Tag Archives: San Francisco

Rare Video Footage from 1906 Shows Amazing Bustle of San Francisco’s Market Street

A Trip Down Market Street‘ was shot on April 14, 1906, just four days before the San Francisco earthquake and fire, to which the negative was nearly lost. It was produced by moving picture photographers the Miles brothers (Harry, Herbert, Earle and Joe). Harry J. Miles hand-cranked the Bell & Howell camera which was placed on the front of a streetcar during filming on Market Street from 8th, in front of the Miles Studios, to the Ferry building.

A few days later the Miles brothers were en route to New York when they heard news of the earthquake. They sent the negative to NY, and returned to San Francisco to discover that their studios were destroyed.

Filmed during the era of silent film, Sound Designer and Engineer Mike Upchurch added sound to enhance the incredible video and immerse viewers into the hustle and bustle of San Francisco’s Market Street at the turn of the 20th century. Upchurch adds:

Automobile sounds are all either Ford Model T, or Model A, which came out later, but which have similarly designed engines, and sound quite close to the various cars shown in the film. The horns are slightly inaccurate as mostly bulb horns were used at the time, but were substituted by the far more recognizable electric “oogaa” horns, which came out a couple years later. The streetcar sounds are actual San Francisco streetcars. Doppler effect was used to align the sounds.

Market Street – San Francisco 1906 – After the Earthquake – DashCam View – Silent

Source: Twisted Sifter

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Blackstone Deal Hammers San Francisco Commercial Real Estate

Signs of a bust pile up.

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Private-Equity firm Blackstone Group is planning to acquire Market Center in San Francisco, a 720,000 square-foot complex that consists of a 21-story tower and a 40-story tower.

The seller, Manulife Financial in Canada, had bought the property in September 2010, near the bottom of the last bust. In its press release at the time, it said that it “identified San Francisco as one of several potential growth areas for our real estate business and we are optimistic about the possibilities.” It raved that the buildings, dating from 1965 and 1975, had been “extensively renovated and modernized with state-of-the-art systems in the last few years….” It paid $265 million, or $344 per square foot.

After a six-year boom in commercial real-estate in San Francisco, and with near-impeccable timing, Manulife put the property on the market in February with an asking price of $750 per square foot – a hoped-for gain of 118%!

Now the excellent Bay Area real estate publication, The Registry, reported that Blackstone Real Estate Partners had agreed to buy it for $489.6 million, or $680 per square foot, “according to sources familiar with the transaction.” The property has been placed under contract, but the deal hasn’t closed yet.

If the deal closes, Manulife would still have a 6-year gain of nearly 100%. But here is a sign, one more in a series, that the phenomenal commercial real estate bubble is deflating: the selling price is 9.3% below asking price!

The property is 92% leased, according to The Registry. Alas, among the largest tenants is Uber, which recently acquired the Sears building in Oakland and is expected to move into its new 330,000 sq-ft digs in a couple of years, which may leave Market Center scrambling for tenants at perhaps the worst possible time.

It’s already getting tough

Sublease space in San Francisco in the first quarter “has soared to its highest mark since 2010,” according to commercial real estate services firm Savills Studley. Sublease space is the red flag. Companies lease excess office space because they expect to grow and hire and thus eventually fill this space. They warehouse this space for future use because they think there’s an office shortage despite the dizzying construction boom underway. This space sits empty, looming in the shadow inventory. When pressure builds to cut expenses, it hits the market overnight, coming apparently out of nowhere. With other companies doing the same, it creates a glut, and lease rates begin to swoon.

Manulife might have seen the slowdown coming

Tech layoffs in the four-county Bay Area doubled for the first four months this year, compared to the same period last year, according to a report by Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner, cited by The Mercury News, “in yet another sign of a slowdown in the booming Bay Area economy.”

Announced layoffs in the counties of San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Alameda jumped to 3,135, from 1,515 in the same period in 2015, and from 1,330 in 2014 — based on the mandatory filings under California’s WARN Act. But…

The number of layoffs in the tech sector is undoubtedly larger, because WARN notices do not include cuts by many smaller companies and startups. In addition, notices of layoffs of fewer than 50 people at larger companies aren’t required by the act.

