Unclogging the Real Estate Market

June 28, 2009

By Janet Walgren

I’m sorry that I’ve neglected this blog for quite some time now. My daughter and I have been trying to find the perfect house to buy. With all the houses on the market, you’d think that would be a simple task. We are pre-approved for more than an adequate amount of money. We have our down payment. Our credit scores are terrific. We are motivated to buy… so what is the problem? Answer… the listing agent, the seller or the seller’s bank!

It is time for folks to get a reality check.

Imagine you own a 1996 Geo Metro with 250,000 miles on it. You are ready to get a new car. The used car lot says, “We’ll list it for $125,000″ and you say”_______???” If you said, “Great!!!,” you need a reality check. It doesn’t matter what “equity” some fool told you that you had accumulated over time. Truth is, the car is old. It is worn out. It needs rehabbed, renovated, restored and the cost of the rehab is more than the car is worth.

If you start shopping for a $125,000 replacement car, you need a mental evaluation.

If no one buys your car… what do you expect? Even if you were fool enough to pay more, or expect more, than the car was worth, do you expect the world is full of greater fools?

On the flip side:

The world is full of bargain hunters. Listing agents know this. Now, imagine the above Geo Metro was advertised for $50 dollars. You were looking at a similar car. It was clean, had less mileage and was still a bargain for $1000. You are one of two bidders and you are in the top position. You decide to relinquish your position and take the $50 dollar car so you can save for a new car. But, when you go to pay for the car, the dealer says, “I’m sorry, the bank wants $2,500 for the car.”

About that time you want to scream. You decide that the dealer is involved in fraudulent advertising and you call the Better Business Bureau. Apply this scenario to the short sale housing market.

Don’t you think a seller and the seller’s bank should be required to list the actual price they are willing to take for the property. Some potential buyers wait for up to 9 months only to find out that the bank holding the note said no. In the meantime, other honest sellers are waiting to sell their homes and end up in foreclosure because a potential buyer was sidelined.

I think it should be illegal to post a bogus asking price and that anyone doing so should be charged with fraud. I also think banks refusing to sell properties that have legitimate offers should be barred from bidding for the property when it goes to auction and barred from getting deficiency judgments on the foreclosed owner.


Earmarks – Who are the fools who elected these guys anyway?… Sadly, it is us!

March 20, 2009

Congressional earmarks are a way for congress to usurp the power of the states to self-direct. One of the most effective ways Americans have to restore some integrity to congress is to eliminate earmark spending.

Basically what is happening currently is:

  • Congress taxes Americans at a much higher rate than is necessary
  • Congress gives some of our tax dollars back to the states
  • Congress tells the states how to spend the money
  • Political action groups and lobbyist (pay, donate, gift…) congressional representatives then demand federal tax money is spent on their special projects

Don’t you think it would be better if we got to keep more of our hard earned money? And, if we need something at a state level, don’t you think you could better decide how to provide for it on a local level?

Earmarks provide a way for special groups to get the EAR of the (often corrupt) officials who write our government’s checks.

It is amazing to me that congress can be so specific in telling a state how to spend tax dollars, or a public school what to teach but, they can’t be specific in telling private corporations (especially Wall Street and international banks) how to spend hundreds of billions of our tax dollars.

Who are the fools who elected these guys anyway?… Sadly, it is us!


On Record???

March 17, 2009

Why does Congress have to ask who received the bail out money they spent? It gives a whole new meaning to “BLANK CHECK.”  And we wonder why they can’t balance the budget…

9/11… 9/16. Can we just skip September this year?


House Hunting – The tale of Peter, Sam and Paul

February 15, 2009

By Janet Walgren

Heather and I went house hunting yesterday. Jeesh! What a joke. We found a house of interest but, when we toured it, we found an incredible mess. The house was a bank owned foreclosure, better known as an REO. The furnace, the entire kitchen, and parts of the bathroom were missing as well as some floor covering and most light fixtures. The walls were a mess and the water had been shut off. TOXIC antifreeze had been poured in the pipes and toilet to keep the water in them from freezing. Animals had pooped in the basement – yucky! The bank was asking $150,000. That’s $20,000 below market for a rehab that would cost a minimum of $40,000 in repairs to bring it up to market value. Like I said, jeesh, what a joke!

Perhaps this was an isolated incident. We can only hope… or can we?

We had asked our realtor to show us another REO house but he had already checked it out and said it was as bad as the first one we toured.

A contractor friend of ours just finished building a home located across the street from another REO (the original contractor who was building the sub-division went bankrupt). Anyway, our friend noticed wet bricks on the front of the REO across the street and went over to investigate. The power had been shut off, but not the water. The frozen pipes had burst then thawed flooding the entire house (second floor included). The sheet-rock on the ceilings and some of the walls had collapsed, the walls were full of water and the basement had several inches of water flooding it. In other words, this brand new $200,000 house was a total loss because the bank was too cheap to pay the electric bill.

It is obvious that, in these three cases, the banks manage REO property about as well as they manage money. It probably doesn’t matter to them because they have insurance. And, if the insurance doesn’t pony up the dough… there’s always dear ole Uncle Sam who seems more than willing to rob Peter (another name for taxpayers) to pay Paul (the banker).


Mr. Markolopos Testimony on the Madoff Scandal

February 5, 2009

By Janet Walgren

Last night I watched a congressional hearing by the House Financial Services Committee on the Madoff Investigation. First they conducted a panel to receive testimony from a former investment manager, Harry Markopolos, who investigated Madoff in the 90’s and on through the 2000’s. (The government needs to put this guy in charge of the Securities and Exchange Commission or S.E.C.)

