Friday, November 19, 2010

Tristan da Where?

An excellent peek at the ten most remote places on Earth.


For more information on Tristan da Cunha see here, here, and here.  According to Wikipedia, "All land is communally owned. Livestock numbers are strictly controlled to conserve pasture and to prevent better-off families from accumulating wealth. No outsiders are allowed to buy land or settle on Tristan."  Unpacking that paragraph could generate a lifetime's worth of property scholarship...

Steve Clowney

(photo of the settlement on Tristan da Cunha found with Creative Commons search)

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November 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Ever wonder what actually happened to mortgage loans during the securitization goldrush?  From today's Huffington Post.  Click on it to blow it up (in the positive sense).

Mark A. Edwards

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November 18, 2010 in Mortgage Crisis | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Food & Des(s)erts

Walgreens is conducting a neat experiement that may shed some light on whether the lack of supermarkets in urban areas amounts to a market failure.

Among students of the contemporary metropolis, “food deserts” have become a widely known problem. The term is generally used to describe urban neighborhoods where there are few grocers selling fresh produce, but a cornucopia of fast-food places and convenience stores selling salty snacks . . . .

Walgreens, the drugstore chain founded in that city more than 100 years ago, [has] started selling an expanded selection of food, including fresh fruits and vegetables, at 10 locations selected because they were in food deserts. The experiment in creating these “food oases” is intriguing because it involves a well-known retail brand not typically associated with groceries . . .

Steve Clowney

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November 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Summary of State Foreclosure Laws

My colleague Juliet Moringiello pointed me to the National Consumer Law Center's handy summary of state foreclosure laws.  Lost of useful stuff in there.

Ben Barros

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November 17, 2010 in Mortgage Crisis, Real Estate Finance, Real Estate Transactions | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Philadelphia's 40,000 Abandoned Houses

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the plague of vacant and abandoned houses that has overwhelemed the city:

A persistent abandoned-property problem has reduced the value of Philadelphia homes by an average of $8,000, according to a new study. The report from Econsult Corp. puts Philadelphia's blight troubles into stark economic terms, estimating that the more than 40,000 vacant or abandoned properties rack up $20 million in annual maintenance costs, rob the city of $2 million in annual tax revenues and reduce property values.

Steve Clowney

November 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rachel Whiteread: Artist, Property Theorist

Rachel-Whiteread-house For my latest writing project I've been reading a lot about memory and the uses of sculpture in public spaces.  After spending a lot of time in our Art History library, I think I've finally uncovered my favorite memorial artist: Rachel Whiteread.  Whiteread is a 47-year-old, British sculpture who is best known for her concrete casts of everyday items.  Her most famous work is, most likely, the Judenplatz Holocaust Monument in Vienna (see here).    

I think that I'm drawn to Whiteread's work because it's fundamentally about property and the human relationship to objects.  Take her Turner-prize-winning piece, "House" (pictured right). In 1993, Whiteread created "House" by spraying liquid concrete into an empty building and then removing the walls (for other pictures see here).  On one level the ghostly sculpture served as a monument to lost communities.  The concrete stands, anthropomorphically, for the people who are no longer there.

But more importantly, by fossilizing a complete living space, I think that Whiteread reminds the viewer how basic our needs remain, even as the bric-a-brac that fills our lives seems to grow and grow.  On a basic and primal level we all need some kind of shelter, but not much beyond that.  In that one small respect, Whiteread seems to say, everyone is the same.  Finally, I'd argue that the tomb-like nature of her work calls our a reminder that none of this stuff follows us when we cross over.  

Steve Clowney

(image found with creative commons search)

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November 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Modest Proposal to Avert Another Mortgage-Backed Securities Disaster

At its core, the mortgage-backed securities crisis is the product of an inadequately regulated mortgage-industry system.  This inadequacy resulted in a massive transfer of wealth from you and me to lenders and investment banks, and an economic crisis that continues the plague the country.

So I've been playing a thought-game: what's the smallest amount of regulatory reform that would completely prevent this disaster from recurring? 

I've got a nominee.

Before I explain it, I need explain how we got to the point where we need it.  To that end, here's the mortgage-backed securities crisis, in 10 easy-to-understand steps!

(follow the bump)


Continue reading

November 15, 2010 in Home and Housing, Law Reform, Mortgage Crisis, Real Estate Finance | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

"Sleeper" House sold at foreclosure auction

Thanks to Tom Roberts (until recently of Wake Forest) for the following:

Property teachers who are movie buffs may want to use the sale of Woody Allen’s “Sleepers” house as an example of the decline in real estate prices, from $3.4 million in 2006 to $1.5 million at yesterday’s sale, and the workings of statutory redemption.  The article can be found here.