The filings also don’t take attrition into account – when jobs disappear without layoffs. “There is a lot of that,” Vitner explained. “When businesses begin to clamp down on costs, one of the first things they do is say, ‘Let’s put in a hiring freeze.’ I feel pretty certain that if you had a pickup in layoffs, then hiring slowed ahead of that.”

And hiring has slowed down. According to Vitner’s analysis of state employment data, Bay Area tech firms added only 800 jobs a month in the first quarter – half of the 1,600 a month they’d added in 2015 and less than half of the 1,700 a month in 2014.

“Employment in the tech sector has clearly decelerated over the past three months,” he said. “As job growth slows and the cost of living remains as high as it is, that’s going to put many people in a difficult position.”

It’s going to put commercial real estate into a difficult position as well. During the boom years, the key rationalization for the insane prices and rents has been the rapid growth of tech jobs. Now, the slowdown in hiring and the growth in layoffs come just when the construction boom is coming into full bloom, and as sublease space gets dumped on the market.

Here’s what a real estate investor — at the time co-founder of a company they later sold — told me about real estate during the dotcom bust. All tenants should write this in nail polish on their smartphone screens:

It was funny in 2000 because the rent market was still moving up. We rejected our extension option, hired a broker, and started looking around. As months went on, we kept finding more and more, better and better space while our existing landlord refused to renegotiate a lower renewal. We went from a “B” building to an “A” building at half the rent with hundreds of thousands of dollars of free furniture.

The point is that tenants are normally the last to find out that rents are dropping.

“All it takes is a couple of big tech companies folding and the floodgates open, causing the sublease market to blow up, rents to drop, and new construction to grind to a halt,” Savills Studley mused in its Q1 report on San Francisco. Read…  “Market is on Edge”: US Commercial Real Estate Bubble Pops, San Francisco Braces for Brutal Dive

by Wolf Richter | Wolf Street

House Prices In ‘Gayborhoods’ Have Soared 20% In Three Years

Commercial Street in Provincetown on Cape Cod.

Gay Americans can take pride in these house prices.

Over the last three years, home prices in neighborhoods popular with cohabiting, married or partnered gay men have grown by an average of 23%, according to research by the real-estate website Trulia. Similarly, prices have risen in neighborhoods that are popular with cohabiting, married or partnered gay women — by an average of 18%. “In honor of Gay Pride this year [the last weekend in June in many U.S. cities], we wanted to revisit these neighborhoods and find out what’s changed,” says Trulia housing economist Ralph McLaughlin.

Among the areas characterized as male “gayborhoods,” prices rocketed 65% to $260 per square foot in the 92262 ZIP Code of Palm Springs, Calif., between 2012 and 2015 and rose 47% to $768 in the 94131 ZIP Code, which comprises the Noe Valley, Glen Park and Diamond Heights neighborhoods of San Francisco. One theory: “If you are not raising children, you have two male incomes and have more money to devote to improve their home environment,” says Gary Gates, a demographer and research director of the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the University of California.

Among neighborhoods popular with lesbians, prices rose 64% to $389 per square foot in the Redwood Heights/Skyline area of Oakland, Calif.

Many of these neighborhoods are in metro areas that have also experienced sharp price gains. But housing in almost all of the so-called gayborhoods was more expensive than in nearby sections, Trulia found. Homes in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco cost $948 per square foot, which is 34% more expensive than the San Francisco metro area as a whole, while West Hollywood, Calif., and Provincetown, Mass., are 123% and 119% more expensive, respectively. Guerneville, Calif., was the only area less expensive than its wider metro-area comparable, but only by 2%.

