Monday, February 9, 2009

2002 Level Home Values, Average Price Per Square Foot = $91, REOs, Distressed Properties = 86% of All Sales

BB2: Wake up people!


By one measure, Bakersfield home prices fell to late 2002 levels last month and are on pace to hit 1998 levels this spring, a monthly report from appraiser Gary Crabtree found.
The average price per square foot sank to just more than $91 in January, down more than 33 percent from a year earlier, landing back at its December 2002 value.
Other highlights from the Preliminary Crabtree Report released over the weekend include:
• The median sales price was $125,000, more than 45 percent lower than a year earlier, when it was $230,000.
• Sales volume was more than double a year earlier with 517 homes sold, though it dropped from December’s tally of 660.
• Foreclosed and other distressed properties made up 86 percent of sales.
• The median could reach $90,000 in May — its December 1998 value — if prices continue to decline at the current pace.
The report includes sales of existing single-family homes in the metro area.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

29% Loss In Home Value - Makes Us 7th In The Nation

BB2: Ouch.

Bakersfield’s falling home values again ranked among the worst 10 markets nationwide, a report released Monday said.
The local market, which includes all of Kern County, saw price declines of nearly 29 percent in November compared to a year earlier, according to First American CoreLogic, a Santa Ana company that tracks the real estate industry.
Bakersfield took the No. 7 spot for worst-performing market behind a string of familiar California names. Salinas, with a 30 percent drop, took the No. 1 spot, followed by Vallejo-Fairfield, Merced, Modesto, Stockton and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario. El Centro, Napa and Miami finished out the Top 10.
Nationally, home prices dropped the most in more than 30 years during 2008, First American’s preliminary estimates show, with a 10.6 percent decline.
Since peaking in summer 2006, U.S. home prices have fallen 18.5 percent, with California values dropping 42 percent.

Monday, January 26, 2009

You And I Ate At McDonald's Last Year

BB2: Watch for my "rant" coming soon about local restaurants. It ties in to this story on the flipside.

US fast-food giant McDonald's said Monday its 2008 net profit soared 80 percent from a year, lifted by growing demand from consumers seeking low-cost meals in a deepening global recession.
Net profit for the full year totaled 4.3 billion dollars, compared with 2.3 billion in 2007, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said in a statement.
Excluding exceptional items, earnings per share were 3.76 dollars, widely exceeding consensus market forecasts of 3.63 dollars.
The robust annual results came despite a sharp 23 percent decline in fourth-quarter net profit to 985 million dollars, from 1.273 billion in the 2007 fourth quarter. Fourth-quarter earnings per share were 87 cents, above expectations of 83 cents.
"2008 was a strong year for McDonald's," chief executive Jim Skinner said in the statement.
"Through our strategic focus on menu choice, food quality and value, the average number of customers served per day increased to more than 58 million in 2008."
The global fast-food giant said it saw growth in comparable sales and customer counts across all segment for ever quarter, and double-digit growth in operating income for the final quarter and the year.
Global comparable sales in 2008 increased 6.9 percent. That included rises of 4.0 percent in the United States, 8.5 percent in Europe, and 9.0 percent in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, the company said.
Cost-focused companies such as McDonald's and budget retailers generally have weathered the global financial crisis better than others as consumers seek ways to stretch their dollars.

Monday Morning Madness

Sprint Nextel Corp. is eliminating about 8,000 positions in the first quarter as it seeks to cut annual costs by $1.2 billion.
The nation's third-largest wireless provider said this morning it will complete the layoffs largely by March 31. About 850 of the reductions are voluntary and the company said it expected a charge of more than $300 million for severance and other costs.
The Overland Park, Kan.-based company is also suspending its 401(k) match for the year, extending a freeze on salary increases and is suspending a tuition reimbursement program.
The company has struggled since acquiring Nextel Communications Inc. in 2005 as technical problems, poor efforts to consolidate the two companies and stiff competition for feature-rich phones has led many subscribers to switch to competing services.
Home Depot said Monday that it will exit its Expo business and streamline its support functions, resulting in 7,000 job cuts. That is about 2% of the company's workforce.
The company sees a total pre-tax charge due to these actions of approximately $532 million, of which approximately $390 million will be recognized in the fourth quarter and the remaining $142 million will be recognized in 2009 and beyond.
In addition, Home Depot affirmed its 2008 forecast of a decline of 8% in sales and a 24% drop in earnings per share from continuing operations before today's announcement.
Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. says its fourth-quarter earnings tumbled 32%, hurt by higher operating costs and a global economic downturn that curbed demand for its products. It forecast lower sales and profits for 2009.
Caterpillar's fourth-quarter decline to $1.08 per share reflects the slowing world economy as its earth-moving machines and other equipment are used in global industries such as mining and construction. It earned $975 million, or $1.50 per share, in the year-earlier period.
Revenue rose 6% to $12.92 billion.
Analysts estimated Caterpillar would earn $1.31 per share on revenue of $12.84 billion.
Caterpillar has said it plans to lay off workers, slash executive compensation and offer buyouts to 25,000 U.S.-based employees.

Crisp & Cole: Lender Lawsuit Alleges Widespread Fraud

A new lawsuit against Crisp, Cole & Associates alleges widespread fraud among appraisers, accountants, a homebuilder and others who worked with — or allegedly worked with — the defunct Bakersfield real estate company.
The suit, filed Jan. 8 by a now-bankrupt subprime lender, names more than 15 people as defendants and seeks more than $4.2 million in damages from failed loans originated by Crisp & Cole’s mortgage brokering unit.
Those reached by phone Tuesday and Wednesday, including David Crisp, denied wrongdoing.
Some allegations cover territory already visited in disciplinary actions from state regulators.
But the case outlines for the first time how people from different trades allegedly schemed together to draw up bogus loan papers and milk them for cash.
It also gives a taste of what might be on the table if federal officials ever file a criminal indictment. FBI and IRS agents raided 13 local Crisp & Cole-related sites in fall 2007 but have not yet filed charges.
The suit from the former Fremont Investment & Loan — now Fremont Reorganization Corp. — says fake employment information and fudged appraisals were submitted with seven loan applications it funded in 2005 and 2006.
In one example, Crisp’s wife, Jennifer Crisp, claimed to make $25,500 a month as a self-employed consultant.
The house, at 8702 Oak Hills Ave., was appraised at $660,000. Jennifer Crisp was loaned the full sale amount, $659,340.
Fremont claims “all documentation ... including the CPA letter, was falsified” and the appraiser “assisted” the scheme “by falsely stating the value” of the home.
What’s more, the transaction wasn’t a “true sale” but was staged to benefit the builder and Crisp & Cole.
Similar allegations — that the sales pumped cash into Crisp & Cole coffers — were made regarding the six other loans.
Defendants have not yet been served with the suit.
David Crisp, whose real estate sales license was revoked by regulators last fall, said Wednesday he is “just trying to get my life back together.”
“I’m trying to pick up the pieces to pay everybody back,” Crisp said, “but I can’t do that when the newspaper keeps blasting me.”
Cole, whose broker’s license was also revoked but who is challenging the revocation in court, did not return a message seeking comment.
The homebuilder, John Balfanz of John Balfanz Homes Inc., said he’s done nothing wrong.
“There is nothing fishy on my end,” Balfanz said.
The appraiser on the Oak Hills property, James Rudick, did not return a message seeking comment. Rudick is named once. Another appraiser named once, Gary Killian, did not return a call.
Five of the contested appraisals were done by San Joaquin Appraisals Inc.
San Joaquin’s owner, Kirksey J. “Mark” Newton Jr., who is named as a defendant, also has a pending accusation from state regulators seeking to revoke or suspend his license. Newton is fighting the charges.
San Joaquin’s offices were among the Crisp-related sites raided by the FBI in September 2007.
Newton did not return a message seeking comment.
The accountant who allegedly penned the employment verification letter, Timothy Hubbell, declined to comment.
Hubbell testified during Cole and Crisp’s license hearings that his former business partner, Kevin Sluga — Jennifer Crisp’s father and Crisp & Cole’s CPA — had admitted to creating forged letters bearing Hubbell’s name.
Sluga’s home was among sites raided by federal agents.
Fremont names Sluga and his company as defendants in multiple transactions. Sluga did not return calls seeking comment, nor did his attorney.
Two other people named in the case as CPAs who submitted employment-verification letters don’t have CPA licenses, state records show.
Haysar Lopez of H & E Lopez Income Tax Service in Bakersfield said she wasn’t familiar with the transaction in question and has never written such documents. The other, Hilda Gonzalez, could not be located.
The suit also names former Crisp & Cole employees and associates Jayson Costa, Justin Eddleman, Robinson D. Nguyen, Lynnmai Nguyen, Christopher Stovall, Jerald Teixeira and David Bruce Whisler. None could be reached for comment.
An ongoing Californian tally counts at least 126 properties, most single-family homes in metro Bakersfield, tied to bad loans totaling more than $84.5 million. Of those, 110 have been foreclosed on.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bank of America CEO, Directors; JP Morgan Chase Director: Now Is Time To Buy


