Daily Archives: December 3, 2014

Light blogging these days

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 6.58.19 PMMy 90-year-old mother, Leatrice, had another stroke yesterday and has been hospitalized. She first suffered a stroke three years ago on Thanksgiving and entered a state of “vascular dementia”, where she has been ever since, staying at home, as she always had insisted on, under the care of my older brother John.

More or less, goodbyes were made some time ago, but my mother was the hub of our crazy family, and with all that’s going on with my son John, the timing is damn inconvenient. That said, the Fountains are a stoic lot, so on we go.

But blogging is probably going to be shoved towards the back burner for awhile, and if you notice fewer posts in the next few days, that’s why. Plus, it’s still deer season.


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Contract off Round Hill Road

25 Sheffield25 Sheffield Way, $3.645 million, reports a deal. Back in November, I attended its first opening house and reported here that I thought it was an excellent deal. Someone  agreed. Selling price is close to ask, as it should be, since it was priced by Mary Ann Heaven and the owners at just about its 2002 purchase price despite substantial renovation/improvements made during the ensuing years.

The buyers fit the typical profile of new Greenwich buyers, just like my parents did in 1954: moving from NYC, with young children; the exception here is that they’re Europeans, and that might explain why they liked the house so much – it’s a bit different from the usual cookie cutter colonial.

As this shows, there’s nothing wrong with the market that a smart price can’t cure.


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Reverse mortgages

Interesting article in today’s WSJ on reverse mortgages. (The link is here, but if you aren’t a subscriber, try getting around the cash wall by Googling “Reverse course when a borrower dies” and you should find a free source).

Reverse mortgages give older homeowners income by tapping into their home’s equity. But when the homeowner dies, heirs must act fast or they’ll risk foreclosure.

The vast majority of reverse mortgages are home-equity conversion mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Borrowers are allowed to tap into 50% or more of their home equity up to a maximum loan amount of $625,500. However, the FHA has stringent repayment rules that lenders must follow upon the death of the last mortgage-holder on the note.

Reverse-mortgage borrowers must be 62 or older and have paid off most or all of their mortgage. Borrowers don’t need to pay back principal or interest until the home is sold or the homeowner dies.

When the last remaining borrower living in the property dies, the FHA requires loan servicers to send a letter stating that the balance of the loan is due. The heir or estate administrator is then given 30 days to state whether the loan will be repaid or the home sold. If a response doesn’t come within that time period, foreclosure proceedings may be initiated.

That letter may sound intimidating, but the key is to respond with a clear statement of intent—whether the loan will be repaid by estate, if heirs plan to refinance with a regular mortgage or if the home will be sold to repay the loan, says Peter Bell, president and CEO of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA), an industry trade group. If a response is received, the FHA has built-in provisions for lenders to provide extensions of time up to a year for the estate to take these actions, he adds.

In August, the FHA relaxed rules to allow a spouse, even if under age 62, who isn’t a borrower on the reverse mortgage to remain in the home as long as he or she wants. The spouse won’t receive monthly payments of home equity, however, and interest will continue to accrue. But there is no lender deadline or foreclosure ….

Affluent seniors use reverse mortgages to pay for expensive home health care, allowing them to age in place while keeping their money invested in higher-yield securities

Pre-recession, a number of lenders offered “jumbo” reverse mortgages that allowed high-end homeowners to tap into more of their equity. The only current reverse-jumbo lender is Tulsa, Okla.-based Urban Financial of America, which introduced a reverse-jumbo product that lends up to 40% of home equity with a maximum loan amount of $2.5 million in three states—California, New Jersey and Hawaii.

Urban Financial plans to expand the product to more states in 2015, but the lender doesn’t expect to be alone for long in the reverse-jumbo space. “I would be shocked if there aren’t any other product offerings in the market by next spring,” says Steve McClellan, president and CEO of Urban Financial.

Like jumbo mortgages, reverse jumbos aren’t government insured. So they are not subject to the FHA timetable for payback, allowing more flexibility to work with more complex estates, Mr. McClellan says. However, borrowers should ask about jumbo-loan payback time limits and foreclosure policies, he adds.

The reverse-mortgage market in the U.S. has remained roughly even at about 60,000 loans annually for the past five years, according to NRMLA. But with home values rebounding, seniors age 62 and older have more equity in their homes than at any time since early 2008. Collective home equity for that age group was $3.73 trillion, up 22% since spring 2012. Of that equity, 77% is paid off and potentially borrowable via a reverse mortgage, NRMLA data indicate.

The go-to-guy that I know on reverse mortgages is Greenwich native Robert Fiala, who’s in Roxbury now, but works with borrowers state-wide. With the no-doc mortgage a thing of the past, a reverse mortgage can often? sometimes? offer a solution to getting cash out of a home. Robert’s contact info is Rfiala@snet.net, or (203) 599 4156. As regular readers know, I don’t get kick backs on the occasional referrals I make here, I just try to provide leads to good people; Robert’s one of them.