Where gay men’s neighborhoods are getting more expensive
ZIP Code and city Median price per sq. foot, June 2012 Median price per sq. foot, June 2015 % change in price per sq. foot, June 2012–June 2015
92262: Palm Springs, Calif. $158 $260 65%
94131: Noe Valley/Glen Park/Diamond Heights, San Francisco $522 $768 47%
92264: Palm Springs, Calif. $174 $240 38%
48069: Pleasant Ridge, suburban Detroit $137 $188 37%
94114: Castro, San Francisco $699 $948 36%
90069: West Hollywood, Los Angeles $611 $802 31%
75219: Oak Lawn, Dallas $185 $225 22%
33305: Wilton Manors, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. $249 $292 17%
19971: Rehoboth Beach, Del. $193 $203 5%
02657: Provincetown, Cape Cod, Mass. $604 $616 2%
Average for all gay men’s neighborhoods $188 $238 23%
Note: Only ZIP Codes with at least 1,000 persons are included in the analysis. Average growth rate is weighted by number of gay households, so the listed percentage increase is different than the simple percentage change between average price per foot in 2012 and 2015. Data in this report are different from our report in June 2012 because of new MSA definitions and observed time period of listings (month vs. previous year in the June 2012 report)

Using the 2010 Census, McLaughlin calculated the share of households with same-sex couples in every ZIP Code. Focusing on the top 10 among these ZIP Codes, he then calculated the median price per foot of homes for sale in each ZIP Code on Trulia as of June 1, 2015, and compared it with June 1, 2012. He excluded neighborhoods with populations of less than 1,000. Gayborhoods are defined in the census as those with the highest proportion of same-sex cohabiting couples. (The census doesn’t measure sexual orientation.)

Why the discrepancy in price growth between the two? “The top gay-men neighborhoods are places where prices were already high relative to their metros and were not hit as hard during the housing crash as other less expensive neighborhoods,” McLaughlin says. Gay female couples are more than twice as likely to have children as are gay male couples, he adds, “so it could be that gay women seek up-and-coming neighborhoods with good schools to raise their children.”

Many of the neighborhoods on the list of gayborhoods are also places where people are less likely to have children, Gates says. “This survey is picking up neighborhoods where proportionally, fewer households have children in them,” Gates says. “This survey could be picking up a very practical economic reality.” Wellfleet and Provincetown, both on Cape Cod in Massachusetts; Rehoboth Beach, Del.; and Palm Springs are also popular among retirement communities, he says. “The Castro in San Francisco, while popular with both gay men and lesbians, is not high for child-friendly amenities for families,” he says.

Where gay women’s neighborhoods are getting more expensive
ZIP Code and city Median price per sq. foot, June 2012 Median price per sq. foot, June 2015 % change in price per sq. foot, June 2012–June 2015
94619: Redwood Heights/Skyline, Oakland, Calif. $237 $389 64%
30002: Avondale Estates, suburban Atlanta $114 $173 52%
02130: Jamaica Plain, Boston $303 $414 37%
94114: Castro, San Francisco $699 $948 36%
95446: Guerneville, north of San Francisco $270 $335 24%
01060: Northampton, Mass. $197 $216 10%
19971: Rehoboth Beach, Del. $193 $203 5%
01062: Northampton, Mass. $190 $196 3%
02657: Provincetown, Cape Cod, Mass. $604 $616 2%
02667: Wellfleet, Cape Cod, Mass. $326 $323 -1%
Average for all gay women’s neighborhoods $133 $157 18%
Note: Only ZIP Codes with at least 1,000 persons are included in the analysis. Average growth rate is weighted by number of gay households, so the listed percentage increase is different than the simple percentage change between average price per foot in 2012 and 2015. Data in this report are different from our report in June 2012 because of new MSA definitions and observed time period of listings (month vs. previous year in the June 2012 report)

There are other possible limitations to house-price rises within a gayborhood. A neighborhood may need to be “socially liberal” for an increase in same-sex households to increase house prices, a 2011 study by researchers at Konkuk University in Seoul and Tulane University in New Orleans found. They looked at Columbus, Ohio, and, adjusting for factors such as housing, crime and school quality, analyzed house prices with how residents voted in a 2004 ballot initiative on the Defense of Marriage Act. They found a “positive and significant” impact on prices, but only in more liberal locales.

Diversity is good for the economic development of cities and housing prices, according to Richard Florida, an urban theorist and author of “The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, and Everyday Life,” a book that was republished last year a decade after it was first released.

