News: Real Estate, Risk, Economics. Dec. 10, 2015

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Table of Contents
(Click to sections below.)

1) Scams, ignorance burn foreign buyers of Detroit properties | Reuters

2) Calculated Risk: The Future's so Bright …

3) Economists sombre on China monetary trap /Euromoney magazine

4) Geoengineering: The Unspoken Climate Change Option

5) Saving Coastal Communities a Risky, Expensive Proposition

6) Insurance Executive Sees Problems, Opportunities in LA's Earthquake Law

7) Texas State Fire Marshal Report: Fire Occurred Every 7 Minutes in 2014

8) Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent Index : Florida Atlantic University – College of Business

9) 4 real estate trends we'll see in 2016 – MarketWatch

10) Cedar Rapids program sees positive impact on nuisance properties

11) It's official: San Francisco's housing market is in a bubble, Zillow survey finds – San Francisco Business Times

12) Today's revival of monetary theory should lead us towards, not away from Keynes — Prime Economics

13) mainly macro: Flooding and the fiscal charter

14) Some Experts Think the Housing Bubble Is Back | Zillow Porchlight

15) Housing's new crisis: Half your income for rent

16) Controversial EB-5 "Immigrant Investor" program program may end

17) 2 Things I Learned at a Rental Investment Conference

18) 4 Old School Tenant Screening Tips That Still Hold True

19) China's Illicit Outflows Estimated at $1.4 Trillion Over Decade – Bloomberg Business

20) Are you in the American middle class? | Pew Research Center

21) Chinese devaluation is a bigger danger than Fed rate rises – Telegraph

22) The Bonddad Blog: The Future is Bright . . . or perhaps not

23) Not every door is a revolving door: Housing finance, GSE reform, and the NYT | Jared Bernstein | On the Economy

24) Strange Cases for Fed Rate Hikes: The Poor Savers Story | The Center for Economic and Policy Research

25) VSPs and the FN [the title is cryptic for those who don't read Paul Krugman] – The New York Times

26) The Irish Economy – Blog Archive – Slow train wreck

27) 'Monster' El Nino could usher in decade of more and stronger events | Reuters

28) Washington gov. declares weather emergency

29) St. Louis targets vacant properties through special tax auctions : News

30) $2 million mortgage: No down payment, no joke!

  1.    Scams, ignorance burn foreign buyers of Detroit properties | Reuters

    "It was the only place in the developed world where you could buy a detached brick house, three bedrooms, in a nice lot, for under $10,000," Canadian engineer Hamid Shad said in a phone interview. Shad said he got interested in Detroit 2-1/2 years ago and initially had some bad experiences with contractors but later developed a network of locals who helped fix up his properties.

    Prices vary dramatically depending on the neighborhood, the street and the individual property and while some areas are stagnant, others have seen significant gains. Opportunities still abound for savvy investors but so do pitfalls for the ill-prepared.

    Add your comment.


  2.    Calculated Risk: The Future's so Bright …

    Residential investment and housing starts are usually the best leading indicator for the economy, so this suggests the economy will continue to grow in 2016.

    … for commercial real estate, here is the AIA Architecture Billings Index. This is usually a leading indicator for commercial real estate, and the readings over the last year suggest more increases in CRE investment in 2016 (except oil and power with the recent decline in oil prices).

    … the prime working age group has started to grow again, and should be growing solidly by 2020 – and this should boost economic activity in the years ahead.

    Of course, Bill McBride is absolutely correct provided the Fed and the Congress and White House don't step on the recovery. The Fed could easily over tighten, and the deficit hawks could take control of both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. Austerity could be forced upon us again only worse. Yes, I believe our fiscal stimulus was so weak that I categorize the fight against the recession as austere.

    Add your comment.


  3.    Economists sombre on China monetary trap /Euromoney magazine

    Well-written article by Sid Verma:

    Took the words right out of my mouth:

    … judging by the circumspect rhetoric of current and former Chinese policymakers, this could take decades.

    Add your comment.


  4.    Geoengineering: The Unspoken Climate Change Option

    What if they fail to curb global warming and the environment gets so dangerous that someone decides to do something drastic and play mad scientist? Should nations purposely pollute the planet to try to counteract man-made warming…? Scientists are pretty sure they can do it, but should they?

