Posted by: The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

56 responses to “Cheap Home Sales Picked Up Some Steam in December”

  1. softwarengineer

    Most of the Bank Owned Sales

    Are the cheap homes.

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  2. Blurtman

    RE: softwarengineer @ 1 – Please define “owned” as that nowadays seems to be an ambiguous term regarding RE.

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  3. nick

    With such low inventory, I think we can expect to see greater fluctuation in month-to-month pricing numbers. Greater skepticism should be used when drawing conclusions about the direction of thinly-traded markets. Looking at quarterly numbers might make more sense than monthly numbers at this stage in the game.

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  4. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: nick @ 3 – Good points. I would question though whether our market could be called “thinly traded” when the volume isn’t all that bad. It’s the inventory that sucks!

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  5. ARDELL

    RE: nick @ 3

    Bingo! Month to Month reporting has become somewhat skewed…in fact pretty much always has been. Though I like monthly numbers….quarterly ones and even comparing First Half and Second Half separately YOY has always been better for long term planning.

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  6. ARDELL

    RE: Blurtman @ 2

    “Bank Owned” is not usually “ambiguous” as it means the Bank took ownership of the home at Foreclosure. Since they usually become the only lienholder as well, there is less ambiguity in true ownership rights of a “bank owned” than most any other type of property except “owned free and clear” by a private owner.

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  7. softwarengineer

    RE: Blurtman @ 2

    Yes Blurtman

    And with the engineers/technicals at Boeing being offerred a slow motion Enron pension free job contract [they'll strike forever on that issue, why won't they?] coupled with cumulative total labor force numbers GOING DOWN in the Seattle Everett Bellevue area below 1.5M and those bank owned homes sold at losses aren’t really all owned.

    http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.wa_seattle_md.htm

    Now down thumb us you Pro-sellers, for being honest and using CLEAR documented government facts….LOL

    Make SWE’s day [hey, I sound like Clint Eastwood]….

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  8. Blurtman

    RE: ARDELL @ 6 – So the whole foreclosure fraud crisis, and unprosecuted crimes of forgery and perjury, was just a bad dream then?

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  9. corndogs

    RE: softwarengineer @ 7 – “And with the engineers/technicals at Boeing being offerred a slow motion Enron pension free job contract”

    Not the case actually, the pensions are still in force for existing employees. Boeing is trying to change things for new hires, hoping the existing employees will take the offer and run…. but to offset the loss of pension 401Ks are enhanced…. isn’t as bleak as you’re making it sound

    “cumulative total labor force numbers GOING DOWN in the Seattle Everett Bellevue area below 1.5M”

    Are you really showing non-seasonally adjusted numbers from July to December and making an assessment about the trend of employment? Jesus, you’re about to be classified as a Losh… maybe slightly worse….

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  10. ray pepper

    dont mind me..just a test..Thx Tim.. We are functional again!

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  11. corndogs

    RE: nick @ 3 – “With such low inventory, I think we can expect to see greater fluctuation in month-to-month pricing numbers. Greater skepticism should be used when drawing conclusions about the direction of thinly-traded markets”

    This market isn’t thinly traded. Why is it that people keep associating low inventory with low trading volume?. Is it a sickness? There are graphs of data that show sales volume…. try looking at them. Low inventory should and does coincide with rising prices. Prices are rising! substantially….. recoveries happen 1st in the work centers… LA,San Francisco, Seattle etc (location,location,location) then spread to the outlying areas as people are forced to move to the outskirts over the following months/years to obtain affordable housing.

    There is nothing surprising here, it’s all in line with what would be expected.

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  12. ARDELL

    RE: Blurtman @ 8

    I don’t think we are on the same wave length. Apologies for interrupting your rant. :)

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  13. Blurtman

    RE: ARDELL @ 12 – We can be on the same wavelength. How do buyers know that the seller, in this case the bank, owns the property? I thought it was established in the ongoing fraudclosure crisis that there were many cases where the ownership was fraudulently represented.

