REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

January 25, 2016

Hidden Home Costs

By David Reiss

Faulty Wiring

TeleMundo quoted me in 15 Hidden Home Costs When Buying a Home (the original is in Spanish: 15 gastos escondidos al comprar una casa). It reads, in part,

There are many other things to consider when buying a house, besides the fact that it looks nice. Pay attention to these details and avoid unpleasant surprises.

*     *     *

Taxes for the following year — Although you were notified about your current taxes, they could go up from one year to the next says David Reiss, Research Director of the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (Brooklyn).

Bad electrical wiring –when purchasing a house many expenses may be hidden behind the walls and you will not realize it until the light switch stops working, adds Professor Reiss.

Thanks to Ana Puello for the translation.

Read More

January 25, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

Monday’s Adjudication Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

Read More

January 25, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

January 22, 2016

Tough Edge for Financial Services

By David Reiss

Maria T. Vullo %>

Maria Vullo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Law360 quoted me in Cuomo’s DFS Nominee Likely To Keep Tough Edge (behind a paywall). It reads, in part,

Although New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo turned to a longtime BigLaw attorney to lead the New York State Department of Financial Services, observers say the agency is likely to continue taking the aggressive regulatory and enforcement stance that has become its calling card.

The governor tapped Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP’s Maria T. Vullo to lead the DFS, completing a monthslong search to replace former New York Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin M. Lawsky. In turning to Vullo, Cuomo brings on a litigator and former prosecutor with 25 years of experience in the law, including two decades of representing banks.

But given the reputation that the DFS has built up since it burst onto the scene with its $340 million sanctions violation settlement with the U.K.’s Standard Chartered PLC in 2012, advocates and observers believe that if confirmed, Vullo will continue to push for tough enforcement and big penalties against the banks, insurers and other financial firms that the DFS oversees.

 *     *     *

However, because Vullo comes from a BigLaw background with extensive experience representing financial firms, some have raised concerns that the agency will become less aggressive in enforcing New York state’s financial regulations.But observers who spoke to Law360 said her noncorporate experience gives a clearer picture of how she might run the DFS.

Vullo has been an advocate for women in the legal profession and represented women who sued for damages after being raped during the war in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995, helping secure a $745 million verdict in that case.

And in her work for Cuomo during his tenure as New York’s attorney general, Vullo oversaw a staff of around 200 that worked in the office’s investor protection, antitrust, real estate finance, consumer fraud and Internet bureaus.

In that position, she took action against Ezra Merkin and Ivy Asset Management for their roles in defrauding investors in Bernard L. Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme, as well as launching an investigation and action against Ernst & Young for investor losses in Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s 2008 bankruptcy.

Those past experiences should allay any fears that Wall Street’s critics might have, said David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School.

“I thought that Governor Cuomo would seek an aggressive replacement for Lawsky,” Reiss said. “Vullo fits the bill.”

To that point, financial reform and other advocates said in interviews that they knew little about her, but were encouraged by what they did know.

“What we’re hoping is that the reputation that the department has established will continue through the new leadership,” said Andy Morrison of the New Economy Project, a New York-based advocacy group.

Indeed, Cuomo has an interest in maintaining an aggressive DFS.

The billions of dollars in fines it collected from banks have gone to fund state infrastructure projects, including the construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River north of New York City.

And that get-tough approach has also been a way to attract voters.

“My sense is he benefits from the halo effects of an aggressive DFS,” Reiss said.

Read More

January 22, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

Friday’s Government Reports Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

  • The U.S. Government Accountability Office released “Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) Report,” showing the Treasury’s participation for TARP housing programs.
  • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report on SNAP Benefits, or what used to be known as food stamps, finding that between 500,000 and one million people will no longer received these benefits in 2016.
  • A report from Joseph A. Smith found that JPMorgan Chase has fulfilled its obligations under the required $4 billion 2013 Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Settlement.

