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Questions As To Where Is That Line

A report from the Citizen Times in North Carolina. “A celebrated entrepreneur has had his real estate license stripped after keeping ‘at least’ tens of thousands of dollars owed to Airbnb owners whose properties he managed, state regulators said. Shawn Johnson ran a business based on managing local short-term vacation rentals through Airbnb.”

“But in February, the North Carolina Real Estate Commission permanently revoked his broker’s license after Johnson admitted to multiple violations, including running an unlicensed real estate firm; putting Airbnb owners’ money into his own bank accounts instead of trust accounts; and breaking a city ban against most short-term vacation rentals. Johnson made those and other admissions in a Feb. 13 consent order negotiated with commission attorneys in which he also said he either admitted nor denied forging bank loan documents as alleged by the commission.”

The Virginian-Pilot. “A Virginia Beach real estate broker was hired to sell government-owned properties across Hampton Roads for the highest price he could get. Instead Robert Resh secretly bought at least four properties himself as part of a nearly $1.5 million fraud scheme, federal prosecutors said in recently unsealed court documents.”

“According to court documents, the scheme involved the improper sale of residential properties that had gone into foreclosure and been turned over to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Court documents indicate Resh was to receive a 3-percent commission for each sale he made for HUD. But as part of his listing agreement, he agreed to not buy any of the properties in question directly or indirectly.”

“With the help of a real-estate attorney named Jerry Mack Douglas and various straw purchasers, Resh repeatedly violated that condition from January 2011 through May 2017, the documents said. In support of some of the related loan applications, Resh submitted inflated bids relating to renovation work he hoped to undertake on some of the properties, documents said.”

From D Magazine in Texas. “Former City Council member Carolyn Davis pleaded guilty to accepting $40,000 in bribes from a developer while she was chair of the city’s housing committee. That developer is Ruel Hamilton, who was also indicted, and whose name you might know for steering thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to City Council members under the names of his grandchildren. (The city’s ethics code allows for individuals to give up to $1,000 per candidate per election.) His attorney says he will plead not guilty.”

“This isn’t the end of the case, either. Hamilton’s indictment also includes a $7,000 bribe to ‘Council Person A,’ who, the indictment only says, is ‘an individual known to the grand jury’ and ‘was at all relevant times a member of the Dallas City Council.’ The bribe occurred on August 3, 2018. There is also an unnamed nonprofit that Davis used to try and obfuscate the bribes.”

“Hamilton’s alleged scheme involved paying off Davis so she would lobby one of his low-income housing projects for federal tax credits. The indictment says the AmeriSouth Realty Group CEO wanted his project to qualify for one of the limited 9 percent tax credit subsidies—so named because of the amount the federal government subsidizes in order to stimulate an affordable housing development that would not have been financially feasible otherwise.”

“The indictment describes a scheme that wasn’t exactly quiet. Davis told Hamilton to write the checks to a nonprofit company owned by ‘Person A.’ That individual would cash the checks and then pay Davis with the money. Hamilton is also accused of giving her cash directly.”

“Hamilton also had this to say: ‘Before you leave office or whenever your last term is, we’re going to have stuff built down there on Eleventh Street. You just watch. I need you for that. I’m saying is, I’m there, you know, and so if there is anything that I can help you with, I mean, I hope you feel like you can reach out.'”

“That Council member asked for $6,200 ‘to cover his personal needs.’ Hamilton wrote a check for $7,000.”

From the Wall Street Journal. “Real-estate listing photos have always accentuated the positive, but computer-generated imagery of the sort Hollywood uses has now become so cheap and prolific that home sellers are taking out walls, removing ugly paneling and even adding digital swimming pools.”

“The technology allows sellers to green browned lawns, stage rooms with virtual furniture like digital dollhouses and even perform full-blown HGTV-style makeovers with clicks of a mouse. The hazards to buyers range from disappointment when they arrive for in-person showings to blown renovation budgets. That could prove an especially thorny issue for investors, who may need to retrain computer models they use to comb through listings for houses that are good candidates to turn into rentals or flips.”

“Risks associated with doctored listing photos could spread beyond sight-unseen buyers. Federal rule makers are considering a proposal to open up more of the home-appraisal business to computers that generate property values partly by scraping online listing photos to gauge condition and finishes.”

“Redfin employs a San Jose, Calif., company called roOomy to virtually stage vacant listings—right down to digital knickknacks—and says it discloses when the furniture in images is fake. ‘Empty homes online are not super appealing,’ said Quinn Hawkins, who leads Redfin’s business unit that flips houses in Southern California and Dallas. ‘It’s hard to figure out where your furniture is going to fit.'”

