Thursday, December 1, 2011

The State of Mass is sueing the big 5!

Post by Mike
I wonder if this will spread to other States like the tobbaco litigation did?

Five National Banks Sued by AG Coakley in Connection with Illegal Foreclosures and Loan Servicing
First Comprehensive Lawsuit to Address Foreclosure Crisis Seeks to Hold Banks Accountable For Illegal and Deceptive Conduct
Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citi, and GMAC All Named As Defendants; Mortgage Electronic Registration System (“MERS”) Also Sued

BOSTON – Five national banks have been sued in connection with their roles in allegedly pursuing illegal foreclosures on properties in Massachusetts as well as deceptive loan servicing, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. The lawsuit was filed today in Suffolk Superior Court against Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citi, and GMAC. It also names Mortgage Electronic Registration System, Inc. (“MERS”) and its parent, MERSCORP Inc., as defendants.

“The single most important thing we can do to return to a healthy economy is to address this foreclosure crisis,” said AG Coakley. “Our suit alleges that the banks have charted a destructive path by cutting corners and rushing to foreclose on homeowners without following the rule of law. Our action today seeks real accountability for the banks illegal behavior and real relief for homeowners.”

In the complaint , the Attorney General alleges these five entities engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices in violation of Massachusetts’ law by:

Pervasive use of fraudulent documentation in the foreclosure process, including so-called “robo-signing”;
Foreclosing without holding the actual mortgage (“Ibanez” violations);
Corrupting Massachusetts’ land recording system through the use of MERS;
Failing to uphold loan modification promises to Massachusetts homeowners.

According to the complaint, the banks used false documentation in the foreclosure process, including so-called “robo-signing”, whereby bank personnel signed affidavits that were untrue, or not based on the signor’s actual knowledge. An entity wishing to foreclose on a property must demonstrate it has filed an affidavit in compliance with Massachusetts law. By October 2010, the banks’ flagrant disregard of affidavit and notary process requirements became widely known. Filings with various Registers of Deeds provided to the Attorney General’s Office revealed the pervasive use of mortgage service employees to sign hundreds of affidavits and sworn statements without personal knowledge of the information contained in those affidavits. Evidence also suggests these practices were not confined to the foreclosure process, but also used in the assignment, transfer and modification of mortgages secured by property in Massachusetts.


Second, these five entities participated in unlawful foreclosures when they commenced foreclosures on mortgages where they were not the holders of those mortgages. The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), in Commonwealth v Ibanez, recently upheld Massachusetts law and stated that “only the present holder of a mortgage is authorized to foreclose on the mortgaged property.” The complaint alleges that these entities ignored this fundamental legal mandate and proceeded to foreclosure even though they did not hold the mortgage, and thus had no legal authority to conduct the foreclosure. The banks’ failure to obtain a valid assignment of the mortgage prior to foreclosure has adversely impacted titles to hundreds, if not thousands, of properties in the Commonwealth. The complaint alleges that the banks falsely claimed to be the holder of a mortgage in several foreclosure documents even though they failed to obtain a valid assignment of the mortgage.


Third, the complaint alleges that these banks have undermined our public land record system through the use of MERS, a private electronic registry system. According to the complaint, the creation and use of MERS was adopted by these defendants primarily to avoid land registration and recording requirements, including payment of recording and registration fees, and to facilitate sales of mortgage loans. The use of MERS has resulted in a lack of transparency as to the entities that have the legal authority to enforce mortgages, and unfairly conceals from borrowers the true identity of the holder of the debt. Since 1997, more than 63 million home loans have been registered on the MERS System, accounting for more than 60 percent of all newly-originated mortgage loans. The complaint also alleges that through the use of the MERS system, the banks unlawfully failed to register assignments of mortgages and transfers of the beneficial interests in mortgages.


Finally, the complaint alleges the banks deceived and misrepresented to borrowers the process, requirements, and availability of loan modifications. The banks publically claimed to be engaged in widespread loan modifications aimed at preserving home ownership and avoiding unnecessary foreclosures. Through the National Homeownership Retention Program, which commenced on November 6, 2008, these banks represented that they would work with borrowers to help them avoid unnecessary foreclosures by reducing monthly mortgage payments to affordable and sustainable levels. The complaint alleges these banks misled borrowers about their eligibility for this program and the amount of relief available, failed to achieve a significant level of modifications, and often strung along borrowers for months in trial modifications that were ultimately rejected.

