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Posts Tagged ‘FEMA’

Incentivized by FEMA, ‘Houses on Stilts’

March 31, 2014 | 6:00 am |

Nearly a year ago, my wife and I went for a drive in the next town over from where we live in Connecticut and stumbled across a slew of houses being modified to the FEMA Base Flood Elevation (BFE). It was eye opening for me since I never envisioned a house – especially houses built 30-50 years ago – as so readily moveable. As a kid I had observed my dad have his real estate office moved 2 doors down so he could sell his lot to an adjacent condo developer….and 40-years later both of those buildings are standing.

Note all the”tall” garages.

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It also raises valuation issues. How will an appraiser handle the valuation of the house next to the house that was raised? We may see the market apply a penalty to the house not on stilts in a flood zone.

This was a home being lifted last spring…

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and with the work complete…

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What would a potential buyer of the house next door (in a flood zone) think?
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The Good Life Magazine – The French View of NYC

November 25, 2012 | 7:53 pm |

I provided some insight to a recent edition of a new French Magazine called The Good Life – the issue was dubbed 100% New York.

Since we make so much of the influence of international buyers in the New York City market, I found the issue to be refreshing as I flipped through it in its entirety, as if providing some sort of validation that the way we see the market as locals is how others outside of the US see it.

Of course this is a stretch because the issue is entirely in french, but hey, I took five years of french in school and on a good day can remember how to ask for permission to sharpen a pencil.

For the real estate portion, you can open it here, for the entire magazine – you can buy it here.

With the recent ratings downgrade to French banks, I wonder if the flow to US assets will accelerate.

Jonathan Miller
fondateur et président de Miller Samuel Inc.

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Sandy Language Summary: Snor’eastercane, SoPo and a Sturdy Mailbox

November 2, 2012 | 5:36 pm | nytlogo |

Remember this mailbox? It’s been through a lot. The photo is of my street in my CT home town, one of many downed trees and wires on my street. It’s been a long work week, especially since I haven’t been able to work much without power at home or work and it’s not nearly been a week since Sandy wreaked havoc on the Northeast US. My family and friends are safe and I feel very fortunate.

I’ve expanded or refreshed my vocabulary since Super-Storm Sandy – here’s my slow wifi, town library recap:

%$$%%!!! Your one word profanity-laden scream (insert word of your preference) when one of your favorite healthy 6-story shade trees falls down next to your house during the storm and you realize the storm is no longer an adventure (incidentally a tree falls really fast, not like in the movies).

OMG – The word you utter when your fireman son tells you about all the near misses with falling trees while they were out on the truck responding to emergency calls while your other adult child is taking pictures of the storm and submitting them to the local paper’s web site.

Boom of Doom – What my friend Michael Gross called the collapsed crane on West 57th Street, which forced the evacuation of his apartment nearby.

Zone A – A FEMA designation that few were familiar with (as appraisers we are) that now smoothly rolls off everyone’s tongue in everyday conversation.

Waterfront – That highly sought after real estate amenity that has everyone wondering if living away from the water would be better. Nah.

Flood – See “Waterfront”

“Coned” – The way a long-time Weather Channel anchor was pronouncing the NYC’s electric utility “Con-ed”

SoPo – (h/t to my friend Dan Alpert) was an overheard description for “South of Power” – Manhattan below 39th Street is without power. Of course, my office is located on 38th and remains dark.

NoPo – My alternative to “SoPo” and it is not location specific – it refers to anywhere that has power.

Electricity – It’s that crazy magical force that makes pretty much everything we rely on actually work and we only notice it when we don’t have it.

Primary (Service) Wire – The name my fireman son gave a large thick black wire – if you touch it while electricity is coursing through it – you catch on fire – incidentally one of these wires is still laying on my front lawn.

Snor’eastercane – The nickname given to the storm coming to our area next week bringing cold weather, snow and rain. Has it’s own twitter handle.

Sandy – A hurricane we won’t forget. Replaces “Back in ’38” with “Back in ’12″

Frankenstorm – See “Sandy”

Super-Storm – aka Mega-Storm. See “Sandy”

Puzzles – Those arcane cardboard pieces of art cut into odd shapes that you try to reconnect when you have no power and have to actually speak to your significant other and your kids.

YES!!!! – The near-expletive yelled with joy when we discovered our boat dock came within 6 inches of lifting over the piling and floating away with our boat. Always have a “YES!!!” “chambered” and ready to use it when your power turns back on.

UPDATE

Treemaggedon – What it felt like to see huge trees down all over our street and yard.

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Housing Fantasy Is The New Reality Television

March 12, 2008 | 11:56 pm | nytlogo |

Housing has long been viewed as an emotional investment. Along with the housing boom of the past 5 years, there has a been a boom in reality television shows. My first obsession was This Old House when Bob Vila was host.

Housing has morphed into a national obsession. No surprise there.

Take a look at this week’s television schedule for HGTV.

If we aren’t watching people decorate, we are watching them, sell, buy and flip houses.

