News: Real Estate, Risk, Economics. Apr. 1, 2014

Linking ≠ endorsement. Enjoy and share:

Table of Contents
(Click to sections below.)

1) Big Banks Fulfill Part of Mortgage Deal – DailyFinance

2) [Recommended Read:] California Drought: San Joaquin Valley sinking as farmers race to tap aquifer – San Jose Mercury News

3) Brutal winter should lead to rise in lake levels – Chicago Tribune

4) Why Median Home Prices Tell You Nothing About Home Prices – Getting Re

5) Housing market: fears of bubble as demand far outstrips supply | Business | The Guardian

6) Special [Highly Recommended]: "FRB: Yellen, What the Federal Reserve is Doing to Promote a Stronger Job Market" | PropertyPak

7) Volcanic eruption not expected in Yellowstone earthquake – UPI

8) 2 dead in Fitchburg house fire – Westport News

9) 6 Tips for Renting After an Eviction – Rent – realtor

10) Renters deserve housing bailouts too – OC Housing News

11) Illegal Ads on Craigslist Catch Unlicensed Contractors – News Roseville, CA and Rocklin, CA

12) Workers escape large garage collapse in California – Yahoo News

13) Fire-gutted Younkers building is asbestos contaminated

14) After Sandy, feds mull plan for artificial islands off NJ, NY coasts | Jersey Tribune

15) Controversial FHA payoff rule to end – latimes

16) Abe Names Special Strategic Zones in Bid to Boost Japan's Allure – Bloomberg

17) Home Buyer Behavior: Generational Trend Charts – Builder Magazine

18) Carrington Mortgage Services taking minimum FICO score down to 550 | Inman News

19) Manhattan real-estate prices rise above 2008 pre-recession record | New York Post

20) Real estate's red-hot category: Apartments

21) Australia home prices jump 2.3 percent in March: RPData | Reuters

22) Chinese Brooklyn-to-Los Angeles Plans Surge: Real Estate – Bloomberg

23) GLOBAL ECONOMY-Major economies end first quarter on weaker note | Reuters

24) German unemployment falls more than expected – MarketWatch

25) Unemployment Malaise Lingers in Euro Zone – NYTimes

26) Fukushima residents cleared to return home amid contamination fears – CNN

27) Blast rocks Washington gas plant; 5 workers hurt | Local News | The Seattle Times

28) State used outdated data to allow logging on slope | Local News | The Seattle Times

29) Three-alarm fire at apartments under construction in Rockville – baltimoresun

30) An Aggressive Fed Faces Criticism on Wall Street – NYTimes

31) EconoMonitor : Ed Dolan's Econ Blog – First Look at Q4 Domestic Income Shows Labor Share at Record Low, Corporate Profits at Record High

32) Cleveland Fed Discusses Fast-track for Ohio Foreclosures | Bank Foreclosures Sale Articles

33) How Our Big Banks Really Make Their Money – Bloomberg View

34) Fewer First-time Buyers Obtaining Mortgages With Low Down Payment

35) Delayed Financing Mortgage Allows Cash-Out Next-Day After Purchase

  1.    Big Banks Fulfill Part of Mortgage Deal – DailyFinance

    The nation's four biggest banks slashed billions of dollars from mortgages and other debts, enough to satisfy their obligations under a national mortgage settlement that stemmed from so-called robo-signing.

    The amount was very controversial. Many thought it was a mere slap on the wrist for the banks.

    Add your comment.


  2.    [Recommended Read:] California Drought: San Joaquin Valley sinking as farmers race to tap aquifer – San Jose Mercury News

    This is a somewhat long read, but it is very informative and an equally important issue that will impact the entire nation's food supply/economy. It is a real and growing risk. How do we manage it?

    Thank you, Lisa M. Krieger, for solid reporting.

    Now those forces are renewing an age-old problem of environmental degradation: Decades ago, overpumping sunk half of the entire San Joaquin Valley, in one area as much as 28 feet. Today new areas are subsiding, some almost a foot each year, damaging bridges and vital canals.

    Yet in California, one of the few states that doesn't regulate how much water can be pumped from underground, even this hasn't been enough to create a consensus to stop.

    "It's our savings account, and we're draining it," said Phil Isenberg of the Public Policy Institute of California, a former Sacramento mayor and assemblyman. "At some point, there will be none left."

