The 2000s saw a tidal wave of corporate scandals in which some of the world’s top business titans moved out of their palatial homes, ritzy ski lodges and vast ranches and checked into prison cells.

Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities—in these cases, executives bilked investors of billions through accounting fraud, conspiracy and insider trading. And part of the proceeds went into real estate.

What became of their mansions? We reached out to case lawyers, county tax offices, real-estate agents, new owners and the fallen executives themselves to ask what became of the properties caught up in the scandals.

Read full article here:


San Diego Selling Faster

Hat tip to W.C. for sending in this article:


An excerpt:

The report tracked home sales listed on Trulia in the 100 biggest metro areas in the U.S. on Feb. 5 and were still available on April 5. In addition to the 8 cities in California, Seattle and Salt Lake City, Utah, also made the top 10 list.

Farther south in the Golden State, homes in San Diego are also selling at a rapid pace with 33% of homes listed in February still available 60 days later, down from 44% the year prior.

This means buyers, especially first-timers, need to go into their house hunt prepared, advised McLaughlin.

“Not only is it more difficult to buy where homes are moving fastest, the homes first-timers would buy are moving faster compared to middle and higher-priced homes. It’s a double whammy.”

San Diego had the biggest YoY change of the Top 10 cities:

fast san diego

Seller Demands

This article lays out the basic 12 tips for homebuyers to use when preparing to buy a home:


The local market has been very competitive lately, with multiple offers on every quality offering.  Here are other things for home buyers to expect from sellers once you start making offers.

These aren’t thought out clearly by listing agents; instead, they are things done to them on previous deals so they will want to impose them on you whether they make sense or not:

1.  They will want you to shorten your contingency periods.

The common belief is that shorter periods will make you move faster, and then blow you out quicker if you aren’t a player.  But in reality, buyers get irritated and want to pay less or cancel as the manipulations start mounting.

2.  No appraisal contingency.

Buyers are prone to think, “But this is your price, and you want me to risk the appraisal coming in low?”

3.  Seller rentback.

Sellers want you to fund their retirement account, and have you let them live in your house for free for weeks or months.  Make sure the rent is retail-plus with heavy penalties if they don’t leave on time to ensure they move as agreed. Consider that the seller could declare bankruptcy the day after closing and make your life miserable for six months.

4.  Ernest-money deposit.

Even though it is refundable until you sign off all contingencies, the sellers will want you to increase it, just to make sure you know who the boss is.

 5. Buying ‘as-is’.

It already says in the contract boilerplate that the property is sold “as-is”, but the listing agents will mention it again just so you don’t get any ideas about asking for seller repairs.  Once you complete your inspection, the sellers and agent will expect you to live with any defects – regardless of how much you paid.

6.  Seller disclosures.

The confidence is already running high, so if there are any borderline disclosure issues, they might get left out by the sellers.  Make sure you thoroughly inspect the property, neighborhood, and HOA!

7.  Escrow and title companies.

Don’t even think about selecting your escrow and title companies, and expect that the seller choices on both will include some ‘co-ownership’ fine print later (i.e. kickbacks).

8.  Removing attached items.

Items attached to the home are part of the real estate, and are included in the sale by definition.  But don’t be surprised if the sellers strip out all the good stuff (TVs, lights, window coverings, etc.), and leave you with holes.

9.  Termite clearance.

Ha ha, very funny.  The sellers will expect you to live happily ever after with their termites, just like they have.

10.  Listing agent dominates the home inspection.

Buyers deserve to have a good look around during the home inspection, and get comfortable with what they are buying – chances are they have only seen it for a few minutes before then. Yet the listing agent wants to be there to “answer any questions”, and use that as a guise for snooping on the inspector to see if the problems and defects are really that bad.  Kudos for being concerned, but uncomfortable buyers are less likely to close escrow.

Because a bidding war feels like hitting the lottery, sellers and their agents get giddy and don’t consider how their demands can turn off buyers, and make them want to pay less, not more. 

If you want to sell for top dollar, hire a listing agent who can tactfully include safeguards that don’t cause buyers to go backwards.

Higher Mortgage Rates?

Yesterday some Wells Fargo guys urged the Fed to raise rates:


Today Wells reported they made $49 billion in home loans in 1Q15, which is 36% higher than last year:


They may be goosing the Fed to raise rates so the WFB profit margin increases a tad, but they seem to be doing fine.  But the mortgage-rate environment sure looks competitive, with jumbo rates staying UNDER the conforming rates:


Once the Fed gets around to raising their rate, the ensuing hysteria through the bond market may increase mortgage rates by 1/4% to 1/2%.  But the competition between WFB, Chase, and BofA that has caused the jumbo rates to be this ultra-low should bring rates back within a couple of months.

The Fed move is still at least three months away – and probably longer.

Don’t worry, be happy!

Inventory Watch

If you get the feeling that the 2015 market has been a lot like 2014, it’s because it has been, statistically.  Using the NSDCC data gathered below, here are the new actives and new pendings from the first 15 weeks of each year, and the number of house sales closed in the first quarter:

New Actives
New Pendings
1Q Solds
1Q Avg $/sf

Are we at a pause before climbing higher?  Plateau City?  Or are we at the crest of the roller-coaster??

Click on the link below for the complete NSDCC active-inventory data:


HELOC vs. Equity Sharing

We’ve been talking about the re-emergence of creative financing – the first was crowdfunding, now this from the latimes.com – an excerpt:

One company based in San Diego, EquityKey, says it has completed or has in process appreciation-sharing agreements on homes with an aggregate value of $200 million already this year, and expects to hit $1 billion by the end of the year. Another, FirstREX in San Francisco, says it has completed hundreds of “equity financing” deals tied to future appreciation.

Though the contractual details and payout amounts differ from company to company, here’s the basic concept: Say you have a house that’s valued at $500,000. If you agree to share 45% of future appreciation on the property and you otherwise qualify in terms of your financial ability to handle property taxes and upkeep, EquityKey might give you $51,750 today to help pay for kids’ tuitions. If you wanted to share 40%, it would give you $47,500. When you end the agreement, you’d have to give EquityKey its portion of the appreciation on the house plus its initial investment.

EquityKey ties its appreciation calculations to the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which measures home prices in markets across the country. FirstREX uses appraisals upfront and at the end.

Say the house appreciated over the next 10 years by $120,000 and you needed to sell. You’d owe EquityKey the original payout amount — $47,500 or $51,750 — plus its appreciation share at 40% ($48,000) or 45% ($54,000). EquityKey’s cut after 10 years: $95,500 or $105,750 depending on the share you agreed on.

Read full article here:


More Shipping Containers


A new restaurant due to open in the US is claimed to be the largest in the country to be built using shipping containers. The Smoky Park Supper Club in Asheville, North Carolina, is constructed from 19 containers and was built by shipping container construction firm SG Blocks.

They think they could have built it in 1.5 days, but they took their time and did it in three days instead – here is the time-lapse construction in 45 seconds:

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