About a year ago I saw a political cartoon where a 1950-styled Dad reading a newspaper says to his son, "This newspaper says young people view big American cars as outdated and obsolete." The son on his computer and cell phone answers, "What's a newspaper?"
As news and advertising has made a wholesale move to the Internet, there's been plenty of speculation about the future of printed newspapers. For as long as I can remember the place to advertise real estate was the Sunday Real Estate section of the local paper. If you wanted to sell real estate during the 70's through the 90's Sunday's paper was where you needed to advertise, particularly for developers and builders of new communities. The Internet has now drained those advertising dollars from the print papers.
It was an industry show-stopper this week when the L.A. Times printed the last issue of their Sunday Real Estate section. A real estate tradition laid to rest. But no time for tears. They are taking the show to the Internet and dispersing real estate editorial to other sections of the newspaper.
I guess things are settled now. You either have to have a computer (and know how to use it) or a Realtor in order to buy a house.
It is a green choice to go paperless but the real reason the L.A. Times shut down the housing section was deep cutbacks in operations and a lack of interest from advertisers.
Although this is probably as much a statement about the real estate market in California, Los Angeles in particular, as it is about the future of hardcopy newspapers, I doubt even with a market comeback we will ever see the Sunday Real Estate section again, at least on the streets of L.A.
Look for other large metropolitan papers to follow suit.
July 30, 2008
July 29, 2008
Painful as it is, the housing market is gradually moving toward a bottom with foreclosures leading the long, forced march.
Last week the National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales declined again as the number of homes for sale continued to rise. Roughly one-third of the existing home sales for the second quarter were foreclosures.
This week, the OFHEO, a government agency, reported home prices registered another drop in May over the same time last year.
RealtyTrac reported that 220,000 homes in the second quarter were chalked up to foreclosure filings, which include default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions. That's a 121% increase from the same period in 2007. That’s a tough nut to swallow under anyone’s scenario.
Although most states registered an increase in foreclosure filings over 2007, the “hot spots” for foreclosures are so intense as to absorb a substantial portion of the overall foreclosure numbers. The overall downward pressure from foreclosures creates a negative push on home prices on a national level, but the areas with less foreclosure pain will enjoy greater price stability and continued reduction in inventory levels in both new, existing, and distress-class sales.
The Wall Street Journal reports that analysts at Barclays expect the overall foreclosure total to rise 60% before peaking in late 2009. If that prediction is true, this will be the ugliest year in real estate annuls but it could mean the bottom is in sight.
The WSJ writes that a housing market is considered "roughly in balance when the number of homes listed for sale is enough to last about six months at the current sales rate. Based on the average sales rate over the past year, The Wall Street Journal survey shows that supplies are enough to last about 13 months in the Atlanta and Phoenix areas, 15 months in Chicago, 19 months in Las Vegas, and 37 months in Miami-Fort Lauderdale. For condominiums alone in Miami-Dade County, the supply is enough to last 51 months."
BusinessWeek working with Case-Shiller data from Moody’s came up with 20 states where the largest share of foreclosures and other distressed sales made up the largest share of existing home sales.
Where the news was bad, it was really bad. No surprise that California came in at the top of the list with a staggering 41 percent of existing home sales made up by foreclosures in the second quarter as compared to 9 percent in last year’s same time period.
Nevada did not fare much better at 40 percent. Arizona and Florida as part of the regular foreclosure parade were in the top 10. But it is the colder climate states that are taking foreclosure hits on the chin, and as fall approaches it looks like the big chill will set in.