The AG’s lawsuit seeks civil penalties, restitution for harm to borrowers and compensation for registration fees that were avoided. The lawsuit also seeks to hold the banks accountable through permanent injunctive relief to provide a solution for prior unlawful foreclosures and to require that the banks, going forward, register assignments and other documents in accordance with Massachusetts law.

The lawsuit follows more than a year of negotiations with the banks over a 50-state settlement focused around the issues of fraudulent documents, including “robo-signing.” AG Coakley had made clear that she would not sign on to an agreement with the banks if it included broad liability release regarding MERS and other issues or if she did not believe the banks had come to the table with an offer in the best interest of Massachusetts.

AG Coakley’s office has been a national leader in holding banks and investment giants accountable for their roles in the economic crisis. AG Coakley has obtained recoveries from Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Royal Bank of Scotland, Countrywide, Fremont Investment & Loan, Option One, and others on behalf of Massachusetts homeowners. As a result of these actions, her office has recovered more than $600 million in relief for investors and borrowers, helped keep more than 25,400 people in their homes, and returned nearly $60 million in taxpayer funds back to the Commonwealth.

More information about AG Coakley’s work during the lending crisis can be found here .

The lawsuit is being handled by Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Consumer Protection Division, including Assistant Attorneys General Amber Villa, John Stephan, Sara Cable, and Justin Lowe; Acting Division Chief David Monahan; Chris Barry-Smith, Chief of the Public Protection & Advocacy Bureau and Stephanie Kahn, Deputy Chief of the Public Protection & Advocacy Bureau.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October 26 was a good day for area real estate!

Post by Mike
Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

It appears so. According the Albany MLS system, 23 properties were put on pending status on October 26. The contracts crossed all price ranges and are reported from $17,000 to $399,000.

Plus 15 other properties were recorded as being closed on the SAME DAY. The sales ranged from $12,400 to $345,000.

That is a very good day for area real estate!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Update - Will it do enough?

This was reported Saturday in the Gulf News out of Qatar. A friend who works there sent it and reports that the requirement to live in the US for 180 days a year and pay taxes on foreign income will limit participation.

From The GulfNews:

"Many people want to come and live in the United States," said Sen. Charles Schumer, the Democrat from New York, who introduced the legislation on Thursday along with Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah. "They will be here spending money and paying taxes, and the most important thing is they'll sop up the extra supply of homes we have right now compared to demand, and that's what's dragging our economy down."

The legislation would create a new homeowner visa that would be renewable every three years, but the proposal would not put them on a path to citizenship.

The programme would come with several restrictions. The purchase would have to be in cash, with no mortgage or home equity loan allowed.

And the property would have to be bought for more than its most recent appraised value, Schumer said.

The buyer would have to live in the home for at least 180 days each year, which would require paying US income taxes on any foreign earnings.

Buyers would no longer be eligible for the temporary visa if the property were sold. The buyer would be able to bring a spouse and minor children to live in the US but would need to apply for a work visa to hold a job. Neither the buyer nor dependents would be eligible to receive Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security benefits.

Friday, October 21, 2011

An interesting idea to kick start the housing industry:

This is an interesting approach. It has bipartisan appeal and the money does not come from the tax payers.

The reeling housing market has come to this: To shore it up, two Senators are preparing to introduce a bipartisan bill Thursday that would give residence visas to foreigners who spend at least $500,000 to buy houses in the U.S.

The provision is part of a larger package of immigration measures, co-authored by Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Mike Lee (R., Utah), designed to spur more foreign investment in the U.S.

Foreigners have accounted for a growing share of home purchases in South Florida, Southern California, Arizona and other hard-hit markets. Chinese and Canadian buyers, among others, are taking advantage not only of big declines in U.S. home prices and reduced competition from Americans but also of favorable foreign exchange rates.

To fuel this demand, the proposed measure would offer visas to any foreigner making a cash investment of at least $500,000 on residential real-estate—a single-family house, condo or townhouse. Applicants can spend the entire amount on one house or spend as little as $250,000 on a residence and invest the rest in other residential real estate, which can be rented out.

The measure would complement existing visa programs that allow foreigners to enter the U.S. if they invest in new businesses that create jobs. Backers believe the initiative would help soak up an excess supply of inventory when many would-be American home buyers are holding back because they're concerned about their jobs or because they would have to take a big loss to sell their current house.

"This is a way to create more demand without costing the federal government a nickel," Sen. Schumer said in an interview.

International buyers accounted for around $82 billion in U.S. residential real-estate sales for the year ending in March, up from $66 billion during the previous year period, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. Foreign buyers accounted for at least 5.5% of all home sales in Miami and 4.3% of Phoenix home sales during the month of July, according to MDA DataQuick.

