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Archive for May, 2009

Happiness is a green status board…

That’s the SplendorQuest server a moment ago. The numbers come and go, but it’s a rare thing for the server load to go over 5% right now. During the worst of our recent attacks, we were redlined at well over 90%, an enormous amount of computing power.

We still have a lingering problem with the MySQL server, but this is much abated by having rid ourselves of these battalions of termites. We’ll get that taken care of shortly, too.

Thanks for your indulgence during our recent troubles.

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  • 4 comments

    Thwat?

    Sorry everyone…The writing around here over the past 12 hours or so has been nutty good and really high brow, so I feel a little bad about taking it down a level.

    But… this is just too fun to let slip by without sharing? From Inman, in probably thousands of inboxes this morning:

    thwat

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  • 13 comments

    Reds

    [Brian Brady asks for advice. This ain't it. I wrote a book in 1988 about human civilization, a condition I believe human beings can but so far have not attained. I'm thinking of revisiting the topic, if only because I fear those kinds of ideas might have to transcend a dark age. I wrote the following essay seven years ago, and, of course, by now everything it addresses is just that much worse. Tyranny is an avoidable fate -- but not if you don't know how to recognize it. --GSS]

     
    My son is a Cub Scout. A few weekends ago he had his yearly ScoutORama, a sort of Scout convention and trade fair. The theme of this year’s event was ‘American Heroes,’ and it turns out that American Heroes, for the most part, build small catapults and cook in Dutch ovens. One Cub pack took the theme rather more to heart, with a huge display called ‘Freedom In Unity’.

    To an attending Cub Scout I said, “Is it conceivable to you that unity and freedom might conflict?”

    After a moment’s thought, he said: “Huh?”

    As a father of an eleven-year-old, I fully expected this retort. Undismayed, I pressed on: “Isn’t it reasonable to suppose that the quality best represented by the word ‘freedom’ is freedom from other people?”

    HUH?!

    And my wife pulled me away, arguing, quite correctly, that it is unfair to expect children to regurgitate, much less competently defend, the horseshit they are force-fed by adults.

    They do so eventually, of course, and thus become the adults who do the force-feeding of the next generation of helpless victims — unminded before they can be fully mindful, starved and stuffed at the same time, gorged forevermore on horseshit.

    But: It’s not the what, it’s the where, the who, the how. And most especially: The why.

    When the French, to pick an odorous example, rail against Individualism, we know what we’re hearing. When radical feminists — or radical environmentalists, or radical vegans — heap scorn upon Liberty, it doesn’t take much acuity to see right through them.

    But to listen carefully — and I am cursed with the skill of listening carefully — to a Scout leader or a PTA president or a youth minister is to listen no less to the preachments of Herr Doktor Marx. Service and sacrifice, the sacrifice of all to any, any to all, with the only measure of virtue being elaborately effected egolessness.

    It is everywhere. The National Honor Society, which by its name and its selection process is about nothing but selfish individual achievement, immediately demands of its honorees that they spit on their accomplishments and pursue instead endless collectivist sacrifice.

    The real, genuine, actual purpose of the Knights of Columbus or the Elks Club or the Shriners is to provide a place where members can drink after hours and play poker unsurveilled. But the ‘official’ reason-for-being for fraternal organizations — for ‘organized’ activities of any kind — is charity. We will suffer the boys a snort and a draw to a straight, provided they dress it up with a sacrifice to the mob.

    The country club, membership in which is the very hallmark of individual distinction and exclusivity, justifies its existence with ritualized charity balls and charity golf tournaments and cacophonous silent auctions for charity.

    I could cite examples unending, and that’s the point. I can think of almost nothing in the lives of ordinary Americans, nothing that is ‘organized’ or ‘official’, that is not thoroughly steeped in Marxism.

    Is the youth minister a Communist? The PTA president? Emphatically, no — so much the worse. The theorists who lead the feminists and the environmentalists and the vegans know what they are doing — which is helpful, since their theory leads them to take stands so absurd that normal people are repelled. But when the Scout leader regurgitates the Marxist horseshit he was force-fed without even knowing it was Marxist horseshit, without even realizing he was being force-fed, without ever once thinking about what his words might mean — that man is the most effective recruiting agent the Communists ever had.

    Oh, but the Soviets are dead and gone. And the Chinese are reforming. And Castro is a joke. And none of that matters. Communism — more properly Anti-Individualism — has never been healthier, death notices notwithstanding. Communism thrives not because some state waxes or wanes, but because its core philosophy is ubiquitous.

    And in fact the West has never been safe. At times we have flirted with Individualism, but never openly, without shame or reservation. Our brother Abel was making Marx’s argument and effecting Marx’s murders long before Herr Doktor Marx rationalized Abel’s pathology. And we have volunteered for millennia to despise our highest virtues in order to win, by bribery, the approval of the despicable — who we hope will spare us even as we tacitly concede that they have as much right as Abel to slaughter us.

    But even this is not enough for Communism to triumph. So long as you have even one small place to go to be alone, to be a self, an ego, free and disunited — so long as there is even one little thing about which you can say, “This is mine and you can’t touch it!” — so long as there is even one tiny little corner in your mind that is not to be pawed, not to be mauled, not to be defaced and desecrated by all or by any — so long as there is anything in your life that is not to be shared, socialized, sacrificed — then Communism must fail.