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The next media hoax is about to unravel

I was dead when she says it happened. Otherwise, I'll admit: I'd be the number one  usual suspects UVA alumnus

I was dead when she says it happened. Otherwise, I’ll admit: I’d be the number one “usual suspects” UVA alumnus

I haven’t really been following the UVA “fraternity rape” story, first reported in Rolling Stone, that’s been making the rounds of the press in between Ferguson stories, but as objective minds look at the details of the “victim’s” story, gaps are appearing.

Last week, Reason.com compiled some obvious questions being asked by others.

A young woman is led young woman into a “pitch-black” room. She is shoved by a man, who falls on her; they crash through a glass table and she lands in shards of glass. She bites his hand; he punches her; the men laugh. (Really? A man punches a woman and people laugh?) With the smell of marijuana (not usually known as a violence-inducing drug) hovering over the room, he and six more men rape her. …

Having been raped for three hours while lying in shards of glass “digging into her back”—three hours of which Jackie remembers every detail, despite the fact of the room’s pitch-blackness—she passes out and wakes up at 3 AM in an empty room.

Jackie makes her way downstairs, her red dress apparently sufficiently intact to wear; the party is still raging. Though she is blood-stained—three hours with shards of glass “digging into her back,” and gang-raped, including with a beer bottle— and must surely look deeply traumatized, no one notices her. She makes her way out a side entrance she hadn’t seen before. She calls her friends, who tell her that she doesn’t want to be known as the girl who cried rape and worry that if they take her to the hospital they won’t get invited to subsequent frat parties.

[S]ome of the details do strike me as perplexing on subsequent re-reads. One issue now being raised by skeptics is the nature of her injuries, which sound as if they would have required immediate medical attention. (According to the story, everybody involved was basically rolling around in broken glass for hours.) If the frat brothers were absolute sociopaths to do this to Jackie, her friends were almost cartoonishly evil—casually dismissing her battered and bloodied state and urging her not to go to the hospital.


Megan McAardle chimed in on Monday

UVA Should Help Police Catch Alleged Rapists — Now.

wrote last week about the explosive rape allegations against a University of Virginia fraternity in Rolling Stone.  This morning I see that Richard Bradley, a former editor at George who had the unhappy distinction of having been taken in by Stephen Glass, is raising questions about the story and the reporting by the author,  Sabrina Rubin Erdely.

I read Bradley’s article and thought, “well, if there are problems with Erdely’s story, it will probably come out eventually, because there’s enough detail that can be checked.”  But there’s a corollary to that: If the Rolling Stone article’s allegations are true, there’s also enough detail to put at least a couple of people in jail, and possibly the whole group, even if Jackie (the victim) is reluctant to assist the investigation.

For starters, there are two people whom the university can surely identify right now.  First is “Drew,” the boy who worked as a lifeguard at the university pool with her, invited her to the party, and handed her over to his brothers to be raped.  There are about 80 brothers in this fraternity; the odds that more than one of them was an upperclassman lifeguard in 2012 seem pretty small, unless this happens to be the swim team frat.

Second is the kid who raped her with a beer bottle when he found himself unable to maintain an erection; she says she recognized him as a classmate from a small anthropology discussion group.  The story strongly implies that the rape was an initiation ritual for the fraternity, and since fraternity rush takes place in the second half of freshman year at UVA, this boy was almost certainly a sophomore, or maybe an upperclassman who transferred in.  At any rate, it’s very unlikely that there is more than one young man who was a new member of Phi Kappa Psi in 2012, and also a member of lower-level anthropology class.  The university ought to be able to identify these two young men in a matter of a few hours.

But the university may well be able to identify everyone, because the story strongly suggests that an entire new class of Phi Kappa Psi brothers participated in a gang rape, either of Jackie or of the two other girls who she learned were also gang raped at the fraternity around the same time that she had been.  As far as I can tell, Virginia has no statute of limitations on rape, which means the police should be aggressively investigating these sickening allegations.   The university has a duty to its own community, and to the community at large, to do its utmost to identify as many rapists as possible, and help the police to bring them to justice.  And all of us who have a stake in reducing rape — which is to say, all of us who are not rapists — should be putting as much pressure as possible on the UVA administration to ensure that it does exactly that.

What hasn’t happened, so far, is an arrest, even though McArdle points out how simple it should be to find at least some of the culprits. If the police can’t make an arrest, or 12, then it seems likely that the entire story was a hoax, and if so, when this is all over, real rape victims will have suffered and, I hope, the journalist who supposedly vetted and reported this story will have no career. The national media, of course, will just move on.


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Land sale, Lucas Point

11 Cove Road

11 Cove Road

11 Cove Lane, 0.62 acre in R-20 zone (agent claims 6,000 sq.ft allowable build), directly in flood zone, asked $4.4 million last January, still asking $4 when this buyer appeared. I’m all for people building wherever the hell they want, but I hope no taxpayer dollars will subsidize the house to be built here.


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Hit sales price, win suit

(for younger readers)

(for younger readers)

605 North Street reports a contingent contract. Asking $7.395 million, it’s been kicking around, on and off, since it was built as a spec house and offered at $12.5 million in 2004. Closing price?

605 North Street

605 North Street


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