Here are the 2007/2008 foreclosure percentages of existing home sales tallied from the highest state rankings from the second quarter of both years:
California – 41% in 2008 VS 9% in 2007
Nevada – 40% in 2008 VS 11% in 2007
Connecticut – 27% in 2008 VS 12% in 2007
Michigan – 26% in 2008 VS 20% in 2007
Ohio – 26% in 2008 VS 20% in 2007
Florida – 25% in 2008 VS 6% in 2007
Arizona – 25% in 2008 VS 5% in 2007
Massachusetts - 24% in 2008 VS 8% in 2007
Maryland – 23% in 2008 VS 6% in 2007
Rhode Island – 22% in 2008 VS 9% in 2007
Minnesota – 21% in 2008 VS 11% in 2007
Maine – 20% in 2008 VS 10% in 2007
Colorado – 19% in 2008 VS 13% in 2007
Indiana – 19% in 2008 VS 17% in 2007
Kentucky – 19% in 2008 VS 12% in 2007
Illinois – 18% in 2008 VS 11% in 2007
Virginia – 18% in 2008 VS 5% in 2007
New Hampshire – 18% in 2008 VS 10% in 2007
Delaware – 18% in 2008 VS 10% in 2007
Pennsylvania – 17% in 2008 VS 13% in 2007
July 26, 2008
This week's Worthy Nods from the news and around the blogs:
From the experts who say "Get Real People". Things just aren't all that bad! Valuable perspectives:
- New York Times: It's Bad, But Remember We're Dodging the Worst
- Rollins Financial Blog: I'm Mad As Hell and I'm Not Going to Take This Anymore!
The Wall Street Journal: The Fannie Mae Gang - In his editorial, Paul Gidot goes back to 2001 and puts a historical perspective on the current credit crises. Worth a read since history has a way of repeating itself.New York Times: Finding and Fixing A Home's Power Hogs - The typical American household has 27 power-sucking devices that are always on and most people have no idea how much power they consume.
Seth's Blog: Are They Ready to Listen - The tragic mistake of many marketers is that they overlook the single most important issue: is the person you're talking to ready to listen?
July 23, 2008
House Price Valuations Faltering in Suburbs But Strong In Urban Areas? Not So Fast...Take Another Look
When gas prices climbed over $4 a gallon there were predictions that the outer suburbs would become ghost towns and recent commuters in gas guzzling SUVs, living in their mini-mansions, would trade the good life for a bike and an inner city condo.
Some smart-growth proponents go so far as to foresee outer ring suburbs as the future slums. Academics and planners see sprawl as bad for the environment and inefficient because of the costs of roads, sewers and other infrastructure costs. All true, but are the academics getting a little ahead of reality? The suburbs are not in danger of emptying tomorrow although they are experiencing considerable stress in some areas.
Last week BusinessWeek got ahead of themselves with an article entitled, “The Unraveling of the Suburban Fringe.” BusinessWeek decided to take a look at market trends across the country and see how home prices were holding up in city centers as compared to the continuously distant suburban rings. The results were based on this year’s valuations compared to the same period last year with delineations in 10 mile rings from the city center up to 50 miles distant.
To pull this information together BusinessWeek went to Zillow, the often controversial website that offers up online home valuations across the country. Based on Zillow's findings BusinessWeek reports that these metro areas all followed a similar pattern: “Values were most stable within a 10-mile radius of the center of the city, but generally worsened with each successive radius ring as far as 50 miles from the center of the city. “
On the contrary, I saw virtually no consistent pattern between the metro areas.
Nevertheless BW continues on their unsupported argument (at least as far as their chosen data source) and sites the following reasons for the trend of outer ring prices showing greater declines than urban centers cities:
- The building boom happened in the outer ring suburbs where oversupply and lackluster demand are toppling home prices, especially suburbs farther away from the cities.
- The scarcity of properties in inner cities support higher prices.
- The subprime crisis was most pronounced in places where poorer people could afford to buy—largely in the distant suburbs where land was cheap and builders were active.
The Wall Street Journal conducted a study of 1,000 transactions to see how accurate Zillow’s home valuations were and found the following:
Zillow's general valuations are closer to reality in areas where there are large numbers of similar homes of mid-range values. Their computer program is not however intuitive enough to make evaluations in areas where there are a mixed bag of properties and price ranges.
There are other issues that can skew Zillow's numbers particularly as to the intown price estimates. I use Atlanta as an example because I'm familiar with the market. If you remove all multi-family product (mainly condo towers) from the equation you would find a much higher stability in the housing prices for intown real estate. On the converse, if you include all the condo units that are for sale now but unfinished (not included in Zillow's numbers), you would see a much worse performance in housing values.