    This has been discussed for a long time now. ( http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2 008/sep/01/climatechange.endangeredhabit ats )

    Also, if you've followed the issue over the years, you're probably aware that various experimentation (the scale is classified information) has been going on for years and years and, for a multitude of reasons, under the guise of national security because the Defense Department has been so heavily involved in wargaming the issue of global warming.

    Here's a link to an article touching on it and that has "issues." I'll leave it at that. "Memo to DARPA, Pentagon: Stay out of geoengineering — aka climate manipulation!" ( http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2009/03  /16/203817/darpa-pentagon-military-geoe ngineering/ )

    Add your comment.


  5.    Saving Coastal Communities a Risky, Expensive Proposition

    Build levees and dikes. Erect bulkheads around entire towns. Construct dunes in the marshes to absorb flooding from the west. Transform low-lying areas into amphibious suburbs. Admit defeat and retreat.

    Geoengineering and all of the other possibilities are not the right approach. Yes, if we don't curb carbon burning enough or if we don't quickly and radically alter carbon sequestration, we'll have little choice.

    Currently, the two best approaches are 1) photovoltaics and battery-storage enhancement and 2) soil enhancement.

    Soil enhancement would be the cheapest and most environmentally beneficial too.

    Add your comment.


  6.    Insurance Executive Sees Problems, Opportunities in L.A.'s Earthquake Law

    "The average investment property owner probably doesn't know a whole lot about the additional insurance exposures that would come from having major seismic retrofits done." [~ "Michael Brown, vice president and property department manager with Golden Bear Insurance Co. in Stockton, Calif"]

    Risk exposure will increase during the retrofitting process, but that should be handled by the contractor's insurance verified by the property owner/management.

    If the retrofitting doesn't prove adequate even if it does meet the government's standards, the cost of holding the property while still insuring it against earthquakes could radically increase. In fact, coverage might become unavailable even with another round of upgrading to even higher standards. That would be the worst case.

    Add your comment.


  7.    Texas State Fire Marshal Report: Fire Occurred Every 7 Minutes in 2014

    Shocking, isn't it.

    In 2014, 957 fire departments in Texas reported 72,124 fires, with a fire occurring every seven minutes, 163 civilian fire deaths, 780 civilian fire injuries and $662,625,954 in property, according to a report from the State Fire Marshal's Office.

    Add your comment.


  8.    Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent Index : Florida Atlantic University – College of Business

    The comparison between buying and renting considers many factors including, but not limited to, rent-to-price ratio, mortgage rates, expected rate of inflation, real past stock market long term returns, long term rent growth and housing price appreciation, costs associated with maintenance and property taxes, homeownership tax benefits, transaction costs and average homeowners' duration between relocations.

    The question is whether it's better within a given real-estate market to buy or to take the money that would be spent on owning (not as a landlord) and rather plow that into the stock market at the average return rate at the time.

    For your personal consideration, you can decide if you can do better than the average stock-market-index return. Also, you should assess the risks of a stock-market or real-estate downturn occurring.

    Regardless, the BH&J Index is handy for deciding if a given market is in bubble territory. The general consensus is that the better it is to buy, the more likely there's a bubble.

    Add your comment.


  9.    4 real estate trends we'll see in 2016 – MarketWatch

    Earlier this year, Freddie Mac CEO Donald Layton told mortgage bankers that more low down payment products were needed to "fill in some nooks and crannies left in the mortgage market" that left some borrowers, especially those who were self-employed, unable to get home loans.

    "We've definitely reached the tipping point where the stakeholders in the markets are less worried about risk," Blomquist said. "The driving force is growing the market, rather than containing the risk."

    Once mortgage rates rise due to the Fed raising its overnight rate, we can expect lending standards to fall more.

    Add your comment.


  10.    Cedar Rapids program sees positive impact on nuisance properties

    Within the past two years the program has taken calls, sent warnings and designated properties. 354 properties were labeled a nuisance, and now 85 percent of those are back in compliance.

    Add your comment.


  11.    It's official: San Francisco's housing market is in a bubble, Zillow survey finds – San Francisco Business Times

    "A handful of markets — especially the Bay Area — are very hot right now, and it's possible home values may actually begin to fall somewhat in these places as more residents are priced out amidst rising affordability concerns, especially when interest rates rise," said Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell. "Whether those local conditions constitute a 'bubble' is up for debate, even among economists."

