The following are short statements of miscellaneous real estate news or other topics/issues that I find interesting:
Disclaimer: References to products and services are not a specific endorsement, but the user must perform their due diligence and investigate whether the product or service is right for them. I welcome any or all comments that would help others.
Field Guide to Millennial Home Buyers – about 40% are worried about debt (mostly student debt) – they are more careful & frugal than other age groups – fewer of them trust other people – and believe too much power is concentrated in the hands of too few (but does that include Washington DC?) and other characteristics.
Almost 40% of loans for autos, credit cards and personal borrowing in the U.S. went to subprime (i.e., credit score below 640 on a scale that tops out at 850) customers during 2014 totaling about $190 million
2-20-2015: 5 states Where Are Most Homes Cash Buys?
2-19-2015: Freddie’s Economic Revisions Optimistic for Housing…projections for 2015 for housing are positive given lower rates and more mortgage originations.
2-13-2015: Cobb County has a PENS (Police Email Notification System) program of emergency notification and warnings of safety tips and crime trends. You can register your email address to receive updates. Cobb County dispatch has a non-emergency number, 770-499-3911.
2-12-2015: Factoid – homeowners aged 62 and older hold a combined $3.84 trillion in equity in their homes.
2-11-2015: The State of Georgia started a venture capital fund idea and has now allocated $10 million (and plans up to $100 million in 5 years) toward financing small technology start-up companies. Some representatives think it is important that Government finance start-ups to keep them in the state and prevent them to move to other states. Others think that Venture Capital (VC) should remin a privately unded endeavor and the state shouldn’t be playing favorites in deciding what companes win or lose. Is venture capital and picking winners and losers really a necssary function of the government?
2-10-2015: The average cost for a private one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living residence is $3,022 per month, according to research compiled by several nonprofit senior living organizations, including the Assisted Living Federation of America
2-6-2015: The $21.8 Billion 2015 Georgia State budget includes $23 million to complete a parking garage at the new Falcons stadium in Atlanta in addition to the $17 million already budgeted…$2.5 million to train Georgia students in TV, movie, and video production industries…no money for “Invest Georgia” the state run venture capital capital fund…or private school scholarships..or the annual $1-1.5 Billion in transportation improvements.
2-5-2015: Factoid: The Georgia Department of Transportation has about 4,100 employees and operates on a $2 Billion annual budget….that’s alot of manpower standing around with signs and placing orange barrels…employing the homeless to help?
2-4-2015: True or false: A lien can be placed on your pet at the vet? True! So if you allow the pet to stay, you have to pay or the pet doesn’t play.
2-2-2015: First phase of the new Cobb Braves stadium complex is 1 million square feet of retail, restaurants, hotel, and entertainment venues. Other phases will be office buildings and residential high rise or condominium complexes.
1-30-2015: Supply of buildable lots in Cobb County fell another 20% in the past year and a half. This drives up property prices and builders now are looking elsewhere like Paulding and Bartow counties for less expensive lots. Median price for a new home was close to $375,000 and a resale house was close to $210,000.
1-29-2015: There’s been a bill introduced in the 2015 Georgia legislative session which allows individuals who have been damaged, suffered harm, or otherwise been aggrieved to file suit against a Georgia state governmental agency. A Georgia Supreme Court ruling in February 2014 stated that only the Georgia General Assembly could remove or waive sovereign immunity for the state. Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle, January 23-29, 2015, 3A.
1-23-2015: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee about 50% of the $10.6 Trillion in home loans outstanding.
Wasn’t this supposed to be more simple and less confusing?
What we did was replace the FTC and CFPB with the CFPB and FFETF…more alphabet soup.
1-20-2015: I find this interesting – Dianne Feinstein’s Husband’s Real Estate Firm Poised to Make $1 Billion Selling Post Offices – Are the Feinsteins interested in the “little people” or just a couple of opportunists?
1-19-2015: Five things you must know before a real estate closing Contract is finished – Surprise! More paperwork – Attorney represents you? – Are personal checks acceptable? – Why title insurance?
1-16-2015: Survey: Address book is agents real estate gold – other than web site, blog, twitter, other social media and through local marketing, such as yard signs, flyers, and open houses, etc, (i.e., sphere of influence).
1-15-2015: What are Myra retirement accounts?
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has developed myRA (my Retirement Account), a retirement savings account with a new type of Roth IRA* investment that makes saving for retirement simple, safe, and affordable. Individuals can open a myRA account with no start-up cost and there are no fees for the maintenance of the account. myRA has no minimum contribution requirement, so savers can contribute the amount that best fits their budget.* The investment in a myRA is backed by the United States Treasury and the account carries no risk of losing money.
1-13-2015: 5 trends to watch in 2015 (Inventory, 1st timers, prices, Interest rates, and neighborhoods….what else is there?)
1-12-2015: Seeking Alpha Best Ideas For 2015
1-8-2015: Homes tested for Radon levels may be found safe in spring and summer months but might have high radon levels in the winter. Radon levels may be elevated in winter months with rain and low cloud cover. So when should you test for radon and is it really that serious based on the time periods tested?
12-24-2014: Ex Grady hospital payroll director falsified vacation and severance pay information and transferred those $480,000 in funds to his personal account. How can this example of embezzlement can occur if Grady had internal controls? Oh yeah, I guess they didn’t have them in place! Sentencing and possible restitution haring is set for 2-15-2015.
12-23-2014: The total value of all US personal residences is $27.5 Trillion.
12-22-2014: The Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled that banks and real estate developers can’t sue previous contractors/builders/developers for poor workmanship as homeowners can when facing really expensive repairs or health related issues. One case involved an improperly back-filled and compacted soil which caused future building settlement. Hey, you can say it was the fault of the buyers for improper due diligence, but it’s also the deception of the former owners too leaving some with no recourse. That ain’t right!
12-18-2014: Northwest (Atlanta) Corridor project: Approximately $1 Billion (…and probably much more after it’s finished) is to be spent adding about 30 miles of toll lanes along Interstate 75 and 575 designed to alleviate traffic – yeah…good luck with that!
12-17-2014: About 20,500 single family homes on market in Georgia FMLS: about half are < $250K; 17% are $500K or higher; about 30% are between $150-250K 12-17-2014: Sharecare.com is a website under development that once finished, may become a social network of health related topics, information, and a place to guide you to better health by building a health profile and "predictive analytics" to change your behavior and lifestyle to improve health and better body functions. 12-16-2014: US Senate Extends Foreclosure Protection for Military but US House Approval is still Required
12-15-2014: The entertainment industry in Georgia enjoys a 30% tax credit for projects spending over $500,000 in Georgia – whatever that means. Which at the minimum they receive $150,000 benefit, of which Georgia thinks it gains that $150,000 back and then some off sales and income taxes…or do they? Has anyone ever requested an Inspector General review of the actual costs and benefits? And someone in the state is actually asking for the tax credit to be extended to those who spend less than $500,000 in Georgia. I guess the State of Georgia will soon turn Democratic once all the California entertainment industry in to stay…
12-12-2014: The Georgia General Assembly is proposing a bill in 2015 to allow 3rd party financing of solar power in homes and businesses, that was previously cost prohibitive because installation (a significant expense) was required to be paid up front. Another problem is the way power is handled in homes and whether or not the excess power generated from solar panels (a) can be used in the home or (b) will be required to be sold back to the utility company.
12-11-2014: Atlanta apartment development – about 800 of an estimated 5,700 apartments are under development in Midtown Atlanta and about 1,400 of an estimated 10,000 high rise apartments are under development in the Buckhead to Midtown area. So where does that leave condo development in these areas if speculation involves rental rather than ownership?
12-10-2014: Buyers and sellers should confirm all email wiring instructions directly with the escrow officer by calling the escrow officer on the telephone. In that conversation, the correct account number information should be repeated verbally before taking any steps to have the funds transferred. Real estate attorney emails – real estate broker emails – mortgage bankers email – all get hacked for future fraud.
