Daily Archives: October 21, 2013

Well that solves that

ObamaCare released on 35-volume floppy disc set. “This is the ‘tech surge’ our leader promised,” White House spokesman Jay Carney announced, “and he’s a man who speaks truth to the powerless – count on it.”

No more tears

No more tears

From The Onion:

WASHINGTON—Responding to widespread criticism regarding its health care website, the federal government today unveiled its new, improved Obamacare program, which allows Americans to purchase health insurance after installing a software bundle contained on 35 floppy disks. “I have heard the complaints about the existing website, and I can assure you that with this revised system, finding the right health care option for you and your family is as easy as loading 35 floppy disks sequentially into your disk drive and following the onscreen prompts,” President Obama told reporters this morning, explaining that the nearly three dozen 3.5-inch diskettes contain all the data needed for individuals to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace, while noting that the updated Obamacare software is mouse-compatible and requires a 386 Pentium processor with at least 8 MB of system RAM to function properly. “Just fire up MS-DOS, enter ‘A:\>dir *.exe’ into the command line, and then follow the instructions to install the Obamacare batch files—it should only take four or five hours at the most. You can press F1 for help if you run into any problems. And be sure your monitor’s screen resolution is at 320 x 200 or it might not display properly.” Obama added that the federal government hopes to have a six–CD-ROM version of the program available by 2016.


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If you like your existing insurance coverage, you can’t keep it

Millions of health insurance policies on their way to being cancelled as ObamaCare preempts the field.

The main reason insurers offer is that the policies fall short of what the Affordable Care Act requires starting Jan. 1. Most are ending policies sold after the law passed in March 2010.  At least a few are cancelling plans sold to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Health insurance experts say new prices will vary and much depends on where a person lives, their age and the type of policy they decide to buy.  Some, including young people and those with skimpy or high-deductible plans, may see an increase. Others, including those with health problems or who buy coverage with higher deductibles than they have now, may see lower premiums.

Blue Shield of California sent roughly 119,000 cancellation notices out in mid-September, about 60 percent of its individual business.  About two-thirds of those policyholders will see rate increases in their new policies, said spokesman Steve Shivinsky.

“The arithmetic is inescapable,” said Patrick Johnston, chief executive officer of the California Association of Health Plans. Costs must be spread, so while some consumers will see their premiums drop, others will pay more — “no matter what people in Washington say.”

The people in Washington say that I should pay less because of my pre-existing conditions and my children – and yours – should pay to subsidize me. Does that sound fair to you?

If you missed it in this weekend’s paper, the WSJ has an interview with retired billionaire Stanley Drukenmiller, who’s been touring college campuses explaining to the kids how they’re being ripped off by Stanley’s (my) generation. Even before the ObamaCare fiasco, he was getting the attention of young Obama voters – imagine his reception a these new insurance rules kick in and the rip off is shoved right under their noses.


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These boats once had value

Our Irish Correspondent, always on the prowl for American bargains, sends along this ad from Craig’s list: 27′ Tartan, $100.

Tartan 27, $100

Tartan 27, $100

1972 Tartan 27 Sailboat, traditional design by Sparkman Stevens. Very nice cruising boat, sleeps 4. Hunter green hull. Full keel plus centerboard – boat draws 3′-6″. Harken roller furling for jib. North Sails replaced 10 years ago and fit well. Overall, boat is in NICE condition. Structurally sound!
Atomic 4 engine replaced 3 years ago with rebuilt model from Moyer Marine.
ONLY ONE PROBLEM: transmission cable is frozen, and though engine runs well, new cable must be installed, which is not easy to get at.
Bottom repainted yearly with anti-fouling paint. New running rigging. New compass.
Many extra items come with boat — extra jib, tiller extender, and more.
*** Will give this nice boat away now for $100, IF NEW OWNER CAN PICK UP SOON — currently on mooring.
Either I give it away now, or store it for the winter myself, and sell it for $4,000 in the spring…

That’s almost tempting: tartans are decent boats, but I’m not biting. My advice: let the poor bastid pay for winter storage himself, then offer him $100, next April.


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What a difference a year makes.


21 Hendrie Avenue

21 Hendrie Avenue

21 Hendrie Avenue in Riverside, asking $1.780 million, reports an accepted offer after just 18 days. This house tried for $1.995 million in April, 2012 and expired unsold that October although it had dropped to $1.875. I think the further $100,000 drop when it was returned to the market last month, a year later,  had less to do with its prompt sale than did the improved market.


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Accepted offer and a price increase (!)

25 Woodside Drive, in Milbrook, reports the accepted offer, 45 Farwell Lane is the one that’s jacked up its price. 

25 Woodside

25 Woodside

Woodside dropped its price to $2.9 million a year ago, and the fact that it’s sat so long since then suggests that that drop was not sufficient to meet market approval. Still, $2.9’s an improvement over the $4.995 attempted between 2007 and 2009, and even the $3.550 that was affixed when this property returned to the market in 2011.