But if we are looking to predict the future of our housing market and pinpoint the pressures for downward trending prices, the best bellwether is not the incomplete and inaccurate Zillow database, but rather an extrapolation of the foreclosure numbers. If there is one single market driver for our housing industry today, it is foreclosures - I'm sorry to say.
But no matter whose data and numbers are used, the source needs to be filtered. I referenced an interesting article last week from the WSJ about the various sources for foreclosure information each with a different set of numbers. Any resulting interpretation of the market depended on whose data was used. There is no national scorekeeper.
I digress. Back to Zillow and BusinessWeek. For better or worse, or just for the sake of water cooler or dinner conversation here is Zillow's effort at defining home valuations in the larger markets. You can click here to see all the data and maps. I have listed below just a portion. The other consideration in looking at these numbers is geography, i.e. Miami.
Zillow's footnote for the below price indices: "The percent change for each 10-mile band is the change in median home values in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year, according to Zillow.com. Zillow reports its data using the Zillow Home Value Index, which is the median Zestimate in dollars for a given geographic area for a particular period—exactly half the Zestimates for a region are below the Zindex value, and the other half are above it. Unlike other housing reports, Zillow estimates the value of all homes, not just the ones that area sold."
Atlanta: 10 miles: -5.9%; 20 miles: -6.3%; 30 miles: -5.0%; 40 miles: -4.0%; 50 miles: 1.1%
Baltimore: 10 miles: -2.3%; 20 miles: -7.2%; 30 miles: -8.6%; 40 miles: -6.8%; 50 miles: -9.6%
Boston: 10 miles: -8.3%; 20 miles: -9.2%; 30 miles: -9.8%; 40 miles: -8.6%; 50 miles: -8.6%
Chicago: 10 miles: -3.3%; 20 miles: -5.4%; 30 miles: -5.3%; 40 miles: -5.6%; 50 miles: -7.0%
Cleveland: 10 miles: -8.4%; 20 miles: -6.5%; 30 miles: -5.5%; 40 miles: -6.0%; 50 miles: -4.6%
Dallas: 10 miles: 0.7%; 20 miles: -0.1%; 30 miles: 1.3%; 40 miles: 4.2%; 50 miles: 4.7%
Durham, N.C. : 10 miles: 4.7%; 20 miles: 2.8%; 30 miles: 2.6%; 40 miles: 3.4%; 50 miles: 1.3%
Los Angeles: 10 miles: -14.2%; 20 miles: -16.0%; 30 miles: -18.4%; 40 miles: -20.5%; 50 miles: -23.5%
Miami: 10 miles: -12.5%; 20 miles: -15.0%; 30 miles: -19.9%; 40 miles: -21.8%; 50 miles: -20.3%
Milwaukee: 10 miles: 1.4%; 20 miles: -1.6%; 30 miles: -3.3%; 40 miles: -5.8%; 50 miles: -5.4%
New York: 10 miles: 5.4%; 20 miles: -2.8%; 30 miles: -3.6%; 40 miles: -5.7%; 50 miles: -6.4%
Philadelphia: 10 miles: -0.5%; 20 miles: -1.6%; 30 miles: -1.8%; 40 miles: -2.4%; 50 miles: -5.7%
Phoenix: 10 miles: -14.7%; 20 miles: -15.7%; 30 miles: -16.9%; 40 miles: -18.2%; 50 miles: -16.3%
San Diego: 10 miles: -18.0%; 20 miles: -16.5%; 30 miles: -14.3%; 40 miles: -19.6%; 50 miles: -17.8%
San Francisco: 10 miles: -7.0%; 20 miles: -14.1%; 30 miles: -16.2%; 40 miles: -12.1%; 50 miles: -13.2%
Seattle: 10 miles: -2.1%; 20 miles: -4.5%; 30 miles: -3.6%; 40 miles: -3.2%; 50 miles: -2.8%
Washington D.C.: 10 miles: -6.4%; 20 miles: -10.7%; 30 miles: -12.1%; 40 miles: -6.0%; 50 miles: -6.0%
Caveat: Please, don't make any important decisions on a "Zestimate".