12-9-2014: Is the Georgia $5,000 tax credit for zero emission vehicles (like the Nissan Leaf – for which Atlanta is the #1 market in the US) in jeopardy of being eliminated? One Georgia lawmaker is proposing that it be eliminated since it falsely created a market for electric vehicles that lead to alot of sales. But when a Nissan Leaf costs $36,000 v. Nissan Versa costs $18,000, that’s alot of gasoline difference to make up. And if you want to compare service costs, don’t forget to add the replacement of car engine battery to costs. I think since electric vehicles use the road and don;’t pay any road use taxes, and the extra cost of it inhibits other expenditures in Georgia, I think Georgia needs to eliminate the credit now or find a way to tax the user for the mileage on the road if the legislature doesn’t.
12-5-2014: New study reflect your personality traits are strong indicators of real estate decisions – no duh? Source: http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/personality-linked-to-real-estate-choices-114120500635_1.html
Sorry – been ill 12-4-2014: there are still four million borrowers who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth reflecting $157 Billion in underwater mortgages.
11-26-2014: There’s nearly 80 acres round Turner Field (where the Atlanta Braves) currently play that remain under the control of the Fulton County Recreation Authority.
11-25-2014: The screw-ups at the Veterans Administration can’t be fired for up to 5 days which gives them time to retire and collect more benefits – after that, can we hang them for treason against our military?
11-24-2014: US Postal Service was recently a victim of data breach. Personnel records from the Office of Personnel Management was breached to get access to those individuals applying for jobs that require security clearances and any contractors performing background check.
11-23-2014: Women in the US are now expected to live to around 90 but men are only expected to live until 88 1/2.
11-21-2014: Recently, an analysis by the Wall Street Journal estimated potential value of Fannie Mae (FNMA) shares to be $0.15/share….today they are at $2.51/share at the time of this post – Can you say …Vegas baby!
11-20-2014: US Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that (1) police can enter a home with multiple residents as long as any one of the residents authorizes entry and (2) the government can freeze the assets of a defendant before trial (even if the defendant needs the resource to hire an attorney). WSJ, 2-26-2014, A3.
11-19-2014: Recent housing survey revealed > 35% of baby boomers were planning to move after retirement and of those, >40% were planning to move into a smaller home.
11-18-2014: About 25% of the total waste for the entire year is generated between Thanksgiving and New Years Day….I thought it would be a higher percentage.
11-14-2014: Per WSJ 11-1 to 2, 2014, B8 … after tax 401K contributions can be moved into a ROTH IRA later. Apparently, ROTH IRA withdrawals don’t affect AGI for income tax purposes.
Social security can be taken early at 62 years of age, but if you wait until age 66 or so, it may increase by 25%. For each year after 66, annual payments would rise an estimated 8% until age 70.
Eminent domain is a process where the governmental authority takes possession of your private real property for “public benefit” of some kind and is supposed to pay you “fair market value” of the property. Inverse condemnation is an offshoot of eminent domain where the property owner sues the applicable governmental authority for condemnation or depriving an owner of its use and value and pays damages.
About 50 countries (excluding the US) agreed to “spy and report” on bank accounts, incomes, and assets of their country’s taxpayers (including those who aren’t residents including corporations). This agreement to share an exchange information is used by each participating country to ensure those taxpayers are reporting income and paying appropriate taxes…The US has its own 2010 Law – US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act – which upon agreement by foreign banks to report assets and income to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). WSJ, 10-30-2014, A9
11-11-2014: REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) that are not listed in a normal stock market exchange, but are sold through broker-dealers and financial advisers…are they all legitimate or are they subject to more scrutiny?
On 11-5-2014, the Federal reserve (a) will now allow those financial institutions deemed “too big to fail” continue to securitize debt (which contributed greatly to the last financial system crisis); and (b) prohibited the “too big to fail” financial institutions to acquire assets that will exceed the 10% threshold, but didn’t prohibit organic growth, and (c) those who do exceed 10% threshold can acquire new assets up to $2 Billion at a time…but didn’t limit the frequency. Bottom line: Does everyone feel safer now?
11-7-2014: First time home buyers comprised about 33% of all buyers in the latest 12 month period…Besides higher rents and student loan debt, the confidence in the economy is very low.
11-6-2014: Georgia Power is expecting future revenue streams from electricity used to charge electric cars. They currently have almost 1,500 customers on their plug-in vehicle charging plan and anticipate 1,000 plug-in electric vehicles sold each month in Georgia. Sales are expected to be strong since the Federal Government are offering $7,500 income tax credit and Georgia allows up to a $2,500 tax credit for low-emission vehicles and a $5,000 tax credit for zero emission vehicles. Source: ABC, 10-31/11-6, 2014, Page 3A.
11-4-2014: National rate of home ownership fell to 64.3% (lowest level since 1995) for the 3Q14 from 64.7% in 2Q14.
According to a GAO recent report, personal data at this website is at risk since weaknesses in database security were discovered….and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid is in charge of the website – feel secure about that?
11-2-2014: Recent studies reflected 90% of buyers search online for a home – (9% from a yard sign & 1% from newspapers)
10-31-2014: A pre-underwritten jumbo mortgage typically closes in 14 days as opposed to a conventional non-jumbo mortgage that close in 30 days.
Does technology create or eliminate jobs?
Median incomes have dropped to a 15 year low – advances in communication and information technology may be destroying more jobs than creating – many mid-level employees are pushed further down the company ladder – advances in technology are great for the consumer, but hard on the workers – this is creating more of a gap between unemployed and underemployed v. rich taxpayers – but is Government answer of investment in infrastructure, energy efficiency, an research the answer? Who knows – but advances in technology DO have an impact on both consumer and employment.
US regulators (including FHFA, FDIC and others) have agreed to relax US mortgage restrictions to become effective in the fall of 2015 by eliminating the need for 20% down payment. They also loosened the requirement of lenders to hold back 5% of the loan as long as they verify the borrower has the ability to repay the loan and their debt to income ratio doesn’t exceed 43%. Another agreement between FHFA and lenders is the type of circumstances that will require loans to be repurchased or levy large penalties on lenders years down the road if mortgages default.
Crowdfunding for mortgages?
There are sites designed to ask friends and strangers for personal financing for vacations, pet operations, personal tragedies or projects like Indiegogo, GoFundMe, Kickstarter, tilt, and others. Are there any for mortgage loans?
Update 10-29-2014: Crowdfunding for real estate hits Dubai & Middle East
Many US company websites have different pricing depending on the device you are using. Prices tended to be higher when using mobile devices like smartphones or tablets than using a laptop computer. Does anyone care or take notice and retribution, or do they just get a slap on wrist and go on?
Medicare/Medicaid Fraud: The Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services found that physicians profited millions from referrals to an oncology lab owned by the hospitals they worked for – anything for a buck…is the doctor in..yes..the doctor is involved with making money any way they can.
Do we really need a $68 Billion high speed train from Northern California to Southern California?
US Federal authorities asked local police departments in 105,000 cases to hold the illegal criminal up to 48 hour after normal holding period but 8,800 of those requests were ignored, releasing 3,000 with previous criminal records – why? WSJ, 10-18/19-2014, A5.
On one side of FHFA’s, they asked banks to relax their own “overlays (i.e., additional constraints on mortgages) in overreaction to recent lawsuit and settlements and mortgage buybacks…on the other side of their mouth, the FHFA threatened to change rules of mortgage buybacks even after entering the proverbial “3 year safe zone” originally designed to protect lenders from buying back those mortgages even if they turned bad. Trust the FHFA? Not yet.
Errors & Omissions Insurance
It is estimated that less than half of all real estate agents are covered by E&O insurance.