This AP story I came across in the Washington Post called Real Estate Cold, Real Estate TV Hot seems to defy reality. Ratings are very high.

Given the downturn in many real estate markets across the country, I am struck by the dated nature of the reality show title “Flip This House”.

  • Are people still flipping?
  • Will buys consider a flip with so much excess inventory?
  • What banks are providing investors financing these days…reality shows???

The irony here is that housing reality shows have become housing fantasy shows.

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Paying For The Sins of Lending

May 5, 2007 | 11:42 am |

New York Senator Charles Schumer wants to throw some compassion (and money) to consumer groups to bail out troubled homeowners. Its a noble gesture that will certainly help some people, but its really just a drop in the bucket. Salve in the wound so to speak.

Here is my problem with this sort of throwing money at the solution solution:

  • The idea of government providing help to its citizens have a very recent bad history (remember the extra FEMA trailers for New Orleans?)
  • The amount proposed has got to be a fraction of what is really needed as evidenced by the nearly 30 subprime lenders that have gone out of business in the past 2 months.
  • I would imagine that not every one of people hurt by subprime lenders, were unaware of the gamble they were taking. At what point does personal responsibility start?
  • And most importantly, this will virtually guarantee that if this bill is passed, a few years from now we will read about how the money was mismanaged.

In the rush for profits and lack of supervision, subprime lending will have a lot more to answer to in the future. Pointing the finger is a natural reaction to this and its deserved, but it doesn’t change the system. A lot of people were hurt, and so far, no meaningful discussions on how this could have been prevented have taken place.


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Talkin’ About The Weather Around The House (In Your Hip Boots)

March 12, 2007 | 10:47 am | nytlogo |

After the nation was able to make it past the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, we were faced with an SI cover story on global warming.

One of the lessons from Hurricane Katrina and made official recently from climatologists, is that we are influencing to a certain degree, the weather. In fact, if we all go green right now, its probably too late to undo the damage. I had read somewhere that every mile of lost wetlands around New Orleans results in one foot of additional storm surge. The loss of wetlands over the past 50 years escalated the damage of Katrina…it wasn’t all about the levees.

A few degrees of warmer weather and a few inches of water can cause havoc in the housing market, especially with the surge (no pun intended) of second homes, of which a significant portion are located on coastal waterways and shoreline. There was an interesting cover story by Teri Rogers called The Real Riddle of Changing Weather: How Safe Is My Home? in last Sunday’s New York Times Real Estate section about consideration given to these changes in a high density urban market like New York City.

Click here for full sized graphic.

One of the take aways from the article for me was the potential underground damage to transportation and utilities and the rise in the use of glass in architectural design.

Incidentally, the FEMA flood zone maps for New York City haven’t been updated since 1983 and Battery Park City, which is a neighborhood created on the Hudson River from a landfill using the earth from the World Trade Center site isn’t even on the FEMA map. The maps still show the pre-existing piers. FEMA flood zone maps rate areas as zones of risk such as A5, B and C, usually in one hundred year increments. Perhaps, the time frame might need to be rethought.


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Real Estate “Get Rich” Euphoria May Be Distasteful, But Not The Root Of All Evil

December 11, 2006 | 10:57 am | irslogo |

The billboards and announcements proclaiming that you can get rich in real estate, while distasteful to many (self-included – wondering how people that attend these seminars can be so gullible, but it does make them feel good, I suppose), haven’t created much of a cynical backlash, probably based on the values of most Americans, according to a recent Gallup Poll Most Americans Do Not Have a Strong Desire to Be Rich [link expires tomorrow]. In other words, over half of Americans seek more money as a personal goal but does not think badly about people already with wealth.

Of course, this is only a poll, and I wonder if the results wouldn’t have been reversed about two years ago, when real estate was a different animal.

Look at the game show phenomenon [WSJ].

Recently we had “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and now there are others:

Next Tuesday, Walt Disney Co.’s ABC unveils “Show Me the Money,” a splashy series hosted by William Shatner. Contestants win money by answering trivia questions and then choosing among 13 female dancers, who carry scrolls containing secret dollar amounts.

It joins the popular game shows “Deal or No Deal” and “1 vs. 100″ on General Electric Co.’s NBC. Meanwhile, News Corp.’s Fox has “The Rich List” and CBS is working to remake “Name That Tune,” a program that first aired in 1953.

Get rich seminars seem to be more about energy and optimism than specific investment techniques. Here’s a seminar recap shared by someone who attended one held here in New York this year. (note: I accurately guessed what was said before they shared the substance of the event) :

  • You have to love what you do
  • Be passionate about your efforts
  • Look for hidden value, think differently
  • Surround yourself with smart people
  • Work hard and never give up
  • Work smart and take calculated risks

Of course, there were also some specifics, primarily dealing with tax implications.

I might have missed a few choice ideas but you get the idea. Of course there are always exceptions and those who succeed are who get included in the advertising campaign. I’d be wary of anyone who teaches get rich in real estate seminars for a living. If they were so successful as real estate investors, then why are they teaching you instead of doing deals? Carlton Sheets on the late night infommercials comes to mind. Here’s a great summary of all the supposed real estate gurus.

