News: Real Estate, Risk, Economics. Aug. 9, 2014

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Table of Contents
(Click to sections below.)

1) Nation's biggest brokerage plans websites to outflank Zillow, Trulia, realtor com | Inman News

2) Underwater homeowners are turning into landlords

3) Farming practices and climate change at root of Toledo water pollution | World news | theguardian com

4) Little Rock: Forest Place Apartments Arsonist Pleads Guilty – Local News, Weather, Sports, and Community for Central Arkansas

5) Fighting fire with funds: Groton men battle bills from fire district | The Daily Republic

6) Joplin woman suing Home Depot for tornado deaths of husband, children : News

7) New bill on West blast would delay new rules – Houston Chronicle

8) Board challenges law blocking 'big oil' lawsuit – Washington Times

9) Adams County opts out of building codes | Local News – WAPT Home

10) The economic recovery: Resized and reshaped | The Economist

11) Eurozone risks temper cautious optimism | The Investor

12) The 3 Things New Landlords Need to Manage

13) It's Much Easier To Get A Mortgage; Lenders Remove Investor Overlays

14) Home Prices Are Now More Reliant On Jobs Growth | FiveThirtyEight

15) Report: Home prices in New Orleans East soar in first half of 2014 | wwltv com New Orleans

16) July Chicago Real Estate Market Update: Home Sales Rapidly Declining

17) Austin real estate market vulnerable to undercutting – Austin Business Journal

18) Greenville Remains One of the Nation's Top-Performing Smaller Apartment Markets – YouTube

19) Low rates boost REITs, commercial real estate stocks

20) Safety Checklist for Landlords | Important Landlord Responsibilities

21) TETON COUNTY SOLAR ARRAY | KDLY/KOVE

22) Police: $100,000 worth of copper stolen in Wichita | Channel 6 Lawrence, KS – A Division of WOW

23) US Labor Force: Where Have All the Workers Gone? | iMFdirect – The IMF Blog

24) Zhang Monan exposes the faulty data underlying China's status as the world's largest trading economy. – Project Syndicate

25) Deleveraging in America: Debt calm | The Economist

26) Three Charged in Massive Mortgage Modification Scam | DSNews

27) [Highly recommended] Making Sense of Friedrich A. von Hayek

28) Arizona Public Service Finds Prime Real Estate For Solar: Your Roof

  1.    Nation's biggest brokerage plans websites to outflank Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com | Inman News

    The nation's largest real estate brokerage, NRT LLC, is preparing to launch two new search portals that are aimed at reducing the company's reliance on leads from Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com, attracting homebuyers by offering access to a complete set of MLS listings in markets where NRT operates, plus bells and whistles like automated valuations.

    NRT, the brokerage wing of real estate titan Realogy, has over 42,000 agents and operates more than 700 offices in the U.S. under the Coldwell Banker Real Estate, ERA Real Estate and Sotheby's International Realty brands. It also owns and operates Citi Habitats, The Corcoran Group and, when the acquisition closes sometime this quarter, ZipRealty.

    "It is not intended to compete against the big portals like Zillow or Trulia," Smith said Monday during Realogy's second-quarter earnings call. "It is a very different approach to the markets, very smart, I think it is very strategic."

    Add your comment.


  2.    Underwater homeowners are turning into landlords

    There are no hard numbers as to how many buyers are holding on to their previous properties, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence, especially as rental demand and rent rates continue to surge.

    Add your comment.


  3.    Farming practices and climate change at root of Toledo water pollution | World news | theguardian.com

    This is why we promote organic farming.

    The US government banned phosphorus in laundry detergents in 1988. That stopped the algal blooms for some time. But they came back to the Great Lakes in force in 2011 — forming a green scum that covered 5,000 square kilometres (1,900 sq miles) of water at its biggest extent — in the worst algal bloom in recorded history.

    Scientists attribute the comeback in large part to changes in farming practices, including larger farms and different fertiliser practices, which send heavier loads of phosphorus into the lakes.

    In the 1960s and 1970s, before the ban on phosphorus in laundry detergents, the main sources of phosphorus in Lake Erie were urban and industrial waste. Now it's farming, which accounts for the vast majority of the phosphorus entering the lake through the Maumee River.

    Add your comment.