Florida found that high-tech hot spots followed the locational patterns of gay people. Other measures he created, such as the Bohemian Index, which measured the prevalence of artists, writers and performers, had similar results. “Artistic and gay populations,” he wrote, “cluster in communities that value open-mindedness and self-expression.”

By Quentin Fottrell. Read more in Market Watch

Ramshackle San Francisco home sells for $1.2 million

This San Francisco fixer-upper proves the old real estate adage, “Location, location, location.”

by Daniel Goldstein  Click here to see more images of the home.

The tale of this otherwise humble two-story home selling for more than $1.2 million has gone viral and has much of the real-estate chattering class talking.

“This is not a joke,” wrote SFist’s Jay Barmann. “[T]his is the world we live in.” He called the 1907 four-bedroom, two-bath Craftsman home “ramshackle.” A “total disaster,” chimed in Tracy Elsen, a real-estate blogger in San Francisco.

Indeed, it might not look like much from the outside or on the inside, but where it is — 1644 Great Highway, San Francisco, CA, 94122 — is where it is.

The 1,832-square-foot house, listed on Redfin.com as a “contractor’s special” in a “deteriorative state” that “needs everything,” just sold, on March 24, for a whopping $1.21 million in cash (or $660 a square foot) after being listed in February for $799,000 (a premium of $411,000). At that per-square-foot price, this house, on San Francisco’s often-chilly western fringe, was more expensive than the going rates in Boston, Washington and New York.

The home, even though it has been gutted, has an unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean and sits a short walk across San Francisco’s Great Highway to the beach, and it is just five blocks from San Francisco’s famed Golden Gate Park. Oh, and it’s got off-street parking, not a small thing in the City by the Bay.

The house sold for $340,000 in August of 1997 and was sold for $935,000 in June of 2008, when it looked a lot better.

A minimalist museum and a literary landmark

Since then, the house has taken a pounding. Many of the Craftsman-era fixtures common to Bay Area homes, including stained glass and Tiffany-style lamps, have been ripped out, as have most of the fixtures and carpeting and, evidently, the outdoor hot tub that was listed in 2008 but not mentioned in the 2015 listing. A second-story deck in the front of the house with a view of the ocean remains, but it is badly weathered, as is the forest-green paint, in sharp contrast with the careful upkeep evident in 2008.

But some of what made this home a gem in 2008 remains intact, including its picture windows, its decked garden, the fireplaces with wood mantels, the built-in cabinets common to Craftsman homes, the wainscoting and a gas O’Keefe & Merritt stove that dates back to the late 1940s or early 1950s (collector’s items that are prized by many homeowners in the Bay Area).

And given the fact that San Francisco’s median home price recently hit $1 million, and that it rose 10% between February 2014 and February 2015 and is expected to gain another 4.3% through February 2016, the price for this house, on this lot, might just prove to be a bargain.

Affordable Housing Plan Slaps Fee on California Property Owners

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by Phil Hall

The speaker of California’s State Assembly is seeking to raise new funds for affordable housing development by adding a new $75 fee to the costs of recording real estate documents.

Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat, stated that the new fee would be a permanent addition to the state’s line-up of fees and taxes and would apply to all real estate documents except those related to home sales. Atkins conspicuously avoided citing the $75 figure in a press statement issued by her office, only briefly identifying it as a “small fee” while insisting that she had broad support for the plan.

“The permanent funding source, which earned overwhelming support from California’s business community, will generate hundreds of millions annually for affordable housing and leverage billions of dollars more in federal, local, and bank investment,” Atkins said. “This plan will reap benefits for education, healthcare and public safety as well. The outcomes sought in other sectors improve when housing instability is addressed.”

Atkins added that her plan should add between $300 million to $720 million a year for the state’s affordable housing endeavors. But Atkins isn’t completely focused on collecting revenue: She is simultaneously proposing that developers offering low-income housing should receive $370 million in tax credits, up from the current level of $70 million.