Trump is the exception. He made his fortune in real estate and keeps working at it and has greatly expanded his efforts, seemingly everywhere in the US these days. He provides the celebrity factor to the Learning Annex efforts and gets paid a fortune for very little time committment. Its a smart investment on his part.

I sort of view these seminars like playing the lottery. The demographics of people that play the lottery on a regular basis are least likely to afford playing it.

Ok, back to the poll…

recent Gallup Panel survey asked a nationally representative sample of American adults for their attitudes about money and wealth. The poll finds that most Americans apparently do not have a strong desire to be rich, although half say making more money is a personal goal. The public tends to think that those who make a lot of money deserve it, but not to think that those who are poor deserve their lot in life. A majority also believes that anyone can get rich. Men, especially younger men, tend to desire to be rich more than women do.

Some other results…

The public does not begrudge rich people — a majority of Americans, 54%, say that those who make a lot of money deserve it. They also believe that almost anyone can get rich if they put their mind to it, by a 53% to 46% margin. At the same time, Americans strongly reject the notion that those who are poor merit their situation — only 14% agree and 85% disagree that “people who are poor deserve it.”

Some other points:

  • 42% of lower-income respondents (residing in households in which the annual income is less than $35,000) say they would be happier if they were rich, the same percentage as respondents in higher-income households ($75,000 or more per year). Thirty-three percent of middle-income respondents (incomes between $35,000 and $75,000) say they would be happier if they were rich.

  • Just 34% of people in upper-income households agree that money is the root of all evil, compared with 48% of those in middle-income households and 52% of those in lower-income households.

  • 23% percent of lower-income respondents say that poor people deserve to be poor, a much higher percentage than found among middle- (12%) or upper-income (5%) respondents.

Of course, with all my cycnism about get rich seminars, I didn’t make a fortune in real estate either.


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Silent Mortgages Could Make A Lot Of Noise In The Gulf

January 17, 2006 | 12:01 am | wsjlogo |

Jeffrey Lubell, the Executive Director of the Center for Housing Policy in Washington, DC writes commentary called: Let’s Talk Out Loud About ‘Silent Mortgages’ [WSJ]

For the devastated Gulf Region, silent mortgages could be an effective way to rebuild in addition to FEMA grants and SBA loans.

Download the discussion draft [pdf]

With silent mortgages, no payments are due until the homes are resold. Because the source of repayment is the property itself, rather than the family’s income, poor credit and low incomes are less significant obstacles, enabling far more families to qualify.

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All Is Not Well On The Gulf Coast (FEMAVille)

December 13, 2005 | 12:01 am | wsjlogo |

Can we imagine a country without New Orleans? One could argue it will never be the same. Of course this story is not running on CNN all day so public interest in the devastation appears to be waning.

The housing.com post FEMAVille Update makes the point if many of the developers jockeying for reconstruction rights get their way, the whole Gulf Coast may end up not resembling anything like its old self. [NYT]

Some other developments:

FEMA is could cut its federal obligation by counting as in-kind contributions if a proposed law if adopted. [Louisiana Weekly]

Wells Fargo & Washington Mutual are giving an extra three months to storm victims to resume making mortgage payments and possibly longer [WSJ]

I know of an appraiser in New Orleans who lost all of her investment properties – wiped clean off their foundations. How long will they take to be rebuilt, if ever? FEMA wants the properties rebuilt higher off the ground and sturdier. There are many who simply want to rebuild it the way it was [NYT].

Whats the best way to proceed? Its not clear to me what the best course of action is. To simply rebuild the levees to withstand category 3 storms proved to be ineffective and costly in terms of lives and resources. To rebuild at category 5 or 6 strength is signficantly more expensive and would take years. FEMA has encouraged development in flood plains by providing (subsidizing) low cost flood insurance [Matrix] that encourages construction in low lying areas.

What a mess.


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I Just Saved A Bunch Of Money On My Flood Insurance By Switching To The National Flood Insurance Program!

September 22, 2005 | 9:36 pm |

With all the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and possibly more from Rita in two days, its probably a good idea to consider flood insurance if your property is vulnerable. Yet only about one-quarter of the homes in areas most vulnerable are insured against flood loss [Insure.com], according to the Federal Insurance Administration (FIA). In those areas, flooding is 26 times more likely to occur than a fire during the course of a typical 30-year mortgage.

[FEMA's official flood insurance web site [floodsmart.gov]]

John Stossel of ABC News provided commentary on his experience with his waterfront beach house that was washed away in a winter storm [ABC News]. He contends that the federal government should not be in the insurance business. The low premiums (hundreds instead of thousands) actually encourages development in low lying areas. There is a cap on the amount covered but not the number of times the property owner can be reimbursed.

The average annual cost is $450 per month and many homeowners don’t realize flood damage is not covered in standard household insurance policies. Now insurance companies are offering high end houses full coverage or supplemental coverage [REJ] in addition to the federal program.


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