    "It's difficult to identify bubbles as they're happening, but it is very clear that nationally we are not seeing a return of the conditions that caused the last national bubble to pop," Gudell said. "Tighter lending restrictions today mean we aren't seeing buyers get loans they realistically can't pay back, like we did in years past.

    Yet.

    Add your comment.


  12.    Today's revival of monetary theory should lead us towards, not away from Keynes — Prime Economics

    It was strange to me that I knew Keynes understood money creation as credit creation by banks while so many professional and academic economists did not and still don't.

    Geoff Tily:

    Old truths are being relearned, but right at the start Keynes is ruled out as irrelevant to the new version of the science.

    The reality is that for the duration of the inter-war period, the economics profession had a sophisticated understanding of the nature of money. Keynes's contributions were at the cutting edge. The whole of the science was lost thanks to the post-war consensus in academic economics, and in particular the imposition and dominance of the IS-LM model which had no material role for money.

    With the move from IS-LM to monetarism, the profession's understanding of money remained primitive and so it has remained through to the present. It beggars belief that someone would want to blame Keynes for this state of affairs. Though, as discussed, even post-Keynesians have hardly done Keynes justice in this fundamental area, with the notable exceptions of Professors Sheila Dow and Victoria Chick (e.g. Dow, 1997 & Chick, 2001). Only in 2006 did Geoff Harcourt (p. 67) finally concede that "Kaldor was wrong" to charge Keynes with exogenous money (i.e. with the financial intermediary or fractional reserve theory).

    Keynes's understanding of money led finally to a fundamentally new theory of macroeconomics. The theory prescribed a radical different monetary system, not least a rejection of financial liberalisation and instead involving a far more significant role for public authority in the management of money.

    Now, the important thing to think about here is not the academic debate but rather why Keynes was flushed down the memory hole.

    I believe that it was deliberate, not that I can prove it right now, though I believe the proof is out there. Someone has it.

    What is that? Well, bankers did not, and still do not, want the general public knowing that money creation can be solely for the benefit of the general welfare rather than as it is now: primarily for the benefit of bankers.

    Our money does not have to be tied to any governmental borrowing whatsoever. Our government does not need to borrow money to create the money it needs and wants. There need be no national debt and no payment of interest on such debt to anyone.

    It goes much deeper than that though. Democracy could replace commercial banking credit creation/money creation. Think about it.

    Imagine the community members voting directly on spending choices, hence money creation.

    Provided the spending choices were truly productive, there would be no inflation or deflation. Also, where investments become unproductive, they and the corresponding money in circulation could be unwound and replaced by new, productive choices.

    The only reason this knowledge is suppressed and pooh-poohed when it can't be ignored is because bankers want to take a cut of everything even when there is no sound reason supporting the existence of any such cut. There is only selfishness and greed and the suppression of truth.

    By the way, while Richard Werner may be off concerning Keynes, he is still an extremely valuable source and thinker concerning what went wrong with the Japanese economy and the implication for all other nations and the global economy.

    So, we don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, not that Geoff Tily is advocating that, which I believe he is not.

    Add your comment.


  13.    mainly macro: Flooding and the fiscal charter

    Austerity matters, and it's bad:

    Simon Wren-Lewis:

    My impression is that the media has been a bit more inquisitive this time around. For example the BBC's Newsnight showed a chart of actual spending, revealing clearly the cut backs from 2011. Their subsequent interview with Neil Parish, now Conservative chair of the Environment and Rural Affairs select committee, was interesting. He suggested that maybe we (his government) should be spending more money on flood defences. The reason he gave was, to an economist, compelling: the estimated rate of return on such projects is very high.

    Add your comment.


  14.    Some Experts Think the Housing Bubble Is Back | Zillow Porchlight

    Melissa Allison is a good reporter.

    Andrew Schaffler, director of listed real estate securities for Madison International Realty, doesn't think any markets are truly experiencing "irrational exuberance" because lending has become mostly prudent, and the people buying homes can afford them.