Single family housing starts are up only about 4% but multi-unit housing construction is up >35%. Not sure what the relaxed mortgage rules will be this week, but mortgages are available now mostly to those with almost perfect credit…and that has slowed the rebound in real estate sales.
Housing construction and remodeling historically have normally contributed about 5% toward gross domestic product.
Federal regulators are to release details on relaxing mortgage rules to increase the sales of housing which includes dropping down payment to 3% for some buyers. (Note: Fannie Mae stopped that practice in 2o13 and Freddie Mac stopped it years ago.)
Arizona appeals court struck down a voter approved Arizona law to deny bail for illegal immigrants charged with felonies.
Loser pays lawsuits and where do court settlements go?
First, about 25% of the >$70 billion in court settlements from 1997 to 2012 went to the plaintiff’s attorneys…Is that right?
And anywhere from 40-60% of these settlements never get collected – that’s bad!
Excessive costs v. Doctor CYA
Excessive tests are often ordered by doctors to cover-their-asses (CYA) in case something bad happens to a patient’s health and a pending lawsuit results. However, hospitals have a need to reduce costs to ensure survivability and provide the same or better level of service. Some hospitals, whose doctors are employees of the hopital(which is another alarming trend) are eliminating the need to order so many test unless the doctor thinks it is absolutely necessary. This will be the constant drumbeat as Obamacare entrenches the grasp of hospitals and squeeze the profit and end exceptional care…
10-18-2014: How big is the college textbook industry?
Try about $7 Billion…But is it shrinking or growing? Some students grab scanned online books – some check them out of libraries – some professors put together their own study materials – And the industry is trying to develop online interactive and hanging materials. With student debt at an all time high an textbook costing $600-1,200 per semester, students are looking for less expensive alternatives. Source: WSJ/8-28-14/B6.
10-17-2014: The Federal Reserve and five other regulators (including the FDIC and SEC) are expected to release revised rules on a QRM (Qualified Residential Mortgage), including waiver of the 20% down-payment requirement, on or near October 22, 2014.
FCC shakes down AT&T for only $105 million
AT&T finally got penalized for decades long practice of cramming (charging bogus 3rd charges to its customers). It is estimated that 20 million customers are crammed each year. The $105 million will be paid as follows: $80 million to the FCC to be returned to customer who have been crammed; $20 million to each of the affected states and $5 million penalty to the FCC for more parties and toner after all the paperwork on this charge. My thoughts: I wonder who didn’t get paid under the table to make this long-time practice end?
10-16-2014: Smyrna City Government (including the Smyrna Downtown Development Authority) says…Hey, it’s only about $8 million loss but we’ll make it up in 10-20 more years…Instead of leaving the Hickory Lakes apartment complex property as is for the next property developer to grade, about $8 million was spent to demolish and remove building and grade the property to attract developers…and still sold for about $8 million less than it cost. Any reason why governments should be in the business of developing and selling property?
US Supreme Court rules an IRA isn’t an IRA
The June 2014 ruling by the high court resulted in the decision that an inherited IRA is no longer an IRA and not protected from creditors under bankruptcy law. What IRA owners now have to do is to establish a trust fund and not leave it as an IRA for the heirs unless the souse can roll the IRA over after inheritance. WSJ, 10-13-14, R3.
10-15-2014: Teaching Strategies Gold – “TS Gold”
It’s a school readiness assessment system for elementary level students in government (i.., public) schools. There are 38 objectives under nine topics of academic learning, psycho-motor data, and social-emotional development. Students are video taped,photographed, and audio recorded ad all this data (a) is stored somewhere (is it safe?) and (b) stays with the student indefinitely (information held against the student for entire education and professional career?). Not only is this wrong on everal levels, another fear is it can be used by 3rd parties for commercial/profit purposes.
Duties of the Federal Reserve
Since 2009, the Federal Reserve (having 2 major mandates: price stability and employment) bought $17 Trillion in mortgage backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but do they plan to sell any of them? If they do, they need to sell them slowly and on a even regular basis so as not to disrupt the securities market and economic growth.
10-14-2014: Braves in Cobb County
Source MDJ Opinion – 8-26-2014
Approximately $700 Million in private funds is expected to be invested in Cobb for the entire stadium and amenities around the stadium and is expected to reduce or lower Cobb County property taxes. – Dan McRae is Lead Counsel for the Development Authority of Cobb County).
Cobb’s annual debt service is funded by (conservative estimates) sources already generating more revenue than originally expected and will ensure property taxes remain the same.
Long term maintenance costs for the county are capped, but are long term “improvement costs” capped? For instance, the Braves had currently asked for $200+ million for “improvements” to the stadium to which the City of Atlanta objected, and therefore prompted the Braves to look for another location – Cobb County.
So who’s going to pay for the future “improvements” to the stadium once the Braves get tired of status quo and extort our answer? And who really owns the stadium once it is built and is operating? Does Cobb County have use free and clear for non baseball season events? I hope we can squirrel away some of the profits to so we can pay fr it improvements, use, or demolition!
10-13-2014: What started the $97 million Cobb EMC (Electronic Membership Corporation) lawsuit?
Basically – it was a result f a class action lawsuit claiming Cobb EMC withheld profit that should have been returned to its members…about 45% of their current members are to receive some sort of refund as long as they file a claim at www.cobbemcsettlement.com. Source: MDJ/9-21-2014/8A
Banks release their stress test results
Major US banks, in conjunction with the Dodd-Frank Law of 2010, must perform stress tests which measure the strength of their balance sheets/assets to endure a financial crisis similar to or worse than the crisis of 2008. Since the results released were based on each banks own criteria of models and assumptions, hardly any “standard” measure was used because each bank made different assumptions and scenarios. Bottom Line: Surprise – they all passed….you never doubted it for a minute did you?
10-12-2014: Are nursing homes as safe as they can be?
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (the Federal agency responsible for regulation of nursing homes), reported that 385 facilities in 39 states (housing approximately 52,000 elderly residents) do not have any or adequate fire protection systems. Question: How many nursing hoes actually burn down each year? Back in 2005, it was reported 2,300 nursing home fires are reported each year — or one for every seven nursing homes, according to the National Fire Protection Association,a fire-prevention research group. Most of those fires are small and controlled quickly, without major damage or injuries. Apparently in the past 35 years, at least 500 people have died in nursing home fires. Hundreds more have been injured. Source: The USA Today article
Nursing home update 10-17-2014: US Department of Health & Human Services agreed to settle allegations of over billing Medicare & Medicaid by Extendicare Health Services, Inc. AJC, 10-11-14, A9.
10-10-2014: End of life care
Are we talking about how we care for elderly citizens while reducing costs and improving care? Are we discussing palliative care (which addresses pain relief to improve quality of life in final stages of life)? Medicare incentives favor last minute hospice care…patients are referred there if expected life is
Sexually transmitted infections
Reportedly about half the sexually transmitted diseases affect the 15-24 year old age group…and only about 20% of those in that age group are ever tested for HIV….also heard about 60% of students polled ever used a condom during sexual intercourse…
Germs and illnesses
Most respiratory viruses can survive a maximum of 2-4 days.
Microbes on porous (carpet, cloth, upholstery, etc,) can survive longer than on polyester or plastics/synthetic fibers….Keyboards or children’s toys can collect dirt which allows the microbes to last longer….Hand sanitizers actually kill both the good and bad bacteria and spread illnesses faster….Handshakes can spread bacteria up to 20 times faster than fist bump..and 40% of hospital employees don’t sufficiently wash their hands. Source: WSJ-9-30-14, D1
10-9-2014: Wealth Building Home Loan – alternative to “relaxing current lending standards”
A 15 year mortgage that applies >75% of each monthly mortgage premium toward principal in the first 3 years and allows home buyers to apply most or all of the down payment to reduce the interest rate.