July 22, 2008
The Long Tail is what led me to Drew Carey's take on NAFTA. I guess Drew Carey has extra time on his hands since taking on the challenge that is "The Power of 10". I'm not so sure about his future in politics or journalism, but the game show circuit seems pretty secure.
More germane to real estate I happened across Drew's video take on eminent domain but chose not to air it here because he obviously has no idea what he's talking about on the subject. There is no reason to irritate my three readers with his bombast take on greedy developers.
But this NAFTA is definitely worth a few minutes. Take a break...
July 19, 2008
This week's Worthy Nods in the news and on the blogs:
Wall Street Journal: Trying To Track the Mortgage Mess - The Numbers Guy at the WSJ explains that the data on mortgages and foreclosures is as varied as the data source. Universal Scorekeeper wanted.
Catch Up on the Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac news:
- The Rollins Financial Blog: Working Together - Bush Administration, The Fed, The SEC, and Congress
- Business Week: The Future of Fannie and Freddie
- The Economist: Boxed-In Ben
MarketWatch: Seeking Approval: New rule for getting a mortgage today - Don't assume anything.
The Economist: Bumper Charges - Check out the most outrageously expensive cities for parking. $1,167 a month in London?
Matrix Blog: "Near Zero Default" A Recent IndyMac Conversation About Speed - Read this unbelievable email dialog from May 28 between IndyMac and the Miller Samuel appraisal firm.
IHT - Raising the Roof Blog: New Study Finds Luxury Buyers ‘Confident,’ Distrustful of Media - "Often in error, never in doubt?"
Business Week - Hot Property Blog: One Million Houses Have Become Rentals - Multi-family shift of for-sale units to for rent.
The Onion: Recession-Plagued Nation Demands New Bubble to Invest In - A thanks to Jim Duncan at Real Central VA blog.
July 18, 2008
The housing downturn has spawned a new species of vulture, otherwise known as the Distressed Asset Investor. I bring this subject up once again because this despicable scavenger serves a purpose in our complicated world, and in the case of real estate, will play an important role in our emergence from the current market depths.
This entire line of thought started with yesterday's market report from the National Association of Home Builders which is, not unexpectedly, cautionary. Land, as in building lots, is where we're headed. The Seider Report's take on development prospects for building lots took me down an unpaved roadway where, at the end, sat a flock of ...
The tightening of lending standards in the home mortgage market has continued apace, and NAHB surveys show that we’re now facing an evolving credit crunch in the markets for land acquisition, land development and construction (AD&C) loans. The availability of new loans has been cut back dramatically and lenders are tightening terms and conditions on many outstanding loans — prodded by financial regulators based in Washington. The Seiders' Report: A Housing Overview by the HAHB's Chief Economist .
Not only have Acquisition and Development loans virtually disappeared but the cost to develop lots has gone up tremendously. Ken Simonson, economist for the Associated General Contractors of America said in a statement "surging prices for diesel fuel, asphalt, steel and other materials are clobbering construction budgets." He says asphalt prices during the first two weeks in July have increased by 40 percent.
None of this is in the least new news. No bank is going to loan money to develop lots that aren't needed or wanted and any developer who thinks they want to develop lots is just being saved from themselves by having no source for financing.
The turnaround time for most sizable markets from day one of land acquisition to a buildable lots is a minimum of one year and is often substantially more. So where will builders turn when there is finally a market turnaround and they once again need to acquire building lots? This question is not at the top of a builder's worry list today, but once the tide turns there will be an all-out scramble.
The supplies of building lots will by then be in the hands of distressed asset investors. According to those in the know, banks and the "vulture funds" are yet to find a wholesale meeting of the minds on the value of distressed real estate bank assets, but the day is coming for the vultures.
Although the value gap is narrowing, Ron Glass of Glass Ratner Advisory & Capital Group describes the current disparities in perceived values between banks and investors as "the Grand Canyon."
The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that investors are offering as little as 20 to 30 percent of boom day loan valuations on far-flung Atlanta suburban undeveloped lots where the oversupply has caused land prices to plummet. As recently as January the ABC reported the offers were 50 percent of loan values.
Banks with a large portfolios of real estate loans could risk their capital reserves in mopping up the losses. With more potential defaults coming down the pike, the balancing act for banks is sure to become more uncomfortable.