    And that is the why of the force-feeding Scoutmaster, why he spends all his time spewing unexamined Marxism, why he has been assiduously indoctrinated to spend all his time spewing unexamined Marxism. He is not a Communist, but when he force-feeds that unexamined Marxist horseshit to innocent children, the PTA president and the youth minister smile. And they are not Communists. They are simply regurgitating the Marxist horseshit they swill everywhere — newspapers, magazines, television, the sermons and speeches they write by cribbing the same horseshit from other articles and sermons and speeches. If asked, they would deny that it is their claim that service and sacrifice are the only justifications for human life. If pressed, they would insist that they are not trying to destroy every redoubt of Individualism.

    But we are what we do. They are the unwitting foot-soldiers, the useful idiots, of Communism. They’re not coming for your guns; that’s a distraction. They’re coming for your children. They’re coming for you.

    Communism cannot triumph if you can repair to your family, if you can love your spouse or your children and not share that love equally with all or any. So the family must be destroyed. Undermined from within by feminism and divorce and the destruction of fatherhood. Undermined from without by films and jokes that demean the family and promote accidental, temporary relationships.

    Communism cannot triumph if you can turn to your church, to a communion and consolation that is immutably private. So the church must be destroyed. Dismantled from the outside by ridicule and loathing, dismantled from the inside by the indoctrination of Marxism.

    Communism cannot triumph if you can own anything. So ownership must be destroyed. Everything you own, from your house to your car to your things to your memories to your thoughts to your soul itself — everything you own becomes subject to review, to derision, to oversight, to criticism, to regulation, to confiscation.

    Communism cannot triumph if you can escape it. One-world Communism doesn’t require a global state. All that is necessary is for you to be unable to get away from it no matter where you go. To the church? To the school? To the country club? To the Elks club? To the legislature, even? There is nowhere for you to run, no place you can go where you are permitted to uphold your right to your own life as a matter of right.

    But Communism cannot triumph if you can resist it. And that is the true battleground — your mind. They’ll take your guns when they can, and your house soon after that, but the property they must take, in order to triumph, is your mind. That is why they took your church and your school and your family and every social organization you belong to and everything you see or hear about or read: In order to force-feed you Marxism and to leave you no alternative but to be force-fed Marxism.

    You think they’re beaten, but you’re wrong. You watched it on television — a vast electronic rectum ceaselessly spewing Marxist horseshit — and you think they’re defeated. You’re wrong. The Soviets might be gone, but Communism — more properly Anti-Individualism — has never been healthier.

    It’s not a matter of controlling states or controlling weapons or controlling factories. The issue — the only issue — is controlling you. More properly, convincing you to surrender your self-control. To give up your mind and your body and your soul, to deny to yourself any right to the personal, the private, the not-to-be-sacrificed. To renounce your own ego because it is yours, because it can never be shared, because it is a treasure so precious it must never be pawed at by strangers. When they convince you to damn your own self for being a self, then Communism can triumph. The territory to be captured is you.

    This is their goal, their only goal. They are relentless in pursuit of that goal, and they will not give up.

    And they are everywhere…

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    Mother Nature is not a MILF

    Now the hard part—fabricating an essay that somehow pertains to real estate and ties in with the above catchy title; one that popped into my head while hydroplaning through a stop sign in a downpour earlier this month.  At the next red light I quickly texted the lofty thought to myself  expecting to come up with an accompanying  point (and several hundred additional words) once I made it safely back to my desk—my writing desk that is. Not my selling desk. I have a separate hard, cluttered surface for each, you see.

    More accurately, what I’ve set up are creative stations for each side of my brain;  right brain/writing desk,  left brain/selling desk.  And it’s not hard to tell when I’m performing the wrong  creative duty at the wrong desk, either; I basically suck at whichever task is at hand, I’m always running  behind schedule, and I don’t make any money.  Anyway, that  Mother Nature idea was almost three weeks ago.

    So tonight  I was reading  Jeff Brown’s latest post (and most of the 100 or so comments that were bound to ensue) when finally, the ideal segue hit me.  Transparency!  Why not try and give that clear concept a whack myself since, as hard as I tried to think of a comment to insert, I had nothing intelligent to add to Mr Brown’s already lengthy thread.  Perhaps  instead, I could unveil a few secrets of my own that the BawldGuy might feel are nobody’s fiscal business.  Actually, I  agree with him (and his grandparents) on this one but I happen to be sitting at my selling desk  in boxer shorts now so…. down they come.  Ah transparency.

    * In 2006 I earned more income selling real estate than the combined government salaries of the Vice President of the United States and a typical  City of Chicago Streets and Sanitation worker on the ‘no show’ payroll.

    * Last year, according to the cover of Parade Magazine, I basically matched dollar for dollar with the average preschool teaching assistant in Youngstown, Ohio (Fail perhaps, but not quite Perish).