Tanya Marsh

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November 15, 2010 in Mortgage Crisis | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

$500,000 Profit for Sale of Virtual Property

The online world Entropia Universe, already the home of highest initial sale price for a piece of virtual property ($300,000), just had what is probably the most profitable virtual real estate transaction to date.  Jon Jacobs (aka "Neverdie") sold his share in a virtual asteroid for $500,000.  He had already made back his initial $100,000 investment over the past few years by renting out the right to use parts of the asteroid to other players.

Ben Barros

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November 15, 2010 in Virtual Property | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

How can the ABA support PropertyProfs?

I am back from the fall leadership meeting of the ABA's Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section.  If you teach property courses and aren't a member of the section, I highly recommend that you get involved.  Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions.

The main topic of discussion in the section's Legal Education Committee (chaired by Wilson Freyermuth) meeting this weekend was how the ABA, the Real Property section, and the committee in particular can support property professors with materials, ideas, and expertise.  Many good ideas were thrown around, but it was a small group, so we wanted to extend the discussion to the larger PropertyProf community.

1.  Can you envision any way that the ABA's Real Property section can support your efforts in the classroom?  Are there any materials that you desire that you have a difficult time finding?  Would it be helpful if members volunteered to serve as guest speakers to talk to your students about some aspect of their practice? 

2.  How could the ABA's Real Property section support new professors, or adjuncts teaching for the first time?

3.  We would eventually like to reach out to adjunct professors teaching real estate courses, but don't believe that a comprehensive list of such people exists.  (If it does, please let me know!)  It would help enormously if you could post a comment to this post or e-mail me directly with a list of the real estate courses at your school taught by adjuncts, the names of the people teaching those courses, and any contact information.

There are a lot of great people involved in the ABA's Real Property section, both practitioners and professors.  We'd love your input on ways that we can capitalize on that experience and energy for the benefit of all of our students!

Tanya Marsh

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November 15, 2010 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Next Phase of the Crisis: Will Investors Force Lenders to Buy Back Toxic Mortgage-Backed Securities?

It can be hard to keep track of all the poison spewed by the deregulated mortgage-backed securities industry.  The disaster runs so deep, and in so many directions, that it keeps cropping up in unexpected ways and places.  As we know, in lenders' frenzy to sell mortgage-backed securities to investors, they made mortgage loans to absolutely anybody with a pulse -- and even that might have been optional.Countrywide  Lenders couldn't have cared less about the loans people took on, because they got paid by securitizing the mortgages and selling the securities to investors.  The unethical goldrush was so frantic and slipshod that in many cases lenders never even properly documented the loans, which is why many foreclosures are now in limbo.

But the negligent record-keeping may have yet another consequence for both the lenders and those of us forced to bail them out.  Lenders packaged and securitized pools of mortgages, and sold those securities to investors, with the representation that if payments weren't made on the loans, losses would be recouped through foreclosures.  Now it appears that was a misrepresentation, since the lenders hadn't bothered to maintain records that would permit them to foreclose (in fact, in at least one case, it appears lenders sold securities in mortgages it didn't even own).  

Now, investors who purchased securities under that misrepresentation are demanding that at least one lender -- Bank of America, which now also owns the notoriously toxic assets of AIG and Countrywide Financial -- buy them back if they can't foreclose.  But if the lenders buy the securities back, they will increase their holdings of toxic assets.  Ssb guide to mbs That, of course, is what caused them to fail, setting off the economic crisis.  

So, we are left with three broad options: (1) tell investors, who purchased mortgage-backed securities under lenders' misrepresentations that they could foreclose, they have no recourse; (2) allow lenders to foreclose on homes when they don't have the proper documentation to do it; or (3) increase the toxic asset holdings of banks we already bailed out, and are still supporting.  

Meanwhile, the serious regulatory reforms intended to prevent a recurrence of this mess are in grave danger.  But hey, at least the bankers are doing well again.  Grrrrrrrrr.

Mark A. Edwards

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November 14, 2010 in Home and Housing, Mortgage Crisis | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

The Cost of Big City Life

A story on the struggles of twenty-somethings to find affordable housing in New York (with a slide show):

To be sure, earlier generations had their share of hard-luck housing stories. But statistical evidence suggests that today’s new arrivals have a tougher struggle to live well, or even adequately, compared with their counterparts of just a decade ago. Battered by the one-two punch of persistent unemployment and the city’s high housing costs, they are squeezing into ever smaller spaces and living in neighborhoods once considered dicey and remote. They are doubling, tripling, quadrupling and even quintupling up.

Steve Clowney

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November 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)