Foreigners immigrating to the U.S. with the new visa wouldn't be able to work here unless they obtained a regular work visa through the normal process. They'd be allowed to bring a spouse and any children under the age of 18 but they wouldn't be able to stay in the country legally on the new visa once they sold their properties.

The provision would create visas that are separate from current programs so as to not displace anyone waiting for other visas. There would be no cap on the home-buyer visa program.

Over the past year, Canadians accounted for one quarter of foreign home buyers, and buyers from China, Mexico, Great Britain, and India accounted for another quarter, according to the National Association of Realtors. For buyers from some countries, restrictive immigration rules are "a deterrent to purchase here, for sure," says Sally Daley, a real-estate agent in Vero Beach, Fla. She estimates that around one-third of her sales this year have gone to foreigners, an all-time high.

"Without them, we would be stagnant," says Ms. Daley. "They're hiring contractors, buying furniture, and they're also helping the market correct by getting inventory whittled down."

In March, Harry Morrison, a Canadian from Lakefield, Ontario, bought a four-bedroom vacation home in a gated community in Vero Beach. "House prices were going down, and the exchange rate was quite favorable," said Mr. Morrison, who first bought a home there from Ms. Daley four years ago.

While a special visa would allow Canadian buyers like Mr. Morrison to spend more time in the U.S., he said he isn't sure "what other benefit a visa would give me."

The idea has some high-profile supporters, including Warren Buffett, who this summer floated the idea of encouraging more "rich immigrants" to buy homes. "If you wanted to change your immigration policy so that you let 500,000 families in but they have to have a significant net worth and everything, you'd solve things very quickly," Mr. Buffett said in an August interview with PBS's Charlie Rose.

The measure could also help turn around buyer psychology, said mortgage-bond pioneer Lewis Ranieri. He said the program represented "triage" for a housing market that needs more fixes, even modest ones.

But other industry executives greeted the proposal with skepticism. Foreign buyers "don't need an incentive" to buy homes, said Richard Smith, chief executive of Realogy Corp., which owns the Coldwell Banker and Century 21 real-estate brands. "We have a lot of Americans who are willing to buy. We just have to fix the economy."

The measure may have a more targeted effect in exclusive markets like San Marino, Calif., that have become popular with foreigners. Easier immigration rules could be "tremendous" because of the difficulty many Chinese buyers have in obtaining visas, says Maggie Navarro, a local real-estate agent.

Ms. Navarro recently sold a home for $1.67 million, around 8% above the asking price, to a Chinese national who works in the mining industry. She says nearly every listing she's put on the market in San Marino "has had at least one full price cash offer from a buyer from mainland China."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A troubling trend in taxation.

Post by Mike
This could be a troubling trend. Each added dollar of taxation reduces the value of your property.

Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, GA)

Phenix City approves new fee for rental properties
Council introduces plans to borrow millions for capital improvement

The Phenix City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance to charge owners of rental property a 1.5 percent business license fee beginning this fall. The new law, which stirred controversy among some landlords, was the third measure of its kind intended to generate new revenue as the city embarks on a multimillion-dollar capital improvement project. The city in recent weeks also has increased its sales tax to 8.75 percent from 8 percent and hiked its lodging tax by 2 percent.

“Every other business in town has to buy a business license,” said Councilman Jimmy Wetzel, who has touted the city’s approach of asking a wide array of people to contribute a small amount to the projects.

Steve Smith, the city’s director of finance and public utilities, said officials expect the new fee to bring in about $418,000 a year. It is to be collected quarterly and will be based upon gross receipts, he said, adding the ordinance goes into effect Oct. 1.

“We think it’s as much a fairness issue as anything else, and it’s a very small fee,” Smith said. “We wanted to keep the number low but still generate enough revenue to provide additional services and do things.”

A number of rental property owners addressed council Monday evening during its regular work session. Many voiced opposition to what they consider a new tax, while lending their support to council’s plans for new projects.

“Mostly what they were saying was, ‘We like the projects and we agree with the projects, but put the tax on somebody else,’” Wetzel said.

The new ordinance passed by a vote of 3-1, with Mayor Sonny Coulter dissenting and Councilman Max Wilkes absent due to a health matter. Coulter couldn’t be reached Tuesday evening for comment.

