The $6.4 Trillion Question:  Why Not??

I’m sure Eric Holder accomplished lots of other things during his six-year tenure as (now-outgoing) U.S. Attorney General.

holderUnfortunately, holding Wall Street accountable for its egregious — and frequently criminal — conduct at the heart of The 2008 Financial Crash most certainly wasn’t one of them.

The really hard part to swallow:  it’s not that Mr. Holder tried and failed; he demonstrably didn’t even try.

Too Big to Jail?  Wait for the Memoir

Whether that was because of pressure from his boss; fear of wider economic consequences (“too big to jail”); and/or a too-cozy relationship with Wall Street, we won’t know until Mr. Holder’s memoir addresses the matter (or not), presumably 2-3 years from now.

Or at least until Mr. Holder decides where to put up his legal shingle, post-Justice Department (bonus question:  do you think the law firm will do business with Wall Street and/or lobby Congress on Wall Street-related legislation??).

Call it, “Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss” (apologies to “The Who’s” classic “Won’t Get Fooled Again”).

In the meantime, all I know is this:

If a car dealer sold cars with defective brakes — indeed, designed them to be defective — then bought insurances policies on the people it duped into buying them, I’ve got a hunch that Mr. Holder and his lieutenants would have found a way to put a few people in jail (and very much out of business).

Too bad we can’t say the same about Wall Street.

Carnivorous Bankers, umm . . . Car Dealers

That colorful — and very accurate — analogy — isn’t mine.

It’s courtesy of Phil Angelides, the former California State Treasurer who chaired the Senate’s inquiry into the financial melt-down.

If anything, Angelides’ analogy is not nearly as sordid as what really occurred — it omits a key, last step.

Namely, when AIG, the company standing behind all those insurance policies, failed, the U.S. government stepped in to effectively pay its obligations.

At 100¢ on the dollar.

In other words, when the inevitable financial carnage arrived — and boy, did it arrive — all those carnivorous “car dealers” got paid off by . . . us.*

In many cases, after (before?) using taxpayers’ bailout money to pay themselves . . . wait for it . . . bonuses.

Mr. Holder’s official position on all of the above:  ”unsavory, but not illegal.”

Really, Mr. Holder?


See also, “Drug Dealers vs. Bankers:  ’Top Ten’ Differences“; “Number of the Week:  $600 Trillion(!!)”; “Deconstructing AIG:  Define, “Almost”; “AIG Explained“; “Hank Paulson’s ‘Five Years Later’:  I’m Not Buying It“; and “Michael Lewis’ “The Big Short”:  Diabolical Castles in the Sky.”

*Fans of 1973 sci-fi great “Soylent Green” will recognize an eery (and sickening) parallel.


The Twin Cities’ “San Francisco Summer”

by Ross Kaplan on September 28, 2014


What’s a “San Francisco Summer?”  Sort of Like a New York Minute

 “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

–Mark Twain

Clearly, Twain didn’t know the best time to visit San Francisco.

That would be September – October, when the adjacent Pacific warms up usually chilly San Francisco — often into the 80′s or higher (benefit #2:  fewer tourists).

That compares with “Summer” temps in the (frequently) foggy 60′s.

Calendar Confusion; When Fall = Summer

The explanation is obviously different, but the Twin Cities this year is enjoying an unusually warm early Fall, with abundant sun, low humidity, and temps in the 70′s and even 80′s.

On the weekend, to boot! (the last several, in fact).

P.S.:  The cold weather reprieve is especially welcome following this year’s very delayed Spring.


Curb Appeal: When Less is More

by Ross Kaplan on September 27, 2014

Addition By Subtraction 

Just like staging a home’s interior is mostly about subtraction, not addition, improving a home’s curb appeal is usually about paring back.

Most common task:  cutting back overgrown landscaping that obscures the home’s curb appeal.

In this case, removing this Fern Hill duplex’s window awnings (above) was a 2-for-1:  1) it punched up the dated curb 1_Front_Summerappeal; and 2) it made the interior lighter.

The Buyer agreed:  the duplex, located at 2921 Huntington Ave. South,  just sold for $393k this Wednesday.

It was my listing (conveniently located directly across the street from Edina Realty – City Lakes).

The Buyer’s agent – what Realtors oddly refer to as “the Selling agent” — was Jeff Casale, ReMax.

Click here to see what the duplex looked liked virtually staged.

P.S.:  there can be a hitch removing awnings from older stucco homes, which is why some owners hesitate to do it:  the stucco may require patching afterwards.

See also, “Quick!  Who Does the Selling Agent Represent?


Moot Unless Something’s Happened to the Home

It’s not what I recommend to my Buyer clients, but there are plenty of Buyers who put off doing their walk-thru inspection until just before closing.

Like, on the way.

home_insp2At least in theory, the Owner has an ongoing duty to update their Seller’s Disclosure up to and through closing.

So, if something had happened to the home subsequent to the Inspection but before closing, it would be incumbent upon the Seller to let the Buyer know.

What the Seller Doesn’t Know

The catch with relying on the Seller to report a subsequent home issue?

First, the Seller has to know about it.

I’m aware of plenty of situations where a forthcoming Seller genuinely wasn’t aware of a walk-thru issue until the Buyer brought it to their attention.

“Trust But Verify” Redux

Of course, if the Seller has already moved out — and possibly relocated to another city — they likely will not be aware of any last-minute house issues.

All of which argues for doing the walk-through inspection far ahead enough of closing to leave time to resolve any issues that come up.

The convention:  within 48 hours of closing.

P.S.: There is one legitimate reason to do the walk-thru as late as possible (or, doing it again):  the Buyer wants to verify that the home has been emptied out and left clean.

See also, “Home Buyer’s Final Walk-Through Inspection“; “What if the Seller Isn’t Moved Out by Closing?“; and ”Springing a Leak — or a Lake(?!?) — Before Closing.”


Michael Lewis on What’s Wrong with Wall Street

September 25, 2014

. . . & By Implication, Modern America “When you see others . . . doing stuff at the expense of the broader society, your first reaction, at least early in your career, might be to call them out, but your considered reaction will be to keep mum about it. And when you see people making […]

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“Anyone Know an Inspector for a Geothermal Heating/Cooling System?”

September 24, 2014

Increasing Market Penetration? Realtors cast around for inspector referrals all the time. (Much) less common:  a Buyer’s agent trying to turn up an inspector qualified to inspect a geothermal heating/cooling system (I received the first such email this am via Edina Realty’s “broadcast” feature). Good! First, homeowners have to install such systems, either as retrofits or […]

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Can the Inspection Timetable Be Extended? Yes, But . . .

September 23, 2014

Inspection Contingency Catch-22 Like any contract, the Inspection Contingency — which governs the Buyer’s inspection timetable — can be amended if both parties agree. The most common amendment:  a time extension to allow both sides to get more info about an inspection-related issue. The catch, though — especially if turnaround time is an issue with […]

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“Climate Change Refuges”: Anchorage, Seattle, Portland . . . Twin Cities(??)

September 23, 2014

Climate Change Migration “There may be other [climate] refuges to the east. Don’t count out the elevated inland cities in the country’s midsection, like Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Milwaukee and Detroit.  “I predict we’re going to have millions of people moving to those areas,” said Matthew E. Kahn, a professor of environmental economics at the […]

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