Some speculate that federal bank regulators will become more involved, forcing banks to liquidate assets at fire-sale prices. Some of the healthier builders and developers are still hanging onto large desirable tracts but the beleaguered housing market increasingly strains liquidity to maintain debt service.
Peter Dennehy, Senior VP of Sullivan Group Real Estate Advisors, reports similar price chasms between buyers of distressed paper and banks at IMN's recent Distressed Real Estate Conference in Las Vegas.
Here are a few of his observations:
- Speakers and attendees agree that the interest in buying distressed deals is much higher than the number of deals being done--a show of hands indicated that most in the room had made offers on things, but only a handful had completed a deal. This is frustrating to many who see themselves as "dealmakers."
- There is still a gap in bid-ask prices that is stalling workouts--and financing is tough. This will change shortly as the pace of deals picks up; expectations seem to be moving closer together, and several speakers noted that there is lots of money looking for deals and that both sides should start giving. Distressed commercial deals are selling better because it is easier to understand value based on cash flow.
- There was a lot of discussion that banks have not faced their issues and have dragged their heels on dealing with problem loans. Several speakers said it is hard to get lender attention to start a workout, and that the best solution is to default and force them to act. Click here to read Part II of Dennehy's report from the distressed conference.
There seems to be agreement from most industry leaders that 2009 will be a banner year for the vulture funds to amass their distressed empires from the banks. Wiping the banks' slates clean of dirty real estate laundry will be one milestone in defining "The Bottom".
Gentlemen...start your engines...
July 17, 2008
In a conference call this morning with analysts, Jamie Dimon, J.P. Morgan's Chief Executive, warned that top-quality "prime" mortgages have begun to deteriorate rapidly, reports MarketWatch.
J.P. Morgan Chase has managed to side-step many of the ills effecting its rivals in the subprime meltdown but now sees its $47 billion portfolio of prime mortgages in danger of its own share of loses as falling house prices threaten even crème de la crème debt. Jamie Dimon predicted that loses could triple in the coming quarters giving the lion's share of the blame to the deflating prices in the California, Florida, and Arizona markets.
Any small bit of good news? Mike Cavanaugh, CFO for Morgan, offered in the conference call that "home equity losses were coming in at about $700 million, rather than an expected $900 million." Hardly a drop in the bucket to offset the expected prime loses.
No one needs me to tell them this is not good news for the housing industry. If there is a prime meltdown equal even to a fraction of the subprime ills, the housing market will be in for a further long-term stall instead of looking for signs of a bottom.
If you haven't had the dubious pleasure of reading Barron's cover story this week, Bottom's Up: This Real-Estate Rout May Be Short-Lived you may want to take a few minutes and indulge. Jonathan Laing, the author, laments that no one wants to listen to the good news - that be signs of a turn around in the real estate market. If Laing is right then it follows that Dimon is wrong. No housing turn around is going to follow on the heels of a prime mortgage meltdown.
Barron's headline will sell lots of magazines because everybody is looking for some good news in housing. But anyone who claims the current malaise is or has been "short'-lived" has been under a rock for the past two years. Maybe he wrote this article two years ago and is just now brushing off the dust for publication. To be fair however Laing does make some good points, but unfortunately he doesn't win the argument.
One of Laing's mistakes is listening to the soothsayers at the National Association of Realtors for his housing data (i.e. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the NAR). Yun hasn't gotten a market prediction right for over two years and believes we're not even in a downturn!
Anyway, will someone arrange for Barron's to be hooked into the next conference call with reality, J.P. Morgan or any other straight shooters? Jamie Dimon, meet Jonathan Laing, I'm sure you guys will be great friends. Maybe Laing can talk Dimon out of his prime blues, but he might need the assistance of Dr. Yun's unbridled optimism.
July 14, 2008
A mental gasp escapes every time I hear or read about another Builder closing its doors. Neither the longevity of the housing downturn nor the plethora of closures and bankruptcies can deaden the sound of the horns blowing Taps over a landscape of unsold houses.
Some closures seem obvious; some seem completely unfair - bad luck and worse timing.