  4.    Little Rock: Forest Place Apartments Arsonist Pleads Guilty – Local News, Weather, Sports, and Community for Central Arkansas

    LITTLE ROCK, AR (News release) – Lacey Rae Moore has pleaded guilty to starting the fire at Forest Place Apartments on University Avenue in Little Rock that resulted in the complete destruction of the North Building of the complex.

    Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, made the announcement late Friday afternoon.

    Moore entered her guilty pleas to two counts of arson before United States District Judge J. Leon Holmes.

    Add your comment.


  5.    Fighting fire with funds: Groton men battle bills from fire district | The Daily Republic

    It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

    A few weeks passed, and then bills started to come, asking Lawson to pay thousands of dollars to the Groton Area Fire Protection and Rescue District, and the Aberdeen Rural Fire Protection District for their response to his fire. Each time a bill arrived, Lawson sent it on to his insurance company. Lawson soon learned his insurance company's limit for fire response was just $500, far short of the thousands of dollars being sought.

    Where do you come down on this issue?

    Add your comment.


  6.    Joplin woman suing Home Depot for tornado deaths of husband, children : News

    A woman whose husband and two children were among eight people killed while taking cover in a Home Depot during the 2011 Joplin tornado contends in a wrongful death lawsuit that the building was negligently constructed.

    Edie Howard Housel, who lost her husband, Russell Howard, and their two children, 5-year-old Harli Jace and 19-month-old Hayze Cole, during the storm, specifically cites the 100,000-pound concrete slabs that made up the store's walls. All but 10 of the 73 tilt-up panels fell after the tornado ripped the roof off of the building, including some that fell inward and killed Housel's family members and others.

    Add your comment.


  7.    New bill on West blast would delay new rules – Houston Chronicle

    The prospect of Texas strengthening fire safety codes or enforcing tougher standards on companies with volatile quantities of hazardous chemicals has become murky 16 months after the disaster in the rural town of West. The blast killed 12 people responding to an initial fire and leveled homes and schools blocks away.

    Add your comment.


  8.    Board challenges law blocking 'big oil' lawsuit – Washington Times

    NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A south Louisiana flood authority is fighting a new state law aimed at retroactively killing a lawsuit filed last year over coastal damage attributed to oil and gas drilling.

    The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East argues in federal court papers filed Tuesday that the law cannot be used to block the lawsuit, which the authority filed in 2013 against more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies.

    Add your comment.


  9.    Adams County opts out of building codes | Local News – WAPT Home

    Yikes!

    NATCHEZ, Miss. —Adams County won't have building codes.

    Add your comment.


  10.    The economic recovery: Resized and reshaped | The Economist

    Not really very good:

    Employment has shot up, with 912,000 more Britons in work than in 2008. Initial fears that a flood of labour, driven in part by immigration, would lead to mass underemployment were unfounded. The average working week was just under 33 hours in 2008, and has since crept higher. But with many more Britons putting in more hours to produce the same as six years ago, labour productivity has tumbled (see chart 2). That explains why take-home pay has risen just 8% since 2008, compared with overall price inflation of 20%. Workers' pay packets continue to lighten in real terms.

    Add your comment.


  11.    Eurozone risks temper cautious optimism | The Investor

    JLL is now cautiously optimistic on the Eurozone. Not uncommon for JLL to steer clear of the geopolitical, there's no mention of Ukraine or Russia.

    In its latest quarterly EMEA capital markets forecast, JLL's Market Intelligence Team reports that the region's economic background remains supportive, but that the balance of risks is shifting.

    Add your comment.


  12.    The 3 Things New Landlords Need to Manage

    The biggest misconception that was presented is as long as you have a good property management company then you will have minimal problems.

    We take it that Marcus Maloney means that you shouldn't bank on always having a good management firm. They can come and go. You should have a fall-back position all ready to takeover until you can replace the lost firm, and that fall-back is an experienced you.

    Add your comment.


  13.    It's Much Easier To Get A Mortgage; Lenders Remove Investor Overlays

    Dan Green:

    23.9% of banks reported an easing of mortgage loan standards during this year's second quarter — more than twice the percentage from earlier this year. Banks are reducing FICO requirements, lowering qualification hurdles….