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  14. Erik

    RE: Blurtman @ 13
    I agree with Ardell. I have no idea what you are talking about. You need to give us more background so perhaps we can follow along.

    Owners don’t pay their mortgage, so the bank eventually takes it and sells it. I don’t see what is so complicated about this.

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  15. Erik

    RE: corndogs @ 11
    What nick is saying is that since we have a much lower sample size, we will see larger fluctuations in the median if a few houses sell especially high or especially low. The curve would be smoother with a larger sample size.

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  16. ARDELL

    RE: Blurtman @ 13

    I think that’s a question for Kary. Generally speaking I would not consider that to be a problem when someone buys a bank owned property. On the off chance there might be an issue…well, that’s why God made Owner’s Title Insurance.

    I believe if the home is sold and the former owner was foreclosed on in error, that would not impact the person who bought the home as a “bank owned” home for a lot of different reasons. But that could vary from State to State. Here in WA, I do not think the former owner could get the house back from the new owners who bought it from the Bank.

    It clearly would be an extremely rare exception for that to happen.

    That said, I did once see a Title Insurer try to absolve themselves in the event that happened, so people should be careful to read their “Title Exceptions” very carefully, and even have an attorney review the quality of the Owner’s Title Insurance Policy” when buying property, Bank Owned or otherwise.

    In WA, Owner’s Title Insurance is provided by sellers to cover after sale claims from heirs, old lovers, and many other issues so that the buyer is protected.

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  17. Erik

    RE: corndogs @ 9
    You are wrong. It is more than pensions. The Boeing machine is trying to minimize what is happening. Read what Speea writes and not what Boeing writes.

    Boeing would likely raise the retirement benefits to 70 as opposed to 65 under the new contract. Also forseen is when the group without a pension heavily outweighs the group with a pension, the group with a pension will have it frozen as seen in many other industries. The basic benefit package will be increasing at a faster rate than ever before under the new contract. And yes of course, eliminate pension for new hires.

    If you are going to attack people corndogs, atleast get your facts straight. :)

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  18. Blurtman

    RE: Erik @ 14 – There have been numerous instances where the banks have taken and sold what they could not prove they had the authority to take and sell, i.e., what they did not own. I know this sounds preposterous, but unless you have been living under a rock, you must have heard about the fraudclosure crisis.

    “The five banks named in the suit — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Ally Financial — all have been accused of a myriad of financial negligence, from robo-signing documents and writing loans and modifications they knew their clients could not afford to foreclosing on homes they didn’t even own the mortgages to.”

    http://www.care2.com/causes/five-major-banks-being-sued-for-illegal-foreclosure-practices-in-massachusetts.html

    Thank you for defending our freedom, and welcome back to Fraudmerica.

    Banks May Have Illegally Foreclosed On Nearly 5,000 Military Members

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/29/bank-of-america-illegal-foreclosures_n_1118471.html

    I understand that RE agents would like quell any doubt that the seller actually owns what the buyer is buying, but what can you expect from ho’s?

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  19. Erik

    RE: corndogs @ 9
    They are setting things up in a sneaky way in order to save money and pay themselves more. They are coming out like they just want to tweak something here and there, but I know these people are very smart. There is a bigger goal here with large consequences for Speea employees.

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  20. Erik

    RE: Blurtman @ 18
    Well maybe I should get out more. I have been doing school and work so long I haven’t paid attention. Thanks for the info.

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  21. Erik

    RE: corndogs @ 9
    http://www.speea.org/Bargaining_Units/PS%202012/Boeing_2_Counterproposal_1_17_13/Neg_Team_5_point_flier.pdf

    Read this and don’t be a fool if you are part of SPEEA. Vote NO!

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  22. ARDELL

    RE: Erik @ 17

    Not to get into this as to Boeing, but I can confirm that my 20 year Bank Pension has been “frozen” since I left there into real estate back in 1990ish. There was a short overlap of the two careers. That’s why 20 + 23 does not equal exactly 43. :)

    When Mellon Bank bought “us” out they changed the pension math to “the most recent 20 years only” . Since I had 20 years in and was thinking of going part time because I had three small children age 4 and under, I didn’t know that the next 10 to 20 years would be better than the first 20 years…so I flipped out of banking and into real estate.