A couple of weeks ago an Atlanta-based, mid-sized Builder closed its doors. The name is not important but for today we'll call them MB Homes (I hope there is not a real MB Homes - if so I apologize in advance. This MB Homes is a fictional name.)
I was not privy to the inner workings of the company, their financials, nor the direct cause of their demise. My observations of their operations are from an industry standpoint from a time when the market was at its height in 2003 - 2005.
Observing MB Homes from the marketplace one overwhelming attribute defines their operation - mediocrity. They had a complete and thorough grasp of mediocrity. That seemed to be their brand although I must say they were a solid mediocrity. In other words their quality was O.K. and they had a pretty good reputation about standing behind their warranty work. Their home designs were "off-the-rack" and could be found in any subdivision within 100 miles, but they were OK. Everything they did was just O.K., but never outstanding.
Up until 2006 mediocrity was OK and sellable at least at a mediocre rate.
Their price range was from about $400 to near $1 million. Not cheap. Their dedicated communities were usually small with one or two phases and a furnished (wife-decorated) model which were nice enough. Amenities were rare. The smaller community business model required continually launching new neighborhoods without the benefits of spreading up-front start-up costs over a larger number of units. Their communities were O.K. but I never saw their reason for being. I wonder if customers were ever bold enough to ask the sales reps, "Why would I want to live here?" I don't have a clue how they would answer that very important question.
Several years ago MB Homes' sales manager (who happens to be a friend) asked me and another marketing director to have a look at one of their projects that was not selling (in a hot market). The problems were too numerous to enumerate here but let it suffice to say NOBODY was paying attention at the conceptual or build-out stage of this particular project. It didn't even fall into the realm of "O.K." Their only option in our opinion was to cut prices dramatically and get out. Three years later there are still houses for sale and now the Builder has gone up in smoke. I can't imagine how many lives have been negatively effected from this one project - all because nobody was paying attention.
There are many home builder corporations that are run by financial suits and that role is incredibly important. I have always felt however, that in order to be really successful in the housing industry somebody at the helm has to have a eye for housing - an intense interest in the aesthetics of housing and a talent to balance cost with the production of an outstanding product. It's not all numbers and buyers have an uncanny ability to discern the differences between those who excel within their market segment and those who embrace mediocrity. If the difference is not so obvious in an outstanding market it certainly becomes apparent in the market we're currently dealing with.
After many years working with custom builders, the ones that were the most and consistently successful were the ones who had an adept eye at design, proportion, and knew how to create something that stood out within the market place. The former bankers, CPA's, or engineers - no matter how good a business they ran - are very seldom the most successful in the home building arena. Obviously the ability to run a good business is an absolute. An aesthete without business acumen could probably beat a CPA with no design ability to the poorhouse. That's not the race we want to be in. Principles here apply to any size company. An analogy is Bob Nardelli running Chrysler. I just don't get it.
A mediocre product will return a mediocre profit when the market is good. When the market turns south and it's time to go into survival mode...mediocrity will lose every time, as has been evidenced time and time again.
Let's talk about the importance of a brand for a minute. Unfortunately MB Homes missed Branding 101, unless of course you think mediocrity is an acceptable brand.
This is an excerpt from an earlier post called The Real Estate Brand, or Lack Thereof:
Everything matters whether it is at the pinnacle of a hot market or the depths of a downturn. I guess every organization needs a mediocre meter. Some companies may need an entire security force to weed out the insidious nature of ordinary.
If branding is a means to create value and make sales, the brand actually becomes part of the exit strategy. It is one of many insurance policies for success. In creating a brand you have to ask the hard questions. You can’t cheat on this and you can’t just make something up. There must be clearly defined, honest, relevant answers to these questions. This is risk management.
What makes you unique?
Different from your competitors?
Name one thing you do better than everyone else?
Can you prove it?
What is your promise?
If your answers are not clear, positive, and passionate, proceed at your own peril.
Like I said, some closures seem obvious. The survivors seem obvious as well.
I'm still digging through the fluff of the crust on the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debacle. This morning's offerings include some worthwhile short cut sources on Fannie & Freddie's wild ride.
