Saturday, March 24, 2007

Coulee News -A messy situation: Flooding along private road raises questions
Fred Pilot sent this article about the joys of private streets:

When you live on a private road, getting emergency help is a little more difficult than a homeowner would think. Folks who live in the Scenic Valley Addition near Maple Grove Country Club found that out last week when snowmelt overwhelmed their storm sewer system and flooded streets and basements along Ceresa Drive. “Trying to get help out here was a nightmare,” said resident Curt Edwardson. He spent hours wading through water in hip waders to find the manhole covers and clear them. His wife Janelle said she was on the phone three hours trying to get help. “I don’t know whether to siphon the two-feet of water in the basement through the bathroom or the utility room or where,” said Margette Longworth.
Boing Boing: Cavalcade of homeowner holdouts
Here is a Mystery Reader post on "nail houses," which means houses that remain behind when all else is gone or redeveloped--they stick out like nails.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a couple of entries about people who refused to give up their homes to new development and ended up being surround by a parking lot, freeway, or airport. Many readers offered stories of other holdouts. Here they are.
Here's a long interview with 40-year-old Mrs Wuping, the owner of the "nail house" (called that because it sticks out of the pit around it like a nail).

Boing Boing: Slideshow for hellish "Haven of Contentment"
Mystery Reader swoops in with this blast from the past that she labels, "Privatopia: The Framers." Touche.

The fine folks at Swapatorium recently picked up a bunch of 1960s Moose Lodge slide shows. The slide show for "The Haven of Contentment" depicts a place that brings to mind a Stepfordian community populated with lobotomized families who are unwittingly taking part in an intensive secret government neurochemical mind-control experiment. The Dharma Initiative in Lost isn't nearly as creepy as the Haven of Contentment.
Governance of Property Owners Associations: Statement of Rights
Here'a a corrected link to Don Nordeen's Statement of Rights.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Fed Faulted For Inaction On Mortgages -
On the foreclosure and subprime lender front, Nancy Levy sent this report on Democratic Senators grandstanding on the issue. I realize there is a problem here, but blaming the federal reserve for the actions of subprime lenders strikes me as a major stretch. To me, this is just Sen. Christoper Dodd (D-Mass), et al., woofing and barking at Alan Greenspan to get their names in the paper. But maybe I'll be proven wrong by the Democrats miraculously solving the problem of people borrowing too much money on risky terms to buy more house than they can afford.

Senators yesterday accused the Federal Reserve and its former chairman, Alan Greenspan, of a "pattern of neglect" that fostered a crisis in the mortgage industry that is putting more than 2 million families at risk of losing their homes. Members of the Senate Banking Committee said the Fed had power to regulate risky lending practices but did not choose to use it even as exotic mortgages given to buyers with checkered credit helped drive up housing prices across the country. The mortgage mess has rattled markets in recent weeks and spurred a broad reassessment of lending practices.

Governance of Property Owners Associations: October 2006
Don Nordeen has a Statement of Rights for CID owners that is worth taking a look at. One of these days I'm going to put all these various Bills of Rights side by side and write something about them. Right now I'm getting ready to go hog hunting in Michigan with my son, so the writing will have to wait until Tuesday.
Foreclosures Force Suburbs to Fight Blight - New York Times
Nancy Levy sends this story with a dateline in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a very nice suburb of Cleveland that has long been known for its racial integration maintenance efforts. Now the story is the municipal response to mortgage foreclosures and resulting vacant properties.

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — In a sign of the spreading economic fallout of mortgage foreclosures, several suburbs of Cleveland, one of the nation’s hardest-hit cities, are spending millions of dollars to maintain vacant houses as they try to contain blight and real-estate panic.

Firm Under Scrutiny to Be Sold -
Nancy Levy sends this example of an HOA management company in trouble. But, hey, it's just another one of those isolated anecdotes. No need for regulation or anything. Just move along, nothing to see here.

The Fairfax City company under state and local investigation for possible embezzlement of more than $800,000 from Northern Virginia homeowner associations will be sold to a Herndon real estate management partnership, presidents of both firms said yesterday. Robert A. Koger said Koger Management Group, which oversees the finances of more than 300 homeowner and condominium associations, has reached an agreement with National Realty Partners. National Realty will take over day-to-day management of Koger Management, and the purchase is to be completed about July 1.

