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↑ Another TV Fried as Georgia Leads U.S. in Lightning Costs - Bloomberg
Georgia tops a shocking list: most likely place to have property damaged by lightning.
Georgia residents were reimbursed for $56 million of lightning-related damage in homes last year tied to more than 11,000 claims, according to a top-10 list from the Insurance Information Institute. Texas ranked second at $54.2 million.
Homeowners are advised to unplug equipment before a storm hits. Once a storm is under way, handling plugs can risk electrocution, Jensenius said.
... people should seek shelter in a building or metal-topped car during storm. They should avoid lakes, golf carts, farm equipment, motorcycles and bicycles and never seek shelter under a tree.
↑ Most Minot residents avoid flood insurance bump - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND
MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Officials say only a small number of Minot residents affected by a devastating 2011 flood have been bumped up to a higher risk category for flood insurance.
Officials say Minot's valley is still considered a non-flood plain despite the 2011 event.
↑ Chemical leaking after Central Texas derailment | Latest State headlines from AP | News ...
NAVASOTA, Texas — Eight Union Pacific cars have overturned in Central Texas and at least one tanker leaked a hazardous chemical used in natural gas processing.
↑ Flood summary: 150 homes, $11M in roads, public buildings damaged | Local News - KCCI Home
Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Mark Schouten says early estimates indicate damage to roads, bridges and public buildings from recent flooding comes to about $11 million. Storms on June 3 caused an additional $4.5 million damage to public facilities.
Those estimates don't include homes or crop damage ....
↑ State law targets 'storm-chaser' contractor fraud | Press Gazette Media | greenbaypressgazette.com
Under the new law, contractors can't promise to pay a homeowner's property-insurance deductible, nor can they negotiate with insurers on the customer's behalf. Those were steps that fly-by-night contractors would use to entice homeowners to sign a contract quickly, without giving them time to research the contractor.
↑ Why Springsteen Had a Point About Staring Into the Sun - Bloomberg
The Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, sends alerts to power grids, airlines, oil drillers and even pigeon trainers on the risks of geomagnetic storms that can disrupt communications, electric power, and, yes, perhaps the birds' sense of direction.
The center also may provide the first clue to the worst-case scenario described in academic and government reports: widespread power outages, food shortages and trillions of dollars in economic damages. The reinsurance industry is increasingly sounding alarms, calling space weather a potential hazard in today's wired world.
A 2008 report published by the National Academy of Sciences drew more attention to the risks. It cited Kappenman's work, which said a severe storm could zap hundreds of the U.S. grid's high-voltage transformers, leaving more than 130 million people in the dark for months or longer, with economic costs possibly reaching several trillion dollars.
The mother of modern geomagnetic storms is known as the Carrington Event. In August and September of 1859, auroras lit up the skies from Honolulu to Queensland in Australia. Telegraph networks around the world experienced outages.
The storm was about four times larger than the 2003 disturbance, said Jeffrey Love, an adviser for geomagnetic research at the U.S. Geological Survey.
It's hard to say when another big one will arrive. If a Carrington-level storm were to strike again, zapping the North American electric grid, it could be a disaster.
It might damage transformers across the grid, leaving as many as 40 million people in the U.S. without power for 16 days to two years, according to a report last year by Lloyd's of London, the world's oldest insurance market. Long-term outages risk disrupting financial markets and triggering "major a nd widespread social unrest," with estimated economic costs as high as $2.6 trillion, Lloyd's said.
↑ Surveying Property: Retaining Walls - Part 1 — Spectacular Collapses!
The photographs below show the dramatic impact of what can happen when retaining walls fail:
↑ Surveying Property: Retaining Walls - Part 2 - Retaining Wall Construction Types
This is a UK-oriented article. Be sure to verify all local requirements before embarking upon a project.
Once thorough ground/site investigations have been completed there are a number of different types of retaining wall that may be selected. Basically, a retaining wall is not randomly constructed, but should be selected and designed to suit individual ground and site conditions. There are various types of retaining solutions such as embedded retaining walls (e.g sheet piling) and reinforced soil walls, however, for the purposes of this article I plan to focus on gravity retaining walls (also known as mass retaining walls) which rely solely on their own weight to stand up and withstand all of the loads and pressures that they will be exposed to. There a wide selection of gravity retaining wall solutions including Masonry (unreinforced), Concrete, (sometimes with masonry facing), Gabions and Crib retaining walls:
↑ Saparn Realty's Alan Gorelick admits to stealing $2.6M
Alan Gorelick, a former top executive at Saparn Realty, pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $3 million from residential buildings he managed in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Gorelick admitted the wrongdoing in Manhattan Supreme Court Tuesday, copping to stealing $2.6 million from some 30 buildings. He was arrested January 16 and charged with one count of grand larceny and nine counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree.