    This year's drought won't be the last one, or even the worst, scientists say. Climate change is expected to further stress the state's naturally dry environment. Snowmelt runoff will decrease. Reservoir levels will fall as heat evaporates more water. Heat-stressed crops and population growth will build even more demand.

    Desalinization anyone?

    Add your comment.


  3.    Brutal winter should lead to rise in lake levels – Chicago Tribune

    As the record-breaking 93.29 percent ice cover that peaked on Lake Michigan this month breaks, and as the snowpack around the Michigan Basin that was 30 percent higher this year than any time in the past decade melts, water levels will undergo a stronger than usual seasonal rise, according to Kompoltowicz.

    Add your comment.


  4.    Why Median Home Prices Tell You Nothing About Home Prices – Getting Re

    The media and real estate agents throw around Chicago median home prices like everyone is supposed to know what they mean but then they show their own ignorance when they imply that these median home prices somehow tell us all what is happening to the overall level of Chicago home prices. It would be really convenient if this were correct because median home prices are easily calculated at whatever level of geographic detail you would like. Unfortunately, life and real estate are not that tidy.

    The best way to explain the subtle confusion going on here is with a simple example. …

    … Just because nicer homes are now selling doesn't mean that home prices went up.

    Add your comment.


  5.    Housing market: fears of bubble as demand far outstrips supply | Business | The Guardian

    Fears that Britain's housing market is headed for bubble territory were stoked on Monday by fresh evidence that demand is far outstripping supply.

    Add your comment.


  6.    Special [Highly Recommended]: "FRB: Yellen, What the Federal Reserve is Doing to Promote a Stronger Job Market" | PropertyPak

    This is the speech we were waiting for. It demonstrates that Janet Yellen gets it. She said of herself, "I estimate that the unemployment rate consistent with maximum sustainable employment is now between 5.2 percent and 5.6 percent, well below the 6.7 percent rate in February." She's closing in on our lower position. She also said, "Although we [the Fed] work through financial markets, our goal is to help Main Street, not Wall Street."

    Add your comment.


  7.    Volcanic eruption not expected in Yellowstone earthquake – UPI.com

    A 4.8-magnitude earthquake shook Yellowstone National Park in Montana and Wyoming on Sunday, but scientists say there's no concern of the super volcano inside the park erupting.

    Add your comment.


  8.    2 dead in Fitchburg house fire – Westport News

    FITCHBURG, Mass. (AP) — Authorities say two people have died in a late night fire in Fitchburg and a third person has been hospitalized.

    Add your comment.


  9.    6 Tips for Renting After an Eviction – Rent – realtor.com

    How do you handle a rental applicant who was evicted from his or her prior rental? This linked article discusses advice for the renter. Is there anything in it that gives you good ideas as a landlord or manager?

    Add your comment.


  10.    Renters deserve housing bailouts too – OC Housing News

    OCHousingNews goes after the bailout mentality again.

    If bailout money is doled out to the unemployed, it should show no preference toward homeowners. Renters have bills just like homeowners do, and if a renter is evicted, it's just as painful as if a homeowner is foreclosed on. The only difference between the two is that bailing out homeowners also bails out the banks ….

    We do agree that renters are just as important as owners (or borrowers to be more correct).

    Add your comment.


  11.    Illegal Ads on Craigslist Catch Unlicensed Contractors – News Roseville, CA and Rocklin, CA

    Dozens of people now may face criminal charges after being caught in simultaneous undercover sting operations conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) March 25-27, 2014, in nine California locations.

    Among the 121 individuals arrested during CSLB's spring California Blitz were repeat offenders, a man who is awaiting trial on an assault with a deadly weapon charge, and someone who was caught in not one, but two different stings.

    A number of the suspects targeted during the operation were on CSLB's radar after having consumer complaints filed against them.

    Add your comment.


  12.    Workers escape large garage collapse in California – Yahoo News

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — A portion of a parking garage being built to house buses in downtown Los Angeles collapsed on Friday, just minutes after nearly 200 construction workers were alerted that something was wrong and fled to safety, officials said.

    Add your comment.


  13.    Fire-gutted Younkers building is asbestos contaminated

    DES MOINES — A state inspector says the fire-gutted Younkers building downtown is an asbestos-contaminated site and will require specialized removal.

    Add your comment.