Quad City Foreclosures
Here is a slice of life from Rock Island, IL, where you can see what is going on with foreclosures in middle America. The creative mortgages are coming home to roost:

Mortgage foreclosures spiked in Rock Island County and inched upward in Scott County in 2006, and are on track for another barn burner if all else stays equal, court records indicate. Of the 1,955 mortgage foreclosures in Rock Island County over the past five years, there were an average 430 cases a year from 2003 through 2005. But the number spiked to 537 cases in 2006, court records indicated. The number of Scott County foreclosures have inched upward steadily since 2004, and court record keepers say the number of filings have been brisk since the first of the year. The loss of jobs, unexpected medical expenses and divorces are the three most common reasons people get into financial difficulties that often lead to losing their homes, said Moline attorney Thomas Blade, who represents banks and other lenders in mortgage foreclosure cases. Most of the homeowners in financial trouble own homes valued at no more than $150,000, he said. "They are like 60 percent of the American population living paycheck-to-paycheck," he said...Rock Island attorney Bruce Buckrop said he has definitely seen a rise in the number of his clients facing financial difficulty because of adjustable rate mortgages (ARM). The trend toward ARMs and aggressive mortgage lending practices has increased over the past five years, he said. Some borrowers are wooed into an adjustable interest rate by an attractive low starting rate of 5 percent interest that increases six months later to 8 percent and then 11 percent, he said. An 11 percent mortgage rate is "a killer rate" that can take a $400 a month house payment to $950, Mr. Buckrop said. Sometimes the only thing he can do to help clients is to put them through bankruptcy if they want to save their house. Bankruptcy laws protect the homeowner from losing their homes, if it is a first mortgage, but rids a creditor from credit card and other debt.

A new approach to NIMBYism
Fred Pilot sent this along with the heading, "They shoot condos, don't they?"

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese man angry that a new apartment building put his house in the shade was arrested after shooting about a dozen bullets at it with a competition rifle.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

'Political correctness is killing our freedoms' | International News | News | Telegraph
This is a fascinating story. If the speaker were Rush Limbaugh, you'd yawn. But guess what? That is a quotation from the President of the European Commission, one part of the European Union government. And check out the comment on people who try to establish "private moral codes":

Europe's citizens must be on their guard against political correctness and moralising politicians, says the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. The former Portuguese premier and centre-Right politician is concerned that freedom can be the loser in European culture wars over climate change, cheap air travel, Islam and free speech. "We should be aware of people who, sometimes for good reasons, try to establish what I call private moral codes, for this or that, be it climate change, religious behaviour or any kind of social behaviour," he says.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Inman Real Estate News - Study predicts 1.1 million foreclosures among ARM loans
Thanks to Shu Bartholomew for this link. This reminds me of the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise bought a house he/she could actually afford, with a plain vanilla fixed rate 30 year loan. The hare bought a McMansion that was far above his/her means, using a clever interest only adjustable rate loan. Then the hare made a fortune. On paper, that is. Unfortunately, we live in reality and not on paper. In reality, the hare got stuck with a house he couldn't afford to live in or sell, as prices fell and interest rates went up. You do remember that story from Aesop's Real Estate Fables, don't you?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

National Ledger - Global Warming: Moving Towards Metrosexuals
At last some good global warming humor. This is worth reading from start to finish. But hurry because the earth is melting.