Mr. Markopolos testified about the experiences he had trying to get officials in the S.E.C. to do their jobs. Had they done so, Madoff would have been stopped as early as 2002. Markopolos characterized the top people in the S.E.C. as totally incompetent. His characterization would have left one thinking the department should be totally erased, eliminated, destroyed… And yet, smart folks reserve judgement until they hear the other side of the story.

Members of the House Financial Services Committee ARE smart people, so that’s just what they did. The only problem was, try as they may – and they did, they didn’t hear anything worth hearing.

The second panel in the hearing consisted of the heads of the departments at the S.E.C. Seriously, I don’t know why they didn’t slap each one of them with a Contempt of Congress citation and throw them in jail. They definitely need to be looking for another job.

The head legal counsel for the agency indicated that they were invoking executive privilege as part of the reason they didn’t have to discuss the matter with the Congressional committee. When asked point blank if he had discussed the matter of executive privilege with the executive branch (attorney general and president) the answer was no. He was projecting his opinion as an official stance.

At one point a frustrated congressman asked, “What the hell happened?” (…silence…) Then he said, “Mr. Markopolos handed you a case on a silver platter and you did nothing! … So, why didn’t you get it?… That’s a question!… Which one of you would like to answer it, Hear No Evil, See No Evil or Speak No Evil?” Still there was silence …

One committee member concluded that they didn’t think that anyone could have presented a more damming case against the S.E.C. head officials than Mr. Markolopos; however, the S.E.C. officials made a more damming case against themselves. 

So my question is, who should be guarding our economic ship? We all work hard to accumulate assets that will provide security for our families so why is it that we take for granted, or ignore, the governance of those we elect or appoint to watch over our assets?

Who should take the time and accept responsibility to watch over these extremely important things? Is our nation’s financial disaster the result of inaction on the part of the S.E.C. and the financial regulators? Does culpability lie with our Congress? After all, they are the ones who appointed a fox to guard the hen house. Is it the fault of the executive? Or perhaps, does the fault lie with the citizens of the United States of America?

Are we, as citizens, taking responsibility for managing our elected officials who are our employees? If not, why not? Our liberty, our freedom, our very way of life is in jeopardy. 

If we don’t WAKE UP and ACT NOW everything our ancestors, and we as a people, have worked so hard to procure could disappear overnight, either through fraud or by being taxed out of existence. Our liberty as a nation depends on it.

To take your first step in becoming an informed citizen, Click here to watch Mr. Markolopos’ testimony at the Congressional Hearing for yourself…


Who’s on First – the Madoff Debacle

January 6, 2009

By Janet Walgren

Many years ago, almost before my time – and I’m sixty-two, there was a comedy sketch that became quite famous called “Who’s on First?” It consisted of a funny dialog between a person trying to get information about the location of players in a baseball game and a frustrated person trying to inform the bewildered questioner. Confusion ensued because the questioner didn’t know the players had unusual names like “Who”.

 

Silly? Totally… even ridiculous! At least I thought so until I watched a Congressional hearing about the Madoff scandal last night. At first I thought the man being grilled was rather cavalier in his responses.  I thought to myself, “Why don’t they nail that incompetent turkey to the wall? After all, he’s the one that heads the agency that is supposed to be watching over the S.E.C. and he has no clue why this whole debacle happened…” Who saw what, why? Why were the many warnings that were received by his agency ignored? Why were the red flags that were apparent to so many invisible to his agency? He had no answers – NONE AT ALL! But, he was going to get to the bottom of it… “Isn’t that what you were supposed to be doing all along? What do we pay your for?” I thought.

 

Then, FINALLY, one bewildered congressman tried to set him up for the kill only to find out that they had the wrong guy. It was pathetically funny, in a morbid sort of way, to realize the committee, our Congressmen ‘who get paid to create bureaucracies to protect us’, had no idea who they were questioning or what they did. They actually had not only the wrong guys, but the wrong agency! They were questioning men from the external watchdog rather than the internal watchdog that watches over the watchdog.

 

So WHO’s ON FIRST – the runner, the first baseman or both??? Actually the correct answer is probably no one.


Let Your Voice Be Heard

October 2, 2008

By Janet Walgren

All too often we gripe, get on a soapbox, write blog posts and talk around the water cooler at work or across the fence to our neighbors, but we fail to make our voices heard in Washington D.C. In doing so, we allow Journalists with microphones and cameras, talking heads full of bias, to be the voice of America.

I encourage each of you to make your voices heard. Call your Senators and Congressional representatives. Tell them loud and clear what you are thinking. Propose reasonable alternatives to the bogus solutions that have been set before Congress by the very people who created the mess. Tell them to act with reason… the assets (homes and property) are not going to disintegrate in to thin air if we don’t rush into a bad solution by Sunday night. Heck real estate will be around a lot longer than any of us… hundreds of years from now.

Offering Americans a few nickles to put into our personal piggy banks doesn’t justify giving away the treasury. What Wall Street spends (year end bonuses in the millions) isn’t going to give you affordable housing and a secure job with a pension.

We need real solutions. We need accountability. We need to demand to be heard. We need to place blame and get rid of all culpable parties. We need those who were sidelined and laughed to scorn because of their now prophetic wisdom to be placed center stage, handed a microphone and the attention of policy makers.

Please contact your representatives in Washington and at home. It is better to call than to write. If you write, you won’t be read and your message will not be delivered. Your message will be put in one of two piles (YEA or NAY) then weighed on a scale. Call and make someone listen to you.

Click here to find contact information for your neck of the woods: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/