    The amount being “frozen” did double however when I elected at age 55 to not take my pension but to wait until age 62. The monthly was frozen from 1989 or so to 2009, but the deal is they pay me double if I don’t take a dime until I reach 62 in 2016. I expect there will be another offer of a higher number at 62 asking me to wait until I’m 65. I just weigh the amount they are willing to increase it by my need for the money in the interim.

    Double my “frozen” monthly by waiting 7 years sounded pretty good to me. Of course they are betting I will croak before I break even on that. Still, if they offer to double it again when I reach 62 if I wait to age 65, that will again be a hard deal to pass up.

    So “frozen” numbers can change depending on your option as to when to start collecting after the minimum age hits. They did not tell me this in advance, and only brought it up as an option at the point when I could start collecting it.

    They gamble I’ll die. I gamble that they won’t go out of business altogether.

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  23. ARDELL

    RE: Blurtman @ 18

    Given the property is empty at the time of the bank selling it, the question isn’t usually who REALLY owns it…but what happens to the buyer if there is a claim after they purchase it.

    I don’t appreciate being called “a ho” and I clearly don’t deserve to be spoken to that way. There can be any number of claims against a property after purchase. Long lost heirs. Someone claiming the previous owner bought it with their money and they have part ownership. Someone claiming common law marriage rights. Many, many more than “maybe the bank doesn’t really own it after all”.

    In all the cases you are ranting about, did the buyer have to leave and lose all their money and let the former owners back into the house? Buyers are protected against after sale ownership claims. That is why sellers in the State of WA have to pay for Owner’s Title Insurance at every closing.

    I still say Kary has to weigh in as there are a few different types of Owner’s Title Insurance and sometimes if not always the Bank does not offer in the contract to buy the same type of policy that an individual private seller does. I’m not sure how they get away with that, and the answer is not the top level of Owner’s Title that requires a survey be done.

    Kary has spoken about this difference in the past. Where is he when you need him? :)

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  24. corndogs

    RE: Erik @ 21 – “Read this and don’t be a fool if you are part of SPEEA. Vote NO!” i would never join a union, you guys get paid crap. Have fun fighting for peanuts.

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  25. corndogs

    RE: Erik @ 15 – “What nick is saying is that since we have a much lower sample size.”

    Erik pull your head out of you a$$. Inventory is the number of houses FOR SALE! NOT SOLD. When someone says thinly traded they are implying low sales volume. We do not have low sales volume. So we do NOT have a low sample size in terms of prices of sold houses.

    The median SALE price is based on what was SOLD not what IS FOR SALE. Speak for yourself, you’re too stupid to try to speak for others.

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  26. corndogs

    RE: Erik @ 17 – Nothing you said contradicts what I said porkchop head. I simply said the pensions weren’t going away for everyone and wasn’t as bad as software engineer made it out to be.

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  27. Kary L. Krismer

    By Erik @ 15:

    RE: corndogs @ 11
    What nick is saying is that since we have a much lower sample size, we will see larger fluctuations in the median if a few houses sell especially high or especially low. The curve would be smoother with a larger sample size.

    But what’s your sample on median? The actives or the solds? Since it’s the solds the low number of actives isn’t relevant to the type of fluctuations you mention. Again, the volume of sales is not really that bad.

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  28. Kary L. Krismer

    By ARDELL @ 16:

    RE: Blurtman @ 13 – I think that’s a question for Kary. Generally speaking I would not consider that to be a problem when someone buys a bank owned property. On the off chance there might be an issue…well, that’s why God made Owner’s Title Insurance.

    I believe if the home is sold and the former owner was foreclosed on in error, that would not impact the person who bought the home as a “bank owned” home for a lot of different reasons. But that could vary from State to State. Here in WA, I do not think the former owner could get the house back from the new owners who bought it from the Bank.