New IRS 1095A forms
US Department of Health and Human Services will be responsible to send out 1095A tax forms (similar to W-2’s) which reflect potentially taxable health insurance tax credits paid toward health insurance plans under Obamacare by January 31, 2015.
10-8-2014: Relaxing current lending standards
The FHFA wants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to relax mortgage lending standards and increase the number of mortgages by low income home buyers. But on the other hand, bank are reducing the number of mortgages they want to extend which allows non-traditional lenders like credit unions and crowdfunding step in to fill the gap.
Credit unions are gaining mortgage business
Almost 10% of loans originated by credit unions. Many offer 15 year adjustable rates or no down payment purchase loans as well as refinancing loans up to 97% of market value, they are looking more attractive to their growing membership all the time. MDJ/9-28-14/M4.
10-7-2014: Should we be concerned about Lyme disease or US government tests for it?
Government and current makers of FDA approved Lyme disease tests will benefit if tests are regulated and choices reduced – yet the patient will be harmed…if not for separate independent lab tests, many people would be misdiagnosed as to not have Lyme disease…Apparently the current 2 tier tests only catch Lyme disease in 31% of the cases…which means 69% will not be caught – And recent research from Johns Hopkins suggest we are using the wrong antibiotics which contribute to spreading bacteria – not killing it. Source: WSJ/9-23-14,A16.
10-6-2014: A Washington DC judge tossed out lawsuits against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over investor complaints that the US Government was taking more profits than necessary and not leaving enough for investors. This dismissal will be appealed and other lawsuits are still pending. This all started when Congress gave the FHFA and Treasury Department the authority to suck profit dry to hide the money laundering. Just a note: The US Treasury collected $220 Billion in dividends after funding their losses of $188 Billion – so where did all the money go – especially the extra $30 Billion in profit over and above their “investment”? Bottom line: It’s time the US Government turns control of Fannie and Freddie back to investors and let them profit and not extort money from businesses – but that “is” the Chicago way!
10-4-2014: According to a recent study, home prices are rising month-to-month but at a decreasing rate (i.e., slowing down)…but the consumer confidence in the economy has dropped alot regardless of the happy horse crap pushed by media over jobs added.
10-3-2014: Keep it in Cobb? – Does that mean the Heroin epidemic in Cobb County High Schools?
Today’s (10-3-14) MDJ (page 3A) reported that the CDC recently released a study that Heroin death have doubled in the past two years. Could the reason be prescription drugs that parents are prescribed are stolen by their teenage children that take them and now Heroin is cheaper, Heroin use ha exploded? Well….
Apparently due to the federal/local government and pharmacist crackdown on reducing the supply of opiate based prescription pain pills (i.e., Hydrocodone, Tramadol, Oxycodone, Percocet, Dilaudid, Lortab, Vicodin and Codeine) through fewer prescriptions and pill mils/pain clinics, there is an increased use of heroin and a direct correlation to increased pharmacy robberies. Also, the hit of heroin can be $5-10 where the one pill of the prescription drug can cost $20-30. My thoughts: This is the classic chicken and egg argument: Which comes first = Are teens curiosity the cause of this epidemic, or is the availability of prescription drugs the cause? MDJ, Opinion Page 6A in 9-6-14 issue a source for blog post.
10-2-2014: Lenders will soon find that imaginary place between the rock and the hard place
Now that we’ve almost pulled out of the housing and mortgage crisis, where one of the many causes of mortgage defaults was extending credit to most home buyers (especially those who could least afford it and a large portion of those home buyers were minorities), there is a movement afoot. Apparently, the Federal Reserve recently released reports that indicate lenders are not extending enough loans to minorities. So I read the other day that the FHFA is proposing relaxing the lending restrictions on minority borrowers to allow more minorities to own homes.
Although this proposal by President Obama will probably backfire and raise some rates while dropping others and may reduce the amount of each loan, at least the President is taking action against predatory lenders taking advantage of shortage between paychecks and cover maxed out credit cards limits. Lenders also bypass current rules by extending loan periods and increase loan amounts above Military Lending Act provisions. What was the Republican proposal that was to curb abusive rates on backs of our troops?
9-29-2014: Does baldness at a certain age determine your probability of prostate cancer?
The WSJ reported that men who are at least 45 years of age and bald are almost 40% more likely to contract prostate cancer.
9-28-2014: Two significant proposed changes to ROTH accounts by Obama
(1) Requirement for people to make mandatory withdrawals from their ROTH accounts at 70 1/2 (now they are not required to withdraw any.)
(2) Require the heirs to make mandatory withdrawals and deplete the account within 5 years of the date of ROTH owner’s death.
Source: WSJ, 9-8-2014, R8
9-27-2014: Immigration failure #307
According to an Immigrations and Custom Enforcement official about 70% of the immigrant families asked to show up to a follow up appointment weeks later never showed – thanks Barack Hussein Obama!
The US Justice Department has only recovered about $10 Billion of the $97 Billion it is owed from individuals and corporations through court actions, judgments, fines and penalties of criminal actions involving investment fraud schemes and other crimes since 2004.
9-26-2014: HUDOIG found that lenders generated an estimated $428 million in gains from the sale of Government National Mortgage Association securities when modifying defaulted FHA loans in fiscal year 2013. These loan modifications were completed as part of FHA’s loss mitigation program. None of these lender generated gains were used to offset FHA’s insurance fund costs. As a result, FHA missed opportunities to strengthen its insurance fund.
US Government doesn’t want to entertain Fannie & Freddie lawsuit
A Federal judge ruled “shafted” Fannie Mae “investors” couldn’t sue the Federal government for Federal government theft of their earnings in the form of stock dividends.
History: Both Fannie & Freddie were promised massive aid in exchange for senior preferred stock and right to 80% of common shares…the original agreement was for them both to pay 10% dividend plus other fees….then in 2012, they were relieved of the 10% dividend in exchange for dividends equaling their profits. Seems that the Federal government (i.e., FHFA) keeps changing the rules to “shake down” profits from mortgage borrowers…
9-25-2014: The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) has been using negotiated closing cost$ to buy down interest rates and not charge any closing fees for years…this is news? It just takes longer than typical loans since the buyer needs to go through months of classwork and seminars…then get the Seller to agree with all terms and conditions of repairs requested. In this environment of limited inventory and Seller strength, these loans are tough to use unless the house has been sitting for a while and not drawing buyer interest because of condition, location, or price is too high. Note: These loans don’t require a down payment, check credit scores, and loan approval can be as soon as 12 months after loan default or other negative financial event. Source of inspiration: WSJ/9-17-14/C3
9-22-2014: K-12 schools are improving, but not as competitive internationally
Recent Leaders & Laggards report from the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation revealed many states without excellent scores and many who fail to prepare students based on 11 business oriented criteria.
9-21-2014: Some reasons renters aren’t buying homes
About 60-65% of renters plan to move in the next 3 years; they only had about a 45% chance of buying a house when moving; >50% think their income is to low; >40% think their credit scores and history isn’t good enough to get a loan or a good rate; and >65% still believe it’s too difficult to get a mortgage. This last point is probably right on…since lenders seem to constantly ask for the same or new information – and at the last minute…makes it annoying and takes the joy out of purchasing a new home. It seems that if lenders make it an enjoyable experience, people would want to do it again as opposed to most I’ve heard saying they wouldn’t want to go through the mortgage process very soon. Source of survey: WSJ, 9-13/14/2014, B14.
Police use of license plate scanners – are you ok with it?
Well, another gray area…police departments are capturing and storing license plate data from police cars and traffic lights. They are justifying the data capture by using it against criminals, or excuse innocent suspects. Is this an invasion of privacy? Will this data be available upon request to share how and where and what information on your car is stored? What happens when a criminal loans his car to a friend who decides to drive through a McDonald’s across town at the same time the other criminal steals a car and uses it in a crime? Will the police use the data to let the actual criminal free?