    He thinks the lack of housing — a legitimate economic factor— might have driven prices higher than the market would otherwise bear in certain areas. San Francisco and Houston might already be in a bubble, he said, driven by increasing unmet demand from well-compensated tech and oil workers.

    I believe that's considerably understated but does touch upon the right variables.

    Add your comment.


  15.    Housing's new crisis: Half your income for rent

    Diana Olick:

    … the number of "severely" cost-burdened renters, those paying more than half their incomes on rent, went from 7.5 million to 11.4 million in the last decade. This, as renter incomes have declined 9 percent since 2001. Add it up, and 49 percent of renters are cost-burdened, 26 percent severely so.

    … Rental occupancy is at the highest level in 30 years, and monthly rent rates are at record highs — and still rising at a sizable 3.5 percent annually. While there is a wide swath of single-family rental homes and smaller multifamily buildings in the suburbs, much of the recent multifamily construction has been large, luxury buildings in urban centers. Upper-income renters are finding what they need, but low- to middle-income families are struggling.

    We are not overbuilding affordable multifamily in the cities, quite the contrary.

    Add your comment.


  16.    Controversial EB-5 "Immigrant Investor" program program may end

    Another from Diana Olick:

    Singer wants regional economic development agencies to have a say in project funding.

    "I think if the program is going to live on it should really be more focused on its primary goal, and that is bringing jobs and economic development to distressed areas," she said.

    That makes sense to me, but why are we filtering immigrants based upon how much money they have in the first place? It isn't because we can't create the money ourselves. Who's really benefiting? Whose idea was it?

    I should add that one of my main concerns is how the money was made and how immigrants transfer it.

    What's best concerning global ethics? For instance, are we vetting people to see whether they've engaged in embezzlement or money laundering? If not, shouldn't we be?

    I'd rather have honest, hardworking poor people immigrate than rich dishonest ones. How about you?

    Add your comment.


  17.    2 Things I Learned at a Rental Investment Conference

    Andrew Syrios:

    There are all sorts of smaller things that can be measured and then evaluated and improved. For example:

    • Average Profit or Equity in Particular Submarkets
    • Marketing Costs/Lead
    • Marketing Costs/Acquisition
    • Costs for Particular Types of Marketing/Lead or Acquisition
    • Cost of Repairs/Budgeted Repairs
    • Cost of Particular Repairs (i.e. HVAC, Plumbing, etc.)/Budgeted Cost for Those Repairs
    • Cost of Repairs/Budgeted Repairs for Different Job Sizes/Types
    • Average Length of Remodel
    • Average Annual Vacancy in Particular Submarkets
    • Actual Rent/Estimated Rent
    • Average Time to Lease
    • Average Time to Lease in Particular Submarkets

    The list can go on and on.

    Add your comment.


  18.    4 Old School Tenant Screening Tips That Still Hold True

    Drew Sygit:

    There's a lot that a solid tenant screening company can do — but there's also an awful lot that they can't. Get personally involved, and pay attention. Your own senses and intuition are your best friends.

    Add your comment.


  19.    China's Illicit Outflows Estimated at $1.4 Trillion Over Decade – Bloomberg Business

    I suppose a legitimate argument can be made that the one-party dictatorship setting the economic rules in China is illegitimate. But, if you don't think it is, then what does that say to you about the ethics of those who are transferring more money to the US than they are allowed to under Chinese law?

    What if China wants the US to extradite those immigrants to China to face criminal charges for having illegally transferred money (even under the EB-5 visa program) to the US?

    Add your comment.


  20.    Are you in the American middle class? | Pew Research Center

    This is what undoing the New Deal has wrought.

    A Pew Research Center analysis of government data shows that after more than four decades of serving as the nation's economic majority, the U.S. middle class is now matched in size by those in the economic tiers above and below it.

    Add your comment.


  21.    Chinese devaluation is a bigger danger than Fed rate rises – Telegraph

    Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

    Defending the currency on this scale is costly. Reserve depletion entails monetary tightening, neutralizing the stimulus from cuts in the reserve requirement ratio (RRR). It makes a "soft landing" that much harder to pull off.

    China bulls argue [make that "some China bulls argue"; I don't exclusively, not even close] – and on this I agree – that the "new economy" is doing fine as the country ditches its obsolete development model and shifts up the technology and service ladder. The trade share of GDP has dropped to 41.5pc from 64.5pc in 2006.

