Thursday, January 27, 2011

Short sales and lenders

I attended an interesting class this week. An attorney who specializes in short sales and foreclosures was presenting his opinion of the Arizona anti-deficiency statute. It was interesting in that most of us attending thought first, that there was only one statute, and second, that the statute applies only to foreclosures, and not to short sales.

What he said was fascinating. First, that there is a statute which applies to judicial foreclosures and one which applies to statutory foreclosures; and actually, they both apply to short sales!

The long and the short of it, for folks doing a short sale, is that when a lender asks you to sign a promissory note for more money, it is illegal and unenforceable. Second, if you go through a short sale or a foreclosure, the lender no longer has a right to pursue you for anything left (provided your home and the loan meet certain criteria).

In fact, the statutes have been interpreted in case law in such a way that they are construes to strongly favor the home owner, releasing them from personal liability in many of these cases.

Shoot me an email for details!


Monday, January 17, 2011

How the brain works and why it is important to know...

In my efforts to satisfy my need to always learn new things, I read and listen to audio information (books on tape, classes, webinars, etc.) And mostly I find out something useful from all of it. From reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and the Daniel Ariely books about the choices we make, to ongoing studies of Neuro Linguistic Programming, and lots of study and reading about the stock market, real estate markets, to Brian Greene's books about the universe and stuff about quantum physics and how the big atom smasher might destroy the earth, and even stuff about relationships and how to raise children, fish, and other things -- I get lots of info.

One of the most useful things I have studied is in the area of NLP -- Neuro Linguistic Programming. Because it (along with another obscure field called Spiral Dynamics) is a study of why we do the things we do, and how we can predict what someone else is likely to do in a given situation.

One of the "discoveries"  of NLP -- or at least one of the things that is a tenet -- is that the conscious mind can only remember 5-7 things at a time. So if you (by yourself!) write down, in 1 minute, the name of every breakfast cereal you can think of, most people will write down 5-7 items. Why is this important?

Because if we can only think of 5-7 ways to do something, 5-7 ways to solve a problem, 5-7 people to call who might have an answer we need, then we are limited by that. Napoleon Hill, in "Think and Grow Rich", says that Mastermind sessions are one of the ways that successful people operate. It is because in these sessions, you can get MORE than 5-7 ways, because the breakfast cereals I think of will be different than the ones you think of.  So a group of people will be able to find better solutions than one by themselves.

This is similarly the basis for the "right" solution to the famous "desert island" problem, where there are a bunch of survivors of a shipwreck on a deserted island, and the problems to solve involve allocation of resources (water, matches, blankets) and what to do to signal for help. Each participant in the game comes up with their answers, and turns them in, then the group comes up with their consensus answers, and that solution is almost always better than any of the individual answers.

Another useful piece of information from NLP is useful in determining whether someone is remembering something or making up a story. There are specific, involuntary things we all do, depending on what part of our minds we are accessing -- and let me tell you, this is an invaluable piece of knowledge to have in your pocket during a job interview -- whether you are the hiring manager or the candidate.

So how many cereals can you think of?