The most succinct article explaining the vicious housing "cycle of pain" that is at the heart of Fannie and Freddie's heartburn comes from the Wall Street Journal and well worth a read, particularly for real estate types. Excellent discussion of the "new market bottom" which will not be recognizable by old standards.
Here is the Wall Street Journal's video commentary from one hour ago and the companion in-depth news release with the Monday morning coverage of the weekend maneuvers:
I also offer up this article from The New York Times which in its simplicity helped me sort the causes of Fannie and Freddie fallout:
- executive greed,
- bigger is better mindset,
- Congress as reactionaries - not catalysts,
and the implications that may ensue.
As the financial markets lurch from land mine to land mine, the real estate market screeches "Enough already! Yeah, we screwed up but we didn't deserve this!"
Please, how about a break, just one little break.
July 11, 2008
This doesn't fall under real estate commentary, nor should it be considered "other important stuff". The only appropriate category for this post is "self indulgence".
I survived my hospital stay (and surgery) and was named "Patient of the Year". No matter what the naysayers proclaim about X hospital in Atlanta, I am here to tell you they have good drugs, which is what helped me down the path to Patient of the Year.
Who wouldn't be happy mainlining morphine? Not from the 70s? You might want to give it a try. I was not one of the brave ones willing to tough it out with no drugs. "Would you like more pain medication?" There is only one correct answer for me, "Yes, please."
My first experience with morphine was 1972 while I was at the University of North Carolina, but it's not what you might think. My wisdom teeth had to come out and I couldn't afford the bill at the local dentist office. So I trotted down to the UNC School of Dentistry and offered myself as a guinea pig for the Residents. Done...hop up here young lady. What was their drug of choice? You guessed right, morphine. My bill for dental surgery - $00.00.
Back to present-day surgery...the nurses told my husband and my doctor that I was the perfect patient. My recollection was a little different. It was more like the movie, Night at the Museum, hospital style. I kept CNN on all night so the nurses would have something to watch when they came in every hour (seemed like every 15 minutes). When they came in I automatically raised my arm for blood pressure check and opened my mouth for the thermometer and together we would watch CNN as I pumped my pain manager. As they left, the refrain was always the same. "Thank you and a good night to all."
At 5:00 a.m. I switched to CNBC, but the news on the stock market was not good at all and pretty well spoiled my morphine high. It was almost sad that the night was ending and reality was setting in. I had to leave my hazy cocoon and start thinking about going home. My IV was disconnected...goodbye old friend...
My target ejection time was Noon so at 11:55 my husband drives up to the hospital entrance with the motor running (I'm lucky he put it in park, we don't require a lot from each other in these type circumstances), I was wheeled out, gingerly inserted into the vehicle and whisked away. My hospital experience was at once a memory.
My first try at major surgery and recovery has been, so far, a piece of cake. Some friends brought over dinner for the patient and care-giver this evening. My husband told me to get in bed and pretend like I was in pain. Tomorrow we're stretching the limits and going to a dinner party (probably not a good idea - I will probably be stricken from the annuls of Patient of the Year).
So much for my summer vacation...I will be returning to the air waves of the blogosphere very soon.
But enough about me....
July 6, 2008
This is vacation season
and I'd rather be in Paris....
or looking over Lake Como...
I'd even rather be in El Paso, Texas...
Riding Amtrak or eating bugs...
but instead I'll be off the air waves for a week to attend to some surgery on out-of-warranty parts. Unfortunately non-elective which would be much more exciting.
at 10:38 AM
July 5, 2008
Below is a picture of the Whole Foods' check-out counters at 6:00 P.M., Saturday on a holiday weekend in Atlanta. Traffic has been dwindling for several months. Last year on any given Saturday the check-out lines were backed up to the bakery. Are people giving up high-end green shopping to subsidize gas prices?
That's interesting...it looks like the men are still paying the Whole Food price.
Just an observation.
July 4, 2008
I'm grateful to be safe and sound in the U.S. on this July 4th.
The Economist published today, July 4th, an online article entitled "Where Terrorists Take Most Hostages". The Economist brings these statistics to our attention in light of the the brilliant subterfuge used to free Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages in Colombia this week.
