in exchange for a financial contribution when a borrower has sufficient income or assets to make cash contributions or sign promissory notes.

• Offer special treatment for military personnel with Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders.

• Consolidate existing short sales programs into a single uniform program.

• Provide servicers and borrowers clarity on processing a short sale when a foreclosure sale is pending.

• Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will offer up to $6,000 to second lien holders to expedite a short sale.

• Borrowers that need to relocate more than 50 miles one way for a job, including service members with Permanent Change of Station Orders, can be current or delinquent on their mortgage to apply for a short sale.

• Borrowers who have the capacity to contribute to shortages will be asked to make a reasonable contribution toward the shortfall. However, service members with Permanent Change of Station Orders will not be asked for a contribution towards the shortage for properties purchased on or before June 30, 2012.

• Borrowers will not be eligible for a new mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac for at least two years after a short sale.


Service members can check Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac websites to see if their loans are held by them or they can call

hotlines for military homeowners at 1-877-MIL-4566 or 1-800- FREDDIE.

FHFA announcement of 6/21/12: FHFA Announces Short Sale Assistance for Military Homeowners with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac Loans


Homeowners can determine if they have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan by going to:  or calling 800-7Fannie (8 am to 8 pm ET)

•  or 800-Freddie (8 am to 8 pm ET)




A Short Sale, also known as a pre-foreclosure sale, is when you sell your home for less than the balance remaining on your

mortgage. If your mortgage company agrees to a short sale, you can sell your home and pay off all (or a portion of) your

mortgage balance with the proceeds.

Philadelphia Off The Beaten Path- Top 10

We’re nearing the dog day’s of summer, warm days with time  to daydream and so today we present a something a little different, our Top 10 Hidden Gems… Off the Beaten Path… Secret Places all just perfect for a Summer’s Day…Dreaming.

Philadelphia’s Top 10 Hidden Gems

10. Whispering Benches

Whispering benches are one of the many fascinating structures left over from the 1876 International Exposition (World’s Fair), these very long, curved, stone benches at the base of the Smith Memorial Monument outside Monument Hall (now the Please Touch Museum) in Fairmount Park look innocent enough… But a person sitting at one end can whisper to the person sitting at the other end and can be heard in perfect clarity.

Our farvorite place to tell a secret!


9. Halloween  Jewelry  by Henri David 1329 Pine St (215) 732-7711

Don’t let the name fool you, the outstanding jewelry collection  carefully curated by Henri David – Philadelphia’s reigning King of Halloween is not limited to kitschy witchy items, but a selection of unusual and often times brilliant jewelry.  The hidden-away shop houses a combination of costume, fine and casual jewelery and a impressive collection of opal jewelry.  Henri David also designs custom pieces.


8. Nice N Spice Indian Restaurant 4203 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19104 215-222-4480

Transcendent Chicken Tikka Masala, Chewy Naan, luscious Saag Paneer and a cooling mango lassi…all can be found hidden behind rows and rows of hard to find south East Asian delicacies and staples, like pistachio rose kulfi. 50 pound bags of rice, spices galore, PG Tips tea, English Chocclates like Cabury Mix and Ayruvedic toothpaste.

Make sure to stock up on the the heat and eat Indian entrees and any of the multitude of exotic spicy crunchy snacks on offer. Try some Hot Punjabi Mix with your next Glass of Champagne you won’t be dissappointed.


7. Mutter Museum


America’s finest museum of medical history, the Mütter (pronounced Mooo-Ter) displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a 19th century “cabinet museum” setting. Sometimes gory always informative the macabre Mutter Museum specializes in Medical Oddities, and is not for the faint of heart. A great place to indulge your inner CSI agent.


(this is the least gory picture we could find)


6. Ants Pants Café

Australian Style Coffee Shop in Graduate Hospital/Newbold section of Philadelphia, we have a hard time choosing between the Bacon Stack (Two sunny side up Eggs , Arugula, Tomato, thick cut Bacon and Pecorino Romano cheese over Thick Cut Country Bread) and The Creme Brulee French toast with Sour Cream Sauce. Other fun out of the ordinary favorites are the Violet Crumble Milkshake, Fresh Squeezed Pink Grapefruit Juice and Australian Style Iced Coffee..a double shot of espresso with milk, ice cream (we like caramel) and Whipped cream – take that Frappucino!


5. The Dream Garden

Ahh… the astonishing Dream Garden, A 15 x 49 foot mosaic, featuring over 100,000 pieces of feveril glass lies quietly hidden within the Curtis Center off Washington Square. Louis Comfort Tiffany created this masterpiece of color and light as imagined by Philadelphia native Maxfield Parrish (the Mosaic is based on one of his paintings). We love to spend a few cool, quiet moments taking in the colors, especially on a hot summer day.


4. Green Aisle Grocery

The spot for life’s essentials like fresh organic milk, pasture raised eggs, handmade breads, artisan chocolates, Zahav Hummus, local cheeses and a variety of small batch goodies like salumi from Le Virtu and house Brand seasonal Jams, Jellies & Shrubs. Local produce, pastas, spice mixes and Artisan Coffees share the shelves with one of the city’s best selection of cocktail larder essentials like bitters and natural mixers (Dry cucumber soda + Rose bitters + Bluecoat gin + Local cucumber slices =  Our  Fabulous Philly Cocktail)


3. Joseph Fox Bookstore

Our favorite bookstore in the whole city, Joseph Fox offers an overflowing collection of books in a teeny tiny space. Yes, we love the ease of ordering books on Amazon, but there’s some thing to be said about the thrill of discovery that comes from browsing an actual bookstore, leafing through pages, idly passing the time, perusing colorful walls of titles. Joseph Fox’s intelligent and selective collections of classic and contemporary literature are beautifully handled, making even old, familiar favorites appear new and prime for re-reading.


2. Philadelphia Horticultural Society tours: Bertram Park & PECO Green Roof


Everyone love to hate on the Electric Company, but no matter what your feelings are about your electric bill, you should take a tour of PECO’s green roof to see the some truly progressive green building techniques. After taking a tour of the future of horticulture why not try a walk through the past, Bartrams Garden.  America’s First Botanist, John Bartram’s garden has been diligently maintained since before we were the United States of America. Beautiful and fascinating….

1.   Chanticleer Gardens

Chanticleer has been called the most romantic, imaginative, and exciting public garden in America. The garden is a study of textures and forms, where foliage trumps flowers, the gardeners lead the design, and even the drinking fountains are sculptural. It is a garden of pleasure and learning, relaxing yet filled with ideas to take home.

We're the Kate Vail Team

We spend our days thinking about houses, talking about houses, selling houses, buying houses…every so often  we need to have a little fun, so we’ve put together this quiz…about, what else? Houses! Specifically songs about houses and homes.

While you’re feeling interactive, let us know your answer to this question:

What makes a house a home?

We’ll publish some of our favorite answers next week.

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