↑ Calculated Risk: Q1 GDP Revised Down to -2.9% Annual Rate
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has revised 1st quarter 2014 down again.
PCE [Personal Consumption Expenditures, the inflation gauge used by the Fed] growth was revised down from 3.1% to 1.0%. Ouch!
↑ Mortgage numbers suggest slower summer sales
Weak mortgage applications may seem counterintuitive after strong May sales results. Applications to purchase a home are down nearly 18 percent on year. The trouble is, not every sector of the housing market is improving. A new report from Trulia, a real estate sales and data site, points to improvements in home construction, sales, pricing and foreclosures—all more than halfway back to normal levels. Unemployment among young adults, however, a key housing segment, still lags.
Jobs, wage rates, and hours of work, those are the main easily fixable issues (public employment now).
↑ Obama's Latest Betrayal in Favor of the Big Banks: TISA
This is a political indictment; but the issue is so central to the real-estate industry because of the Wall Street banks' terrible and criminal actions leading up to the Great Recession, that we just felt compelled to include it.
By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
TISA [the once secret Trade in Services Agreement leaked by WikiLeaks] is designed to replicate, indeed, optimize the criminogenic environment that made fraudulent financial CEOs wealthy by "looting" "their" banks. The (effective) "regulators in the field" figured this out by 1983 — over 30 years ago. We wrote up our findings in great detail. Top economists and top white-collar criminologists studying those findings a decade later (1993) agreed with the findings. Since the original findings in 1983, we have the (prevented) "liar's" loans crisis of 1991 when federal S&L regulators based in California drove what were then a brand new product called "low doc" loans out of the regulated industry. That "second front" — while the S&L regulators were containing the S&L debacle — was dealt with so effectively that there was no resultant financial crisis. Indeed, it is only with the benefit of the current crisis that we can understand that the containment of the overall S&L debacle (driven primarily by fraudulent commercial real estate loans and investments) and the incipient crisis is liar's loans prevented a crisis that would have become similar in scope to the current crisis. The S&L debacle was contained before it caused even a minor national recession.
↑ Landlords Texting Tenants | Tenants Texting Landlord
"A text or email can be a contract if there is an offer and an acceptance by both parties," Leroi told AOL. He added, however, that it isn't advisable for a landlord to serve notice of a rent increase via text.
If a landlord texts to offer a benefit, such as snow removal or cleaning, it probably isn't legally binding, attorney Peter Kirner of Cleveland, says.
↑ What could possibly derail the global economy? - Bond Vigilantes
... each of the last five major downturns in global economic activity has been immediately preceded by a major spike in oil prices (as the FT has previously pointed out here). Commodity price spikes impact both developed and developing countries alike, with low-income earners suffering more as they spend a greater proportion of their income on food and fuel.
↑ Brookings Study on Student Debt Misses Lifelong Consequences | New Republic
This system of student debt has happened so fast that proper analysis is hard to do. But what's most interesting is research showing how student debt threatens fundamentally American ways of life. Student debt chips away at the ability to be a risk-taking entrepreneur, a homesteader who has amassed enough wealth to be self-sufficient, or someone who has dedicated their craft to working in our rich civil society. These are three very real versions of the American Dream, and contrary to what studies like Brookings's might show over the short term, they are all being weakened by the way we saddle young people with student debt burdens.
↑ Stumbling and Mumbling: Austerity in the mainstream
There might not be an anti-austerity narrative in the narrow Overton window of Westminster politics, but there sure as hell is in mainstream economics. There's now widespread agreement, even at the IMF, that austerity did hurt the economy: Oxford professors and the Director of the NIESR might be marginalized by politics and the media, but they are mainstream in economics.
↑ Uptown landlord fined $30,000 for conditions at 18 rental properties - Uptown Messenger
New Orleans officials levied approximately $30,000 in fines against an Uptown landlord Tuesday for code violations at 18 rental properties on some of the city's most prominent streets, in what attorneys characterized as a shift toward stronger enforcement against occupied — rather than vacant — buildings.
↑ Detroit Real Estate Draws Interest from Google, JPMorgan - TheStreet
In less than a year after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Detroit is attracting real-estate investors and interest from companies ....
↑ Google Makes Its Nest At The Center Of The Smart Home | TechCrunch
With the "Works with Nest" program, suddenly, the center of the smart home is the de facto smart home gadget in the Nest Learning Thermostat.
The program leans on the sensors within Nest's products. The product's motion detection and machine learning are all tapped and farmed out for use by other gadgets.
↑ Fracking releases dangerous particles from soil, study shows | Science Recorder
Wastewater from hydraulic fracturing may pose even more risks to the environment than ecologists think, according to a new Cornell University study. The study, which was published June 6 in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science and Technology, finds that the chemicals within the wastewater can trigger the release of tiny particles within the soils that bind pollutants to metals and, in so doing, render the pollutants even more likely to threaten humans and wildlife aboveground in the event of an accidental spill.