    * So far this selling season, I’m keeping  signing bonus pace with the two lowest paid relief pitchers on the Cubs roster who have but one Save between them.  That’s only one Save more than me and I don’t even play baseball. Still, it beats the hell out of  singing Barney songs to kindergarteners and cleaning up spilt milk…in Ohio.

    * I’m yet to directly make a nickel writing anything in any year, sing-along session, or administration.

    * Sometimes I imagine a cute saying or vivid scene,  edit  the content  for profanity and blue imagery,  QWERTY it into the Notes page of my iPhone then blog about it later, generally at my writing desk. I try very hard to keep at least an element of truth in these sorts of writings. If  the piece winds up getting  too far out there then I just stuff  it full of keywords and hyperlinks and post it on Active Rain instead.

    * Other times,  the event actually does unfold before my very eyes which immediately hurls me into  multi-talkxting  mode (simultaneously talking with one person, texting another, and drinking a caffeinated beverage while operating a motor vehicle). This is always about the time I accidently drop my iPhone in one puddle or another.

    * The rest of the time I just wait for Saturday evening to arrive and, if I haven’t dozed off in a corner somewhere,  log onto my Bloodhound WordPress account and try to slip  a semi-polished post past a couple of  the sleeping big dogs before midnight.  If I’ve had enough coffee throughout the week, it generally writes itself.

    This morning  in the shower a new title popped into my head.  The New York Nicks:  a story of two cooks, both named Nicholas, who work at a Greek restaurant during the day and play in a Staten Island garage band at night.  How I’ll ever find a way to make that notion somehow  pertain to real estate, I haven’t a clue. But then again,  Mother Nature is not a MILF took since May 12th to end up here.

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  • 10 comments

    From Russia, With Love (How Americans Could Learn A Thing Or Two From The Former Subjects of the Soviet Union)

    Stanislav Mishin writes a weblog called Mat Rodina.  His email address suggests that he is in his  late 30s which means he grew up “back in the U.S.S.R.”   Stanislav was probably one of the kids the nuns made us think of when we prayed for “the children in Godless Russia”, back in my grade school days.

    Stan, ol’ buddy…if you’re reading, please pray for me.  Your article in Pravda was right on the money.

    It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people.

    As much as this arrogant American hates being punked on the pages of Pravda, I’m terrified and I need your petitions.  This economic recession is like a New York City power outage and our politicians are walking away with a television set on each shoulder….but Stan, ol’ buddy, you already know this.

    The final collapse has come with the election of Barack Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America’s short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Wiemar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe.

    These past two weeks have been the most breath taking of all. First came the announcement of a planned redesign of the American Byzantine tax system, by the very thieves who used it to bankroll their thefts, loses and swindles of hundreds of billions of dollars. These make our Russian oligarchs look little more then ordinary street thugs, in comparison. Yes, the Americans have beat our own thieves in the shear volumes. Should we congratulate them?

    Precisely.  I visited with my parents last month and they asked me what I thought of President Obama’s first 100 days.  I replied, “Well, you gotta respect the speed and efficiency with which he’s looting our country“.

    Stan, ol’ buddy, your conclusion is scary:

    The proud American will go down into his slavery with out a fight, beating his chest and proclaiming to the world, how free he really is. The world will only snicker.

    I’m a proud American but not too proud to ask for help;  I know you’ve been through this already.  Any advice you have for the sheeple people of this great land would be greatly appreciated.  If anyone else is as worried as I am, read what Stanislav wrote.

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    Transparency — Newest Weapon Of The PC Crowd

    Transparency in real estate brokerage has gone from a truly noble concept to a weapon sometimes lethally wielded by the PC crowd. Most notably bullies coming forth claiming to possess Holy Script describing transparency, no doubt salvaged from what must be the third tablet lost by Moses on his way back down the mountain.

    Transparency is honest dealing from a basis of rock ribbed integrity — nothing more and nothing less. The rest is self righteous dung.

    I dare you to demand to know what your dentist, doctor, CPA, attorney et. al. are netting from fees they charge you for their services. What a joke — a bad joke, but a joke nonetheless. Who do these buncha Kumbaya, hand-holding yahoos think they’re kiddin’ anyway? Transparency my ass. They want information their parents/grandparents would’ve had the good manners never to seek in the first place. Why? Cuz it’s none of their damn business and they knew it. Of course that begs the question that so much of what they ask for is wholly irrelevant.

    When shopping for a doctor, what’s important to you? Is it ultimately expertise, experience, cost, or how much he’s netting? Do you divide there fees by the time spent with you? When you read that, doesn’t it come off as a stoopid question on its face? Dunno about you, but when deciding upon a service provider I look first and foremost for results. (Oops, there I go again, lobbying for a business world based upon merit.) If there’s more than one provider on that short list, then we get down to a more detailed examination — comparing the aforementioned, here’s that pesky word again — RESULTS.

    My favorite uncle just had successful minor (oxymoron?) heart surgery. He’s a pretty smart guy, one of the smartest I’ve ever met in person. Please tell me without stuttering or launching a personal attack, how knowing his surgeon’s profit margin, or any info like that, would’ve aided him in deciding who was gonna repair his heart? And pretty please, don’t bring me the usual weak crappola about ‘how can you compare real estate brokerage to heart surgery’. They’re both services, they’re both expensive, and they’re both more important than 90% of the decisions most folks make in their lives.