“Donald Epley, a retired University of South Alabama real-estate professor who helped write national appraisal standards, said misleading photos are no different than fudging the square-footage or misstating the number of bedrooms in listings.”

“‘This is a really new technology,’ said Denee Evans, chief executive of the Council of Multiple Listing Services, a trade organization. ‘It’s just starting to bubble up questions as to where is that line.'”

This Post Has 25 Comments
  1. Ahem…

    ‘who leads Redfin’s business unit that flips houses in Southern California and Dallas’

      1. I knew that Sequenom’s ‘540 patent was crap in 2011 and that Theranos (although private) was a fraud in 2012.

        1. I knew that Solyndra was BS after seeing their stuff and talking to one of their engineers at a Solar Power trade show in San Diego. Not run of the mill solar cell BS, really out there BS. I just stayed away from them.

          1. I just stayed away from them.

            As I’ve done too. Some monetary ROI for my professional degrees would be nice. Globalism, autism and ZIRP haven’t helped.

  2. ” …variou$ $traw purchaser$” = imagine that!
    (just like zombie$, can’t get $hed of ’em)

  3. “‘…This is a really new technology,’ said Denee Evans, chief executive of the Council of Multiple Listing Services, a trade organization…”

    Bottom line: If the REIC can figure out a way to cheat or mislead the consumer, they will…

  4. “Donald Epley, a retired University of South Alabama real-estate professor who helped write national appraisal standards, said misleading photos are no different than fudging the square-footage or misstating the number of bedrooms in listings”

    That statement is just plain dumb. Walk into any subdivision new home development and there are model homes with “fake” furniture. Apartment complexes have model apartments with “fake” furniture too. And there is an entire industry out there that stages open houses with among other things – furniture. What’s the difference between that furniture or a photoshopped couch and table in an online listing? It’s just decor that no sane potential buyer thinks will come with the house. As long as the photos don’t alter the house itself, ie changing flooring or adding kitchen cabinets or whatever, I see nothing wrong with this.

      1. Yeah I don’t get people who buy r/e like that. Even assuming the pics are legit and everything is described accurately, I want to see the neighborhood. I want to see who the neighbors are. I want to walk around at night, see how quiet/safe the area is. Can I hear highway noise? Are there planes flying overhead? You don’t have to live close to the airport to be under a flight path. And inside, I want to get an up close look at the carpet and paint. Are windows drafty? Are there any smells in the house?

        There’s a million things like that you can never learn from just looking at pictures. Even a home inspection won’t reveal these things. Each to their own, but I wouldn’t buy a house without physically seeing it in a million years.

          1. Remember, love letter? Feeding rodents? Listed in the morning and 20 offers/sold by night? This is what mania can do especially combined with FOMO!

  5. Borrowing our way to prosperity!
    The US federal deficit hit $310 billion in the first four months of the 2019 fiscal year, the Treasury Department reported Tuesday.
    That amount represents a 77% increase compared to the same period in fiscal year 2018.
    The increase was driven by a 2% drop in tax revenue and a 9% increase in spending.

      1. The purse strings aren’t controlled –

        ‘86% of Government Spending is on Autopilot’

        “The new report from the Government Accountability Office — a federal auditing agency — shows that of the $3.7 trillion the federal government spent in 2015, $3.2 trillion of it didn’t require authorization by Congress that year… Over the years, Congress has passed laws that allow federal spending without any annual congressional approval.”

        https://www.investors.com/politics/editorials/federal-spending-budget-deficits/

        1. Not that spending being controlled by congress critters would do us any good anyway, since they can’t do anything but add together how much they’re making being for sale to the highest corporate bidder.

  6. That developer is Ruel Hamilton, who was also indicted, and whose name you might know for steering thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to City Council members under the names of his grandchildren.

    I am shocked, shocked! to discover endemic fraud in “affordable housing” schemes. But I am secure in the knowledge our intrepid, incorruptible DoJ and FBI, and our ever-vigilant regulators and enforcers, will get right on that.

  7. That kind of thing was rampant in the collapse of the last bubble. Agents with bank foreclosure listings wouldn’t take calls from prospective buyers or show the properties. Then they’d sell the property to a silent partner at a steep discount to be flipped later. The same agents who screwed the banks with fake appraisals and buyers with fake incomes double dipped on the foreclosures that resulted. The banks were more than happy to oblige because they collected all the fees on the way up and got bailed out on the way down. And none of these fraudsters got shaken out of the system.

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