45 Farwell

45 Farwell Lane

On the other hand, the owner of 45 Farwell continues her brave defiance of market forces and today has raised her unsold home’s price from $7.995 million to $8.5. This fits in with the history of the house: it sold for $5.150 million in 2002, sold again, to the present owner, for $3.850 in 2010 and then, after some renovations, placed back up for sale at $8.250 in April, 2011. Showing the same disregard of market timing then as she does now, the owner increased her price to $9.150 in November, 2011. When that didn’t work, she began a slow retreat, culminating at $7.995 this August. But you missed your chance, and now you’ll just have to pay more to wrest this lovely home from her possession.


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Two sales, a contract, and EOS’s broken heart

It’s all here.

275 Riverside Avenue

275 Riverside Avenue

275 Riverside Avenue’s sales price has been reported, $3.375 million. We’ve already had plenty of discussion on this house between those who really liked it (that would include me) and those who didn’t,  so there’s no need to rehash it; I’m just passing on the price for the use of those who keep track of such things. Owner paid $3.5 million for it in 2006 and is said to have spent more than $1 million on renovations and additions.

534 North Streetr

534 North Street

One of my favorite homes, 534 North Street, sold for $2. 1 million. This 1819 house was, I suppose, in need of some modernizing but it’s beautiful to my eye and I think $2.1 was a steal. The owner might have done better, ultimately, had he not started off at $3.235 million back in May, 2012, but that’s conjecture.

375 Stanwich Rd

375 Stanwich Rd

375 Stanwich, $2.750 million, reports a contract. Another really good house, in my opinion. The owner never dropped her price from $2.750 but that was, again in my opinion, a good price to begin with and well in the range of what comparable homes are selling for. This one sold new in 2007 for $3.150.

45 John Street

45 John Street

And just a few days after a reader asked for opinions of 45 John Street’s $14.5 million price (I said my opinion was irrelevant, but the market, by not responding, was providing the answer) the market really did respond – accepted offer. EOS chimed in earlier to say this was her kind of house but now, kid, it’s too late. On the bright side, you can stop searching under the mattress for that spare $14 million.


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Well I could have told them that

WSJ: Foreclosures dog even the wealthy.

Affluent home buyers attempting to get back into real estate after defaulting on their home loan are finding that few lenders are willing to work with them. Those that do often impose long waiting periods, higher down payments and higher interest rates.

Since spring, lenders say they have increasingly been hearing from would-be buyers who went through foreclosure. “We get the calls routinely,” says Al Engel, executive vice president at Valley National Bank, based in Wayne, N.J.

Callers include self-employed borrowers whose income dropped during the recession, causing them to fall behind on their mortgages, but who have since financially recovered. Also affected are borrowers who walked away from their homes after their values plummeted and owed more on their mortgage than the house was worth. Now that home values have stopped falling in most housing markets, they want back in.

Terri Conrad and her husband saw their 4,500-square-foot, five-bedroom home in Carbondale, Colo., foreclosed on last year. They purchased the home for $1.25 million in 2007, but its value had dropped to roughly $700,000 by 2012. Ms. Conrad, who manages finances of affluent families, says the couple tried refinancing but was denied. Although they could afford the payments, they decided to walk away because they didn’t want to keep paying for a home that was worth significantly less than the loan. They are now renting in Houston and plan to wait at least a couple of years before applying for a home loan again. “I’m worried about who’s going to give me a mortgage,” she says.

Most lenders who offer private jumbo mortgages, which start after $417,000 in most parts of the country and at $625,501 in pricier housing markets, remain very selective and limit themselves to borrowers with the strongest credit profiles.

Foreclosures stay on credit reports for seven years from the time homeowners default on their mortgage. What’s more, a foreclosure can lower a borrower’s credit score by 100 points, says John Ulzheimer, a former manager at FICO, the credit score used by most lenders. Borrowers who were previously always on time with payments would see a bigger drop. For instance, someone with an 820 FICO score (FICO scores range from 300 to 850) could drop to 580 following foreclosure, he says. That borrower could need more time to work his or her way back to a top score before getting a mortgage.

Separately, many affluent borrowers went into foreclosure later largely because they were able to tap their savings to pay their mortgage. Foreclosures on homes worth over $1 million peaked in 2011, while foreclosures on homes worth less than $1 million peaked in 2009, according to RealtyTrac, which tracks real-estate data. By delaying foreclosure, they will likely have to wait—possibly until after housing has fully rebounded—to get a home loan.

Borrowers who intentionally default—the ones who walked away from their homes—are less likely to be approved for another mortgage soon after. Lenders that originate private jumbos often follow guidelines set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which require strategic defaulters to have re-established their credit profile for at least seven years after foreclosure in order to get a mortgage.