    The flip side of this is that services have jumped from 44pc of GDP to 51pc over the past four years. Healthcare is booming now that hospitals have been opened up to market forces.

    Bears rely on the Li Keqiang index to discern economic collapse – usually from a safe distance, without straying into Chinese territory. It is based on Mr Li's Wikileaks comment in 2007 where he admitted relying on electricity use, rail freight and credit growth for the truth on GDP.

    That was seven years ago, The index fails to capture the deliberate switch away from heavy industry, or the galloping gains in energy efficiency. It dwells on a 16pc fall in rail freight, ignoring a 6.5pc growth in road freight, which is 10 times larger. It relies on an old measure of credit that does not include bond issuance by local governments. It is useless.

    President Xi Jinping is chiefly concerned with harnessing "reforms" to smash rivals, centralize all power in his own hands, and restore the hegemony of the party – and party control is ultimately incompatible with the free market.

    As if there can be a free market that functions in the absence of real democracy. You can't have a free market in money and trade without a free market in ideas and an equal say for each person.

    In other words, the current Chinese model is doomed to failure. It will fail the Chinese people.

    Add your comment.


  22.    The Bonddad Blog: The Future is Bright . . . or perhaps not

    "New Deal democrat" responds to Bill McBride's post, as did I.

    The American middle class will only make progress for the next few decades to the extent that its real income rises – something that, with the exception of the late 1990s tech boom, and the oil price crash of 2008, has been largely elusive for 40 years. Whether the future is bright or not will depend most of all on how that wage issue plays out.

    Provided we don't change the economic system, which we should, that's correct. Whether wages go up enough depends upon both monetary and fiscal policies and more importantly, practices.

    Frankly, even with the proper monetary and fiscal practices under the current economic system, any wage increase will only handle the problem for a while.

    Without a rather radical shift in our economic system, the system will grind down and many more people will be hurt and suffer than did under the Great Recession.

    Add your comment.


  23.    Not every door is a revolving door: Housing finance, GSE reform, and the NYT | Jared Bernstein | On the Economy

    Considering that we've only seen increased consolidation in the private banking sector after the Great Recession and considering that lobbying by such entities doesn't seem to be being reined in, I think Jared Bernstein's objection to Gretchen Morgenson's article is invalid.

    Add your comment.


  24.    Strange Cases for Fed Rate Hikes: The Poor Savers Story | Beat the Press | Blogs | Publications | The Center for Economic and Policy Research

    Dean Baker and David Rosnick:

    Taking into account the overall impact on the economy it is hard not to see the low interest rate policy as a huge gainer for low and middle income people on the whole, even if there are some people in this category who end up as losers. This raises a more general point. We really don't have any policies that can benefit large numbers of people without also leading to some losses among low and middle income people.

    For example, most folks would think modernizing the infrastructure so that people don't have to waste so much time and gas in traffic is a good idea, especially since it directly employs people. But if we build a new bridge then we will be diverting people from the old bridge, hurting the businesses along the route and the people who work there. Suppose we have a jobs program in a low-income area. That's good news for the people who get the jobs, but the increased income flowing into the area will likely put upward pressure on rents, hurting retirees who will not directly benefit from the jobs program. Even a program promoting healthier nutrition will result in fewer jobs for caregivers to the sick.

    These examples may sound almost silly in terms of the disproportionate gains to the winners versus the costs to the losers, but the point is that there are losers even in these cases. We would not think of abandoning these policies because of the losers. In the same vein, the benefits to the winners from the Fed's low interest rate policy are hugely out of proportion to the losses to savers. These losses are a downside, but hardly one that would warrant reconsidering the policy.

    Yes, and that's why we need a really, really strong welfare state that doesn't allow anyone to fall through such cracks.

    Add your comment.


  25.    VSPs and the FN [the title is cryptic for those who don't read Paul Krugman] – The New York Times

    Paul Krugman:

    The point for Europe is that the doctrinaire policies followed since 2010, and the unwillingness to rethink dogma in the light of experience, aren't just economically destructive. They undermine the legitimacy of the whole European system, and may in the end lead to political catastrophe.

    Of course; however, it cuts both ways.