Thursday, January 13, 2011


Here’s another New Year’s wish for my home town: Let’s figure out how to integrate some public parks into where the people live in the urban core.  See, Phoenix has a remarkable number of acres devoted for public parks, and some are truly magnificent for desert vistas and hiking opportunities.  Last time I checked, Phoenix’s South Mountain Park was the largest municipal park in the world.  Now, quiz time:  How far are those park’s entrances from downtown Phoenix, and which City bus lines run to the park entrances?  North Mountain Park is one of my personal favorites for hiking and enjoying spring flowers after a winter of good rainfall.  Adding to the questions above, how accessible is that park from the south end on the avenues side?  Matter of fact, do you know where that park’s entrance is, off 7th Avenue?  Our urban parks may be massive, but are they accessible, really?  What happened to truly “neighborhood” venues for recreation among urban dwellers here?  My children flew their first kites and their first windup, rubber-banded glider planes in Butler Park, and learned the etiquette of sharing swing-sets and taking turns on the slides there.  There are neighborhood parks other than Encanto in the City core, but they seem, too often, to have lost their luster as public places.
In fact, a dozen or so years ago, the City got to the point of putting up several of its public parks for sale.  No maintenance dollars was the explanation for the selloff.  That’s a shame.  The City’s never had a policy of allowing the privatization of parks maintenance akin to the experiments of allowing public golf courses to be privately managed.  But there’s a new trend afoot, and the City is going to study its viability.  The concept is to create livable, walkable communities with the aid of private development. The public/private partnership created would buy busted commercial developments and vacant land in distressed locations and, in many cases, demolish unoccupied or underutilized buildings.  Part of the land reclaimed would become an urban park, with the remaining area being densely redeveloped to help pay off the project's debt and create jobs.  Makes sense, as long as the coalition of private development and neighbor associations pools their funds to upkeep that neighborhood park. 
Lord knows there’s an appetite for close-in urban parks in Phoenix.  When the old Ramada Inn was leveled after it briefly was pressed into service for ASU dorms, the Sheraton promoted the use of the land for “overflow” surface parking (and maybe Channel 12, for its video-remote vehicles).  Some of the downtown neighborhoods and the Downtown Voices Coalition balked, big time.  I ought to know; I presided over the initial hearing for the use permit application for a five year term to operate a 90 thousand square foot surface parking lot.  I got the “stink-eye” from a variety of downtown residents who decided I didn’t “get it,” when it came to the desire for more pedestrian promenades and dog-walk parks space and less parking spots for vehicles.  Unfortunately for the residents, the City Board of Adjustment upheld my recommendation to approve the permit.  The motion to approve passed with the stipulation of a two-year evaluation of the permit to make sure that “over 100 trees planted and 300 flowering plants” within the parking area are being watered, according to the city’s plans for the lot.
But I digress about the trend.  With a grant from the City Parks Alliance, Georgia Institute of Technology and the Speedwell Foundation, a project has been dubbed "Redfields to Greenfields," contemplating a public/private enterprise with social and economic objectives aimed at acquiring financially distressed real estate and turning it into public parks or open spaces.  Phoenix is one of about 10 pilot cities working on the project.  An initial "case study" out of Atlanta found that perhaps the city could gain 6,000 acres of park space and 780 miles of trails by acquiring selected properties.  You can read more at the City Parks Alliance Web site at this URL: .
Repurposing “toxic” spaces for urban parks is an idea really picking up steam in the New York City area.  In 2009, the High Line park/trail system got rolling on the site of an abandoned rail property.  Brooklyn Bridge Park is getting a lot of attention through its phased opening this year, transforming miles of industrial backwater, pier ruins and concrete wasteland into playgrounds, sports fields and promenades.  But the recurring challenge is that the requirement that parks like these must generate income for their ongoing maintenance.  The current plan in NYC is to permit selective private residential development within the park’s boundaries at a cost that will offset the expenses of park maintenance.
Phoenix, in the meantime, is trying to figure out how to turn toward, or away from, this Redfields to Greenfields program.   The City’s Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability Subcommittee of the City Council met December 16, 2010, intending to discuss future opportunities - but no decisions were reached.  Since there is plenty of vacant land and abandoned commercial development parcels within the City’s boundaries, and there are plenty of folks seeking gainful employment to develop those parcels into urban recreation areas, there is some reason to be optimistic that with appropriate federal funding, some sites could be acquired for a trial run.  Federal funding, you say?  Well, nothing’s going to come out of the State’s or the City’s coffers for a few years, that’s for darned sure, supporting any leisure activity – related use, no matter the ecological benefit.  But developing a park for neighbors is about as “shovel ready” a project as one gets, so long as the neighborhood has some notice and input into the planning process.  The construction of portions of the park could indeed be a community-building exercise.