Bank of America Corp., the biggest U.S. lender by assets, gained 31 percent in New York trading after Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis and five directors bought more than 500,000 shares for at least $3 million.
Lewis bought 200,000 shares of the bank at prices ranging from $5.98 to $6.06 yesterday, while director Robert Tillman also bought 200,000 shares for $5.77 to $5.78, according to a filing today. Temple Sloan Jr., lead director of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank, bought 41,800 shares. Buyers also included William Barnet III, Jacquelyn Ward and John Collins.
Purchases by insiders typically are seen as a vote of confidence, and the filing helped Bank of America stock regain some of the ground lost this week. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., also bought 500,000 shares of his bank valued at $11.5 million, according to a separate filing. Lewis bought his stake as the bank prepared to dismiss about 1,000 people, part of a reduction that may ultimately affect 35,000 jobs.


Monday, January 19, 2009

CNN Business 2.0, November 2006: Where NOT To Buy (At Least For The Next Year or So)


Where Not To Buy (At Least For The Next Year or So)
California's Central Valley (1 of 6)
Bakersfield, Fresno, Merced, Sacramento Stockton
Five of the cities on the Bottom 10 list are from this region, making the long rural stretch of Highway 99 between Sacramento and Bakersfield look like a treacherous real estate ditch. Home prices shot up here by as much as 60 percent during the past two years as big homebuilders, squeezed out of the Bay Area and Los Angeles by lack of space, arrived in search of raw land at bargain prices. Problem is, the Central Valley's base industry (agriculture) creates the lowest-paying jobs, and chronically high unemployment rates persist throughout the region. "A market where housing has increased by so much so fast when unemployment is that high is unsustainable," says Frank Owens, who sits on the board of Fresno's builders association. "This market is going south."

Eyewitness News Blows The Whistle on Elite Property Management

By John Dabkovich, Eyewitness News
A Bakersfield company has become the subject of a fraud investigation after more than a dozen people have come forward claiming they are owed thousands of dollars.Elite Property Management, which handles rental properties in Bakersfield, is owned by Kristi Smart and Michelle Gamero. The company collects rent from tenants and turn it over to the property owners. Some homeowners are now saying they haven't been paid in weeks and can't get in touch with the owners."I emailed. No response. I called. No response. Voice mails. No response," said "Sylvia," a homeowner who spoke on condition of anonymity.Sylvia said she first noticed a problem when her October rent arrived late and then bounced. She's not alone. An Eyewitness News investigation revealed more than a dozen people who said they are owed more than $50,000 combined.In December, Elite Property Management sent an e-mail to homeowners apologizing for the delay, saying that a break-in at their office was partly to blame.Bakersfield police have confirmed that someone spray painted the front door and put screws in the lock. A department spokesperson, however, said there was no mention of a break-in in the report.The California Department of Real Estate requires property managers to have a real estate broker's license. Cal DRE spokesman Tom Pool said there is no record of Elite Property Management in the department's files.Sgt. Greg Terry confirmed that BPD detectives have opened a fraud investigation into Elite Property Management.Several attempts to contact Elite Property Management co-owner Smart at the home she rents in northwest Bakersfield were unsuccessful.Monday, Smart's friends and family were seen loading a moving van in front of her house. A woman at the house said Smart was not home and added that the family was moving because their lease is about to expire, and they plan stay in Bakersfield.In a phone call Monday afternoon, Smart said, "It's my intention to take care of the people who are owed money."When asked about Elite Property Management not having a real estate license, Smart replied, "No comment."Co-owner Gamero has not returned messages left on her cell phone.
~ This and this is all I found searching for "Elite Property Management" on 1/19 at 11:00 pm:
Families in foreclosure
Who’s losing their home to foreclosure in Bakersfield?
Teachers, administrators, correctional officers and “normal, typical, picket-fence, college-educated families,” said Kristi Smart.
Smart and her partner, Michelle Gamero, run Elite Property Management, a property management company specializing in higher-end, single family homes.
And since late summer, the two women have seen a steady stream of post-foreclosure families looking for homes to rent.
“They come here really desperate and afraid,” Smart said.
Many are worried their ruined credit will make it hard to rent. Others fret over uprooting their kids in a move, she said. Almost all were first-time homebuyers. Often, the foreclosure is the only black mark on an otherwise clean credit report, Smart said.
“They’re not people to let their debts go by,” Smart said. “They’re not deadbeats at all.”
Many of her clients, Smart said, find the prospect of renting to be a grand relief after trying to scrape up the money needed to meet high monthly loan payments.
“It’s allowing them to breath and relax a little, and spend time with their families,” Smart said.
-Vanessa Gregory, staff writer
Posted in these Groups: Topics:
posted by MoneyTalks on Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 10:53 AM
Homeowners walking away from mortgages
By VANESSA GREGORY, Californian staff writer
Thursday, Mar 6 2008 11:36 AM
Last Updated: Thursday, Mar 6 2008 11:28 AM
Editor's note: There have been stories across the country of people walking away from homes they can no longer afford. Here's what's happening locally.
In Bakersfield also, there are tales of the unrepentant homeowner who breezily strolls away from mortgage obligations.
This week, a man facing higher monthly payments when his adjustable rate mortgage resets approached Matt Kennedy, the managing partner of a credit repair company, Innovative Credit Solutions, with an audacious plan.
“He doesn’t have any value in his house,” Kennedy said. “And he’s thinking his best option is just to walk away from it.”
Since his mortgage will not reset until June, the man told Kennedy, he would simply buy a less expensive house now, while his credit is still untarnished, and abandon the first.
“I told him not to do it,” Kennedy said. “I told him to talk to a loss mitigation specialist (with his lender).”
But while Kennedy has met a few others who viewed homeownership in a similar way, most would much prefer to keep their mortgages and their homes, he said.
At Elite Property Management, a Bakersfield property management company specializing in single family home rentals, owner Kristi Smart has seen a number of clients who lost homes to foreclosure.
Some, she said, did make a conscious decision to stop struggling to meet the monthly mortgage payment. But rather than glibly dismissing the concept of homeownership and financial responsibility, most were making a rational financial choice, Smart said.
“What happens when all your tangible cash each month is sucked up by paying your mortgage payment?” Smart asked.
Many worried about emergencies, or buying shoes for their kids. And even those who had bought homes with no money down had made financial investments in their home, such as furniture, landscaped backyards, decorations and other improvements, she said.
“I don’t think there’s a disinterest (in homeownership),” Smart said. “It’s a gigantic decision to walk away from something they made that commitment to.”

Bakersfield/Kern County is Number 4 In 2008 Foreclosure Filings

BB2: I thought we used to be #8... Hmmm...

A year-end foreclosure report released Thursday pegged Bakersfield — including all of Kern County — as having the fourth-highest level of foreclosure filings in the nation during 2008.
It’s a spot we’ve held fairly consistently in monthly reports from Irvine-based RealtyTrac, an online specialist in foreclosed properties.
The No. 1 spot went to Stockton, followed by Las Vegas and Riverside/San Bernardino. Phoenix rounded out the top 5.
RealtyTrac counted more than 2.3 million affected properties nationwide last year, an 81 percent increase from 2007 and a 225 percent jump from 2006. Foreclosure-related filings include defaults, auction notices and repossessions.
In Kern, some 16,208 properties were impacted in 2008.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Is Your Neighborhood Ugly Because of Foreclosed Homes? Help Is On The Way.

Bakersfield will get $9 million in federal funds to help shore up distressed neighborhoods and get people into foreclosed homes.
The city will work with real estate lenders and banks to get the money to qualifying home buyers, said Rhonda Barnhard, the city’s assistant economic development director.
It could also be used to purchase and demolish burned-out and abandoned homes that are dragging neighborhoods down, she said.
The money, which will probably arrive in March, is a product of legislation passed in Congress last summer, Barnhard said.
“If we can stabilize a neighborhood or two it certainly would be a big help,” Barnhard said.
The city plans to roll out details of how it will spend the money, along with a marketing plan, in a month or so, she said.

Crisp Being Sued. First of Many?

A Northern California man filed a $75,000 lawsuit alleging fraud and breach of contract against former Bakersfield real estate salesman David Crisp.
Attorney Harvey Stein said Friday that Crisp used client Jorge Ochoa as a straw buyer on a home at 531 Blue Meadow Court in Oildale that subsequently foreclosed.
Ochoa’s credit score plummeted, and he’s paid high interest rates since.
“Jorge felt that he had to do something to try to rehabilitate his credit, even if he never gets a dime of this,” Stein said.
Crisp, half of the defunct Crisp & Cole Real Estate, lost his real estate license in September after a hearing with the state Department of Real Estate. Crisp committed fraud and dishonest dealing, according to an administrative law judge’s ruling.
Unlike former mentor Carl Cole, Crisp hasn’t tried to get his license back.
Crisp didn’t respond to the November filing, Stein said, adding he’ll next seek a judgment against him. A lien could be placed against Crisp if a judge rules in favor of his client, Stein said.
Crisp’s whereabouts are unclear.
Ochoa, a vehicle damage estimator for an auto body shop in Oakland, was friends with Crisp’s cousin. Crisp wanted to buy the house as a personal investment, Ochoa’s attorney says in court documents, and asked Ochoa to “assist him in purchasing the home by applying for a home loan since (Ochoa’s) credit was outstanding ....”
Ochoa told Crisp he’d think about it. Then on July 19, 2006, Crisp told Ochoa the “house went through,” court records show.
But Ochoa never saw the house and didn’t sign loan documents, Stein’s complaint said.
Later, Ochoa got escrow papers and a $5,000 check “for his assistance,” Stein wrote. Ochoa’s signature was forged; he called Crisp, who told him he would make the payments and sell the house within a couple of months.
But the house didn’t sell, and Crisp didn’t make payments. The home foreclosed in November 2007.

Don't Plan To Do Anything With Your CA Tax Refund

Calif. tax refunds to be delayed starting Feb. 1
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California's controller says he will begin a 30-day delay on tax refunds and other payments starting Feb. 1 because the state is running out of money.
Controller John Chiang said Friday he must delay $3.7 billion in payments next month because lawmakers have failed to address California's growing deficit.
With a $41.6 billion shortfall over the next year-and-a-half, the state is on the brink of issuing IOUs.
Chiang says his office must continue education and debt payments but will defer money for tax refunds, student aid, social services and mental health programs.
A severe drop in revenue has left the state's main bank account depleted. The state had been relying on borrowing from special funds and Wall Street investors; those options are no longer available.

$20B More for Bank of America

BB2: Two weeks after acquiring Merrill Lynch. And they haven't even taken over Countrywide yet!

Kenneth Lewis gambled on bold acquisitions to build Bank of America into the nation's largest bank.
But the need for fresh government support to grapple with the newly revealed losses at Merrill Lynch, the brokerage firm he snapped up in a rapid-fire arrangement at the height of the financial crisis in September, raises questions about whether the bank has gone a deal too far.
Two weeks after closing its purchase of Merrill Lynch at the urging of U.S. regulators, the government cemented a deal at midnight Thursday to supply Bank of America with a fresh $20 billion capital injection and absorb as much as $98.2 billion in losses on toxic assets, according to people involved in the transaction.
The bank had been pressing the government for help after it was surprised to learn that Merrill would be taking a fourth-quarter write-down of $15 billion to $20 billion, according to two people who have been briefed on the situation, in addition to Bank of America's rising consumer loan losses.
The second lifeline brings the government's total stake in Bank of America to $45 billion and makes it the bank's largest shareholder, with a stake of about 6 percent.