  14.    After Sandy, feds mull plan for artificial islands off NJ, NY coasts | Jersey Tribune

    A string of artificial islands off the coast of New Jersey and New York could blunt the impact of storm surges that proved so deadly during Hurricane Sandy, according to a proposal vying for attention and funding as the region continues its recovery.

    It's a big proposal that would cost $10 billion to $12 billion. But it's also the kind of innovative idea that federal officials requested as they consider how best to protect the heavily populated region from future storms.

    Add your comment.


  15.    Controversial FHA payoff rule to end – latimes.

    Can you be charged interest on your mortgage even after you've fully paid it off? Can the meter keep running when you owe the bank nothing — your principal balance is zero?

    Surprise! Much to the chagrin of large numbers of home sellers and refinancers, the answer for years has been yes. If your loan was insured by the Federal Housing Administration and you paid it off before maturity, at closing you'd be expected to cough up a full month's interest, no matter what day of the month you actually settled.

    Even if you closed on March 2, for instance, you'd be charged interest by your loan servicer through March 31, potentially adding hundreds of dollars to your costs in the transaction. The FHA's practice has been unique among major players in the housing finance marketplace. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Department of Veterans Affairs all require interest to be collected only to the day of principal payoff. After that, the meter stops.

    But change is on the horizon.

    Add your comment.


  16.    Abe Names Special Strategic Zones in Bid to Boost Japan's Allure – Bloomberg

    Japan announced the locations of special strategic zones in which looser regulations will be tested as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's drive to attract investment and boost the nation's competitiveness.

    Abe today named the capital region around Tokyo as a zone for international business and the Kansai area surrounding Osaka as one for medical innovation. Niigata in northern Japan and Yabu in central Japan were designated as agricultural zones. Fukuoka was made a special labor zone, and Okinawa will become a zone for international tourism.

    Let's hope for their sake that they don't deregulate recklessly. They don't need another Fukushima-type catastrophe regardless of the industrial sector.

    Add your comment.


  17.    Home Buyer Behavior: Generational Trend Charts – Builder Magazine

    A recent report on home buyer and seller trends from the National Association of Realtors breaks down everything from types of homes purchased, to the value of online search for each generation in the market.

    Builder has pulled three metrics from the dense report about home buyers: which generation comprises the largest share of home buyers, what size home is most common for each generation, and how much traction multi-generational homes are gaining in the housing market for each age group.

    Add your comment.


  18.    Carrington Mortgage Services taking minimum FICO score down to 550 | Inman News

    Here we go again?

    Carrington Mortgage Services LLC wants to boost lending to "underserved" borrowers with FICO scores below 640 — "a sizable market that is largely ignored by today's lenders," the company said today in announcing it's loosening underwriting on FHA, VA and USDA loan programs, extending eligibility to more property types and reducing overlays.

    Carrington estimates that 1 in 3 consumers has a FICO credit score below 650, and now the company is prepared to OK mortgages to borrowers with FICO scores as low as 550, as long as they meet other requirements.

    Add your comment.


  19.    Manhattan real-estate prices rise above 2008 pre-recession record | New York Post

    The cost of a Manhattan apartment has finally topped the record set shortly before the 2008 economic collapse, a new report says.

    Add your comment.


  20.    Real estate's red-hot category: Apartments

    A lull in the single-family housing recovery this winter made for a surprise comeback in a sector thought to be overbuilt and overblown: multifamily real estate investment trusts (REITs).

    After struggling throughout much of 2013, apartment REITs returned a striking 12.75 percent, making this sector of commercial real estate the most profitable for the first quarter of 2014, according to the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts. Overall, equity REITs were up just over 7 percent for the quarter.

    And they're still not keeping up with demand/need.

    Add your comment.


  21.    Australia home prices jump 2.3 percent in March: RPData | Reuters

    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Home prices across Australia's major cities jumped by 2.3 percent in March while gains became more broad-based, a strong result that will fan concerns speculative buying is running too hot for policy makers' comfort.

    … the central bank has become more concerned about a surge in borrowing to buy homes for investment, warning that double-digit price increases cannot be sustained.

    Prices have already risen well ahead of rental yields, with the typical capital city house providing a gross yield of just 3.8 percent and units 4.6 percent.

    While capital city home values were up 12.5 percent since May last year, weekly rents increased by just 1.8 percent.