↑  Auerback on the Fed's manipulations and China and Roche on the US uptick - YouTube
Well, he's saying we're wrong that the hard-landing cycle has begun. His point that China is not as market driven is a good one, but we still believe they don't have as much time left as Marshall thinks they do.
By the way, what some people call a softer landing really might fit our hard landing quite a bit. The terms aren't really very well defined.
[At 14:18] ... part two of Erin's conversation with Marshall Auerback of the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Marshall is a former fund manager with significant experience in Asia. He gives a skeptical take on the Fed's market manipulations as well as a view on how to read the slowdown in China. Is the country headed for a hard landing? Perhaps, but debt deflation dynamics are certainly something to watch, Marshall says.
↑ Phoenix Real Estate Market Update | June 2014 - YouTube
Phoenix Market Update as of June 2014. For the complete article please visit https://royceofrealestate.com/phoenix-real-estate-market-update-june-2014/
↑ Why Multifamily Rental Housing Matters for the U.S. Economy - US News
An outstanding question is whether the increased demand for rental homes represents a cyclical change related to households who want to, but cannot, purchase a home. Or is it the case that the increase in renting represents a structural shift in the preference for rental housing, particularly among younger Americans.
Public opinion data, including a 2013 survey from Fannie Mae that indicated half of renters would prefer to be homeowners, suggest that homeownership remains a lifestyle and financial goal of most Americans. In fact, the Fannie Mae data reveals that about half of current renters under the age of 35 are currently renting to prepare themselves financially to purchase a home. The recession, rising student loan burdens and other economic factors have also delayed many younger households from purchasing a home or establishing an independent household. Nonetheless, the ongoing support for owning a home offers positive prospects regarding future trends for homeownership. This is good news over the long-run given that homeownership has been shown to generate a host of community and family-level positive impacts, including improved civic participation and education outcomes.
That said, while homeownership remains an important goal, there's a time when it makes more financial and quality-of-life sense to rent. Thus, ensuring the supply of multifamily rental housing is important for consumer choice. And some of the areas experiencing the largest increases in demand for rental housing include higher cost metropolitan areas.
"... homeownership has been shown to generate a host of community and family-level positive impacts ...." The correlation may not be causation. It may be more about wealth rather than "ownership."
↑ What babies tell us about housing
The suburbs are over, and young people are flooding into big cities. That has been the growing consensus of builders, Realtors, urban planners and even environmentalists during this housing recovery. However, it just may not be true.
Millennials are not flocking to big cities, at least according to newly released Census figures analyzed by Trulia's chief economist, Jed Kolko.
More than 2 million more adults in their 20s and 300,000 more adults in their 30s were still bunking in with their parents in 2013, compared with prerecession levels. The hope is that as the job market improves, these young people will move into homeownership, but the odds are that they will choose to rent first. Even though rents have skyrocketed in the past few years, renting does not require a down payment nor high credit scores to qualify for a loan.
"More than a third of U.S. households live in housing that exceeds their means," noted Harvard researchers. "For renters, this is indeed a crisis of affordability." More than half of all renters, they found, are "cost-burdened," and 28 percent pay more than half their income on housing. This makes renters unable to save for that first home.
We always took it that of those millennials who've left the nest, most went urban. We also always held that the inability to save for down payments had at least something to do with it for a number of them; but regardless, young people more often than not, have wanted to be in an urban setting. Whether they will change as they age is a another matter. Your views on this?
↑ Spring flood damage estimate swells to nearly $17M - New Brunswick - CBC News
The estimated damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure in New Brunswick from spring flooding has jumped to nearly $17 million.
About 920 reports of damage totalling an estimated $16.9 million have been received so far, Public Safety Minister Bruce Northrup said in a statement.
↑ [Insurance related] Allianz sets out risks of 'supertall' towers | Construction News | The Construction Index
With values often exceeding US$1bn (£588m), the latest 'supertall' (300m-plus) or 'megatall' (600m-plus) buildings pose new challenges for insurers as well as for architects and contractors. says AGCS. Concepts for the first mile-high (1.6km) building already exist. However, they are unlikely to materialize for at least another 20 years — largely due to the fact that elevator technology is lagging behind building technology.
More than half of world's tallest buildings have been built in last four years, with the total supertall category almost tripling in the last seven years, says the report. The high rise boom in Asia and Middle East leads the way, accounting for 90% of recent supertall projects.
