Archive for December 29th, 2005

Tagged for 5 Neurotic Habits

Emily of Portia Rediscovered (and if you are a single male, what are you doing reading this? Introduce yourself to her) has tagged me for this 5 neurotic habits thing. The rules:
“The first player of this game starts with the topic “five weird habits of yourself,” and people who get tagged need to write an entry about their five weird habits as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose the next five people to be tagged and link to their web journals. Don’t forget to leave a comment in their blog or journal that says “You are tagged” (assuming they take comments) and tell them to read yours.”
OK. So my five (only five?) weird habits.
  1. Maps fascinate me.  I can stare at a map for a Rain man-esque period of time. I have no idea why.
  2. I have a benign obsession with the lottery and what I’d do if I were to win a fortune. I have an excel spreadsheet somewhere with jackpots listed in increments of $5 million, the after tax annuity value, and a list of ventures I would undertake based on different amounts. Given our proximity to Connecticut, if we go for a "drive in the country," I’ll buy a Powerball ticket, which is not available in New York.
  3. Whenever I travel, I buy the local team’s baseball cap. I own over 300 baseball caps. In general, I am a gigantic baseball fan and if you name a year I can tell you who won that season’s World Series, over whom, and in how many games. I know so much arcane minutiae about baseball statistics that my friends will call me long distance to settle a bet at a bar. I can also study the diagram of a baseball stadium for the same amount of time as a map.
  4. I can catch food thrown across the room in my mouth if you are anywhere close to the strike zone. This amuses my nephews no end. I suppose this doesn’t qualify as a habit but look at all the stuff I gave you in #3. OK, fine. Here’s a better one: I shave with Noxzema. Don’t knock it until you try it.
  5. If I go a half a day without checking my email I feel naked. I feel the same way if I run out for a loaf of bread and forget to bring my cell phone.
In turn, I shall tag:
Chad of Cake or Death? was already tagged, so I’ll pass it to
Dave of Soul of Wit, although I doubt he’s likely to want to.
There. I have now participated in a web journal chain letter. I feel kinda dirty. Thanks to Emily for thinking of me.

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I did some snooping around about those "We Buy Houses" signs that are all over the place these days. My intrigue is not with people who buy a house, fix it up, and re-sell it for a profit. I have done that in less expensive markets, as do my associates. My curiosity has more to do with someone who ostensibly has the means to shell out the money to do this in this expensive area, yet is relegated to tacking nasty looking signs to telephone poles to ply their trade. It just seems incongruous that someone with half a million or a million dollars in a cash fund (which is what it takes around here, at minimum) would run around town nailing signs to roadsides.
I have spoken with some of these people, and the ones I have contacted do not appear to have that kind of money. They say they have mortgage contacts. Well, I am a mortgage contact. That makes me skeptical. The term "equity skimming" has come up, which many bring up and say they never do. For people that never do it, they sure know how it works. Here is what they tell me:
  • Find a homeowner in dire straights and behind on their mortgage. It could be due to loss of a job, divorce, or age/infirmity.
  • Have them deed the house house over in exchange for bringing their mortgage current. This could be a matter of a few payments or a year’s arrears. The existing mortgage is not paid off, but the buyer may represent that either it is or that the seller is no longer obligated to it once the house is "sold."
  • Rent the house out without paying the mortgage to get the upfront money back.
  • Sell the house at a quick dump price and keep the equity the owner would have gotten if they had sold the house legitimately.
These investors do distance themselves from equity skimming, yet I never heard of it, so the consumer probably never heard of it either. So why even bring it up?
Another peculiar thing these people do is crow that they aren’t real estate licensees, and the context would have you think that is a good thing. Law in this state presumes that licensees know more than the consumer, and are therefore held to a higher standard of conduct than two private parties engaging in a transaction. Simply put, a licensee has a license to lose; an unlicensed investor doesn’t. What’s the advantage? Would you rather deal with a licensed plumber or an unlicensed one? What about legal counsel from someone without a license to practice law?
Now, before I give the impression that I am Mother Theresa and that I look down on people who are trying to make a buck, let me assure you that buying an undervalued property is the wet dream of anyone in real estate, including me. I actively look for bargains. There are some established and legitimate firms out there that do this all day. These investors with the roadside signs may well have scruples and may not be the types to swindle little old ladies out of their home of 40 years for a song. However, from what I have seen from many of them, they do a poor job of proving it. Here’s what is probably going on: the guy making all the money in this is the the book and tape course guru with the the street corner sign idea. Oh, and the sign makers. They’re doing OK too. Caveat vendor.

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