    Let’s be specific now and talk about so-called transparency in real estate.

    You wanna know my private business? You better carry my DNA and/or share my name — and even then it’s barely 50/50 you’ll get an answer. It’s known as my business, cuz it’s, well, my business. When does it become yours? I’ll be the judge of that 100% of the time. There, did I make myself understood? If you’re my client I owe you my very best effort, given with the utmost honesty and integrity.

    Ultimately my clients, and my fellow brokers/agents, if they’d endeavor to grow a spine, get to know what I’m willing to divulge. Don’t get all froggy, I give up plenty of info to my clients.

    They hear point by point exactly what I’m gonna do to put their property into escrow and close it. They can ask questions about anything I may recommend they do or refrain from doing until they’re completely satisfied. They can ask me what I charge and why. They can ask me what I net too, they just won’t ever get an answer.

    All that said, is there a place for ‘transparency’ in real estate brokerage? Of course there is.

    If an agent is getting paid by related services (legally of course) it should be volunteered to the client, not disclosed as an answer to a question. Our policy has been to eschew any pay from management firms, etc. so as to avoid even the appearance of evil. If there’s a referral coming from another brokerage, that is immediately disclosed.

    Everyone knows what I’m being paid, and everyone makes up their own mind it’s worth it — or not. Do I negotiate? Yeah, about once a decade or so. Here’s what I charge, I’m an open book as to what you’ll get in return, take your best shot — but that’s what I charge. Did I start out doing that? No way. I earned that by producing the desired results over the long haul.

    How many hours I work to produce the results for which I was hired is a false issue. I’ve made $5,000 an hour and $1.50 an hour. Back to our heart surgeon. $10,000+ for 90 minutes? Yeah, that’s the fee? You want the work done, or not? Next. :)

    What a consumer agrees to pay their real estate agent is, in reality based upon the level of difficulty it’d take for them to replace that particular agent. Owners sell properties themselves all the time. Brokers discount their services too. Geez, sounds like a free market to me. Those who can deliver quality RESULTS quickly and reliably are the prize for which consumers are searching. Treat them with honesty based upon unyielding integrity and you’ve passed the transparency test.

    What I object to is the implied contention by the Transparency Police that part of a free market includes an attitude of entitlement which by definition (theirs) says I hafta pull my pants down and say Mother May I in order to be considered appropriately transparent. When pigs fly.

    Sack up people.

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    If Not Us, Who?

    I’m in a lousy mood today and I need your help.

    The crooks are resurfacing.

    If you thought the bad guys have been flushed out of the system, I’ve got some bad news for ya.  We spend an inordinate amount of time debating who and what caused the mortgage meltdown.  We spend very little time debating how we make sure it never happens again.  The key word I want to emphasize here is “we”.

    It’s not up to the government to fix this mess.  It’s not up to NAMB, or NAR or Ghostbusters.  It’s up to US – the folks in the field and on the street that see the dishonesty and suck in the stench seven steps before it gets packaged into mortgage backed securities.

    I wrote an article entitled The Code:  How the Mortgage Industry Could Self Regulate a few days ago.  Alas, my baby blog is a PR2 and I doubt too many people saw it.  I think it’s an important concept and I am grateful for a venue like Bloodhound Blog to facilitate the conversation.

    If you leave it up to your government, you get lame-brain ideas like HVCC.  I’m telling y’all right now, right here that I’m going to do my little part to protect the general public from the bad guys.  We need to clean up our own industry.  Brian Brady has it right in my book:  you do wrong and he’s gonna “come down on you like a ton of bricks”.  People look to us as fiduciaries, and I do believe in buyer beware.  But unfortunately the doofus who doesn’t do his homework and gets himself ripped off just lowered the property values of every smart guy on his block.

    So here’s the question I want to pose to the Bloodhound Community:

    I know a bad guy, a predatory lender who ripped off hundreds of borrowers.  He went away for a while and now he’s back.  What can I do about it?  How do we take our industry back?

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  • 14 comments

    Truzilla IDX = N/A R.Com?

    When I was looking into whether or not Realtor.com was publishing scrapable rss feeds based on searches a few weeks ago, I also took a look to see if Trulia was doing the same thing.

    Sure enough, they are, but of course the quality and the diversity of the types of feeds they’re offering are way juicier than Realtor.Com’s. Not surprising.. absent a Move/NAR type hook up, these guys actually have to innovate, right…

    So, with all this fuss over local boards and NAR trying to control the “misappropriation” of property data by regulating idx feeds, I’ve been wondering if one couldn’t just turn Trulia into a personal, free idx solution using the same method I used to tap R.com…

    The ingredients?

    • Lotsa fresh goog juicy dynamic content.
    • Not all, but enough mls info to make your visitors at least hang around for a little while.
    • Sales Transaction, REO, Pre-foreclosure data and any other information not available in local idx data either because of local
      board regulations or limitations in the fields available in the mls software.
    • And more…

    In short, you could probably “scrape” your way to a more informative site then your competitors have without the need to wrestle with the threat of an absurd Mibor type situation.