    Add your comment.


  22.    Chinese Brooklyn-to-Los Angeles Plans Surge: Real Estate – Bloomberg

    An interesting cross-cultural story:

    It took just one 15-minute phone call in July to persuade Ifei Chang to join Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holding Group Co. and lead a U.S. expansion. Within three months, she was running $6 billion of projects as part of a record push by Chinese investors into American property.

    Sometimes though and as we all know, or should, haste makes waste. There's a reason why in the US we analyze more. It's called due diligence, and it's a solid part of risk management. We hope Ifei Chang includes such things while she pursues her dreams.

    Add your comment.


  23.    GLOBAL ECONOMY-Major economies end first quarter on weaker note | Reuters

    The news is not good.

    * Euro zone, British factory PMIs dip

    * China, Indonesia manufacturing PMIs hit multi-month lows

    * Japan business outlook weaker as sales tax rises

    Add your comment.


  24.    German unemployment falls more than expected – MarketWatch

    German unemployment fell by more than expected in March, data from the country's labor agency showed Tuesday, underscoring the continued strength in Europe's largest economy.

    Add your comment.


  25.    Unemployment Malaise Lingers in Euro Zone – NYTimes.com

    The euro zone labor market remains in the doldrums, official data showed on Tuesday, as unemployment in Italy rose to a record level.

    The jobless rate in the 18-nation currency bloc stood at 11.9 percent in February, unchanged from January's revised figure and flat since October, according to a report by Eurostat, the Luxembourg-based statistics agency of the European Union.

    About 25.9 million people remained without work across the 28-nation European Union, Eurostat estimated.

    Austria registered the lowest unemployment rate in the union, at 4.8 percent, followed by Germany, at 5.1 percent. In addition to relatively strong economies by current European standards, the two countries have extensive work-sharing programs that help to hold down the figures.

    … the decline in government spending also hammered overall demand, undermining employment and reducing inflationary pressures.

    Add your comment.


  26.    Fukushima residents cleared to return home amid contamination fears – CNN.com

    Hundreds of residents of an area contaminated by a catastrophic reactor meltdown at a nuclear plant in northeastern Japan have been allowed to return home three years after the disaster.

    An evacuation order, declared in the aftermath of a devastating tsunami that crippled the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant in March, 2011, was lifted at midnight on Monday from the Miyakoji district of Tamura city in Fukushima Prefecture.

    Residents of the town, who have been in limbo ever since, are now free to re-inhabit their homes following decontamination work in the area.

    However, concerns remain about background radiation levels and uncertainty surrounding the safety of the area, especially given past concerns about the reporting of radiation levels in the area by Fukushima's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). …

    Add your comment.


  27.    Blast rocks Washington gas plant; 5 workers hurt | Local News | The Seattle Times

    A large explosion rocked a natural gas processing plant on the Washington-Oregon border Monday, injuring five workers, causing about 400 people to evacuate from nearby farms and homes, and emitting a mushroom cloud of black smoke that was visible for more than a mile.

    Add your comment.


  28.    State used outdated data to allow logging on slope | Local News | The Seattle Times

    State regulators have been using outdated boundaries to restrict logging above the Snohomish County slope that collapsed March 22, failing to incorporate newer research that would have protected a swath of land that wound up being clear-cut, according to a Seattle Times analysis of documents and geographical data.

    Because trees intercept and absorb water, removing them can contribute to the risk or size of a landslide by increasing the soil's saturation, according to geological reports. The impact can linger for years.

    How in the world could that just fall through the cracks?

    Let's now hope every area that has been studied will be reviewed to make sure that latest studies have been included.

    Add your comment.


  29.    Three-alarm fire at apartments under construction in Rockville – baltimoresun.com

    A luxury apartment complex under construction in Rockville caught fire early Tuesday morning, escalating to three alarms as crews fought to get it under control, officials said.

    Add your comment.


  30.    An Aggressive Fed Faces Criticism on Wall Street – NYTimes.com

    Though there are many Fed baiters on Wall Street, most of the financial industry has a generally favorable view of the central bank. And the Fed's supporters shudder when they hear their peers calling on it to do less.

    The Fed's sympathizers say that it would have risked a bigger banking collapse and a depression if it had not opened the floodgates after the crisis. Short of entirely changing the way in which the global banking system operates, which simply wasn't going to happen, there was not much else the Fed could do to keep things afloat, they say.