Also on Tuesday, council introduced an ordinance to issue $21.5 million in warrants for the construction of a new municipal complex, public works and utilities facilities, a downtown parking garage to accommodate riverfront development and a community center, projects the city recently unveiled as part of a master plan. Two additional ordinances would authorize the city to issue general obligation warrants of up to $12.8 million in general obligation warrants, and up to $4.1 million in water and sewer revenue bonds, money Smith said will be used to improve water treatment and bring the city in line with new state standards.

Council passed a resolution creating a Public Building Authority through which it will pay for the capital improvement projects.

“The reason for doing that is that those projects, when they have a lease that’s guaranteeing the payment, they don’t count against the city’s borrowing limit,” Wetzel said.

Council is expected to hold a final vote on the borrowing of millions of dollars at its next meeting.

City leaders have said they intend to build the new municipal complex in the place of the abandoned Phenix Regional Hospital in an effort to shift government offices away from potentially valuable riverfront property.

“You can always say wait for a better time, and you can always have an excuse of some kind,” Smith said. “We feel like this will enhance the quality of life, and we feel like it will make Phenix City a better place to live.”

Wilkes said he has spoken with the city’s finance officials about the capital improvement projects, and he thinks the city is on solid ground.

“I think it’s exciting times,” he said in a phone interview. “I worked for the city about 30 years. We’ve done a lot of things, but not to this magnitude.”

Read more:

Monday, August 8, 2011

The future of agriculture is big!

Posted by Mike Flynn

USDA reports farm land has increased in value: USDA: Farm Real Estate Values Up 7%
Aug 04, 2011
Mike Walsten

The value of all farm real estate, which includes farm buildings as well as land, rose 6.8% over 2010 reaching an average value of $2,350 an acre, reports USDA. In its annual Land Values Summary, USDA said regional changes in the average value of farm real estate ranged from a 15.9% increase in the Corn Belt region to a 2% decline in the Southeast region. The highest farm real estate values remained in the Northeast region at $4,690 per acre. The Mountain region had the lowest farm real estate value, $923 per acre.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Donald vs. Bank of America. I'm betting on Trump.

From The Wall Street Journal:
In the history of rapid wealth loss, Patricia Kluge stands apart. Once married to one of America's richest men, she won a divorce settlement in 1990 worth more than $100 million and proceeded to spend it on her lifestyle and business ventures. She was forced to sell off her Cartier diamonds, Givenchy gowns and silk drapes before declaring personal bankruptcy in June.

Yet the Fall of the House of Kluge has been a windfall for one man: Donald Trump.

As Ms. Kluge's empire collapsed, Mr. Trump bought. Over the past six months, he swooped in and picked up many of the pieces of her palatial Virginia estate and winery. He bought the 1,000-acre vineyard and winery for a fraction of their original value. He bought 200 acres nearby for less than $500,000, with help from Ms. Kluge and her son.

Now, the pompadoured billionaire and reality-TV star may have outplayed a much bigger rival in a bid for Ms. Kluge's crown jewel: her mansion. Bank of America owns the house after foreclosing and is trying to sell it for $16 million. The 24,000-square-foot neo-Georgian palace has 45 rooms, a spa, home theater, 3,500-bottle wine cellar and 2,000-square-foot sitting room.

One thing the house doesn't have, however, is a front yard. Mr. Trump owns that, having purchased it with his 200 acres. He also owns most of the driveway and the backyard, making a sale to any other buyer difficult. Mr. Trump said he would buy it from Bank of America for $3.6 million.

To make his point, he has erected signs on the front lawn of the mansion that read, "No Trespassing. This Land is Owned by Trump Virginia Acquisitions LLC," aimed at warding off possible buyers. He has also let the lawn go to seed.

"Maybe someone is stupid enough to buy the house," Mr. Trump said. "I wish them luck."

The broker for the house, Joseph Marchetti III, responded: "We believe the house is a salable asset as it is."

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What happens if the debt ceiling doesn't get raised?

Posted by Mike Flynn - Albany Realty Company - (229) 883-6100

This is a very interesting analysis of what might happen if the federal debt ceiling is not raised before July 22. It oulines some tough choices, but the World does not end and the US could be forced to live on a cash in cash out basis... or on a balanced budget.

Sorry but you will have to cut and paste the link.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Good news on the residential front.

By Mike Flynn - Albany Realty Company - 229-883-6100

The GAR is reporting some good news about housing inventory. We are not out of the storm yet, but the clouds are beginning to break!