They report that hostage-taking has fallen off in recent years in Columbia (but traffic tickets are definitely soaring.) I expect to see from Forbes this week, "The 10 Top Places To Be Kidnapped."
The National Counterterrorism Center published a 100-page 2007 Report on Terrorism which is really interesting with charts and graphs and even detailed listings of the hostage takings.
A few years ago my husband and I were planning a trip to Kenya which we cancelled after going to this site and reading of the then current frequent terrorist activities.
Last night I saw the documentary, Ganja Queen, a behind-the-scenes look at the trial of Schapelle Corby, a beautiful young Australian who was sentenced to 20 years in Indonesia. On arriving in Indonesia her boggie-board bag was inspected and a large amount of marijuana was found. The usual sentence for smuggling drugs into Indonesia is death. It seemed apparent that the drugs had been put into her bag by someone else intending to collect after customs. Unfortunately the courts there had no legal basis to do anything other than imprison her.
Like I said, I'm glad to be an American safely in America.
July 3, 2008
It's called Dynamic Architecture and dynamic it is. Eighty rotating floors that completely change the exterior facade with each degree of rotation.The creator of this architectural wonder is Italian architect, David Fisher. The first of three buildings to be built around the world, Dynamic Tower, pictured here, will be located in Dubai where iconic architecture is a sport. But this residential skyscraper may top them all.
First get a feel of how the building will move and change in this dramatic time-compressed animated video:
Remember the old Slinky toys? My apologies to the architect, but that's what came to mind when I first saw the building in motion. The mind is obviously a scary place.
This rendering represents the various shapes the tower might slip into during a single day. The possible variations are virtually limitless.
If you don't have time to watch the one hour press conference held in New York on June 24th (registration required), read on and I'll give you the jaw-dropping details. But you'll have to stay with me till the end to get the punch line.
Other than the awe inspiring ambitious design allowing breakfast facing the sunrise and dinner set against the sunset, there are two other salient features that set this tower apart.
There are wind turbines and solar panels between each of the floors which will not only completely power the building, but will generate excess power that can be used or sold off property. Eighty floors, seventy-nine turbines and 100% self sufficient according to Fisher. Other features add to create a totally green building and environment.
A pretty impressive power plant...
The apartments will be anywhere from 1,334 square feet to almost 13,000 square feet and will all be pre-constructed in a factory in southern Italy and shipped to the job site complete and ready to uploaded to the concrete core (which is the only on-site construction).
The completion of the building is estimated to require only 90 workers whereas a conventional high-rise would require about 2,000 workers. Further efficiencies include a time savings to complete of more than 16 months. The cost savings will be a minimum of 10 percent and for future towers the savings could reach as much as 30 percent depending on certain logistics.
Fisher explained the prefabrication process as being similar to Boeing's methods to construct the Airbus.
Another jaw-dropping fact about Dynamic Tower is the price tag. You might think with all the efficiencies we've just discussed there might be a reflection in the sales prices. Well think again. These digs will start at $3,000 per square foot making the smallest unit over $4 million. And the largest unit before anyone starts combining floors a mere $39 million. With oil quickly heading to $150 a barrel.... no let's not go there.
So what are some of the perks? See the balcony pool...not the girl.
But the most exciting amenity comes with the units on the upper floors. There is a vehicle elevator so that you drive into the elevator and in moments you are sitting in the 75th floor garage inside your unit. Pretty cool. Your Lamborghini gets a view.
Construction is set to start in a couple of months and they are taking reservations for the units. During the press conference Fisher was asked three times about the financing for the building and was finally nailed by the Wall Street Journal reporter. I didn't hear a very clear answer except that a member of the royal family was involved.
A second rotating tower is planned for Moscow and a third for New York City.
You have to agree that the prospects are fascinating and if Fisher pulls it off he will definitely find himself at the top of the architectural heap. There's just one thing...Fisher has never designed a skyscraper before. He was nailed on that one at the press conference as well. But he sure has one hell of an imagination.
There's a few unanswered questions. With most floors having multiple units, who gets the remote to control the rotation? This will be one to watch. Absolutely fascinating.
Associated Press video of interview with David Fisher