9-20-2014: Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC)institutes new rules for more loan disclosure
The SEC just approved new rules to make banks and financial firms to reveal more details about mortgages such as credit scores and measurement of debt to income ratios for the borrowers of the loans to investors and other loans that are pooled together into specialized bonds referred to as asset backed securities. One problem there was not enough disclosure of potential risk. Anoher problem was that there was too much reliance on rating agencies. (WSJ/8-28-14/C3 and WSJ 8-27-14, C3)
9-19-2014: Secondary market for jumbo mortgages
Jumbo mortgages (often those over $417,000) are now held by many banks, or bought large national/regional banks are buying them and are no longer being bought by Fannie or Freddie and securitized. Jumbo loans are now perceived as more secure investments since the lending standards have been tightened and the total market is much smaller than pre-2008 levels. But some banks are seeing the secondary mortgage market (i.e., investors buying up mortgages ad securitizing them) shrink and if it gets too small, the 30 year mortgage may be extinct or few and far between.
Status of mortgage lending
It has dropped >50% since last year and the Mortgage Bankers Association predicts interest rates will rise another 1% making the typical mortgage 12% more expensive. Large lenders are apprehensive in extending mortgages to even qualified applicants with lower credit scores.
9-18-2014: Real estate projections of home purchases
A recent Federal Reserve survey found about 2/3 of those surveyed that they believe they would move within the next 3 years and not consider buying a home and hen they moved, only about 45% thought they may buy a home when they do move…abut 40% thought their credit wasn’t good enough to buy a home….and almost 2/3 said it would be difficult to obtain a mortgage.
Cobb County plans to expand McCullum as air traffic drops
Regional Airline business is shrinking – profits are dropping – costs are rising – having trouble with finding pilots to fly planes on a low salary – and are arm twisted to lower their rates to get the business with major carriers. At the same time, Cobb County Government plans to expand the McCullum Regional airport to accommodate more international round trip flights by building a customs facility and increasing the height of a new tower. Is this good or bad timing? Those who live along Piedmont Road and Barrett Parkway (in the flight path of McCullum Airport) will be the ultimate judges.
9-17-2014: Stock market may be up, but it’s not necessarily all due to stronger economy
In fact, the economy remains sluggish up and down and sputtering. One significant possible reason for the rise in the stock market prices is that corporations bought back almost $340 Billion of their stock..and if nothing else, supports a price per share level with fewer shares and if there are fewer shares spread over even the same income, that results in higher stock prices. So, does all this mean some big wheels are going to make alot of money by a stock market pricing bubble to burst soon? I hope not but can’t rule it out.
9-16-2014: Obamacare costs are rising
The Health and Human Services released their projections for 2014 and beyond and the rates of inmcrease are near 6% where trhey were less than 4% for years…Healthcare is to absorb one in five US dollars and taxpayers will finance almost 50% of that spending by the end of the next decade including the 23% expansion of Medicaid spending. How efficient will Government be in spending that increase?
Obamacare tax credits could cost you money
If you applied for coverage through healthcare.gov, you may have received a tax credit for insurance. If your 2014 income is higher than expected, you probably won’t apply for as much of a tax credit for healthcare and therefore you may need to pay back some of the tax credit. Almost 7 million people have received these tax credits and > 30% will most likely have to pay something back…it all depends on whether you worked harder and got a raise and if so…Surprise – you get penalized.
9-15-2014: US taxpayers on the hook for Billions of SBA loans
The 10 worst business franchise brands in terms of Small Business Administration (SBA) loan defaults left taxpayers holding the bad on 21% (or $121 Billion) of charge offs between 2004 and 2013.
Banks to hold less cash for next mortgage/financial crisis
The Federal Reserve, FDIC and other US regulators approved the requirement for >30 major US banks altogether hold back a grand total of $100 Billion (instead of the $200 Billion) they originally expected to buffer the impact of the next financial crisis…you know, in case that ever happens. Also, a new “liquidity rule” will require banks to carry salable assets to cover up to 30 days of stress.
9-12-2014: US taxpayers on the hook for Billions of SBA loans
The 10 worst business franchise brands in terms of Small Business Administration (SBA) loan defaults left taxpayers holding the bad on 21% (or $121 Billion) of charge offs between 2004 and 2013.
9-9-2014: Citrus Killing Bugs in Florida
The $9 Billion Florida citrus industry is under attack from the Asian Citrus Psyillid that kills the root of the tree slowly while the fruit is still produced for a while until the tree finally dies after its vascular system is clogged by the bacteria remaining after the bug. There is currently no solution to the infestation or eliminating the bacteria.
Sweden’s Electrolux to purchase GE appliance business
The $3.3 Billion price will give them about a 36% share (compared with Whirlpool’s 39% and other ompetitors like Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics) market share…But for US consumers, what is the level of quality of Electrolux products and what will be the quality in the future?
9-7-2014: Are people moving to Cobb County for their schools or walking trails?
Sure, there is the Silver Comet Trail (converting old abandoned railroad track into a walking trail) project to connect up through Alabama. And the trails at Kennesaw Mountain are nice.
Comment from Cobb County parks and recreation…”The (65 different trails) trail system has become an economic driver in Cobb County.”
Oh really? Then prove it with number$!
9-5-2014: Ok – no tears for Bank of America but they have spent >100% of their reported net income between 2004 and 2007 in litigation costs and mortgage buybacks. About $34 Billion in litigation charges and about $34 Billion to repurchase faulty mortgages.
9-4-2014: Did the recent cyberattack that hit J.P.Morgan Chase & Co. hit other US banks?
The extent of what was stolen or done is being investigated by the FBI, Secret Service, and NSA. Other forensic companies (FireEye; Crowdstrike; and Strotz Friedberg) are also participating with the banks. In 2012, several banks were attacked and their websites crashed…Heard on the street – “Fraudsters are usually one step ahead of bank security defenses” – oh, that’s comforting. On average, banks spend $150-200 million each on internet security.
8-29-2014: US banks are increasing amount of loans
FDIC reported that total bank loan balances rose to $8.11 Trillion due to increased construction, auto, agriculture, and credit card loans. Fun fact: There are about 6,700 banks in the US. My question: How many and what proportion of the increase was due to increased new distribution or balance of credit cards (i.e., unsecured credit v. secured credit of auto-ag-construction loans)?
Heard on the street: The Federal Reserve is planning to raise interest rates in 2015…after the election.
8-28-2014: Fewer Home mortgages are underwater (almost half as many as the deepest part of recent mortgage crisis, but…
About 30% of the lowest priced homes have negative equity or are underwater (i.e., are worth less than their mortgages). This inventory isn’t hitting the market and therefore, not available to first time or other buyers. In fact, inventory of such lower priced homes fell about 8% from last year.
8-27-2014: Florida has approximately 60,000 homeowner and condo associations. According to the Community Associations Institute as of 2012, there were an estimated 323,600 housing associations covering 25.9 million units and 63.4 million people.
8-26-2014: Local Metro Atlanta Credit Union offers cash back rebate for using them – legal or not?
Question: Can a lender give a borrower an incentive, such as a chance to win a trip or a rebate, for doing business with the lender?
Answer: RESPA does not prohibit a lender or other settlement provider from giving the borrower an incentive for doing business with it as long as the incentive is not based on the borrower referring business
My thought: This is a gray area and more than likely the rebate/incentive needs to be disclosed to all parties on the HUD-1.
Source of answer: http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/ramh/res/resindus.cfm
8-25-2014: The most intimidating parts of the home-buying process
Making an offer and negotiating a price (38%); obtaining a mortgage (36%); moving (31%); closing (30%); and searching for and locating a home (25%). Most important considerations in buying a home? Single home owners rated space and square footage (59%); the yard (57%); and proximity to work or school (47%).