    It clearly would be an extremely rare exception for that to happen..

    It is theoretically possible to have a claim still exist after a foreclosure of a deed of trust. And in a very few situations it is also possible to have a claim still exist after a foreclosure and subsequent sale to a bona fide purchaser. That’s when the title insurance would kick in, and where it would probably be better to have the homeowners’ level of title coverage.

    As an aside, HUD apparently uses statutory warranty deeds when they convey property in an REO transaction. So there you in theory could ask HUD to defend against the claim???????

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  29. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Blurtman @ 18 – The foreclosure against military members is what I have been hitting on. That’s clearly unacceptable, but gets little press.

    There are also the situations where the bank’s left hand and the right hand don’t know what they are doing, and the left hand is doing a modification while right hand is completing a foreclosure. I ran into that personally once with a client, and fortunately caught it in time because there was significant equity.

    In the other situations it’s not so clear. It doesn’t really matter to me a lot that a bank might not have fully proven its ownership. If it did in fact own the note and DOT, and if the owner was in fact in default, I don’t see what the damages would be. If you want to make them prove those things, there are probably procedures to do so in all 50 states.

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  30. Kary L. Krismer

    By ARDELL @ 23:

    I still say Kary has to weigh in as there are a few different types of Owner’s Title Insurance and sometimes if not always the Bank does not offer in the contract to buy the same type of policy that an individual private seller does. I’m not sure how they get away with that, and the answer is not the top level of Owner’s Title that requires a survey be done.

    Usually the bank knocks it down to an “owners’ policy” rather than the slightly more expensive “homeowners’ policy.” The buyer usually has the option to upgrade it, either before closing or immediately after. Whether to do that or not may be dependent on the property (SFR or condo), but I believe the HO policy has an inflation provision and that could be very valuable on a REO purchase.

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  31. ARDELL

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 30

    Thanks Kary. Can you explain the extent and nature of that difference?

    I recommend that the buyer upgrade to that which is normally provided on every other home and the cost difference has been quite minimal. I don’t think it is the cost factor that causes this “problem”, but rather that the banks are creating a uniformity of Title Insurance Coverage that happens to match another State’s norm, but not WA’s norm.

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  32. Blurtman

    RE: Erik @ 20 – We are all learning. Evaluate and reach your own conclusions.

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  33. David Losh

    I’d like to see what the sales prices were for these cheaper homes, and how the prices paid today compare to more recent pricing, say from 2008 to today.

    Are the prices of cheaper homes going up, comparatively?

    I’d also like to know if the prices paid at the foreclosure auctions are going up, and if they are going up are banks releasing more properties at the auctions.

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  34. Blurtman

    RE: ARDELL @ 23 – How solvent are title insurers? Certainly you must have investigated this?

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  35. ARDELL

    RE: Blurtman @ 34

    OK…now you’re stretching. As I said earlier, sorry for interrupting your rant. You obviously like believing that the whole world is Going to Hell in a Hand Basket.

    Continue on. I will stay in my reality based North of I-90 world of Real Estate.

    Have a great weekend!

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  36. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: ARDELL @ 31 – Here’s a link comparing First American’s “Eagle” (Homeowner) policy to the normal policy. I think these may be fairly standard national coverages, so it may be the banks are just being cheap.

    http://www.oahure.com/pdf/TheEaglePolicy.pdf

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  37. Kary L. Krismer

    By Blurtman @ 34:

    RE: ARDELL @ 23 – How solvent are title insurers? Certainly you must have investigated this?

    Historically it’s been a high profit industry, with relatively few claims paid out compared to premiums. But right now with all the litigation on MERS and such, they probably have pretty significant exposure.

    I’d also point out that LandAmerica, or at least a significant part of it, was taken out already, but that was due to their 1031 exchange company investing in auction rate securities.

