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Foreclosure mill that mocked foreclosure victims shutting down, blames NYT

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Photos from the NYTimes by a former employee of the law firm of Steven J. Baum: Two Steven J. Baum employees mocking homeowners who have been foreclosed on.

Foreclosure mill shutting doors

Last month, a former employee at the Baum law firm (a New York foreclosure mill) shared photos from the company’s 2010 Halloween party wherein they dressed up as homeless people and mocked foreclosure victims, and after the photos were leaked to the New York Times’ Joe Nocera, the firm apologized and attempted to undo their public relations mess.

Now, the foreclosure mill is shutting their doors for good. In an interesting twist, rather than quietly pack up their offices and move on to their next careers, the firm is blaming the NYT journalist, writing directly to him, ““Mr. Nocera — You have destroyed everything and everyone related to Steven J. Baum PC. It took 40 years to build this firm and three weeks to tear down.”

Really?

Nocara gently notes that in response to his column featuring the Halloween photos, “Representative Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, wrote the firm a letter demanding documents and records. In New York, the attorney general’s office ratcheted up its investigation of the firm; I heard that investigators were looking for more photographs of Baum Halloween parties. Occupy Buffalo protesters picketed Baum’s offices in nearby Amherst, N.Y. And, not least, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own or guarantee half the country’s mortgages, issued new rules forbidding servicers of their mortgages from using Steven J. Baum.”

Additionally, in response to the national robo-signing debacle, a new rule was passed down that required all servicers to sign a document that “affirms” the validity and accuracy of a foreclosure which led to an immediate and dramatic drop in the number of foreclosures in New York where the mega foreclosure mill operates.

Buffalo Business First reports that the $2 million settlement over its business practices could be the culprit in their closing their doors or that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac recently severed ties with the foreclosure mill.

Never mind all that, blame the journalist

Never mind that they aren’t fed by Fannie and Freddie anymore or that they were just ordered $2 million in a settlement, or that their pipeline closed as they were forbidden from servicing a foreclosure without legally affirming the validity of the foreclosure, or that they are under investigation at the New York attorney general’s office or that Occupy Buffalo protesters are at their offices.

Never mind all that, the firm’s owner blames Nocero. Rather than become angered privately, he wrote to the journalist, “There is blood on your hands for this one, Joe… I will never, ever forgive you for this.” Nocera’s response is simple, “I think that’s what they call shooting the messenger.”

Austin

Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?

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Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.

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aging housing inventory

aging housing inventory

The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

Click here to continue reading this story…

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.

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zillow move

Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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