... The projects are inherently highly complex, as they can involve up to 10,000 workers and over 100 subcontractors each. All project phases — whether building construction or civil engineering — can be insured, said AGCS. The extraordinary size and value of today's largest buildings can easily exceed the US$1bn mark and so insurance for the complete project is generally granted by a consortium of (re)insurers. In the case of the Kingdom Tower, AGCS is the leading reinsurer of this building which has an insured value of US$1.5bn. Insurers such as AGCS also provide after-construction coverage for protection against damages arising from defects in design, materials or workmanship. "Insurance plays a vital role in evaluating and managing the complex risks of these extraordinary projects. Claims and risk consulting services are particularly important on a construction site with close evaluation of past claims often essential in preventing future claims," says Batmaz.
↑ Colorado suspends oil and gas wastewater disposal well after quake | Reuters
Disposal of wastewater from oil and gas drilling into a Colorado well was ordered halted this week after seismic activity was detected in the area, state regulators said on Tuesday.
Both fracking and wastewater disposal have been linked to increased seismic activity in states where energy production is on the rise.
↑ Authorities to test sirens in Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona - ABC15 Arizona
Arizona authorities are testing sirens in Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon to let people know what to expect in an actual emergency.
... visitors and business owners should have a spot picked out on high ground where they can retreat during a flood.
↑ Spray Polyurethane Foam and Roof Coatings
Dissidents against white roof coatings do not account for when spray polyurethane foam is applied as an insulating force underneath roof coatings. When installed under commercial roof coatings, a spray polyurethane foam insulation system acts as a strong air barrier. It then heavily cuts down on air filtration and keeps heat trapped inside a building. In short, with the roof coatings applied on top, the SPF insulation system enables a building owner to enjoy cooling cost savings during hotter periods of the year and heating cost savings during the colder portions.
↑ LA Times - Housing costs are a greater burden in L.A. than elsewhere
More Angelenos spend a large portion of their income on housing than people anywhere else in the country, according to a new study out Thursday from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Fully half of the households in metro Los Angeles spend at least 30% of their income on rent or mortgage payments, the highest rate of 381 metropolitan areas in the U.S. One in four households here spends at least half its income on housing.
The report is the latest evidence of a growing affordability crunch in Southern California's housing market.
"Pretty much all other necessity spending is getting crowded out," said Dan McCue, research manager at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. "Food, clothing, healthcare, you name it. There's just less to go around."
↑ [Very, very highly recommended] Keeping It Real: Law, Coercion, & The Frontiers of Public Finance | New Economic PerspectivesNew Economic Perspectives
... I am squarely in the camp of guaranteeing basic economic security: government funding of jobs for all, the creation of public bank accounts, and the end of brutal, barbaric taxation. I think progressive public finance is no longer so much about redistributing money, as it is about distributing money in order to spur real growth for particular people in particular sectors.
That is perfectly in line with what we've been writing on this blog.
↑ Carney Details New Weapons to Cool British Housing Market - NYTimes.com
The bank's Financial Policy Committee, formed to help curb persistent boom-and-bust cycles, moved to restrict the number of new residential mortgages that were equivalent to, or more than, 4.5 times a borrower's annual income. The panel said that banks could have no more than 15 percent of such loans in their portfolios.
The committee also said that mortgage lenders, when assessing affordability, should apply a stress test to determine if borrowers could still pay the loan if interest rates rose three percentage points higher in the first five years of the loan.
At present, banks are not exceeding the new loan-to-income cap. Only 10 percent of mortgages issued in the 12 months through March exceeded the ratio of 4.5 times a borrower's annual income. That ratio is far more stark in London, where about 22 percent of mortgages are above the cap, meaning the impact could be more widely felt in the city, said Christian Schulz, senior economist at Berenberg Bank.
... measures introduced may buy the bank more time before it is forced to raise rates. Yet it will be hard pressed to address a crucial component bolstering the exuberant housing market: lack of supply.
↑ Mark Carney refuses to rule out any tools to control housing market - YouTube
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney tells Telegraph Business Reporter Szu Ping Chan that they will not rule out any of the tools at their disposal to keep control of the housing market.
↑ Investors souring on Chinese real estate: survey - MarketWatch
Real-estate developers and investors are souring on China's slowing property market and are seeking safer bets in developed cities like Beijing and Shanghai, according to a new survey.
Investors last year gushed about China's less-developed cities, known as tier two and three cities, according to the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit research organization based in the U.S. But there is "a more pessimistic outlook overall on prospects compared with last year," it said in a survey set to be released on Thursday.
↑ Financial Stability Report Press Conference - YouTube
The opening remarks by Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England at the Financial Stability Report Press Conference June, 2014.
↑ Apartment Occupancy Rates Continue to Slip in Hartford - Apartment Market Dynamics - YouTube
Most of the Northeast region has struggled to find momentum in the apartment sector recently, and that's especially true in Hartford. Occupancy, while still healthy, is trending downward, while rent growth has been flat.