    Sometimes the people react with left-wing responses with extremely nationalistic but also worse, authoritarian streaks. For example and famously, Robespierre was a left-winger who undertook a bloodbath (beheadings of the nobility). The Bolsheviks in Russia were left-wing relative to the current German government but extremely right-wing (authoritarian) relative to democratic socialism.

    By the way, Marine Le Pen has denounced neoliberalism and by doing so, has absorbed more left-wingers into her cause.

    There has been an on-going argument as to whether the Nazi Party was right or left. It was left of center economically but was decidedly hyper-nationalistic (considered right-wing). Therefore, the Nazi Party was a mixture of left and right.

    Frankly, the Nazis' economic policies are worth studying in detail. The bankers hate that idea, but that should tell you something. The New Deal was somewhat similar, just toned down and less dramatically successful but highly successful nevertheless.

    It is a terribly cowardly approach to the subject to refuse to study how the Nazis managed to turn around the German economy so quickly and dramatically just because of WWII and the concentration camps and on and on.

    The proper way to do economics is to take what works and to leave behind what is detrimental. The improper way is to lump the good in with the bad and then discard both.

    So, when you see "far-right" with FN or Front National, don't forget that neoliberal economics is far to the right of the FN under Le Pen. Those who only want you to associate "far-right" with the FN often include those who are way to Marine's right economically.

    Add your comment.


  26.    The Irish Economy – Blog Archive – Slow train wreck

    Kevin O'Rourke:

    "Europe" is increasingly experienced as a set of constraints preventing governments from doing what their people want them to do, rather than as a means of empowering governments to collectively solve problems.

    So why would anyone be surprised that Mme Le Pen has done so well; and is it not likely at this stage (though 2017 is a long way away) that absent major policy shifts she will come first in the first round of the Presidential election? And let there be no mistake: if she actually won the second round, either then or in 2022, this would mean the end of the EU as we currently know it.

    Well, the EU, as we currently know it, has been run by the Germans under their ordoliberal economics, which whether they say so or not, is neoliberal with a happy face. If the EU falls apart, it will be mostly directly Wolfgang Schäuble's doing. If the Germans stubbornly cling to their myopic economics, then the EU should come apart so others may be freed from the needlessly imposed, destructive austerity.

    Add your comment.


  27.    'Monster' El Nino could usher in decade of more and stronger events | Reuters

    AGW

    In Buffalo, it hasn't snowed yet this year. A Duluth, Minnesota, newspaper reported that the temperature was 40 degrees above zero, not below. And in Miami, beachgoers are staying indoors during what's already the third-wettest December in local history. What's going on with the weather?

    Add your comment.


  28.    Washington gov. declares weather emergency

    SEATTLE — Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency in Washington on Wednesday after days of heavy rain caused rivers to rise, flooding and landslides across the western part of the state. Multiple rivers remained under a flood warning.

    Sea-Tac Airport, where the official weather for Seattle is recorded, picked up 2.13 inches of rain Tuesday, beating the old Dec. 8 record of 1.61 inches. Through the first eight days of December, Sea-Tac has received triple the amount of rain it normally receives for the last month of the year. Sea-Tac also had a record high of 60 degrees Tuesday.

    I was here right near the airport. I've seen heavy rain up here before, but it's only the second time I've seen it coming down in sheets. It's also strange to have the heat off in December.

    The water is something you can see and gauge building up in the rivers, etc., but the landslides are vastly more unpredictable. There were two here in town, with houses damaged and people evacuated.

    This is El Nino, and it's heavy because of Global Warning increased by human carbon-burning. The Pentagon knows it and so do the insurance companies.

    Add your comment.


  29.    St. Louis targets vacant properties through special tax auctions : News

    At the October auction, developer Deryl Brown bought the property for $45,000. He said he planned to spend "well over $100,000" on a gut rehab of the home and then sell it. He's already begun construction.

    Add your comment.


  30.    $2 million mortgage: No down payment, no joke!

    Diana Olick:

    In an atmosphere of continued cautious lending, the product has raised some eyebrows, but it is nothing like the no down payment, no-doc, risky products that were behind the housing crash. Borrowers are fully vetted, income and assets verified, and while there is no minimum credit score, the vast majority of the credit union's borrowers have above-average credit scores.

    Add your comment.


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