This is the third time that a $75 real estate transaction fee has been proposed in the state legislature. Earlier efforts were put forward in 2012 and 2013, but failed to gained traction. Previously, opponents to the proposal argued that transactions involving multiple documents would be burdened with excess costs because the fee applies on a per-document basis and not a per-transaction basis.

One of the main opponents of Atkins’ proposal, Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the speaker was playing word games by insisting this was merely a fee and that she was penalizing property owners to finance a problem that they did not create.

“It’s clearly a tax, not a fee,” said Coupal. “There is not a nexus between the fee payer and the public need being addressed. It’s not like charging a polluter a fee for the pollution they caused. It’s a revenue that is totally divorced from the so-called need for affordable housing.”

OCWEN Fakes foreclosure Notices To Steal Homes – Downgrade Putting RMBS at Risk

foreclosure for sale

by Carole VanSickle Ellis

If you really would rather own the property than the note, take a few lessons in fraud from Owen Financial Corp. According to allegations from New York’s financial regulator, Benjamin Lawsky, the lender sent “thousands” of foreclosure “warnings” to borrowers months after the window of time had lapsed during which they could have saved their homes[1]. Lawskey alleges that many of the letters were even back-dated to give the impression that they had been sent in a timely fashion. “In many cases, borrowers received a letter denying a mortgage loan modification, and the letter was dated more than 30 days prior to the date that Ocwen mailed the letter.”

The correspondence gave borrowers 30 days from the date of the denial letter to appeal, but the borrowers received the letters after more than 30 days had passed. The issue is not a small one, either. Lawskey says that a mortgage servicing review at Ocwen revealed “more than 7,000” back-dated letters.”

In addition to the letters, Ocwen only sent correspondence concerning default cures after the cure date for delinquent borrowers had passed and ignored employee concerns that “letter-dating processes were inaccurate and misrepresented the severity of the problem.” While Lawskey accused Ocwen of cultivating a “culture that disregards the needs of struggling borrowers,” Ocwen itself blamed “software errors” for the improperly-dated letters[2]. This is just the latest in a series of troubles for the Atlanta-based mortgage servicer; The company was also part the foreclosure fraud settlement with 49 of 50 state attorneys general and recently agreed to reduce many borrowers’ loan balances by $2 billion total.

Most people do not realize that Ocwen, although the fourth-largest mortgage servicer in the country, is not actually a bank. The company specializes specifically in servicing high-risk mortgages, such as subprime mortgages. At the start of 2014, it managed $106 billion in subprime loans. Ocwen has only acknowledged that 283 New York borrowers actually received improperly dated letters, but did announce publicly in response to Lawskey’s letter that it is “investigating two other cases” and cooperating with the New York financial regulator.

WHAT WE THINK: While it’s tempting to think that this is part of an overarching conspiracy to steal homes in a state (and, when possible, a certain enormous city) where real estate is scarce, in reality the truth of the matter could be even more disturbing: Ocwen and its employees just plain didn’t care. There was a huge, problematic error that could have prevented homeowners from keeping their homes, but the loan servicer had already written off the homeowners as losers in the mortgage game. A company that services high-risk loans likely has a jaded view of borrowers, but that does not mean that the entire culture of the company should be based on ignoring borrowers’ rights and the vast majority of borrowers who want to keep their homes and pay their loans. Sure, if you took out a mortgage then you have the obligation to pay even if you don’t like the terms anymore. On the other side of the coin, however, your mortgage servicer has the obligation to treat you like someone who will fulfill their obligations rather than rigging the process so that you are doomed to fail.

Do you think Lawskey is right about Ocwen’s “culture?” What should be done to remedy this situation so that note investors and homeowners come out of it okay?

Thank you for reading the Bryan Ellis Investing Letter!

Your comments and questions are welcomed below.


[1] http://dsnews.com/news/10-23-2014/new-york-regulator-accuses-lender-sending-backdated-foreclosure-notices

[2] http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2014/10/22/ocwen-mortgage-alleged-foreclosure-abuse/

http://investing.bryanellis.com/11703/lender-fakes-foreclosure-notices-to-steal-homes/


Ocwen posts open letter and apology to borrowers
Pledges independent investigation and rectification
October 27, 2014 10:37AM

Ocwen Financial (OCN) has taken a beating after the New York Department of Financial Services sent a letter to the company on Oct. 21 alleging that the company had been backdating letters to borrowers, and now Ocwen is posting an open letter to homeowners.

