×
↓ Freedom Centers

Tag Archives: housing


Reversal on Appeal of Texas Trade Secret Ruling Offers Promise for Economic Recovery

By George LandrithSoutheast Texas Record

General court 09
shutterstock.com

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on Americans’ health as well as the health of our economy over the past several months. The real estate industry is certainly no exception. Due to challenges and unpredictability ahead, combined with record unemployment and cost-cutting layoffs, many Americans have put their plans to purchase a home on hold.

At the pandemic’s onset, new home sale listings dropped by as much as 70 percent in some markets but the April numbers suggested some recovery was underway. Web traffic to real estate portals like Zillow plunged by almost 40 percent. Further, nearly 4 million homeowners are in the midst of forbearance plans – delaying payments on their mortgages – making up almost 8 percent of all mortgages.

While challenges presented by the coronavirus introduce uncertainty, a competitive real estate market and an environment that rewards fair competition and promotes collaboration within the industry will help foster a faster recovery.

Today, key industry partnerships and collaborations between mortgage service providers or banks, fintech and realtech developers offer products and services that bridge the gap between the huge swaths of available data and informed consumer decision-making. These innovations empower home buyers or sellers to make more informed decisions, at a time when few can afford to spend more or sell for less than they should based on constantly fluctuating home markets. A prime example is  how Amrock, one of the nation’s leading title insurance, property valuations, and settlement services providers, has focused on developing innovative solutions, such as their eClosing platform, to improve the real estate experience for all parties involved. Because of the rapidly evolving and highly dynamic nature of the industry, partnerships have become key to finding innovative ways to use data to provide the best product for consumers.

Regrettably, such ingenuity and the necessary B2B collaboration faces challenges that predate the current pandemic raddled housing markets. The real estate industry and those who rely on it all pay the price for the increasing onslaught of litigation abuses by the hands of legal profiteers seeking to exploit our courts and our industries for financial gain. 

Fortunately, on June 3, the Texas 4th Court of Appeals issued a decision offering hope that the trend of increasing abusive litigation, particularly that within the real estate industry, may not be so inevitable. 

This ruling marks a milestone for homeowners who pay title insurance, which protects both real estate owners and lenders against loss or damage occurring from liens (mortgage loans, home equity lines of credit, easements), encumbrances, or defects in the title or actual ownership of a property. Critically, title insurance offers buyers and sellers the assurance they need to buy, sell, and reinvest, all critical components of a recovery. 

The Texas 4th Court of Appeals follows a March 2018 decision by a Bexar County, TX, jury who awarded HouseCanary, a software developer, nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars after mistakenly believing Amrock allegedly stole their trade secrets. In truth, Amrock had hired HouseCanary on a $5 million contract to develop an automated valuation model (AVM) mobile application for use by appraisers in the field – a key development in streamlining the real estate buying/selling process. AVMs are formulas that are used to appraise real estate property based on key variables like historical price data, tax assessments, sales history and past lending transactions. However, after HouseCanary had failed to deliver a functional application after more than a year and no clear progress, Amrock sued for breach of contract, and built their own AVM for appraiser use.

The facts of that case – and the weakening standard of what makes up a trade secret – painted a distressing picture for the future of American innovation.

In an effort to cover their inability to develop the application they were hired to produce, HouseCanary countersued – alleging Amrock had stolen their trade secrets and used proprietary information in the development of their own AVM. After ignoring key facts and employing several faulty legal arguments and highly questionable calculations, HouseCanary was able to convince the jury that Amrock had misappropriated their trade secrets – and that such information was valued at $235 million dollars – more than 100 times HouseCanary’s total revenues for all product sales during the period in question.

Beside the fact that the ruling was 150 times the value of the initial $5 million contract, there is another piece of fundamental misinformation the entire ruling hinges on: HouseCanary had no trade secrets or any proprietary information – hence their inability to produce the mobile AVM application Amrock contracted them to create.