8-24-2014: Ever wonder how much acreage is on a triangle shaped property with varied lengths and angles? Wonder no more when you use this scalene triangle area measurement tool.
8-23-2014: Are ants cooling off the planet earth?
WSJ article in August 16-17, 2014 page c4 revealed a scientific study that reported ants were efficient at accelerating the breakdown of important chemicals that absorb carbon dioxide (by-product of burning fossil fuels) which in turn form new rocks. A potential solution or countermeasure to climate change? Can we understand and emulate to solve issue? As Spock would say….fascinating!
8-22-2014: Brilliant press statement of the day
Because the city of Smyrna spent $15 million on the property and plan to sell it for about $14 million, it’s likely the city will lose money. Government school math? MDJ, 8-20-14, 6B.
FTC gains legalized entry into company IT departments
With a liberal interpretation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, when a company’s data system is breached by “deceptive hackers” and consumer personal/financial information is exposed or obtained, the FTC uses the Act to consider the victim (said hacked company) violated the unfair trade practice and comes in to investigate and stay. Note: The FTC website and other government agency websites were hacked in 2012 and 2013.
8-21-2014: Home sizes and housing starts
Average sized home was about 2,500 square feet or the 2nd quarter in a row…entry level and first time home buyers dropped to 16% from a 25-28% rate in healthier years…housing starts were up 16% last month…applications for building permits rose >8%.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac forever paying the US Government
Regardless of whatever happens as the outcome of recent investment banking lawsuits to eliminate the US Government’s preferred stock in both companies, Fannie and Freddie are probably on the hook to pay 10% dividends – forever!
8-20-2014: Wow, has college life changed over the years
Haven Campus Communities will finish a 792 bed luxury student housing community (Stadium Village) at Kennesaw State University across from the football stadium by the start of their first football season in 2015. Fully furnished townhomes and flat floor plans with fully equipped kitchens, flat screen TV, full sized washers and dryers, private bathrooms for each bedroom, and lots of closet space. But wait, there’s more – the community will offer a clubhouse including a cyber lounge, coffee bar, fitness center, tanning rooms, game room, computer center and professional on-site management. And don’t forget the outdoor pool area that includes an infinity pool, sun deck, large tanning deck and hammock garden, outdoor amphitheater, covered built-in grills, outdoor pavilion with TVs, lounge furniture, and a fire pit. Well, I’m sure there will be several “study groups: and “group projects” for those students! MDJ, 8-13-14, 4B.
8-19-2014: Bank profits are at record highs
US banks reported >$40 Billion in profits in 2Q14….some of which is coming from banks releasing their reserves for bad loans (since the CFPB – Dodd-Frank, and other regulators are making it tougher to make loans) and slowing down mortgage lending so there are fewer, but more profitable loans. So it’s a win-win for banks, but guess who it’s a lose-lose for?
Are home prices rising or falling?
Well, apparently across the country the prices are decelerating. With many homeowners who saw the prices rising and recently decided to place their homes on the market (increasing available inventory) and the fact that many investors/homebuyers got discouraged from the rising prices although the interest rates remained fairly steady, and have pulled back from the market (lower demand), simple economics have resulted in falling prices – for now. But as I said before, prices will tend to fluctuate throughout 2014 due toi rise and fall in supply, demand, and interest rate changes. Source of posting: WSJ, 8-13-14, A2.
8-18-2014: FHA now has liability of about $240 Billion in mortgage loans – up from $55 Billion in pre-crisis years. Congress mandates the FHA to hold 2% of their total loans in reserve.
8-17-2014: Cheaper homes are getting more expensive and require larger down payments
The median down payment for the cheapest 25 percent of homes was 7.5 percent of the sales price last year, up from a low of 3.1 percent in 2006 and compared with an average 4.2 percent from 2001 through 2007, according to Seattle-based Redfin.
8-16-2014: Anthony Coleman indicted under the RICO Act
The indictment accuses Mr. Coleman of asking a pastor to write 3 false letters for his girlfriend to state she had served sufficient community service on a DUI and hit and run charge…when she didn’t serve the time. With politicians like this, who needs criminals on the street, we’d have them right where we want them – in office spending our money on important things – like booty. And this tells alot about the voters who consistently elect him and can’t run a better candidate!
8-15-2014: New Accounting Rules may negatively affect banks – sooner than later
The FASB has proposed a new rule to become effective in 2017 – 2018. The rule will require banks to write off the projected loss of a loan upfront and not wait until the loan actually defaults, as is the current rule. This means that we’re going to let banks predict the future? Been there – done that – ouch! Source: WSJ, 8-13-14, C3.
8-14-2014: Met Life mass faxes cost them $23 million
MetLife lost 2 class action lawsuits (Florida & Illinois) stemming from millions of faxes sent to potential customers. Payouts will be between $50-3,500 per claim.
8-12-2014: Those who make the rules, rule the educational system.
The College Board (a non-profit association of more than 6,000 educational institutions) produces the Advanced Placement U.S. History Framework (APUSH), SAT, PSAT, and GED, recently reformulated the SAT. So when they rewrite US AP History tests that focus far more on the negative aspects, they are effectively changing US History taught in schools. And each successive generation of school children learn what the College Board wants them to learn. Source: American Thinker and MDJ, 8-12-2014, A1.
8-11-2014: HUD recently sold defaulting mortgage notes for 124,000 single family homes to a single investor.
8-10-14: According to an agreement reached between the CFPB and Fair Issac Corporation, FICO scores will no longer include dings for zero balances on accounts that were written off or paid (about 9% of people) and less of a hit agains FICO score for those with large unpaid medical bills. But it’s interesting to note that mortgage lenders use older versions of FICO scores.
Interesting facts: In 2013, there were approximately $45 Billion in Interest Only mortgages…About 1 in 5 new mortgage in 1Q14 were Adjustable Rate Mortgages – and you thought they were gone!
8-9-14: 65% Increase in HAMP application backlog
Since November 2013, there’s a month-end total of about 221,000 HAMP (mortgage modification) applications waiting to be reviewed. About 1.3 million homeowners’ mortgages were modified but many still face delays when banks constantly request the same documents after long periods of delay. But some delays are attributed to the recent CFPB requirement for banks to consider other options as well which requires additional review. WSJ, 7-30-14, A2.
Can someone please explain to me why Cobb County need to buy extra police cars so the police can take them home from work every day? Many people drive back and forth to work every day in their own vehicles. I don’t see how this adds more crime prevention unless it just gives the appearance of more police on patrol.
Relaxed mortgage standards
At least for those who can best qualify for and pay with good credit, otherwise, it’s nearly impossible with a little shade and many have to much debt from past housing crisis and lower income from changes in employment.
8-7-14: Millennial generation is larger than the baby boomers — 87 million versus 76 million…Last year, the most common age in America was 22 years old…In comparison, there were 4.4 million 55-year-olds last year.
Question posed: Will they be a recognizable and similar historical force in real estate in the coming years, or will they take another path?
Major US banks were forced purchase of failed assets
Apparently, around the same time mortgage industry was collapsing all around us, the US Government strongly encouraged Bank of America to eat the purchase of Merrill lynch after JP Morgan ate Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, which also were forced to eat by strong encouragement by the US Gov’t and collapsed. BOA did pursue and acquire Countrywide and took the hit on their losses. Now BOA is squeezed once more to extort money for past sins caused partially by the US Government…What a country! Source: WSJ, 7-29-2014, C2.
(My terrible thought: This reminds me of the sports cheer we used to sing in high school..”Munch, munch, munch…the ref (US Regulators) is out to lunch, eat it banks eat it – munch, munch, munch!”)
Rhode Island offers a “first time home buyer” tax credit
A dollar-for-dollar tax credit of up to $2,000 against their Federal tax liability for the life of their loanFirstHomes Tax Credit is offered to first time home buyers who purchase properties in specific areas and conform to income and other limitations.