Ocwen CEO Ron Faris writes to its clients explaining what happened and what steps the company is taking to investigate the issue, identify any problems, and rectify the situation.

Click here to read the full text of the letter.

“At Ocwen, we take our mission of helping struggling borrowers very seriously, and if you received one of these incorrectly-dated letters, we apologize. I am writing to clarify what happened, to explain the actions we have taken to address it, and to commit to ensuring that no borrower suffers as a result of our mistakes,” he writes.

“Historically letters were dated when the decision was made to create the letter versus when the letter was actually created. In most instances, the gap between these dates was three days or less,” Faris writes. “In certain instances, however, there was a significant gap between the date on the face of the letter and the date it was actually generated.”

Faris says that Ocwen is investigating all correspondence to determine whether any of it has been inadvertently misdated; how this happened in the first place; and why it took so long to fix it. He notes that Ocwen is hiring an independent firm to conduct the investigation, and that it will use its advisory council comprised of 15 nationally recognized community advocates and housing counselors.

“We apologize to all borrowers who received misdated letters. We believe that our backup checks and controls have prevented any borrowers from experiencing a foreclosure as a result of letter-dating errors. We will confirm this with rigorous testing and the verification of the independent firm,” Faris writes. “It is worth noting that under our current process, no borrower goes through a foreclosure without a thorough review of his or her loan file by a second set of eyes. We accept appeals for modification denials whenever we receive them and will not begin foreclosure proceedings or complete a foreclosure that is underway without first addressing the appeal.”

Faris ends by saying that Ocwen is committed to keeping borrowers in their homes.

“Having potentially caused inadvertent harm to struggling borrowers is particularly painful to us because we work so hard to help them keep their homes and improve their financial situations. We recognize our mistake. We are doing everything in our power to make things right for any borrowers who were harmed as a result of misdated letters and to ensure that this does not happen again,” he writes.

Last week the fallout from the “Lawsky event” – so called because of NYDFS Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky – came hard and fast.

Compass Point downgraded Ocwen affiliate Home Loan Servicing Solutions (HLSS) from Buy to Neutral with a price target of $18.

Meanwhile, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC’s servicer quality assessments as a primary servicer of subprime residential mortgage loans to SQ3 from SQ3+ and as a special servicer of residential mortgage loans to SQ3 from SQ3+.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered its long-term issuer credit rating to ‘B’ from ‘B+’ on Ocwen on Wednesday and the outlook is negative.

http://www.housingwire.com/articles/31846-ocwen-posts-open-letter-and-apology-to-borrowers

—-
Ocwen Writes Open Letter to Homeowners Concerning Letter Dating Issues
October 24, 2014

Dear Homeowners,

In recent days you may have heard about an investigation by the New York Department of Financial Services’ (DFS) into letters Ocwen sent to borrowers which were inadvertently misdated. At Ocwen, we take our mission of helping struggling borrowers very seriously, and if you received one of these incorrectly-dated letters, we apologize. I am writing to clarify what happened, to explain the actions we have taken to address it, and to commit to ensuring that no borrower suffers as a result of our mistakes.

What Happened
Historically letters were dated when the decision was made to create the letter versus when the letter was actually created. In most instances, the gap between these dates was three days or less. In certain instances, however, there was a significant gap between the date on the face of the letter and the date it was actually generated.

What We Are Doing
We are continuing to investigate all correspondence to determine whether any of it has been inadvertently misdated; how this happened in the first place; and why it took us so long to fix it. At the end of this exhaustive investigation, we want to be absolutely certain that we have fixed every problem with our letters. We are hiring an independent firm to investigate and to help us ensure that all necessary fixes have been made.