Monthly Indicators: Pending Sales Up, Inventory Down
29 Jun 2011 -

Homeownership is about painting a room fluorescent fuchsia without asking anyone's permission. The recent market challenges have forced some homeowners to become begrudging renters or unintentional landlords. For the nation as a whole, the National Association of REALTORS® reports that the homeownership rate has shifted from 69.0 percent in 2005 to 66.5 percent so far in 2011. While that's not a tectonic shift, let's see what other indicators reveal since that first fateful month after the 2010 tax credit.

New Listings in the state of Georgia decreased 4.5 percent to 13,638. Pending Sales were up 63.4 percent to 8,581. Inventory levels shrank 12.3 percent to 66,893 units, but there are still plenty of great choices out there.

Prices couldn't match year-ago levels. The Median Sales Price declined 15.7 percent to $107,000. Days on Market increased 4.9 percent to 93 days. Consumers were absorbing homes more quickly as Months Supply of Inventory was down 0.5 percent to 11.1 months. Affordability also improved.

Nationally, the interest rate dropped to 4.88 percent on a 30-year fixed conventional while the unemployment rate snuck up to 9.1 percent in May. The economy added 54,000 jobs, which was far less than April and insufficient to curb unemployment. As recovery goes, so goes positive trends. Some metrics should continue to show favorable movement, but stronger job growth is needed to fuel housing demand and reinforce consumer confidence.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

We are positioned for growth and business friendly!

Posted by Mike Flynn- Albany Realty Company - (229)883-6100


The Peach State is once again among the best states for business, according to CNBC.

Georgia is ranked No. 4 for 2011 following a four-year absence from the top five. Georgia scored a 1,513 out of 2,500 points in CNBC’s exclusive study, which examined a variety of factors and is being revealed on-air all day on Tuesday.

CNBC’s annual report examined 43 measurements and grouped them into 10 large categories for the survey. Georgia’s highest ranking came in infrastructure and transportation, while its lowest was in quality of life.

Here’s Georgia’s score breakdown:

Cost of Doing Business -- ranked 18th with a score of 208
Workforce -- ranked fourth with a score of 259
Quality of Life -- ranked 38th with a score of 140
Economy -- ranked 35th with a score of 107
Infrastructure & Transportation -- ranked second with a score of 273
Technology & Innovation -- ranked 17th with a score of 156
Education -- ranked 22nd with a score of 118
Business Friendliness -- ranked 16th with a score of 134
Access to Capital -- ranked 13th with a score of 76
Cost of Living -- ranked ninth with a score of 42
In 2010, Georgia was named 10th best for business in the CNBC rankings.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Are they joking? The Obama regime wants to do what?

by Mike Flynn - Albany Realty Company - 229-883-6100

I don't think these guys have ever been in the trenches in the real World.

Go here to see what your Treasury Secretary has in mind:

Sorry the link is not live. We are having some technical difficulty, but this story is too important and needs to be circulated.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Talk about a double edged sword!

by Mike Flynn - Albany Realty Company - 229-883-6100

Here's the dilemma. Loose lending created a gigantic speculative bubble in the real estate markets. We are still mopping up the mess created when it burst.

When real estate values started dropping and construction projects stalled or got canceled, the rest of the economy fell in line and stalled too. If there is no construction industry, there is no need for asphalt plants, truss companies, brick manufacturing, sheet rock suppliers, the trucking companies that move the products, builder's risk policies..etc. We could go on but you get the idea of how infectious the stall became.

Now that the economy is again showing signs of stagnation, the banks are considering loosening up their lending standards. The country needs lending and credit. Banks make profits off of this process and the economy will stall without fluid credit. This has to happen despite the fear of blowing and bursting another bubble.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hotel Development will drive Northwest Development in 2011-12.

by Mike Flynn - Albany Realty Company - 229-883-6100
Hotel development will drive activity in the Northwest sector of Albany in 2011 and 2012. Two new projects are currently in the planning stages.

In February of 2011 Legendary Hospitality acquired 3.7 acres on Pointe North Blvd for $369,700. The developer is planning to construct a new 90 plus room Holiday Inn Express on the site with construction beginning sometime in late 2011 or early 2012.

Hallmark Hospitality and Management also has plans to construct a new 90 plus room Hampton Inn on property located at 2628 Dawson Road.

Southeastern Hospitality Management acquired the Albany Inn located at 2701 Dawson Road by a transfer of deed in lieu of foreclosure. The price for the property is believed to be in the $1-million range. The original structure was built in 1988 and the 4.7 acre site at the corner of Westover and Dawson is an ideal target for redevelopment. The owners have reopened the Albany Inn, but the question is when will that corner become more valuable for redevelopment.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful!"

"Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful!" - Warren Buffett.