This was confirmed by four HouseCanary executives-turned-whistleblowers, who, alarmed by the massive damages figure, testified that “there was never a working version of the App,” and that HouseCanary had deceived Amrock by “representing that the App was more functional than it actually was.” In a then-anonymous email to Amrock CEO Jeff Eisenshtadt, former HouseCanary Director of Appraiser Experience Anthony Roveda wrote “housecanary never had any proprietary anything…” 

The original 2018 decision, as it stood before June 3, established a dangerous precedent for the future regarding what was classified as protectable “trade secrets,” which deterred innovation and the partnerships needed to provide the best product for consumers.

As the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, the government – from policymakers to judges – have a duty to provide stability, create meaningful policy, uphold our justice system, and provide clarity where needed. The Texas appeals court decision to overturn Amrock v. HouseCanary sent a loud and clear message that this kind of frivolous litigation has no place in our courts – providing a reassuring and much-needed signal to innovators and developers that collaboration remains welcome here in the United States.


Essential or not?

The COVID-19 experience helps us decide what is essential and what isn’t

By Dr. Larry FedewaDrLarryOnline

One effect of the lockdown is that we find ourselves with frequent decisions as to what is essential to our survival and happiness and what isn’t. Life gets stripped down to essentials, with all the extras becoming secondary, if that. Here are some ideas along these lines.

The first essential is food. The availability of food for us to buy entails a massive industry. First, there is the source which is the farmers and ranchers who provide our meat, fruit and vegetables. Their activities require thousands of acres of land and huge amounts of water for crops and livestock, which in turn depend on favorable weather. Bad weather can bring both floods and droughts.

Then there is also a vast capital expense required for equipment and labor to plant, cultivate and harvest the crops which feed both people and animals.

Ahead is the immense supply chain which involves the transportation, processing and ultimately delivery to the thousands of stores and restaurants which will make our food supply available to all of us. It is important to remember that this entire industry and all its parts must continue to operate at all times in order for us to survive. Any significant disruption could have disastrous consequences. 

Closely related to food is water. Humans can survive longer without food than without water. The availability of water involves another massive industry as well as favorable weather. When we turn on a faucet and water appears, it is well to remember what has gone into that daily miracle.

The moral of these reflections is that 1) we are all radically dependent on the proper functioning of extremely complicated and expensive sources and supply chains for the very fundamentals of our existence, and 2) that the survival of the human race depends on factors which are mostly beyond our control.

Among other things, these essentials remind us that they depend entirely on people working, pandemic or no pandemic.

The subject of “work” brings up another consideration: buildings may not be as universally essential as we thought. Specifically, our housing is essential. If we never thought about that before the “shelter in place” mandate appeared, staying home for three or four months certainly showed us the importance of our house.

For many, however, the experience also demonstrated that “office” is not essential to work. We have been forced to discover that, thanks to all the modern communication technology, much of the work we do can be as easily preformed at home as in an office. So, offices are not really on some lists as essential.

But work really is essential. We have discovered what we always knew – that our work is what keeps us going, defines our place in this society, which, if we are not satisfied with the way things are, provides alternatives for us to test and follow. Work is also critical for society as a whole because it constitutes the means by which all those complex supply chains are sustained. Combined, they are the “economy” which is followed so thoroughly by the news – and Wall Street.

Another essential which has been forced to the front of our attention span by the pandemic is our family. In many cases, parents who work hard in often stressful circumstances have re-discovered the importance and the joys of marriage and parenthood by staying home for extended periods. They have become re-acquainted with their spouse and children, and spouses and children have in turn made their own discoveries.

Fathers especially sometimes become almost mythical figures to children who see them only for short periods, often in a disciplinary circumstance. The rest of the time their father is talked about but not there. Getting to know each other better is beneficial to all.

Hygiene is another subject which has drawn more attention in the last few months than in the last few years. We have been told ad nauseum how to wash our hands and sterilize every surface in sight. Like it or not, cleanliness – of person and environment – has become a new essential.

Shopping, restaurants, sports events and sports teams have fallen to lower placed priorities. All are missed – acutely by some – but there are other ways to get exercise and to prepare and consume food and drinks, other ways which involve much less risk of contracting disease.