Ocwen has an advisory council made up of fifteen nationally recognized community advocates and housing counsellors. The council was created to improve our borrower outreach to keep more people in their homes. We will engage with council members to get additional guidance on making things right for any borrowers who may have been affected in any way by this error.

We apologize to all borrowers who received misdated letters. We believe that our backup checks and controls have prevented any borrowers from experiencing a foreclosure as a result of letter-dating errors. We will confirm this with rigorous testing and the verification of the independent firm. It is worth noting that under our current process, no borrower goes through a foreclosure without a thorough review of his or her loan file by a second set of eyes. We accept appeals for modification denials whenever we receive them and will not begin foreclosure proceedings or complete a foreclosure that is underway without first addressing the appeal.

In addition to these efforts we are committed to cooperating with DFS and all regulatory agencies.

We Are Committed to Keeping Borrowers in Their Homes
Having potentially caused inadvertent harm to struggling borrowers is particularly painful to us because we work so hard to help them keep their homes and improve their financial situations. We recognize our mistake. We are doing everything in our power to make things right for any borrowers who were harmed as a result of misdated letters and to ensure that this does not happen again. We remain deeply committed to keeping borrowers in their homes because we believe it is the right thing to do and a win/win for all of our stakeholders.

We will be in further communication with you on this matter.

Sincerely,
Ron Faris
CEO

YOU DECIDE

Ocwen Downgrade Puts RMBS at Risk

Moody’s and S&P downgraded Ocwen’s servicer quality rating last week after the New York Department of Financial Services made “backdating” allegations. Barclays says the downgrades could put some RMBS at risk of a servicer-driven default.

http://findsenlaw.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/ocwen-downgraded-in-response-to-ny-dept-of-financial-services-backdating-allegations-against-ocwen/

Home Ownership Rate Since 2005

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by Wolf Richter

The quintessential ingredient in the stew that makes up a thriving housing market has been evaporating in America. And a recent phenomenon has taken over: private equity firms, REITs, and other Wall-Street funded institutional investors have plowed the nearly free money the Fed has graciously made available to them since 2008 into tens of thousands of vacant single-family homes to rent them out. And an apartment building boom has offered alternatives too.

Since the Fed has done its handiwork, institutional investors have driven up home prices and pushed them out of reach for many first-time buyers, and these potential first-time buyers are now renting homes from investors instead. Given the high home prices, in many cases it may be a better deal. And apartments are often centrally located, rather than in some distant suburb, cutting transportation time and expenses, and allowing people to live where the urban excitement is. Millennials have figured it out too, as America is gradually converting to a country of renters.

So in its inexorable manner, home ownership has continued to slide in the third quarter, according to the Commerce Department. Seasonally adjusted, the rate dropped to 64.3% from 64.7 in the prior quarter. It was the lowest rate since Q4 1994 (not seasonally adjusted, the rate dropped to 64.4%, the lowest since Q1 1995).

This is what that relentless slide looks like:

US-quarterly-homeownership-rates-1995-2014

Home ownership since 2008 dropped across all age groups. But the largest drops occurred in the youngest age groups. In the under-35 age group, where first-time buyers are typically concentrated, home ownership has plunged from 41.3% in 2008 to 36.0%; and in the 35-44 age group, from 66.7% to 59.1%, with a drop of over a full percentage point just in the last quarter – by far the steepest.

Home ownership, however, didn’t peak at the end of the last housing bubble just before the financial crisis, but in 2004 when it reached 69.2%. Already during the housing bubble, speculative buying drove prices beyond the reach of many potential buyers who were still clinging by their fingernails to the status of the American middle class … unless lenders pushed them into liar loans, a convenient solution many lenders perfected to an art.

It was during these early stages of the housing bubble that the concept of “home” transitioned from a place where people lived and thrived or fought with each other and dealt with onerous expenses and responsibilities to a highly leveraged asset for speculators inebriated with optimism, an asset to be flipped willy-nilly and laddered ad infinitum with endless amounts of cheaply borrowed money. And for some, including the Fed it seems, that has become the next American dream.

Despite low and skidding home ownership rates, home prices have been skyrocketing in recent years, and new home prices have reached ever more unaffordable all-time highs.

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