Question: How did a US State swing a Federal Tax Credit for life?
About 10 million (or 8.2%) of US households have “no” bank accounts at all!
Builder CEO pay grows faster than stock prices
Compensation for the largest 13 US home builders grew at a 37% rate and shareholder returns for those same 13 home builders grew at 13% according to FPL Associates LP. Source: WSJ, July 30, 2014, C8.
SunTrust agreed to pay $320 million for poor treatment of homeowners
The money goes to consumers/homeowners who didn’t receive proper service under the HAMP program where some applications were never reviewed, misreported consumer credit status to credit bureaus, and just messed up on other situations. Source: WSJ, July 5-6, 2014, B2.
Zillow and Trulia dominate online real estate searches and are merging…the top 3 real estate annual website visits:
Zillow = 54 million;
Trulia = 31 million, and
Realtor.com = 24 million
Georgia’s Private School scholarship program helps more kids attend private school
Parents and businesses can benefit through a Georgia law allowing a tax deduction for some of the money they contribute toward the private school scholarship programs. The average scholarship for about 13,000 private school students was $3,388 compared with the average cost per student in public school of $10,345. Atlanta Business Chronicle (ABC), July 25-31, 2014.
EPA Power Grab
With the recent release of about 1,600 pages of regulations restricting the operation of coal fired energy plants, the EPA continues to attempt to cripple 50% of the energy production of the United States. Georgia’s Public Service Commission plans to argue the point during the hearing set for July 29th. ABC, July 25-31, 2014.
Cobb Electric Membership Corporation (EMC)
A recent Georgia court settlement resulted in Cobb EMC obligation to return $98 million back to its customers. About $25 million is being mailed back to customers by the end of July. What’s funny about it is that about 118,000 claims were submitted by former or current customers, but about 75% of those claims were either fraudulent or had errors in them like unchecked selections or unsigned claim forms. Marietta Daily Journal, 7-27-14, 6A.
US Company tax inversions
I’m not a CPA nor do I play one on TV. And I am not naive to thin the US tax code is completely crap since there are many foreign companies moving to the US daily to incorporate…or buy a US Company…But there are US firms moving and/or selling/reincorporating in other countries with more favorable tax treatment. So this ought to be a clue to President Obama that our corporate tax structure needs to be rewritten to keep and draw companies to the US…not dive their business and revenue away.
Rising rents in Denver and other spots – Signs of time to buy a house?
Well, if you bought into they hype from the early 2000’s just before the housing market crash, you may buy into this market. Many home prices are rising since foreclosures have subsided, alot of huge investors (Blackstone, American Homes for Rent, China, etc) have bought leftover foreclosure in thousands to help dry up alternative investment properties and artificially drive up prices. Source of inspiration: http://insiderealestatenews.com/2014/07/24/rising-rents-time-to-buy/
Plane and jet makers face economic/sales turbulence
Some airplane and jet manufacturers are encountering many buyers around the world that prefer to make slight improvements to their existing fleets (i.e., more efficient engines, minor design changes, etc,.) and hence their annual budgets and bottom line profits, as opposed to waiting for the huge efficiency years down the road. WSJ, 7-15-2014, B3.
Several concerns for interior household environments
These nasty items people stick in their mouths and suck on like little babies are tools of the local, state and Federal governments to raise revenue. Some estimate taxes per pack of cigarettes reach $3.80. Which is why some people from the State of New York travel to Georgia, hang out at QuikTrips and other places cigarettes are sold to buy them at almost half the price old in New York City…to make profit…good old entrepreneurism. IMHO – Alleged estimates of $500 million/year go to trial attorneys who work with the US government lawsuits and get drained in the back end from humble politicians with outstretched hands for kickbacks. Source: WJ,7-16-2014, A11 (Comment: So how does this tax revenue get back to the people in rehab programs trying to quit smoking, or hospitals caring for obvious smoker related health issues? Nowhere!)
Mixed news on U.S. housing starts
Lots of rain over winter and spring has stalled home construction caused 2nd straight month of falling starts. Also, many municipalities are taking longer to approve developments. Entire 2Q14, housing starts and permit volume was up from last year. But new application for building permits has declined. Some builders and builder organizations are hoping lenders relax their standards, but that depends on Dodd-Frank rules and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. Source: WSJ, 7-18-14, A2.
Will the charm of Marietta Square disappear after “improvements” are made by politicians?
Mayor Steve Tumlin wants to pad the pocket of Goldstein and put a tourism office (a.k.a., money pit) on his property on the square; expand the grandstand, install bathrooms (probably to spare businesses from getting non paying customers in their stores only to use their bathrooms), install parking meters (what will they do with the proceeds, reimburse businesses for lost business?); shrink the road and enlarge the sidewalks (which are pretty darn wide right now); and make the square even more difficult to navigate…hey, the power of government ill screw up a good thing – always! Comment: Go for it Marietta and watch the charm of and the traffic on the square disappear. I wouldn’t want a business on the square after that happens.
Has real estate turned the corner in 2014? The Greater Atlanta Homebuilders Association reported about 14,000 new homes sold in 2013 and predicted another 18,000-19,000 in 2014. New homes may be hot, but the prices of those selling is $400K and above. Some municipalities have enacted a moratorium on new home construction. Also, there is still a lack of availability of credit for the smaller builders and developers. Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle, February 7-13, 2014, 24A.
Net neutrality as written by FCC – like, who’s neutral?
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal for net neutrality and mega deals between content providers (i.e., big and small businesses) & broadband providers (i.e., Comcast & some others) opens Pandora’s (not the music service) box of issues. Better ideas from the public include classifying broadband providers as utility companies and regulating their service to ensure all sizes of businesses have a chance to compete on same level…you now, fair! Source: WSJ, 7-15-2014, B3.
New Georgia Gun Laws:
Georgia bills HB 826 (modified the zero-tolerance policy dropping some definitions of weapons) and HB 60 (kept the definitions in place and effectively didn’t change any defined weapons in schools) but do allow guns in County school board meetings. Access to government buildings is when no police officer or metal detectors search for weapons. MDJ, 7-19-2014, A1
A successful VA program is about to end
The 5 year study on the effects of treating veterans with brain damage in a community based home and not a hospital or rest home environment is about to be scrapped by US Congress and put some veterans back on the street – homeless. C’mon, you got to be kidding – US Congress is more worthless than I thought.
Recent polls show small businesses can’t fill jobs to grow their business: A recent WSJ poll of 270 businesses revealed 35% couldn’t find qualified candidates. Less than 45% of small business owners believe their business growth suffers without this labor shortage. My thoughts: There are some people aged 50+ who are canned from their other jobs and careers that would be more than qualified to fill some of these positions and there’s where some of the labor can be acquired. Source: WSJ, 7-10-2014, B1.
How far has US home ownership come in the past 50 years? About the same today as it was then despite Fannie, Freddie, and all the rest of the US Government’s efforts to stimulate home ownership.
Boomer roommates may shape housing market With housing prices on the rise and retirement income on the decline, many retirees may be faced with a decision to tart living with other retirees in the same household.
Behind the scenes on Citigroup’s $7 Billion settlement for CDOs and MBS’s
Long political struggle resulted in $4 Billion of it goes to US Government as civil penalty, part of the remainder goes to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) will be used to help struggling homeowners in 5 states: Illinois, California, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York (all Democratic voting states…hmm..hmm..hmm) – But nobody lost their job, was hung, or even go to jail…they are still making mortgages and brokering financial deals. And where do you think they will get the $ to pay the fines? Source: WSJ, 7-14-14, C2.
