Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Civilization Trembles

Two Los Angeles County men were arrested Monday night in Camarillo on suspicion of felony theft after a deputy spotted them stealing avocados from trees, authorities said.
Sherry and Luna were booked into Ventura County Jail. Stealing avocados can be a felony when the fruit stolen is worth more than $100 wholesale, Kenney said.
Woman who claimed rental scam is arrested

Ruse positioned her as a victim, T.O. police say
A woman who claimed she was duped in a rental scheme was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of residential burglary, grand theft by false pretenses and filing a false police report, Thousand Oaks police said.
Walker claimed she had paid a $3,000 cash deposit and signed a month-to-month lease with landlord Sonya Martinez for a three-bedroom house on Calle Jazmin earlier this month.

Within days, Walker and her husband were forced out of the house by sheriff's deputies after the rightful owner, Ventura-based attorney Tim Quinn, learned someone was living in the home.
Two articles in the paper this morning. Get a lock for your gas cap.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Map Porn

This is a good one.

I'll put up a few of the best finds. I went to Chatham, Massachusetts and found a few eyeopeners.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saturday Angry Rock Blogging

Because trash like you will never have
The means with which to live
In any modicum of luxury
Or vague derivative
Of comfort don't stray beyond your class
You'll never crack this ceiling made of glass

Just live to work and then expire
Keep your mouth shut you might retire
With something more then debts
Stretched far beyond your means
Pledge allegiance
To the corporate machines

Don't you dare step out of line
Everything will be just fine
But you'd better mind your place
Just learnt to be a good consumer
You're now a number
You've no longer got a face

Let my anger be my declaration
My dissent my participation

Resistance isn't any use
Just consume, obey and reproduce
The next working class who'll shoulder
Your burden of despair
Your empty cries for a living wage
Our system doesn't care we don't care

That our system won't provide
For public health
We don't care that your left
Out in the cold all by yourself
We don't care

And for the Akubi crowd the full on anti-Bush version here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Second Horseman

‘A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!’

Words from the 1st Century reverberate through the ages. Why couldn't they just say beer is going to get expensive in 2008 or something useful like that?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Seeking Alpha Jumps the Shark

Seeking Alpha yesterday:

Shorting Homebuilders - A Sure Thing
posted on: April 23, 2008 | about stocks: ITB / PHB / RYL / XHB

It doesn't happen often that the market conditions present a "sure" money maker, but homebuilders are now as sure a short as they can ever be.

Here are 7 reasons why:

Unsold inventory...
Weak economy, rising unemployment, spent out consumers...
Home sales continue to deteriorate...
Many of the builders have loans that will mature and be due for refinancing...

Despite all of the above, homebuilder stocks have risen year to date as much as 60% from the bottom in January...

Seeking Alpha today:

Homebuilding Stocks: Rising With Reason
posted on: April 24, 2008 | about stocks: DHI / HOV / KBH / LEN / RYL / XHB
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The latest round of homebuilding data suggests (shocker) continued weakness, with demand refusing to budge despite vastly lower home prices and low mortgage rates. The slumping sales reflect a lack of desire to buy homes that are losing value as well as an inability to secure loans under restrictive lending standards.

The situation is very worrisome indeed, yet it will not play out like this forever, and investors know there is a fortune to be made in housing stocks upon the eventual turnaround.

Listed below are a few promising homebuilding stocks:
Hovnanian Enterprises
KB Home
Ryland Group

And people complain about Cramer. It's all a confidence game.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Timing Is Everything

Timing is the new location. Here is a house that fairly screams location, location, location!

The Listing.
From Zillow.
And courtesy of the increasingly savvy Schahrzad Berkland, the foreclosure. Thanks Schaz.
Why bother with this particular multimillion dollar McMansion from which there are so many to choose?
Sale History 10/31/2005: $2,475,000
Currently asking $1,850,000
A thousand days and $625 per day from the peak.

I predict some of these houses will sell for less than what their lots sold for in 2004. Welcome to great slinky snapback.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fee Fee Fie Fo

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned -- this is the sum of good government. - THOMAS JEFFERSON

Get this the City of San Buenaventura has decided on advice from a paid consultant to eliminate taxes and substitute fee for service. Well, not exactly. They are on course to levy taxes AND charge fees for the same services. That'll teach the rabble to exercise democracy in a town controlled by planning elites. Note; emphasis added.