    Let's hope they don't drop the standards too much.

    Add your comment.


  14.    Home Prices Are Now More Reliant On Jobs Growth | FiveThirtyEight

    A decelerating housing market is, now more than ever, just a function of good-but-not-great jobs growth.

    Our readers have been hearing that from us for months now. When the institutional investors started tapering off, the issue primarily resolved to wages and hours.

    Add your comment.


  15.    Report: Home prices in New Orleans East soar in first half of 2014 | wwltv.com New Orleans

    NEW ORLEANS — A new report released by the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors says home prices are still going up in the Metro area, even after the record-breaking increases the housing market saw last year.

    Yet, prices are soaring, the most, in neighborhoods you would not quite expect.

    Add your comment.


  16.    July Chicago Real Estate Market Update: Home Sales Rapidly Declining

    The disappointing part of the Chicago real estate market story is that contract activity is looking like it was down quite a bit last month vs. last year. I'm estimating a decline of about 16.9%, which would be the biggest decline in more than 3 years. Remember that since contracts turn into closings with some delay this is basically predicting that August sales are going to be down quite a bit from last year.

    Add your comment.


  17.    Austin real estate market vulnerable to undercutting – Austin Business Journal

    …high prices threaten to derail the booming Austin real estate market as buyers consider their options in other cities such as Dallas, Phoenix, Arizona and Atlanta, among others, according to the Austin American Statesman, which reported on the Real Estate Council of Austin's midyear forecast for the market.

    Add your comment.


  18.    Greenville Remains One of the Nation's Top-Performing Smaller Apartment Markets – YouTube

    Greenville ranked among the nation's top performers in terms of revenue growth from 2010 to 2012. And after a brief cool down, South Carolina's Upstate jumped back on the nation's leader board in Q2 2014 — fueled by some uniquely strong demand drivers for a market its size.

    Add your comment.


  19.    Low rates boost REITs, commercial real estate stocks

    This is mostly about REITs, but it's still worth looking at for landlords and would-be landlords.

    They worried that thousands of new units under construction would overwhelm potential demand. The housing recovery surged in 2013, and the expectation was that it would continue apace this year; that didn't happen, as investors moved out and demand from mortgage-dependent owner-occupants didn't pick up the slack.

    Supply of new multifamily units is being absorbed by demand, and market fundamentals are expected to remain strong over the next two years, according to a recent report from Freddie Mac. Analysts there point to an estimated 3.9 million potential households that weren't formed due to the Great Recession, with young adults accounting for close to 75 percent of those pent-up households.

    They say that over the next decade, an estimated 440,000 multifamily units may be needed each year to meet the growing demand.

    Add your comment.


  20.    Safety Checklist for Landlords | Important Landlord Responsibilities

    According to The Landlord Protection Agency, some questions landlords can ask potential tenants include their reason for moving, the number of pets they have, the number of people moving with them and their relationships to those people, what their credit level is and if they have a landlord reference.

    Examining the appearance of a prospective tenant is also important. According to the Landlord Protection Agency, if tenants are clean, well-dressed and attempt to make good impressions, they might be ideal. On the other hand, if they are unkempt, needlessly criticize the property, and don't care about the impression they make, the LPA recommends looking for better renters.

    Add your comment.


  21.    TETON COUNTY SOLAR ARRAY | KDLY/KOVE

    JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — The Teton County commissioners have accepted a $100,000 settlement from the designers of a solar array atop the Teton County-Jackson Recreation Center that collapsed in November.

    The Jackson Hole News & Guide reported Wednesday county officials say insurance could cover the remainder of the repair cost, which totaled nearly $300,000.

    Add your comment.


  22.    Police: $100,000 worth of copper stolen in Wichita | Channel 6 Lawrence, KS – A Division of WOW

    Vacant buildings are a particular security issue.

    Wichita police say thieves have stripped $100,000 worth of copper wire and piping from a former grocery store.

    Add your comment.


  23.    U.S. Labor Force: Where Have All the Workers Gone? | iMFdirect – The IMF Blog

    Our recent study points to aging being responsible for around 50 percent of the decline in participation since the Great Recession, while cyclical forces account for a further 30—40 percent.