    The "they" there includes us.

    Add your comment.


  31.    EconoMonitor : Ed Dolan's Econ Blog – First Look at Q4 Domestic Income Shows Labor Share at Record Low, Corporate Profits at Record High

    Ed Dolan:

    … corporate profits are more unequally distributed and compensation of employees less unequally distributed than income as a whole. That means the rising share in GDI of the former and the falling share of the latter are two of the factors behind the rising fortunes of the super-rich and the relative economic stagnation of the middle class.

    Add your comment.


  32.    Cleveland Fed Discusses Fast-track for Ohio Foreclosures | Bank Foreclosures Sale Articles

    Ohio has been one of the hardest-hit states when it comes to the foreclosure crisis. While foreclosures are down year-over-year in Ohio, they rose by 23 percent from December to January. Cities like Cleveland and Columbus have been awash in foreclosures for several years now, and countless solutions have been proposed to remedy the problem.

    Now, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland has proposed another solution: a fast-track process for Ohio foreclosures that could dramatically cut the amount of time it takes to resolve a foreclosure in the Buckeye State.

    Can they fairly balance the competing interests?

    Add your comment.


  33.    How Our Big Banks Really Make Their Money – Bloomberg View

    No matter how you count it, U.S. taxpayers continue to transfer tens of billions of dollars each year to the big banks.

    Add your comment.


  34.    Fewer First-time Buyers Obtaining Mortgages With Low Down Payment

    NAR's REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey data shows that fewer first-time buyers are obtaining mortgages with down payment of 6 percent or less [1]. In 2009, among REALTORS® who reported a sale to a first-time home buyer, 74 percent of these buyers put down 6 percent or less as down payment [2]. As of February 2014, this has fallen to 61 percent.

    Add your comment.


  35.    Delayed Financing Mortgage Allows Cash-Out Next-Day After Purchase

    In today's U.S. housing market, buyers who can close quickly on a home are often rewarded handsomely. Sometimes, they earn home price discount; or, they win preference over other higher-valued offers from buyers; or maybe the seller agrees to other unique concessions.

    For buyers looking to close as quickly as possible on a home, and with cash to leverage at closing, there's a mortgage program to refinance your cash purchases just one-day post-closing.

    Fannie Mae's Delayed Financing mortgage is available in all 50 states.

    Add your comment.


If you are an investor in 1-4 unit properties in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, or Washington, please do the financially responsible thing and make sure you have proper Landlord Insurance with PropertyPak™. We love focusing on real estate and the economy in general, but we are also here to serve your insurance needs.

Hill & Usher (PropertyPak™ is a division) has many insurance offerings. See our menu above for more info and links.

Did this post help you? Let us know by leaving your comment below.

Note: This blog does not provide legal, financial, or accounting advice. Seek professional counsel.

Furthermore, we, as insurance producers, are prohibited by law from disparaging the insurance industry, carriers, other producers, etc. With that in mind, we provide links without staking out positions that violate the law. We provide them solely from a public-policy standpoint wherein we encourage our industry to be sure our profits, etc., are fair and balanced.

We do not necessarily fact checked the contents of every linked article or page, etc.

If we were to conclude any part or parts of our industry are in violation of fundamental fairness and the legal standards of a state or states, we'd address the issue through proper, legal channels. We trust you understand.

The laws that tie our tongues, so to speak, are designed to keep the public from losing confidence in the industry and the regulatory system overseeing it. Insurance commissioners around the country work very hard to analyze rates and to not allow the industry to be damaged by bad rate-settings and changes in coverages. The proper way for people in the industry to deal with such matters is by adhering to the laws, rules, and regulations of the applicable states and within industry associations where such matters may be discussed in private without giving the industry unnecessary black eyes. Ethics is very high on the list in the insurance industry, and we don't want to lose the people's trust. That said, the industry is not perfect; but what industry is?

For our part, we believe in strong regulations and strong regulators.

We welcome your comments and ask you to keep in mind that we cannot and will not reply in any way or ways where any insurance commissioner could rightly say we've violated the law of the given state.

We are allowed to share rating-bureau data/reports and industry-consultant opinions but make clear here that those opinions are theirs and do not necessarily reflect our position.

Subscribe