    [An Example Start Here For The Curious]

    But It’s A Half Measure…

    Sure…that could work, sorta. But Trulia’s info isn’t all that comprehensive to begin with and you’d be offering your visitors a half-assed hacked up version of true idx. So we’re back pretty much to square one, with some extra dynamic content but no free idx via Trulia.

    [Aside: Shouldn't these guys do the right thing and disclose to their visitors that their's isn't a comprehensive "search engine?" I'd buy ads on trulia in a minute if they could say something like: "Yo, we don't have all the listings, but we're real good at roping you in, so why don't you click this guy's freaky face for the real deal"]

    Another Way…

    But why give up so fast?

    What if all agents, NAR and Non NAR members alike agreed to provide Trulia with listing info, but not give it to the local MLS?
    Even where providing listing data to the board is a membership requirement, we could still only give the local MLS 1 photo and limited descriptive info, while giving Trulia like 20 photos plus a big ole juicy remarks write up?

    Hmm…

    I know. This would require participation on a large scale from a whole lotta realtor folks. Could never happen right? Well…

    Hey Trulia! Why not make something like this happen? Why not innovate a product that’s so incredibly valuable to real estate agents that they’d pretty much all gladly line up to provide you comprehensive listing data while even paying you a monthly fee?

    What am I talking about?

    What about an idx solution that every agent in the country could use free of charge? You know…something that
    would “brand” to each individual agent, meaning the leads generating from that agents pages would route automatically to the agent. And why not make it both:

    • Framable on our own websites…

    and/or

    • Part of individual agent web/blog pages, something like ryanhartman.trulia.com maybe.

    And you could offer 2 pricing options.

    • $2/month for ad free (ok, I’ll give you $5 or even $10 if you do it right)

    or

    • Free with ads?

    I’d gladly pay for a product like that, complete with all those juicy graphs, foreclosure data, sales transactions, heat maps,
    lead capture stuff, etc. And…Trulia’s pre-packaged google clout to boot! Yeah, I’d take it in a heartbeat. I wonder if there aren’t a million or more like me out there who wouldn’t also hop on this one?

    A fully functional idx + website for $24 year and we could all just forgo the $500 or so in local board + NAR dues? I mean idx is the only rational reason for paying those dues any more, isn’t it?

    So Trulia, are you ready to make an insanely profitable switch over to idx vendor? Or maybe Zillow, will you help bring us all closer to “N/A R?”

    Or more obviously… Move/NAR!

    Couldn’t you guys have something like this delivered pretty quickly and have a product on your hand that’ll sell itself and be much more profitable than your current offerings will ever be? (Without completely ripping off your membership with ads that never provide valuable ROI..)

    Yeah, IDXRealtor.Com. — I’m thinking this last option is probably the closest to what’ll actually end up coming of all this abzurdity?

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    Lower June, 2009 Mortgage Rates Rely On Central Bank Action

    May Day in the mortgage rates market is over.  The market got spooked by triangulated opinions about the viability of the US Treasury as a going concern.  In response, mortgage traders sold off mortgage-backed securities, some 3-4%, in 4 days, to drive mortgage rates from 4.75%  to the 5.375% current level.

    Tom Vanderwell thinks mortgage rates could bounce as high as 5.75%, in the next 30 days unless there is MASSIVE intervention by the Fed.

    MOTIVE: It helps to understand that Ben Bernanke is a disciple of financial activism as a means to combat a potential economic depression.  Aware of his activist philosophy, scrutiny of the April, 2009 FOMC minutes would lead you to believe that the Fed is targeting retail mortgage rates to be under 5%.  Mortgage rates north of that number are counter-productive to the fiscal policy designed to deleverage the average American.

    MEANS: The Fed has another $700 billion at the ready to stabilize the mortgage-backed securities market and artificially lower retail mortgage rates to under 5%.

    METHOD: The Fed would have you believe that not only are they going to purchase those MBS for the consumers but for the viability of the Central Bank (this is spin, plain and simple).  In short, the Fed is saying  “the financial institutions are so healthy that we must direct our attention to the consumer if WE are to remain a going concern”.  I’m exaggerating a tad but that’s the Fed “spin” to justify the massive intervention I expect.

    My opinion about the Fed’s actions are irrelevent to the near-term home buyer and mortgage shopper; my analysis is not.  Expect the Fed to drive mortgage rates lower into June.

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    When a Bloodhound loses the scent, uptime can be a dawg’s life

    I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that we’ve had availability problems lately. In fact, we’ve had four problems, and three of them may be fully addressed.

    First we had memory issues, which I didn’t understand at first. Y’all would have seen them as memory errors or lengthy timeouts when submitting comments. The solution turned out to be pretty simple, and that issue is by now long since dead.

    But: That solution would have been masked, to the untrained eye, by problem number two. The account all of the Splendorquest.com domains live on had been set to 25GB, max, back when we lived on semi-dedicated server. This wasn’t changed when we moved, with the result that we’ve been thrashing for disk space for a couple of months. Again, an easy solution once the problem was discovered.

    I said nothing about these two because I still haven’t solved problem number four — which used to be problem number three — a significant overcommitment of our MySQL server.