    The remainder of the post-2007 decline reflects various other forces at work. For example, there has been a significant decline in youth participation. This has been mainly driven not, as some have conjectured, by an increase in college enrollment but, rather, a decline in the number of those students who are also working. In addition, rising applications for disability insurance have played a role. Demographics have meant more of the population is in the over-50s age group where the incidence of disability insurance is highest. Adding to this was the upward spike in applications following the Great Recession. Importantly, even those eventually denied benefits exited the labor force while their application was still pending.

    A temporary reversal of the decline

    Using detailed state level data, our analysis suggests that up to one-third of the post-2007 decline in participation rates is reversible. Over the next few years, this should mean a temporary respite in participation with workers (about 2 million) coming back into the labor market as job prospects improve. However, by 2017 participation rates should again start to decline as the underlying forces of population aging begin to dominate and more-than-offset the cyclical bounce back.

    We think people who have been out of work, once they get back in, will work longer into older age than they otherwise would have.

    Add your comment.


  24.    Zhang Monan exposes the faulty data underlying China's status as the world's largest trading economy. – Project Syndicate

    Zhang Monan:

    China's dependence on low value-added activities like processing and assembly is rooted in its historical lack of capacity to invest in research and development. For a long time, the country was able to overcome this deficiency by capitalizing on its abundant labor force to become a global leader in low-cost, labor-intensive manufacturing.

    But China's low-cost advantage in manufacturing is diminishing rapidly, owing to rising wages and a declining demographic dividend. And its low position in global value chains means that its actual profits on exports remain far lower than those of advanced countries like the US, which specializes in high-technology, high-value-added production.

    This combination of rising labor costs and low value added is clearly unsustainable.

    Add your comment.


  25.    Deleveraging in America: Debt calm | The Economist

    Banks, after years spent rebuilding capital and appeasing regulators, are ramping up lending. Total bank credit grew at a 7.5% annual rate in the second quarter, the fastest since 2007, with growth in most categories of loans. "There are lots of people out there, lots of banks out there with a lot of liquidity, competing for loans," the chief financial officer of Wells Fargo, one of the country's biggest lenders, recently told analysts.

    How much of the new lending is poorly underwritten? If we allow standards to fall again, we'll have another crash.

    Add your comment.


  26.    Three Charged in Massive Mortgage Modification Scam | DSNews

    Three men were arrested and charged in connection with what is believed to be one of the biggest mortgage modification schemes ever perpetrated, according to an announcement made by Christy Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), and Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

    The three defendants are Ped Abghari, aka Ted Allen, 37, of Irvine, California; Dionysius Fiumano, aka D, 43, of Irvine, California; and Justin Romano, 40, of Blue Point, New York. They are alleged to have stolen a total of $18.5 million from more than 8,000 financially struggling homeowners in all 50 states by falsely promising them pre-approval for lower payments through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and aggressive legal representation, among other things.

    Add your comment.


  27.    [Highly recommended] Making Sense of Friedrich A. von Hayek

    Brad DeLong:

    Classical liberalism—laissez-faire—was a mighty intellectual current. But empirical reality was mightier still, especially in the form of the Great Depression. And so the main channel became social democracy. And so, I think, it remains today.

    But as the river entered its delta, it did spread out. There are three other channels in the delta besides Polanyi-style social democracy: call them Leninism, Keynesianism, and Hayekism:

    The strongest channel not listed there is democratic socialism, which Brad DeLong correctly pointed out that Lenin thought could not work while the "middle class" existed. Purists would point out that democracy should be used to raise the bottom and let the rest take care of itself. In other words, they hold that Lenin (and more so Stalin after him), due to violence, dictatorship, and oppression, was a terrible setback for the cause and humanity.

    Add your comment.


  28.    Arizona Public Service Finds Prime Real Estate For Solar: Your Roof

    Arizona's largest utility company wants to put solar panels on customer rooftops in a proposal that resembles a proposal made earlier this year by former Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who suggested utilities avoid a predicted "death spiral" by getting into the rooftop solar installation business.

    APS will spend an estimated $57-$70 million placing solar panels on 3,000 Arizona rooftops, enough to generate 20 MW and meet Arizona's renewable energy mandate. Participating homeowners will receive $30 a month off their energy bills over 20 years, a total of $7,200 each.

    Add your comment.


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