Uncircuit City

BB2: Fun fact. According to, our Circuit City is (was) the number 1 store! Bummer.
Bankrupt Circuit City Stores Inc., the nation's second-biggest consumer electronics retailer, said Friday it failed to find a buyer and will liquidate its 567 U.S. stores. The closures could send another 30,000 people into the ranks of the unemployed.
"This is the only possible path for our company," James A. Marcum, acting chief executive, said in a statement. "We are extremely disappointed by this outcome."
The company had been seeking a buyer or a deal to refinance its debt, but the hobbled credit market and consumer worries proved insurmountable.
The liquidation of Circuit City is the latest fallout from the worst holiday shopping season in four decases. People have slashed their spending since the financial meltdown in September as they worry about their job security and declining retirement funds.

Countrywide's Lawyers: "Don't Believe Countrywide's Commercials!

BB2: Unbelievable! Here's the summary: Couple see a commercial from Countrywide that they are willing to modify loans. They ask for a modification, are denied at the last minute, are foreclosed on, sue Countrywide, then are told in court by Countrywide's lawyers that the commercials were nothing more than "commercial puffery." Ridiculous!


In marketing, advertising and testimony before Congress, Countrywide Home Loans has said repeatedly that it is working hard to modify the mortgages of financially strapped borrowers caught up in the subprime meltdown. But in a New Hampshire court, attorneys for the lending giant are singing a different tune, describing such assurances as “mere commercial puffery.”
Saying the modification offers are “only Countrywide’s vague advertisements,” attorneys for the lender are asking the court to throw out a lawsuit alleging breach of good faith, fraud, negligence and misrepresentation, which was filed on behalf of a family that was refused a loan modification by the California-based company.
“It’s breathtaking,” attorney Mary Frances Stewart of Concord, N.H., said of Countrywide’s response to the lawsuit she and co-counsel Krista Atwater filed in Merrimack County Superior Court. In its response, “Countrywide is saying, ‘We don’t have any obligation or even necessarily the intention of actually modifying these loans,’ and yet they’re representing that they do.”
The inability of many troubled borrowers to get viable modifications of mortgages they can no longer afford is seen by many economists as major impediment to a solution to the mortgage crisis, which is expected to result in more than 2 million home foreclosures this year.
The mortgage industry, eager to avoid legislation allowing bankruptcy judges to rewrite home mortgages and to maintain the flow of taxpayer bailout funds, says it is working hard to modify as many loans as possible to help homeowners avoid that ruinous result.
But many attorneys representing troubled borrowers say those assurances are belied by the actions of lenders like Countrywide, which are really doing very little to help distressed borrowers stay in their homes.
The New Hampshire lawsuit casts that dispute in a new light, with attorneys representing the company echoing the arguments of Countrywide’s courtroom opponents.
Gary and Jessica Raymond are the plaintiffs in the suit, which seeks unspecified damages. The Raymonds say they lost the home of their dreams in Canterbury, N.H., after Countrywide strung them along for eight months in the belief their loans could be modified. They say the company then flatly rejected their efforts to negotiate an interest-rate cut.
“The one thing we wanted was to save the house,” Jessica Raymond, 30, told “We never imagined … that we’d be sitting here in a lawsuit and talking to a reporter about it.”
No comment from CountrywideAn attorney with Goodwin Procter, the Boston law firm handling the case for Countrywide, referred inquiries to the financial company's public relations department, which did not reply to’s request for comment.
Representatives of the Financial Services Roundtable, a trade group that counts Countrywide owner Bank of America among its members, did not respond to an e-mail request for comment on the lawsuit. But Scott Talbott, the group’s senior vice president for government affairs, told last week that “the industry is working very hard to work with homeowners to prevent delinquencies from becoming foreclosures. Nobody wins in a foreclosure.”
Countrywide Home Loans was a division of Countrywide Financial Corp., which in 2007 was the nation’s largest mortgage lender and serviced $1.4 trillion in loans. It was labeled “the company perhaps most responsible for the mortgage crisis” by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Waxman last year blasted the company’s executives for taking astronomical salaries and bonuses as Countrywide’s stock plummeted amid staggering losses from an orgy of subprime lending. The losses ultimately led to Countrywide’s sale last year to BofA. Meanwhile, attorneys general from states across the nation sued Countrywide over deceptive lending practices before 15 of them negotiated an $8.4 billion settlement on behalf of borrowers in the fall.
According to the Raymonds’ lawsuit, Countrywide was the loan servicer for the couple’s first mortgage and an equity line of credit that totaled a little over $230,000. Proceeds from the loans were used to purchase a new Cape Cod-style home on a quarter-acre lot in December 2004, and then finish the upstairs.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mortgage Rate Relief Might Not Last Long


By Julie Haviv - Analysis
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Massive efforts by the Federal Reserve to bring down mortgage rates have so far been a success, but homeowners had better act fast because analysts say record low rates could be gone as soon as this summer.
Thirty-year mortgage rates dropped to a low of 5.01 percent this week -- their lowest since 1971 -- after the Federal Reserve unveiled a plan in late November to buy as much as $500 billion of securities backed by Fannie Mae (FNM.P), Freddie Mac (FRE.P) and Ginnie Mae.
They could touch as low as 4.50 percent, but the cheap loans will not last long, mortgage experts warned.
"The downward trend we have seen in mortgage rates will not last beyond the first half of this year," said Celia Chen, senior director of housing economics at Moody's in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
"By then, the Federal Reserve's program will have run its course and other issues will move to the forefront that could push mortgage rates higher," she said.
The Fed has also embarked on a program to buy up to $100 billion in unsecured debt of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks in a move also aimed at lowering interest rates on mortgages.
The prospect of affordable home financing has provided a glimmer of hope for the U.S. economy with the housing market in the worst downturn since the Great Depression.
But if mortgage rates rise, they will further paralyze a housing market already beset by plunging home prices, an unwieldy supply of homes for sale, tighter lending standards by risk-shy banks and surging foreclosures.
Even if the Fed extends its mortgage bond buying program past the summer, its other efforts to flood financial markets with cash will work against low rates.

Apply Now For "The Best Job In The World"

BB2: Why can't Bakersfield do this for the white sandy beaches of the Kern River?

Desperate to snag what's being billed as the "Best Job in the World," thousands of people from across the globe have submitted video applications to the tourism department of Australia's Queensland state for their latest advertised vacancy — a $100,000 contract to relax on Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef for six months while writing a blog to promote the island.
In exchange for the plush salary, free accommodation in an oceanfront villa and airfare from the winner's home country, the employee will be required to perform such arduous tasks as strolling the island's white sand beaches, snorkeling its crystalline waters, and exploring other islands along the reef.
More info (and apply!) here:

Black Angus Bankrupt

BB2: Haven't eaten there in a long time. Guess it's time to go back.

Black Angus Steakhouse Operator Files Bankruptcy

By Bob Van Voris
Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- ARG Enterprises Inc., the operator of 69 Black Angus Steakhouse restaurants in seven states in the western U.S., sought bankruptcy protection and said it is seeking a buyer.
Closely held ARG, with headquarters in Los Altos, California, said in today’s Chapter 11 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware, that it has between $100 million and $500 million in both assets and debts.
“The debtors’ restaurants primarily are located in some of the areas hardest hit by the mortgage crisis, causing consumers in those markets to cut back on discretionary spending,” Lisa Poulin, ARG’s chief restructuring officer, said in a statement filed with the bankruptcy court.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Obama's $350 Billion To Go To Housing Crisis


WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama would spend the remaining $350 billion of a financial bailout fund on expanded lending and reduced foreclosures and would not use the money to help other industries, lawmakers said Wednesday after discussions with Obama emissaries.
The Senate was set to vote Thursday on whether to release the money. Lawmakers insisted that Obama advisers put their assurances in writing before the vote.
Seeking to secure votes from wary members of both parties, Obama aides fanned out across the Capitol on Wednesday. Their lobbying effort culminated in a closed door meeting between Senate Republicans and top Obama economic adviser Larry Summers and incoming White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.
The private guarantees went further than what Obama's team has been willing to discuss publicly about his plans for the second half of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Obama has asked Congress for the money and has been trying to overcome misgivings from lawmakers over how the Bush administration spent the first half of the fund.

Forget the Marketplace! More Commercial Projects Under Proposal


Marketplace Seeks OK To Change Signs

BB2: Who cares. Read the rest of the article.

Tweaks to signage at The Marketplace and a handful of maps will go before the Bakersfield Planning Commission Thursday night.
Center owner Donahue Schriber would like to make signage more consistent with the city’s sign ordinance. The company isn’t proposing changes to the dimensions of “monument” or pylon signs. But it would like to have more flexibility so tenants can tailor their signs to meet their needs.
The commission will also consider:
A map for proposed commercial development on 19 acres on the south side of Brimhall Road, about a quarter-mile west of Coffee Road. JP/CP Development Inc. is the applicant.
A map for a 5-acre patch of commercial development on the north side of Harris Road, about a half-mile west of Gosford Road. Silver Oaks LLC is the applicant.

A map that would add four parcels on a lot at 2410 O St. Loma Vista Real Estate Holdings is the applicant and is requesting annexation into the city.

BB2: South side of Brimhall west of Coffee is between the Chevron and the medical office campus. North side of Harris west of Gosford would be west of the Sam's Club and east of the Lennar community Tradewinds "East."

Bank of America Bailout Bounce

BB2: After receiving a $25 billion bailout, Bank of America is expecting to only make $3 to $6 billion in profits for the fourth quarter. So, in other words, $19 to $22 billion was PURE LOSS!

Bank of America May Receive More Bailout Money

The U.S. Treasury Department is moving to provide Bank of America billions of dollars in additional aid as the bank struggles with mounting losses at Merrill Lynch, which it recently acquired, a person briefed on the talks said Wednesday.
It would be the second bank after Citigroup to receive an additional lifeline from the government.
U.S. regulators and executives at Bank of America, which has already received $25 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, have grown increasingly concerned at greater-than-expected losses in the fourth quarter at Merrill, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information. The move to help shore up Bank of America comes on the heels of greater U.S. government intervention in Citigroup. After pumping more than $45 billion in Treasury money onto its balance sheet, the government has put pressure on the bank to dismantle the troubled empire in an effort to stem losses and curb capital injections.
While Bank of America was viewed not that long ago as a pillar of strength in the banking sector, it has seen its stock plummet as investors worry that it has acquired companies with their own set of financial baggage.
Besides the Merrill acquisition, which closed at the beginning of 2009, Bank of America also acquired troubled mortgage lender Countrywide last year.

Number of Realtors Nationwide '03-'08

BB2: Wow. I wonder if it'll go under 1,000,000 in '09?

From National Association of Realtors:

2003 ~ 976,960
2004 ~ 1,102,250
2005 ~ 1,265,367
2006 ~ 1,357,732
2007 ~ 1,338,001
2008 ~ 1,197,529

$5 Citi

From CNBC:

Shares of Citigroup are taking another run below $5, a critical point that could trigger mutual funds and pension plans to dump the company.
Most institutional investors—pension funds, endowments and the like—are prohibited from owning stock worth less than $5.
Citi stock is a staple of many such funds and could be battered even further should they decide to jettison the stock if it remains below that crucial level.

Target Valley Plaza

From Steven Mayer, Bakersfield Californian staff blogger:

We reported last week in The Californian that construction work on a planned Target store at Valley Plaza Mall has come to a screeching halt, sparking demands from several contractors for millions of dollars for work that has gone unpaid.
The $7.8 million project was set to replace the now-demolished Robinsons-May store with a new, 147,000 square-foot Target center.
According to a lawsuit filed in Kern County, the work has been on hold since late November -- and inquiring minds want to know WHY and HOW LONG it will be stalled.


"Going nowhere but down."

It’s done: Gottschalks Inc. filed for bankruptcy Wednesday.
And, court filings show, the chain is looking to sell itself — fast.
On the surface, it’s a reorganization case — Chapter 11 — but court documents show everything up to a liquidation sale is on the table.
No matter how you slice it, Gottschalks as we know it is over.
“It’s gone,” said Howard Davidowitz, a New York-based retail consultant and investment banker who heads Davidowitz & Associates Inc.
Even a bankruptcy financing deal with GE Capital means little, Davidowitz said.
“All it does is give them time to sell off pieces of themselves and liquidate the rest,” he said.
Mervyns, the recently liquidated retail chain, also had so-called “debtor in possession” financing, he said.
“Gottschalks is going nowhere but down,” Davidowitz said. “Nobody will buy them. Somebody might buy pieces of them. But nobody is going to buy the whole chain and keep operating department stores.”