Inspection fee draws fire

The city of Ventura Fire Department has sent a bill along with its annual reminder to some 1,200 homeowners near brush-covered areas, notifying them that they owe a $99 fee for weed-abatement inspections, even if they do their own weed clearing.

The fee is necessary to pay for hundreds of hours of annual inspections that the department no longer can afford, Fire Marshal Brian Clark said.

"We need to recover our costs," he said. "We need a sustainable funding source for this program. That's the bottom line."

The inspection fee — another apparent first in Ventura County for the city — quickly drew fire from hillside homeowners like Mary Lory, who said she and husband Ernie have taken proactive measures for 20 years to rid their backyard on Via Cielito of weeds and unnecessary brush buildup.

She said she was aghast when she opened her city letter Tuesday — Tax Day — and discovered yet another fee placed on residents and an invoice stating that if she didn't pay by June 1, she would be cited, fined and face a lien placed against her property.

Ventura has also drawn fire for being the first city in Southern California to charge for 911 service.

Fire prevention is important, Lory said, but she's frustrated that city leaders didn't give residents any notice or a chance to comment before forcing them to pay for a basic government service.

"The city kept insisting it's not a tax and not a penalty," she said of a conversation she had with a Fire Department employee. "I told her, You can choose to call it what you want. I choose to call it extortion.' "
Ventura used to collect a small administrative fee in the early 1990s, Clark said, but it was suspended after concerns rose regarding compliance with statewide fee statutes.

Last year, the city hired an independent auditor, Maximus Inc., which suggested the costs of the fire prevention program could be passed on to property owners who benefit the most, Clark said. As a result, the fee was re-established at $99 by the City Council as part of the city's annual fee update in June, he said.

None of the 1,252 property owners sent bills this week were explicitly notified of the June public hearing outside normal postings, and there was no public comment on the fee, minutes of the City Council meeting show.

Asked if the city considered a public education campaign, Clark said there was little point.

"We considered a full-scale media campaign," he said. "But what's the difference between notifying people and sending a bill? It just adds to the cost."

The inspection fee comes on the heels of a controversial monthly charge imposed on residents' phone lines by the City Council this year for 911 dispatch services. Critics say the 911 fee is a tax that should go to voters for approval, and hillside resident Royce Townsend sees the inspection fee in the same vein.
Ventura Mayor Christy Weir said the fee is part of a city effort to recoup money for direct services when feasible. The city faces a $4 million deficit in the budget that begins July 1.

Let's be clear here. This is a tax. Let's be even more clear. $99 is an outrageous tax. Think about it. The fireman comes to your house, looks at your weeds and leaves. The fee were it based on costs looks to be recovering some $2000/hr but what can you expect from a ccity council that is spending money to look at burying the freeway.

Blog note; I've been lazy aand lots of good stuff has piled up. I'll clear the backlog and put up 3-4 posts per day and then get back on track. Seaworld was fun and they didn't mistake me for the walrus.

Update: Homer has a point. Addendum attached.

And so Casey and Akubi don't feel neglected:

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

Get It While It's Wiki

Wikipedia appears to have "jumped the shark." Finally too large to avoid lowest common denominator problems and worse the temptation to censor to advance an agenda. I was searching for California's GDP compared to entire countries and this came up:

Check out the "World Flag" for someone's idea of a political statement.

Normally I'd shrug this off but there's something different about wiki these days and it has to do with exactly the same kind of agitprop only over global warming. Turns out there's

The National Post has the story.
Tabletop, it turns out, has another name: Kim Dabelstein Petersen. She (or he?) is an editor at Wikipedia. What does she edit? Reams and reams of global warming pages. I started checking them. In every instance I checked, she defended those warning of catastrophe and deprecated those who believe the science is not settled. I investigated further. Others had tried to correct her interpretations and had the same experience as I -- no sooner did they make their corrections than she pounced, preventing Wikipedia readers from reading anyone's views but her own. When they protested plaintively, she wore them down and snuffed them out. By patrolling Wikipedia pages and ensuring that her spin reigns supreme over all climate change pages, she has made of Wikipedia a propaganda vehicle for global warming alarmists.

Absolute power...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Shower Where He Showered

Alas the Bakersfield Californian reports it has already sold. To a flipper no doubt. Almost a million dollar loss club member.