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  38. ARDELL

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 37

    Thanks Kary. Some day they will update the 22D so the answer isn’t “none of the above”. :)

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  39. Macro Investor

    By softwarengineer @ 7:

    RE: Blurtman @ 2

    coupled with cumulative total labor force numbers GOING DOWN in the Seattle Everett Bellevue area below 1.5M and those bank owned homes sold at losses aren’t really all owned.

    http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.wa_seattle_md.htm

    Now down thumb us you Pro-sellers, for being honest and using CLEAR documented government facts….LOL
    .

    SW, no thumb down but I believe you misread those clear facts, LOL.

    The civilian labor force went down — that’s the total population… employed plus unemployed people of working age. The employment line is total number of jobs — THAT WENT UP 1.2 thousand.

    But don’t worry, your bearish opinion is still good. Employers will be busy either laying off or converting people to part time to get under the new limits for having to provide health insurance. Jobs will go up, but they will be lower paying with fewer bennies.

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  40. Blurtman

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 37 – Do you think RE agents should verify that the for sale property is in fact owned by the seller, and in the case of the buyer’s agent, be able to recommend a title insurer who they know is financially sound? If not it would seem that they would exhibit the worst attributes of the shady mortgage brokers, (i.e., it’s someone else’s problem), and even the H word.

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  41. David Losh

    RE: Blurtman @ 40

    You may be referring to a couple of Title Insurance Companies that were created during the bubble here in Washington State that were precarious.

    Yes, a Real Estate agent should know what Title Companies are best.

    As you know no Real Estate agent can ensure a clear title, for a lot of the reasons you bring up. It is making for a murky market place, but that has always been true.

    The system we have now, in the past twenty years, is fairly new, but provides much more information to the public. I think we have a more transparent system today than we have ever had before.

    If you are looking for a flood of law suits, it usually would never happen. There is no upside. On the buyers side they have assurances that over time any title they have will be valid.

    So far it’s a wait, and see, but it looks like the banks win again. How does it look to you?

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  42. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Blurtman @ 40 – Agents typically do verify ownership prior to taking a listing, by getting a preliminary commitment. That assumes, of course, but they can read a preliminary commitment.

    Determining solvency is probably beyond the expertise of most agents, and best wife to the Insurance Commissioner, but there can be other reasons an agent would not want to use a particular title company. We well sometimes change it if we do not like the company selected by the seller.

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  43. Blurtman

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 42 – All a bit of a smokescreen, isn’t it, in the days of the MERS fraud.

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  44. Blurtman

    RE: ARDELL @ 35 – Some people will always tend to look the other way when their livelihoods depend on it.

    “It appears that every MERS mortgage,” a New York State Supreme Court judge recently told me, “is defective, a piece of crap.” The language in the judgments against MERS became increasingly denunciatory. MERS’s arguments for standing in foreclosure were described as “absurd,” forcing courts to move through “a syntactical fog into an impassable swamp.”

    “This centralized database facilitated the buying and selling of mortgage debt at great speed and greatly reduced cost. It was a key innovation in expediting the packaging of mortgage-backed securities. Soon after the registry launched, in 1999, the Wall Street ratings agencies pronounced the system sound. “The legal mechanism set up to put creditors on notice of a mortgage is valid,” as was “the ability to foreclose,” assured Moody’s. That same year, Lehman Brothers issued the first AAA-rated mortgage-backed security built out of MERS mortgages. By the end of 2002, MERS was registering itself as the owner of 21,000 loans every day. Five years later, at the peak of the housing bubble, MERS registered some two thirds of all home loans in the United States.”

    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/12/clouded-title-the-gross-illegality-of-mers/

    Lehman Brothers! Jeepers, what could possible go wrong?

    And so how could NY State Realtors possible in good conscience sell RE?

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  45. David Losh

    RE: Blurtman @ 44

    Easy, because it just doesn’t matter. To the buyer, and seller, it just doesn’t matter.

    The people who got screwed are the buyers of MBSs, oh, which would be the tax payers, at this point.

    Between the foreclosures, the refis, the property turns, who is going to sue? The buyer?, the seller?