    But, in the meantime, we got hit with problem number three, a three-day denial-of-service-like attack. The villain was probably an itinerant spammer, but the effect, from your point of view, was just like a DOS action: No action on your end.

    Meanwhile, problem number four persists, but in a seemingly calmer state of exigency. We’re serving a lot of folks when the sun is up over North America, and we’re shipping 200GB of data every month. Put this all under the category of growing pains, but it remains that our growth has put us in this kind of trouble four times a year, at least, for three years running.

    And even with all of that, comes today a note from Mark Madsen congratulating BloodhoundBlog for making it back up to a PR6. We’ve been there before, so this may just be temporary, but it’s doubly amazing given our late semi-compromised state.

    Anyway, thanks to everyone for the thought and effort — and the links — you bring to BloodhoundBlog.

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    What Happened, What Does it Mean, and Where Do We Go From Here?

    Wow!  What a day in the mortgage and bond markets today.   I think it’s a good thing to say that while a lot of us saw this coming, very few of us expected that it would happen today.    Let’s walk through what happened, what it means and where we go from here.

    What happened? A couple of things happened that caused the bond market to go into a free fall (okay more than a couple):

    • Several analysts and rating agencies have raised significant questions about whether both the United Kingdom and the United States will be able to continue to pay their debts as the staggering amounts that they are borrowing to keep their financial systems afloat are well, truly staggering.
    • As GM inches/races/inches (depending on the moment) towards bankruptcy, it is becoming obvious that the US Government is going to have to shell out a LOT more money to keep GM somewhat afloat (another approximately $50,000,000,000 – but who’s counting?)
    • Although the headline number looks good, as we discussed earlier, the existing home sales for April were less than spectacular.
    • Case Shiller came out with their housing price value reports and they showed a pretty nasty case of the housing price drops.   That means that the collateral for mortgage backed securities is dropping in value making them less desirable.
    • A number of reports have come out recently that showed that the performance of mortgage backed securities is continuing to suffer and mortgage delinquencies are continuing to rise.   We talked about one of those reports here, and another one of them here.
    • Oil prices have been going up and the people in OPEC who control a lot of that are talking $75 to $80 a barrel while we’re only at $63 right now.   Increasing the risk of inflation puts pressure on rates.
    • The Federal government, through their manipulation of the long term Treasury and mortgage backed securities markets (also known as buying the market), had been keeping mortgage rates artificially lower than what the economic, financial and mortgage portfolio conditions would typically warrant.
    • Oh and there’s this little thing called North Korea firing test missiles and Iran running ships in the Persian Gulf.  No political and military tension there.

    When you combine all of these things, you have a slowly building pressure that “popped” today.   At noon today, the market was down a little but nothing like what we saw this afternoon.    We got rate increases at 1:30, 1:45 and 4:30 this afternoon.   By the time the day was done, 30 year fixed rates were up by .625%   It truly was one of the largest single day increases in rates that I can remember.

    So what does it mean?  A couple of things:

    • The market is essentially saying that the fundamentals of the economic situation don’t allow the government’s buying of Treasuries and mortgage backed securities to keep rates lower than “justified.”
    • A rather weak and unstable housing market took a major body blow with the bump up in interest rates.
    • Our dear friends, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner and company, are probably having late night meetings tonight discussing what else they can do to keep the housing market from tanking even worse than it has so far.   What will they come up with?  I can’t really say, but I know that it’s going to involve spending $Billions and $Billions.  The very nature of proposing something that requires substantial government spending will increase the upward pressure due to increased government borrowings.

    Where do we go from here? 

    • Remember, interest rates take the elevator up and the stairs down.   What?  They always go up faster than they go down.
    • In the past (even this morning), I’ve put the odds at 75/25 that rates would go up rather than down.   A couple of things about that:  1) I’d put the odds at approximately 90% that we won’t see rates drift back down to the numbers that we were at a week ago, without a massive government intervention (and that intervention could prove to be counterproductive).   2) I’d put the odds that we’ll “bounce” around in the range of 5.25 to 5.75% for the foreseeable future at 60% to 80%.  3) If you do the math right, that means that I can see a 20% to 30% chance that rates will continue to go up.

    Are there people who are going to decide not to buy a house now because of the bump in rates?   Yep, I’m sure there probably are.    But, if they needed another .5% drop to make their new house affordable, maybe they are pushing too hard any way?

    Let’s keep things in perspective. 
      
    Stay tuned, it could get interesting…..

    Tom Vanderwell

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    Some listings are extra FUN!

    Sometimes, out here in more rural America, we have properties to sell that you can’t just drive up to in the Lexus and click off the security system to show.  I usually have a property or two a year that are a bit more challenging and immensely more fun to work with and show.

    Saturday, I took a several hours to view a new listing.  In that time, I only saw bits of it.  This particular property is pretty big,  1 mile by ½ mile for 346 acres.  It has 16 individual tax parcels and is mostly undeveloped.  It is surrounded by forest and has over 2000 feet of elevation change across it.  It does have power, a well and amenities.  Access to part of it is via a dirt road.  Other parts also have dirt roads that go near or into the property.  While this property is spectacular wilderness, it only takes 20 minutes to get to the edge of it from town or my own home.  This is a fun property!

