Big corporations trying to reignite housing bubble - (www.sacbee.com) An investment firm that owns the Waldorf Astoria hotel and the Weather Channel has bought more than 500 houses in Sacramento in the past few months, betting upward of $60 million that home prices will rise. Blackstone, a New York-based group with billions of dollars in investments and offices from London to Tokyo, has been snapping up low-priced homes across the region, from Elk Grove to Citrus Heights, at a rate of about 40 a week. It marks the first time a major investment firm has bought in Sacramento on such a scale – a direct result of the thousands of houses left vacant by foreclosures in recent years and offered at fire-sale prices. "Prior to the current housing cycle, it was essentially unheard of" for major investment funds to buy single-family homes, said Stuart Gabriel, director of the Ziman Center for Real Estate at UCLA. "The exodus from home ownership and the dislocation of homeowners has been unprecedented."
Loan modification defaults soar 24%, can-kicking fails - (www.ochousingnews.com) Whenever I make a prediction that goes against the conventional wisdom, I take the risk of looking the fool. On those occasions when I am right, it’s very satisfying. Even though I know I shouldn’t, internally, I enjoy a silent I-told-you-so. Almost four years ago now, lenders embarked on their plan to modify loans to get people over the “rough patch” caused by the recession. From the beginning I said these programs would fail largely because the people being helped simply couldn’t afford their homes. They were Ponzis. When a borrower has gone Ponzi, the “rough patch” is when they are cut off from more Ponzi borrowing. Their diminished income has nothing to do with lower wages they earn due to the recession. Ponzis became dependent upon fresh infusions of borrowed money to sustain their lives and their debts, and lenders are foolish to continue to enable this behavior because Ponzis don’t have the capacity to repay the loans. They don’t earn enough money.
What about this for the Affordable Housing disaster? - (www.nytimes.com) They emerge unscathed from rough seas and handling, but can those impregnable shipping containers on the waterfront survive 5-year-olds with permanent markers? As thousands of families left homeless by Hurricane Sandy struggle to find lodging, New York City and federal officials are pushing ahead with plans to develop a new line of temporary housing that could be rolled out quickly for future disasters. Those plans, city officials said, call for using shipping containers, or other types of modular units, that — unlike trailers — could be stacked high to maximize space in a city with little real estate to spare. The city’s disaster housing plan, which has been under development for five years and was reported Monday by The New York Observer, would not affect those currently displaced by the storm. They have been scattered across the city in hotels, friends’ homes and vacant apartments.
Realtor stole for sale signs - (www.boston.com) A Connecticut real estate agent has been charged with stealing a competitor’s for sale signs from the front lawns of area homes. Police say 54-year-old Robert Toth, of Shelton, was charged Wednesday with third-degree larceny and first-degree criminal trespass. Toth owns American Home Realty in Trumbull. Police say U.S. Asset Realty owner Jihad Shaheer complained in September that his signs had been stolen from more than a half-dozen sites in Bridgeport and from the front of two homes in Stratford.
"Sovereign Citizens" seek to avoid foreclosure - (www.ocregister.com) Faced with foreclosure after falling $19,000 behind on his mortgage, an Anaheim man took matters into his own hands. Sitting at his keyboard, he tapped out an official-looking, one-page document stating that his mortgage didn't exist. This picture shows the aftermath of a February 2012 incident in which anti-tax activist Joseph Andrew Stack flew a private airplane into the Austin, TX offices of the IRS, killing himself and a federal employee. Stack is believed to have been tied to the sovereign citizen movement. "I have searched and inquired of your records and found that you have no such record," he wrote. "Therefore, I demand that you remove this recording immediately." The homeowner then took his document to the county and attempted to file it at the Orange County Clerk-Recorder's Office. Had he succeeded, more than $300,000 in debt would have vanished. His four-bedroom, 2.5-bath condo would be his free and clear. Instead, the county rejected his filing as "unrecordable." His property is in the early stages of the foreclosure process. Influenced by the "sovereign citizen" movement, the Anaheim homeowner is among a growing number of people filing liens and notices seeking to wipe out mortgages, eliminate car loans, cancel credit card debt and halt foreclosures, according to county and law enforcement officials.