Rising Prices? No, Falling Dollars

Five years of gas prices:
5 years of USD vs EUR:

Any questions? And for your enjoyment, where the energy comes from and goes to:

Timewarp 2006

"In February [06], there was a 2.1-month supply of unsold new homes from Ventura County to the Mexican border", said Steve Johnson, director of the Southern California region for real estate consulting firm MetroStudy.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

The details:
Austin, TX.
5 Bed, 4.5 Bath
3,500 Sq. Ft.
1.94 Acres
Camarillo, CA.
5 Bed, 5.5 Bath
"almost one full flat acre"
Hmmm 5 of 1 or 1 of the other? Decisions... decisions...

Besides, who puts a $2+m house on Craigslist?

Hamster Kabobs

The [California Board of Equalization] estimates the state loses $14 million a year in untaxed pet sales, which if collected would cover about 0.0018 percent of the current deficit.

That assumes hamsters are "non-food animals."

Thank you Sacramento Bee.

Seriously the State sent out "reminders" that pet sales are taxable transactions in the hopes of recovering additional revenue. This is good news because it is finally dawning in some circles that were are in deep deep trouble. Tax every puppy and kitten and we can pay for Ana's 4th liver transplant.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

They Only Want to Work

.. and only those jobs Americans won't do.

This is outrageous. Read this and watch your blood pressure.

From Sunday front page LATimes:
Ana Puente, 21, is waiting for her fourth liver transplant. Puente is an undocumented immigrant.
Ana Puente was an infant with a liver disorder when her aunt brought her illegally to the U.S. to seek medical care. She underwent two liver transplants at UCLA Medical Center as a child in 1989 and a third in 1998, each paid for by the state.

But when Puente turned 21 last June, she aged out of her state-funded health insurance and was unable to continue treatment at UCLA.

This year, her liver began failing again and she was hospitalized at County-USC Medical Center. In her Medi-Cal application, a USC doctor wrote, "Her current clinical course is irreversible, progressive and will lead to death without another liver transplant." The application was denied.

The county gave her medication but does not have the resources to perform transplants.

Late last month Puente learned of another, little-known option for patients with certain healthcare needs. If she notified U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that she was in the country illegally, state health officials might grant her full Medi-Cal coverage. Puente did so, her benefits were restored and she is now awaiting a fourth transplant at UCLA.

So far, in excess of $2 million in free care for little Ana. Ain't universal free healthcare and unlimited State funding wunnerful?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

California Is So Screwed

The State Controller has more bad news (pdf file).
Tax Revenue in March 2008
⇒ General Fund revenue in March was $618 million below
(-10.3%) the Governor’s Budget estimate for the month.
Corporate taxes were the largest contributor to this loss,
coming in $266 million under (-16.1%) the estimate. Sales
taxes were below estimate by $164 million (-7.5%) while
income taxes were $9 million above (0.5%) the Governor’s
Budget estimate. Together, the three largest taxes
(personal income, corporate and sales taxes) were $421
million below (-7.6%) the Governor’s January Budget
estimate for March. Insurance tax receipts were below the
estimate by $173 million (-70%).
⇒ Revenue in March was $833 million below (-13.4%) the
2007-08 Budget Act estimate. Income taxes were $311
million lower (-15.2%) than the Budget Act’s figures. Retail
sales revenue was below estimates by $189 million
(-8.5%). Corporate taxes were $138 million below (-9.0%)
the Budget Act estimate.

We discovered yesterday that a nice Federal judge decided that inmates (11% illegal immigrants) are Constitutionally entitled to what free citizens and legal residents are not; free healthcare. $7 billion in additional borrowing this fiscal year mandated.

The numbers above are not a cup of black coffee to sober up the party boys in Sacramento. These are a OMFG 2x4 to the brain bucket hit. The idea of calling what I now judge to be a $22 billion deficit a $9 billion deficit hinged on several things that are not happening. We'll go into each in detail but the failure of the term limits extension has hardened both extremes, the lending environment is bad and getting worse and plain old there isn't enough money to cover anticipated debt service and expenditures in a recession.

N.B. The picture is from "Titan A.E." discussing how "humanity is circling the drain." Apropos n'est pas?

Get On The Gravy train

The Boston Herald has the story:
“I strongly urge you to provide direct funding to cities like Boston,” [Mayor] Menino said.

Menino argued that cities like Boston are struggling to deal with a growing number of foreclosed homes and can’t afford to wait for state governments to figure out how and where to spend the aid.

“I believe the focus on states seems to me a bit misplaced,” Menino said. “Cities - and especially mayors - are the ones dealing with this foreclosure crisis every day.”