Read More

January 22, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

January 21, 2016

Dollar Homes

By David Reiss

Packmatt

Realtor.com quoted me in Buy a House for a Buck? The Real Story Behind $1 Listings. The story reads, in part,

Hidden deep within the bowels of real estate listings are a few head-scratchers that would no doubt catch any bargain hunter’s eye. They’re homes for sale for the grand total of one crisp American dollar. So what’s the deal? Are they for real?

I decided to find out by actually clicking, and calling, and learning the stories behind these tempting facades. And it turns out, $1 listings can mean many things. Here’s what this lowball price is actually all about.

*     *     *

Possibility No. 3: It truly is for sale for $1, but…

The next four places for $1 that I check out are all rundown properties in Detroit. They range in description from “fire damage sold as is” (translation: a charred pile of lumber—pic below) to “bungalow with three bedrooms, one bathroom, basement and much more” (translation: “more” means plywood for windows and doors).

Still, some houses sit on decent lot sizes of 3,000+ square feet in neighborhoods that seem habitable at first glance. The listing agent won’t return my call, but I track down an agent willing to show me the various rundown homes. Though back taxes or liens on the property may jack up the price, I ask whether the house will really sell for $1. “Sure,” he says. “This is Detroit.”

Now that I’ve found a true $1 listing, should I hand over a George Washington for one of these fixer-uppers?

“When a house is being sold for a dollar, it means that the local real estate market has cratered,” says David Reiss, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School who focuses on real estate issues and community development. “Land has no value. Or even worse, it has negative value and buyers of $1 homes will end up getting snookered. Owning land comes with various mandatory expenses like real property taxes. It’s possible the true value is even lower than a dollar. In that case, you will see a lot of $1 houses staying on the market, as hard as that is to believe.”

Reiss further explains how the Motor City’s market cratered so deeply: “Real estate’s value typically comes down to location. If jobs have disappeared, if residents have disappeared, if services have disappeared—then value disappears.”

Beyond having zero worth, a $1 home is likely a gaping money pit. When the New York Times ran a piece on the subject in 2007, it found that “the houses often require hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovations.”

Though my search for $1 properties was a bust in the end, there once were $1 homes worth buying. “Think of New York City,” says Reiss. “Homes that were abandoned in the 1970s are now selling for seven figures.”

Bottom line? One-dollar listings may be a risky gamble, but, hey, you never know.

 

Read More

January 21, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

January 20, 2016

The Founding & Evolution of HUD

By David Reiss

Omer Wazir

I had previously blogged about HUD at 50, a hefty tome filled with a lot of interesting chapters. Today, I focus on Chapter 1, written byJill Khadduri, The Founding and Evolution of HUD: 50 Years, 1965-2015 (starting at page 5). The abstract for the chapter reads,

This is an institutional history of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), focused on the development of HUD’s major policies and programs over the 50 years from its founding in 1965 to 2015. The chapter emphasizes how the successive secretaries of HUD and the political administrations they operated within shaped the agency and its programmatic responses to housing and urban issues. It attempts to place the evolution of HUD within the contexts of the housing, housing finance, and community development industries; other governmental institutions, including the U.S. Congress and other levels of government; and the most urgent housing and urban problems perceived during each secretary’s tenure. This chapter benefits from hindsight on which policies and programs appear to have had lasting importance. However, it does not focus on the outcomes of HUD policies and is not an assessment of HUD’s effectiveness in dealing with the issues of poverty, urban distress, housing quality and affordability, and fair housing over the past 50 years. (5)

There will be a lot that is familiar to housing nerds in this chapter, but its real value lies in putting all of the pieces together in a coherent narrative, charting the big changes in federal housing policy. How was federal housing policy related to urban policy? How was housing policy related to housing finance policy?  Where do Community Development Block Grants fit in?  How about housing vouchers? Fair housing policy? Enterprise Zones and Empowerment Zones? How important was homeownership vis-à-vis rental housing policy? When did special needs populations and the homeless get more resources? How did large-scale disaster relief fit into HUD’s mission? These issues, and more, are addressed and placed in broader context. Bottom line for housing nerds and aspiring housing nerds: read it, or at least skim it.

Read More

January 20, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

Wednesday’s Academic Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

Read More

January 20, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments