Friday, April 26, 2013

SHARKS: Weber County Realtors Charged With Fraud

In the real estate business, there are many excellent and morally upstanding agents.  However, there are always a few exceptions that seem to play too close to the foul line.  As our local newspaper reports, a couple notorious out-of-bounds market participants will finally have their day in court.  Here is the story from the Standard Examiner:

Six real estate figures from Weber and Davis counties have been charged with felonies alleging fraud in the sales of homes along the Wasatch Front.  The defendants conspired in tacking on bogus fees to transactions involving 13 homes from 2007 to 2010, according to the allegations.
“Defendants deceived and defrauded lenders, sellers and buyers who believed fraudulent, fictitious or invalid fees, costs and liens associated with the subject properties had to be cleared in order for the sale to close,” read the charging documents. 
Charged with multiple counts of second- and third-degree felony communications fraud and engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony, were...(click here to read the names)
Many of us in the business, including myself, wonder what took so long.  When I got in the business, I had my own run in with one of these folks who masqueraded at the time as a short sale "specialist".  I bought a short sale property this person had worked on.  Unfortunately, I got more than just the home.  The owner of the property wouldn't move out after I closed.  Why?  Well, they had been promised by the "specialist" that they could stay there, payment free of course, until a new home was found for them...even if the home they were living in closed.  Obviously, that was a bogus promise and I had to politely convince them to leave.

I know many investors who were wooed by the siren song of big payouts and easy money by this "specialist".  Of course, these folks ended up with broken credit or empty bank accounts.  Here is one horrifying example of this so-called specialist's track record.

Now that the word is out, I am sure more embarrassed folks will come forward with stories of their own losses and misery at the hands of an unseemly individual who poured honey in their ears.    

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Charts Show Housing Recovery In Weber County

Inclement weather this week gave me some time to do some market analysis this week.  The charts are always full of surprises and here are a few:

The Ogden Valley resort property market has finally stopped its avalanche down the slopes of price decline. Our one-year moving average indicates that homes are selling around $100/SQFT.  One thing to consider in this figure though is how land is accounted for in sales.  The MLS doesn't give $/acre data on home sales so this trendline you see is here just a helpful benchmark.  Lots sizes vary widely in Ogden Valley and thus the $/SQFT will be specific to each property.  Nevertheless, our trendline does indicate the direction of prices are moving up, not down.  This is good news.  

Our next chart shows Ogden's East Bench Neighborhoods which are east of Harrison Blvd. and occupy the space between 20th and 36th Streets.  As you can see here, there is a very nice looking recovery going on in house prices.  House prices are approximately back to late 2010 levels.  This neighborhood is characterized by a high concentration of owner-occupied homes and above average household incomes.  

Finally we turn our attention to Ogden's Historic Core (aka. The Trolley District) which encompasses the vintage neighborhoods between Washington Blvd. and Harrison Blvd. and 20th Streets and 30th Streets.  As you can see, there has been a long and steady decline since 2008 with a sudden and sharp increase over the past year.  Part of this increase may be due to huge capital expenditures going on within this neighborhood to restore, rebuild, and redevelop this part of the city

The market is healing and the real estate business is returning to a "normal" state of affairs.  If you are considering buying or selling a home in today's market, CONTACT ME, and lets see what opportunity the market has in store for you.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kick The Can: FHA Needs Bailout Now Too

Just when you thought the worst of the government bailouts were over, now comes the next iteration of taxpayer funded market management.  From Newsday we read:

The cash-strapped Federal Housing Administration may need a $943 million taxpayer bailout to cover expected losses from loans it insured as the U.S. housing bubble was deflating, the Obama administration said April 10.
 The agency provides liquidity to the housing market by insuring lenders against losses on loans. Currently, it backs $1.1 trillion of loans and is a primary source of funding for first-time home buyers and those with modest incomes.
In November, an independent audit found that the FHA faces projected losses of $16.3 billion and was at risk of depleting its cash reserves.
Since then, the FHA has a taken a number of steps to shore up its books, including charging borrowers higher premiums. In addition, housing prices have continued to recovery, further helping to strengthen the agency’s balance sheet.    
This is our big government system at work.  FHA acted as a white knight in the housing market as it insured loans to guarantee against losses during very troubling times back in 2008-2010.  FHA is still the preferred lending method (via Fannie and Freddie) and makes up over 90% of the market.

Recently, we hear that since times are good again at Fannie and Freddie they are reconsidering their exit from the mortgage market.  This hesitancy to exit also creates a problem for private mortgage lenders who want to enter the market on competitive terms.

The bottom line is when you have taxpayer subsidized lending and all risk of losses are insured by the ability of the government to tax the people to pay for the losses, we have a system that defies natural market forces.    It's time for Uncle Sam to get out of the market.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Things To Do In Utah: Bryce Canyon National Park

The family and I took a fascinating journey through one of Utah's great National Park attractions.  It was a much needed diversion and one we won't forget.  Unlike Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon has a much stronger touristy feel.  The large fleet of buses parked near the entrance was a strong indicator.  We made our hiking HQ out of a room at the Best Western.

The Navajo Loop Trail

After arriving in the afternoon, our first trip was to the Navajo Loop Trail at Sunset Point.  This is a very popular trail and it was packed with people.  In our case, it appears we arrived when Japan and all of Europe were on Spring Break.  (Special kudos to the state's Economic Development and Marketing folks.)

The trail descends quickly though very interesting hoodoo formations and breathtaking vistas.

Thor's Hammer is a prominent feature on the way down the trail.

The trail then enters a series of wide switchbacks tucked tightly between two massive cliffs.

Vegetation in the park is very interesting.  It is amazing that it survives the harsh environment.

Toward the bottom of the descent, there is a short spur to the east where Two Bridges can be seen.

The trail eventually reaches a junction that takes hikers to the Queen's Garden.  Instead, we continued along the loop.

The trail turns north to complete the loop.

Unfortunately, our loop was cut short...

The park shut down this part of the trail due to rock falls and ice problems.

The Fairyland Trail

As with most touristy places, the farther you go from the parking lot, the fewer people you will see.  Our day hike through Fairyland Trail was a solitary and beautiful experience.   The trail is a loop with two possible trailheads. We started our's near Sunrise Point.

The trail descends quickly and passes some tortured-looking trees and hoodoos.

The trail then meanders along some amazing fin features and colorful outcrops.

The trail takes a short detour to the Tower Bridge.

The trail then begins to ascend several hundred feet through more amazing scenery.

A couple from Lake Placid, NY was kind enough to snap this photo of all of us with Boat Mesa behind us.

The kids did remarkably well for the 8.5 mile hike.

The trail then works its way along a ridge line with remarkable views.

The trail then descends again into a wash.

Finally, the trail begins a very rigorous ascent back to the top of the canyon rim.

As we approached the Fairyland Trailhead  near the last leg of our hike, we were greeted with some amazing hoodoos.

From the top of the canyon rim we can look back and see where we were hiking.  The Tower Bridge is in the center of the photo.

The Mossy Cave Trail

The next morning we decided to top off our Bryce Canyon experience with a series of small hikes.  Our first stop was the Mossy Cave trail.  It is located on the Highway headed east to Tropic, UT.  The trail is just .4 mile one way.

Of course, no trailhead is complete without a fancy bathroom prominently located at the front.

The Bristlecone Trail

At Rainbow Point in the very south end of the park, there is a 1 mile loop called the Bristlecone Trail.  It was a remarkable hike since it is at 9000 feet elevation and yet the geology continued to amaze.

Yovimpa Point has breathtaking views.  

The boulders you see laying in the dirt are the size of houses.  Remarkable. 

At Aqua Canyon lookout this raven came begging for food.  He wasn't shy at all and made a point to put himself within a couple feet of us.  When it became obvious we weren't going to feed him, and the kids got super excited to cuddle their supposed new found friend, he moved along to the next family.  

The Queen's Garden

Our final hike took us to the popular Queen's Garden trail.  To get there, we followed the first leg of the Navajo Loop and then took the detour at the junction.

It appears some pranksters found their way into a wash and got "Cairn Happy".  They even put cairns in the trees.  Strange but amusing.

Here is "The Queen" sitting on her throne.

If you look just below the treeline in this photo you can see the Navaho Loop trail with people hiking down. It helps give you a sense of scale.

The otherworldly nature of the park is awe inspiring.  I am glad our kids were able to experience this.  I am sure they will remember it for a lifetime.  If you are looking for an adventure.  I strongly encourage you to consider this park for your next trip.