Let me explain it to you Mr. Mayor. We are in trouble BECAUSE we gave these people money. Giving them more can only make things worse. Read the story about poor people and Barney Frank and how the foreclosure rate is actually very low. This is a money grab and political patronage.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Walls Foreclosing In

2006 TOTAL: 2,094 12 MONTH TOTAL: 7,892

Thank you Market Default Research.

Repo Man: The Sequel

File this under you "can't make this stuff up" and "Rob Dawg told you this would happen."

Car thefts, break-ins traced to Tujunga squatters

By Brandon Lowrey Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 04/08/2008 06:18:27 PM PDT

TUJUNGA - Police have traced a rash of car thefts and break-ins to a pair of Tujunga squatters camping out in a vacant home tucked away in a secluded, hilly neighborhood.

Tipped by suspicious neighbors, police on Saturday staked out the house in the 7200 block of Tranquil Lane, where they spotted a recently stolen car. Within hours, they arrested Ian Soovajian, 25, and Jennifer Laguardia, 30, both of Tujunga, at the vacant dwelling[emphasis added].

Police were drawn to the neighborhood earlier after finding a number of abandoned stolen cars in the area.

They believe the pair stole the cars, took whatever they could find inside, left the vehicles in the neighborhood and simply walked back to the home on Tranquil Lane.

I wonder if the pool out back was green? "Tranquil Lane," LoL.


The new housing market:

"Cry now, you are priced in forever."

2007, 2006, 2005 are stripped clean 2004-2002 are next. IMO all at once by summer. Welcome to the new immobility.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Auger In at Riverpark

Here's a knife just waiting for someone to reach out and grab it from the air.

Sold new;
11/22/2006: $584,454

Now on Redfin for $417,000.

$167,454 and 16 months later. Imagine waking up every morning $300 poorer and making a daily house payments of $150. And that's if they get the price.

Cool Tool Tuesday

National City has a neat interactive page that gives their opinion of relative valuation. Give it a try. As to accuracy? They show Ventura as fairly valued at $506k but the Inland Empire as grossly overpriced at $304k. Go figure. I guess sometimes you do get what you pay for.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Why Greg Swann is Silly

Submitted for your consideration HomeVestors Names Top 10 Cities for Real Estate Investing for First Quarter of 2008
DALLAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--HomeVestors® of America, Inc., the company famous for its "We Buy Ugly Houses"® billboards and America’s #1 Home Buyer, has named the top 10 markets for real estate investing in the first quarter of 2008. They are as follows:

1. Dallas, Texas
2. Houston, Texas
3. Atlanta, Georgia
4. Fort Worth, Texas
5. St. Louis, Missouri
6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
7. San Antonio, Texas
8. Denver, Colorado
9. Minneapolis, Minnesota
10. Phoenix, Arizona
The red line is Phoenix "lower tier" pricing. The black line is the composite for #3 Atlanta for reference.

And now Phoenix data shameless stolen from our good friend ocrenter at BMIT:

Does anybody want to catch that knife? Come on, everybody who bought 2004 or before can eat your lunch and walk away with change.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Forget REOs We've Got MOAs

MOA stands for Municipal Owned Adandoned.

Seems those clever lenders have another trick up their sleeve. Rather than take on the obligations of actual ownership they merely foreclose in the loan but do not take possession of the property. Recall from your extensive UberNerd™ education by Tanta and CR at Calculated Risk that lenders do not foreclose on people or property but loans. Now Barry Ritholtz chimes in at The Big Picture:
There are very significant costs to this. Consider what the potential impact of these property abandonments by the lender means:

- Total write off of the loan;
- Boarded up homes / neighborhoods;
- Loss of tax revenue to the local school district or town;
- Long delays before the local town, municipality, or state can take possession due to tax arrears.

Thus, these incomplete foreclosures/abandonments can have very significant impacts.

If this becomes widespread, we could be in the process of creating an entire new universe of suburban slums . . .

Just walk away. It's not just for borrowers anymore.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

If Planners Planned Automobiles

Hat Tip "Wagga."

Before laughing too hard remember planners do plan transit with similar results as shown. From AutoBlog:

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Peering Under The Skirt

rob dawg said...
Ventura is "home" to Amgen and Countrywide which are both leaving even though Amgen won't admit it and Countrywide doesn't know it yet.

12/19/2006 12:46 PM

So, is Bank of america going to go through with their purchase?