    No, if you want prosecutions who are you going to jail? The person signing the documents? the person preparing the documents? or the person selling the MBSs?

    No, you have nothing but a wide sread conspiracy theory that is already water under the bridge.

    I’ll tell you why there are no prosecutions, it’s because the banking, and financial sector provides thousands, or millions of good paying jobs. If you close that sector you increase unemployment at a time we can’t afford it.

    Look at what has happened recently, robust is the word for the economy, and debt reduction is the job for Congress. We have moved on.

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  46. Erik

    RE: Corndogs @ 25
    You were just telling me last week I was a “good kid” and you’d take it easy on me… I guess I don’t have as much slack as I was hoping for with you.

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  47. Erik

    RE: Corndogs @ 25
    Okay, you got me. I see what you are saying.

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  48. Erik

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 27
    I see what you are saying… It is based on what has been sold, not the low inventory of unsold homes. Got it. Thanks.

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  49. Erik

    By Corndogs @ 25:

    RE: Erik @ 15 – “What nick is saying is that since we have a much lower sample size.”
    Speak for yourself,you’re too stupid to try to speak for others.

    :) This time I deserve your harsh words. I will bring something more thoughtful on Monday.

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  50. Erik

    RE: Corndogs @ 26
    Yeah, I mostly wanted to pull the trigger on you as I have seen you do to so many other innocent people that post comments here.

    It is a bad contract though. Boeing is using sneaky tactics to rip us off when we are making record profits. Don’t believe what they post in the media. It is a tactic to get the general public on their side.

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  51. Blurtman

    RE: David Losh @ 45 – That is truly pathetic. You are justifying a two-tiered justice system. The wealthy can break the law as they employ people. Bravo, Dave. Let’s all return to the feudal system.

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  52. corndogs

    RE: Erik @ 50 – “It is a bad contract though. Boeing is using sneaky tactics to rip us off when we are making record profits.”

    As the proletariat you have no claim to profit. You’re confusing yourself with a shareholder who bore risk of capital and provided means of production.

    When it’s all said and done, you’ll stay there, that’ll be your proof that the contract was fair.

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  53. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Blurtman @ 44 – There’s nothing inherently wrong with MERS, but the problem was they tried to fit a modern system into a relatively ancient system (grantor/grantee recording indexes) in all 50 states without any legislation specifically allowing it. Getting such legislation probably would have been very easy, but they didn’t want to risk it. Now they have no choice in some states.

    All 50 states are somewhat different in their real property laws. That’s why the foreclosure process in Oregon is now considerably different than that in Washington. Trying to cram a one product fits all 50 states system was rather foolhardy.

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  54. David Losh

    RE: Blurtman @ 51

    I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, It’s a statement of fact.

    The prosecutions you are looking for would involve those who did the work. That’s what happened, that’s what would continue to happen.

    What happened behind closed doors is a conspiracy which is much harder to prosecute, so where does that leave you? I’ll just tell you, it leaves thousands or millions of people out of work with no justice.

    Now in terms of the crumby titles, yes there are plenty of those.

    Those titles will need to be cleared, that’s for sure, but I think you know we are in a period where if we get enough refinances, enough foreclosures, enough short sales that they will clear all titles. After that each home owner will be in the properties for over seven years, and I don’t see where a challenge to title would come from.

    Banks win, you know they win, but we should all be smarter this time around. What do you think? are we really smarter?

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  55. Erik

    RE: Corndogs @ 52
    I will graduate with my Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering degree from UW this quarter. I will stay for 2 more years since that is agreed upon with our educational assistance program. After that, I will leave with a poor contract since my education and experience is very valuable to other companies.

    Not true that I will stay Corndogs.

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  56. Jillayne Schlicke

    Blurtman, our WA State Supreme Court came out with an opinion on MERS this past summer. Here is a link to a Seattle Bubble post on that topic.
    http://seattlebubble.com/blog/2012/08/16/washington-state-supreme-court-mers-may-not-foreclose-unless-they-hold-the-note/

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