265 Homes in Cobb scheduled to be foreclosed in July 2014 Of the 265 homes that were scheduled to be sold on the Cobb County courthouse steps on Tuesday July 2nd, how many were actually foreclosed?…Could be more…could be less. Nobody really knows since sometimes the banks withdraw the home from auction if the homeowner files bankruptcy, catches up their payments, or the lender withdraws their foreclosure action for another reason. Source: MDJ, 7-11-2014, B1.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy
Ray Nagin (the guy who sat on his ass and didn’t move people – especially older ones – out of the city during Hurricane Katrina on buses, but made Ted Kennedy proud by not having the buses float either like Ted’s VW) sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for a bribery and conspiracy scheme while he was “Mayor of the Chocolate City”. Help Wanted – Mayor of New Orleans – Only criminals with convictions need apply.
Big US banks have a problem – too much cash
US banks are raking in the cash but not lending it since interest rates (a bank’s means to earn profit) remain low and most lending risks have been minimized yet some lending risks remain too risky for bank loans. Also, Wells Fargo (nation’s largest mortgage lender) disclosed that home purchase loans have fallen almost 60% in the past 12 months. WSJ, 7-12/7-13, B2.
How to assess a real estate agentHere are some tips of what questions to ask of your real estate agent. I think the agent’s strategy and your expectations from the agent should be discussed.
Bank Payback Status on Foreclosure Settlement
13 of the largest US banks agreed to pay $9.3 Billion ($5.7 Billion in non-cash and $3.6 Billion in cash payments) to homeowners who were erroneously foreclosed on during the recent real estate crisis. As of April 2014, about $3.1 Billion in cash payments have been made and almost 85% have cashed their checks.Source: WSJ, July 8, 2014, C3.
Can Congress actually change the VA?
Chilling report from Washington DC reporter Jamie DuPree about how messed up the VA was and remains – servicing veteran with disgust http://www.wsbradio.com/weblogs/jamie-dupree/2014/jul/06/can-congress-actually-change-va/#cmComments
Corrosive Culture at the VA Long list of problems found by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors – impediment to progress and mismanagement at VA – inappropriate appointment scheduling procedures – dropped the 14 day target to see vets since it couldn’t be done – falsification of attendance and appointment records. In other words, it’s been mess for a while like all the vets have been saying over the years and yet nobody did anything about it! Source: WSJ, 6-28/29-2014,A4
US Taxpayers on the hook for PensionsThe Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) (part of the US Government) insures over 10 Million workers and retirees. It’s projected to run a deficit of around $50 Billion in less than 10 years…Now, just last year they projected around $22 Billion in losses. And the PBGC only guarantees a pension of
Credit cards are being issued to risky consumers
Here we go again??? Given the drop in mortgage lending and trading activity, banks are turning to risky ways to generate revenue…About 3.7 million credit cards (with higher interest rates) have bee issued to risky (i.e., sub-prime) consumers in the 1Q14 alone – almost a 40% increase from last year. Source: WSJ, 6-27-14, A1
Home sales are floating along Cash sales are moving home sales forward. Mortgage applications have fallen yet new home sales have risen to their highest level in >5 years. NAR estimates 2014 existing home sales will be 3% lower than 2013. The Federal Reserve stated the slow moving real estate industry as a major concern for US economic growth and strength. Source: WSJ,7-1-2014,A2
Choices drive oil demand in US The biggest influence on the reduction in our demand for oil is the production of more fuel efficient vehicles (about 25% improvement in past 10 years) and the reduction in number of miles driven (about 2%). Source: WSJ,6-30-2014,C6
Boomers are not selling their homes A 2010 AARP survey reported 84% of retired people wanted to stay in their existing homes as long as possible. But some statistics suggest rise in baby boomer movement to multi-unit dwellings and out of single family ones. (Note: My thoughts – I think alot of Boomers are having difficulty trying to get their own parents out of their homes since they aren’t maintaining them as well and don’t want to be a hassle to their children when the time comes—too late—to move out). Source WSJ, -28/29-2014, A3
Government Punts on Mortgage Standards
About 23% of the loans issued in the 2005-2008 time frame would still have been approved under the most recent relaxed QRM (Qualified Residential Mortgage) definition determined by the CFPB and would still have hit the 90 day delinquency period resulting in any foreclosures on the backs of taxpayers. So when the lobbyists and special interest groups intervene to influence definition of quality mortgages – quality suffers and so do the taxpayers.
Source: WsSJ, 6-27-2014, A12
Businesses are Fleeing America
20 major American companies reincorporated outside the US in the past 2 years…In 2013, companies paid 55% premium when moving overseas as opposed to a normal 20% premium to stay in the US. Our tax code limits employment, encourages companies to keep ($2 Trillion) profits out of US, and American workers bear almost 75% of the US tax burden. We could go to a territorial tax system where you only pay the host country’s tax rate r at least more competitive.
Source: WSJ Opinion, 6-25-14, A15
Another VA Scandal The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates VA would require $35 Billion in next 2 yeas and $50 Billion each year after but Sanders and McCain wanted to cough up $500 Million for add’l VA providers and >$200 Million to lease 26 medical facilities…and further estimates increased VA health care demand rising 60%..recent bills in the Senate and House ignore the real problems – trying to provide unlimited demand and care at little to no cost to the veteran…the Senate and House always fail to allocate enough money to care for veterans. Source: WSJ, 6-19-2014, A14
(My take on VA health care – you can get all you want of it but only if you can get in and only if it’s in time to help.)
Loaning money to your children to buy a home? Answer: Not unless you’re willing to never see your money again. If you do, make sure you give them the money long before they find a home to buy…If you make a loan, document it and report the interest as income on your taxes….and watch out if the children are mobile in the next 2-3 years – if buying a home, you may lose money on the sale. Source: WSJ, 6-16-2014, R3.
Sales of existing homes rose about 5% in May but are still down 5% from last year…NAR also predicts total sales of exiting homes will fall by 3% in 2014….and NAR believes interest rates will rise to around 5% by 1Q15 (but many earlier this year were predicting that rate now – so go figure)and the median price of a home was up about 5% from last year to around $213,500. WSJ, 6-24-14, A2.
VA medical comments – So we’re finally unravelling the onion on how poorly the veterans are being treated at VA facilities? About time – we all been hearing how bad it was and that’s why the practice is “unless you’re desperate or destitute, don’t use VA medical facilities”….
Recent US Supreme Court decision to let some states laws govern statute of limitations regarding the cleanup of pollution and contamination caused by actions several years in the past and not be required to cleanup under he Superfund guidelines. In other words, if it was “too long ago”, too bad.
Social Security – More boomers, fewer offices will be open to handle – About 47 million people take social security – a 20% increase from 10 years ago…and about 11 million people take disability social security benefits or a 38% increase during the same period.
Are short sales less costly to banks than foreclosure? Freddie Mac says short sales recovers about $0.68 on the dollar and foreclosures recover about $0.64 on the dollar. WSJ 6-21/22-2014. (Hey, then logic follows that banks should favor short sales over foreclosures – right? Interesting to investigate if banks “push” short sales or just wait until the other shoe drops and they foreclose.)
Will all the banks who took TARP money pay it back? Short answer – No…Some banks don’t have to catch up on missed dividend payments under their obligation to make those payments…And to date, the US Treasury has made $30 Billion above and beyond TARP costs…but when a bank misses >=6 dividend payments, the Treasury can appoint 2 directors to the bank’s board of directors…but has only done it
Student debt v. Mortgage debt – Which do you prefer? Now that kids graduating college have huge student loans with little hope of huge salaries to pay them off may get a reprieve from Uncle Sam in the form of reduced balance or lower payments on their loan balances. Student debt for 25 year olds has almost doubled in the past 10+ years and correspondingly, mortgage debt by the same group has fallen. WSJ, 6-10-2014, C10. (Note: So are we robbing Peter -and the rest of the Apostles- to pay Paul by placing written off debt on the backs of US taxpayers just so these students can get right back into debt on a home and force them into servitude to maintain payments and the property itself?