But experts say more flexibility among lenders could emerge in the next year. A recent change allows certain borrowers to become eligible for mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration in as little as one year after their foreclosure. Previously the waiting period was at least three years. “This may be an influence on the private lenders to loosen a little bit on their waiting period,” says Daren Blomquist vice president at RealtyTrac.

Borrowers who overcame a financial hardship that was out of their control and improved their credit profile and are shopping for a mortgage should consider smaller lenders. Valley National Bank and Fremont Bank, which is based in the San Francisco Bay area, say they are open to working with some private jumbo applicants in as little as 2&GBP 189; to three years, respectively, after the date of foreclosure.

Here in Greenwich, the process has dragged on because some of the mortgages were so large and the houses securing them such a drag on the market  that lenders were unwilling to take the hit and end up owning a house they couldn’t resell. So the modest recovery in the high end market here is a double-edged sword: owners may finally be able to afford to bail out, but the banks see an opportunity to move against them now. Lis pendens – notices of the commencement of  foreclosure actions – are up significantly here since April.


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Horton lays an egg

Bob’s back with a column this week. Much of it is devoted to what a waste of time and money  it was to verify the residency of the students using our public schools. I disagree (and $25,000, not Horton’s “hundreds of thousands of dollars” were expended on the effort) because, like Peter Sherr, I kept receiving inquiries about the issue from residents convinced that we are educating half of Port Chester. Sherr said, repeatedly, that it was important to keep the trust of taxpayers that the BOE be perceived as a careful guardian of their money , spending it wisely and well, and therefore it was imperative that the board answer these rumors. I agree: not every rumor demands a response, but this one did.

In my opinion. Horton disagrees, and that’s fine. But he then turns his attention to the real issue underlying the residency verification: racial redistricting, and thats where he loses me.

The doctrine of “separate but equal” schools that enforced segregation around the country has been discredited [“illegal”, actually, not just “discredited”- Ed]

for more than 60 years, so the idea of racial imbalance school laws seems anachronistic in 2013 [and racial imbalance is connected to enforced segregation how? – Ed].

And while there may be no causal relationship [another way to put that is that there is no study showing a connection; “may be” is a weasel term for “is no” – Ed]

the fact is that the town’s most underperforming schools are the very ones with racially imbalanced school populations [they are also the schools with the poorest children and the highest percentage of non-English speakers – could that be the issue here, rather than the absence of a sufficient number of whites and Asians in those classrooms?- Ed] 

The state has been telling Greenwich for at least 10 years that some schools violated state enrollment guidelines, and it has taken no significant enforcement action. So this is hardly the heavy hand of the state coming down on the school that some people claim. [The state has held off “enforcement action” to date, and now it’s threatening again. That sounds like the heavy hand of the state coming to interfere with our schools, unless Horton is saying that the latest salvo from Hartford is just an empty threat – that’d be okay with Greenwich citizens, but it seems unlikely to be Horton’s meaning – he wants action, now, and the state seems poised to grant his wish. Ed]

Those who hold the position that town schools should be exempt from the law would stand on much firmer ground if they could point to a multi-year, consistent, effective program to bring these schools up to the same performance level of other schools in town. [The argument against complying with the state’s demand is twofold: by the statute’s own language, the two affected schools are what the law terms “special schools” with open enrollment and other features and are thus exempt from the law’s racial balance requirements, and the law itself is unconstitutional under federal law. There’s no argument being made that we’re exempt because we’ve been engaged in an “effective program to bring these schools up” – we probably have, but that’s not the argument – Horton is employing a straw man here – Ed]

Instead, the school board over the years has tried a variety of half-baked programs the results of which are that the so-called student achievement gap has grown, not decreased. [The percentage of poor and non-English speaking students in those schools has also doubled in that same period. Coincidence? Horton says “yes”, I think not. – Ed

Ten years should have been enough time to achieve meaningful improvements in student achievement. [ Why? How, if the cause of the imbalance is poverty, as the state’s insistence on counting the number of children eligible for a free lunch suggests are we to bring about meaningful improvement? Are we back to adding white bodies to the classroom again? ? (Only  liberals, by the way, think that there is such a thing as a free lunch, but I digress – Ed]

The state seems to have no desire to force a solution on the town, but at some point it cannot continue to ignore the disparity in student achievement. The school board should commit the district’s considerable educational talent and resources to making the racially imbalanced schools beacons of excellence [back to conflating lack of achievement with racial imbalance, with nothing to connect the two except a general, good-hearted belief that mixing black and Hispanic kids with white kids and Asians is “good”, and that the failure to achieve that must be “bad”. Since lack of equal achievement is also “bad”, to Horton, the two must be related. To paraphrase a great Australian statesman, two wrongs don’t make a white].


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