Many environmentalists believe that the earth is a living organism, personified by the Greek goddess Gaia. Conveniently, it turns out that Gaia is a shrew, who demands that her men be reduced to henpecked, metrosexual noodles. Manliness makes Gaia angry, and we wouldn't like her when she's angry, because she'll turn into a green monster and start smashing everything to bits. Hell hath no fury like an earth goddess exposed to excessive cattle-produced methane emissions.
Lindenhust Choice website
A while back I posted about the proposal by some Lindenhurst, IL, incumbents to have no yard signs in the runup to the April election. The challengers wisely turned down that proposal. Seems that the webmaster for the challengers ran across the post and liked it, so he linked to it from their website, which you can visit by following the link in the title. Thanks to Dave Holle, Lindenhurst Choice webmaster. And good luck on election day.
Cold snap to freeze England
Global warming alert:
SNOW and wintry showers replaced the mild, sunny early spring weather when bitter Arctic winds swept in from the north in England. The Met Office said the cold snap will grip Britain until at least Wednesday. After a mild spell of sunshine that brought early flowering daffodils and flocks of migratory birds, temperatures will plummet by 10C. Snow could reach depths of up to 30cm in parts of the Scottish Highlands and cause disruption on roads across much of the country.

Interfaith group braves storm in climate change trek -
So the global warming march is cooled a bit by a snowstorm. But nobody's mind was changed, you can bet on that.

"It was windy and cold. I was walking on the front of the line and I felt like I was bow of a ship with the wind just coming into my face," said the Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas of the Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst, where the group warmed up on bowls of lentil and minestrone soup after walking eight miles in deep snow from Northampton to Amherst.

Daily Herald | News: If you can run an HOA, why not a city?
Here's an interesting self-recommendation: an HOA president and a "life coach." That must be almost like having a job. But what is an "End Times Revival Center"? Who or what is going to be revived? If I recall the Book of Revelations, when the end times come there is already Somebody responsible for doing the reviving. Maybe the idea is you buy some revival insurance or something, in case you don't make the cut.

Six candidates are competing for three open seats on the Hanover Park village board...Toni Carter: age not given; executive administrator for End Times Revival Center, Schaumburg; founder of Empowered, a life coaching company. President, Hartford Square Homeowners Association; domestic violence victim’s advocate...
Carter.: I will bring the experience of running a homeowner’s association with an annual budget of close to $100,000 a year. Since our administration has been organizing and leading the directives in Hartford Square, we have saved over $51,000 in two years. Before our administration, the previous administration had not put one dime into our reserve account for several years.

POST-TRIBUNE :: News :: Association, condominium community in war of words
POST-TRIBUNE :: News :: Association, condominium community in war of words
I think this is a northwest Indiana story. Is it a good idea to fire your management company without making provisions to keep the necessary activities going on?

MERRILLVILLE -- A dispute between the homeowners association and the management company of a condominium community has left residents with overflowing Dumpsters and without premises insurance, snow removal and other services for the last four weeks.
The board of directors of The Colonies homeowners association severed its ties with Schererville-based KMC Management, alleging that the company billed the association for services but didn't pay the vendors, leaving residents without day-to-day services such as trash pickup, shoveling, street light maintenance, roof repairs and insurance on the building exteriors. Residents in the 100-unit community, built in 1975, are not only worried about the full Dumpsters causing sanitation problems and attracting wild animals; they're also worried about property values. One woman had to take her condo off the market because the community no longer has premises insurance, and another can't refinance because of it.

A climate of fear - In Depth -
Isn't it obvious that these environmental doomsayers are deliberately trying to manipulate people? They are intentionally using scare tactics to panic people into going along with their bizarre public policy agenda. But this article deals with a good question: "how afraid should we be?" Maybe a little fear isn't such a bad thing where technology and climate are concerned.

It makes sense that the mushroom cloud, the great spectre of the 20th century, would return to spook the 21st. Bill McKibben, author of a foundation text of the climate change era, The End of Nature (1990), explicitly links the last great fright to the new one. Climate change is "the single biggest challenge facing the planet, the equal in every way to the nuclear threat that transfixed us during the past half-century", he wrote last year. Some don't buy any of this "climate porn", as a UK think tank recently described such talk. Al Gore's movie is "bullshit from beginning to end", according to Ray Evans, a former Western Mining executive and author of the Lavoisier Group's Nine Facts About Climate Change (2006). For Evans and many others, man-made climate change panic is a bugaboo, perhaps even a hoax. Either way, the debate over climate change is now about fear. How afraid should we be? It's a valid question, because a sensible reaction to any threat begins with fear. Fear can help propel us towards solutions, as it did in the case of ozone-depleting CFCs. But we don't want to respond to a threat with asymmetric alarm.