    I was reminded of a conversation at Unchained one evening about good real estate agent cars.  While I can often use a sedan, maneuvering around boulders on a narrow road cut into the side of a cliff just isn’t what a Lexus is made for!  Things are a bit less civilized on a listing like this!  I’ve used SUVs, pickups,  jeeps, ORVs and even snowmobiles to show my most fun listings.  No worries though, I’ve never seen nor heard dueling banjos at any of these remote properties.

    joe-creek-northwest-from-top-of-parcel-p

    Part of the fun in selling one of these ranch or acreage types of properties is to figure out the best way to show it to clients and explain how to show it to other agents.  I also like to be able to talk to clients before a showing and make sure they have an expectation on what we’ll be doing.  If they have height concerns, I might avoid a narrow path cut into a cliff and just show that part from the bottom of the hill.  If we’re hiking, I try to make sure that they are capable of the walk, we have water, supplies, a GPS to show where we are on the property and whatever we need so that clients don’t feel like they might be lunch for a bear or cougar.  This type of real estate attracts some real interesting characters.

    Like other parts of marketing real estate, the agent who can market properties to prospective clients to their best advantage wins.  Yes, we have beautiful homes that I can drive a comfortable sedan or sports car to.  But, sometimes it is just a blast to have a property to show that really gets me out in nature!  Some days are just about the smiles since I can’t put their names into the CRM system until I have cell coverage anyway!

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    Who is the NAR Advertising Helping?

    Wow, crazy spending in our government should cause rising interest rates in the future.  Government incentives, mandates, moratoriums and Fed manipulation of the housing market, which got us here in the first place, are running amok right now.  The unintended consequences of all these actions are yet to be seen.  The NAR is advertising NOW as a great time to buy, just like they did in 2006 and 2007.

    I get buyers and sellers asking me what I think will happen, as I had this weekend.  I can tell them with certainty that I expect that things will change from where we are today.  Do I tell them the NAR line that it’s a great time to buy a house?  No.

    I don’t think it is necessarily a bad time to buy a house, and may even be a pretty good time to buy a house, depending on somebody’s particular situation.  On the other hand, if the person who is thinking of buying isn’t sure they’re going to stay put, with the cash flow to pay for their home for a pretty good while, it may be a really poor time to buy a house for that person.

    How about selling?  I’ve sold two homes that I personally owned in the last six months.  Is it a great time to sell?  It was for me.  And sell them I did, in about 1/5 the typical time on market in the area.  Could I get more for them in the future?  Maybe but I can’t tell you how far into the future that might be.  I tell clients that this may, or may not, be a good time for them to sell depending on their situation.

    So, the NAR advertising line irritates me.  I don’t find it helpful at all.  It undermines the credibility of real estate professionals to simple mind numbing “it’s time to buy” repeated over and over.  That’s the kind of help I can do without.  While my crystal ball on the future is no better than anyone else’s, I just want to be there help my clients and friends through actions that best serve their specific circumstance and prepare for what they believe may be coming down the pike.  Is it too much to ask that the NAR not make that more challenging?

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    Kipling on the land we live on and the land we love

    I am reputed by Macleans magazine to be well-versed in verse, so, in concert with my soul’s sister, Teri, I will lend my ear to the muses in the celebration of glorious land:

    Sussex

    by Rudyard Kipling

    God gave all men all earth to love,
        But since our hearts are small,
    Ordained for each one spot should prove
        Beloved over all;
    That, as He watched Creation’s birth,
        So we, in godlike mood,
    May of our love create our earth
        And see that it is good.

    So one shall Baltic pines content,
        As one some Surrey glade,
    Or one the palm-grove’s droned lament
        Before Levuka’s Trade.
    Each to his choice, and I rejoice
        The lot has fallen to me
    In a fair ground—in a fair ground—
        Yea, Sussex by the sea!

    No tender-hearted garden crowns,
        No bosomed woods adorn
    Our blunt, bow-headed, whale-backed Downs,
        But gnarled and writhen thorn—
    Bare slopes where chasing shadows skim,
        And, through the gaps revealed,
    Belt upon belt, the wooded, dim,
        Blue goodness of the Weald.

    Clean of officious fence or hedge,
        Half-wild and wholly tame,
    The wise turf cloaks the white cliff edge
        As when the Romans came.
    What sign of those that fought and died
        At shift of sword and sword?
    The barrow and the camp abide,
        The sunlight and the sward.

    Here leaps ashore the full Sou’west
        All heavy-winged with brine,
    Here lies above the folded crest
        The Channel’s leaden line;
    And here the sea-fogs lap and cling,
        And here, each warning each,
    The sheep-bells and the ship-bells ring
        Along the hidden beach.

    We have no waters to delight
        Our broad and brookless vales—
    Only the dewpond on the height
        Unfed, that never fails—
    Whereby no tattered herbage tells
        Which way the season flies—
    Only our close-bit thyme that smells
        Like dawn in Paradise.

    Here through the strong and shadeless days
        The tinkling silence thrills;
    Or little, lost, Down churches praise
        The Lord who made the hills:
    But here the Old Gods guard their round,
        And, in her secret heart,
    The heathen kingdom Wilfrid found
        Dreams, as she dwells, apart.

    Though all the rest were all my share,
        With equal soul I’d see
    Her nine-and-thirty sisters fair,
        Yet none more fair than she.
    Choose ye your need from Thames to Tweed,
        And I will choose instead
    Such lands as lie ’twixt Rake and Rye,
        Black Down and Beachy Head.

    I will go out against the sun
        Where the rolled scarp retires,
    And the Long Man of Wilmington
        Looks naked toward the shires;
    And east till doubling Rother crawls
        To find the fickle tide,
    By dry and sea-forgotten walls,
        Our ports of stranded pride.

    I will go north about the shaws
        And the deep ghylls that breed
    Huge oaks and old, the which we hold
        No more than Sussex weed;
    Or south where windy Piddinghoe’s
        Begilded dolphin veers
    And red beside wide-bankèd Ouse
        Lie down our Sussex steers.

    So to the land our hearts we give
        Till the sure magic strike,
    And Memory, Use, and Love make live
        Us and our fields alike—
    That deeper than our speech and thought,
        Beyond our reason’s sway,
    Clay of the pit whence we were wrought
        Yearns to its fellow-clay.

    God gives all men all earth to love,
        But since man’s heart is small,
    Ordains for each one spot shall prove
        Beloved over all.
    Each to his choice, and I rejoice
        The lot has fallen to me
    In a fair ground—in a fair ground—
        Yea, Sussex by the sea!

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    Under all is the land: Celebrating property rights wherever you live

    I think about this every now and then. Under all is the land- real estate not as business, but as a sort of philosophy, a big idea. Greg wrote an incredible piece about this in his usual big thinker style. I can’t take this on from the place Greg’s at, but I can see this from the street level- from where I’m working.

    My transactions with first time buyers and with HUD owned homes are teaching me a few things. You may not deal in that market. It’s very gritty. Not everyone wants to get their hands that dirty, or do that much work for a couple hundred dollars, and believe me when I tell you that there are times I understand that completely. But le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas, so against the best advice of some of the best brains in the business, I’m working with the people who do not take home ownership for granted, they didn’t grow up assuming they will ever own a home. And in spite of all this collective intelligence pointing me elsewhere, I love working with people who are excited about owning property. Do you know what I mean when I say that?

    Think about how incredible that statement is: Owning property. Land. Something that can’t get moved, can’t be taken away. I know eminent domain exists. Forget that for just a moment and think about the history of man. Property ownership equals freedom. The right to own property? That’s extraordinary! So while I understand I could make more money with less work if I worked at real estate differently, I get a huge kick out of helping people who see what I see when they buy a home.

    These are people who may have grown up under circumstances that would not have precluded home ownership. They may have grown up in parts of the country that have become too exclusive for the average person and they have been shut out of a life they literally helped build. Perhaps they are not children of privilege but children of other circumstances. They might be newly minted citizens, thrilled with the possibilities the future holds. Maybe they are just people who spent their youth making stoopid decisions and have finally pulled their head out of their ass and want to move forward with their lives. Whatever their reasons, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that these are people for whom owning a home means more than an investment and getting their kids into the right schools. Home ownership means freedom to these people. Think about that.

    I would guess that most of us don’t understand the mental and emotional changes that take place under these circumstances. If your parents, your aunts and uncles and cousins and neighbors and hardly anyone you knew owned property, the thought of owning property? This is huge! This is everything. This is moving forward. This is life itself- it’s freedom.

    We don’t have it all right, this property ownership freedom idea. Our laws still mean that we are constricted about usage, and we can have that property taken away to suit someone else, but we have what we have and it’s a damn good start for many people.

    Saturday night I couldn’t sleep. I poked about online and found the TED lectures. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep, but I this particular lecture from Robert Neuwirth about Squatter Cities stuck with me. It’s about 20 minutes long, so you might not want to take the time, although you should. I’ll pull a few points for you: These squatter cities in India or Africa or South America- where millions (billions?) of people live, have become not about living in poverty, but about thriving- flourishing even- freely in a society that is of your own making. Carving out a life, owning property?, starting a business. Can you see it? We have squatter communities in Dayton, I’m sure your big city has them as well. These are communities that will, to some extent, be shaping the future of our world. Consider what property ownership means to these people.

    I showed homes last night. My buyer has always assumed he would buy a home, so this was a fairly typical buyer in that respect, but the neighborhood we were in? Something has changed in this neighborhood. On this Memorial Day weekend, from what once was a battle ground with abandoned playgrounds, there was block after block filled with the lovely sound of laughter as families and young children and neighbors celebrated Memorial Day in a very American way by opening up their homes, firing up their grills, pulling their resources- probably meager to most of us- and having a barbecue. Happy to be owning property, even if it is property no one else really wanted. But most of all this neighborhood was going about the very serious business of celebrating their freedom, and yours too, and grateful for all those sacrifices that made this possible.

    Under all is the land; but understanding that keeps us free. Happy Memorial Day!

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