Among the essentials most missed, however, are social events and interactions with other people. Some have discovered that the absence of crowds and gatherings is so important that being deprived has led to depression or worse. Others – often a significant number – have decided to seek communal activities, whether parties or protest marches, in spite of advice and even prohibitions to the contrary. To them, a full social life is essential, damn the consequences!

Just some contemplative thoughts (while working at home!).


Harris, Warren Present Plans For Government To Redistribute Wealth By Race

By Tristan Justicethe Federalist

U.S. senators and 2020 presidential rivals Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) both announced new plans over the weekend for government to redistribute private wealth differently according to recipients’ race.

Both announced these plans at a cultural and music festival hosted by Essence Magazine, a monthly magazine for African-American women. The festival attracted several high-profile speakers, including former first lady Michelle Obama and six 2020 White House hopefuls: Harris, Warren, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX.), and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Harris and Warren took the opportunity to showcase new proposals aimed at government picking economic winners and losers according to race and sex.

Harris Pledges $100 Billion to Subsidize Homeownership

Harris’ plan targets homeownership, pledging a $100 billion grant to support black families and individuals to secure homes in communities where financial institutions have historically denied loans to people of color, a practice known as red-lining. The money, Harris says, would be used to cover down payments and closing costs for as many as four million families or individuals.

“A typical black family has just $10 of wealth for every $100 held by a white family,” Harris told the audience. “So we must right that wrong and, after generations of discrimination, give black families a real shot at homeownership – historically one of the most powerful drivers of wealth in our country.”

The program Harris proposed would be administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and provide home buyers of certain racial backgrounds up to $25,000 each from taxpayers. Families making more than $100,000 annually or $125,000 per year in high-cost areas would be ineligible for these taxpayer subsidies. The cap is lower for individuals, at $50,000 and $75,000 for those living in what bureaucrats would define as high-cost places.

Harris’ proposal also calls for more government interference in alleged housing discrimination and new taxpayer funding for financial literacy. The California senator also proposed changes to how credit scores are calculated. Credit scores are based on people’s financial decision-making histories, and lenders use them to decide loan interest rates and eligibility.

Credit scores today are calculated based on individuals’ payment histories for debt such as credit cards, student loans, and mortgages. Harris wants to require credit-scoring agencies to take other payments into account including rent, phone bills, and utilities.

Harris also wants to change the way applicants’ debt is calculated when applying for a home, from the debt-to-income ratio being based on one year of income to a monthly basis. The change to a debt-to-income ratio based on monthly expenses would affect approximately 7.5 million black households and 5 million Latino households, according to Harris.

According to the Harris campaign, giving taxpayer money to black and Latino Americans to buy houses and forcing financial institutions to use politically calculated standards for lending would shrink the wealth gap between black and white households by 31 percent and bring up the median wealth of black households by approximately $32,000, and by $29,000 for Latino households.

Warren Proposes New Regulations for Gov’t Contractors

Warren’s plan aims at creating new rules for contractors working for the federal government, which employs approximately one-quarter of the nation’s workers. Warren released her plan Friday and discussed it at the Essence Festival Saturday, calling on an executive order to require federal contractors to increase their employment of people who are not white and getting government involved in deciding what women and minorities should be paid.

“It’s up to the federal government to say what the terms of those contacts are,” Warren asserted to the festival crowd. “It’s not enough to talk the talk about equal pay for equal work. It’s not enough to talk the talk about the diversity of your work force. You’ve got to walk the walk, or you’re not getting those federal contracts.”

Under Warren’s plan, companies seeking federal contracts would be prohibited from asking potential hires about previous salaries or criminal history. Contractors would also be barred from using forced arbitration and non-compete clauses,

The proposals from the two top-tier presidential candidates come as both senators have picked up steam following well-received performances in the first round of presidential debates held in Miami last month. Their campaign momentum has come at much of a cost to Democratic front-runner former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), both of whom have seen their support drop in the polls but remain competitive in the race.

Harris saw her poll numbers jump the most out of any other candidate following the debate, practically doubling her support from pre-debate levels at 7 percent to above 14 percent, according to Real Clear Politics’ latest aggregate of polls. The California senator garnered positive attention when she attacked Biden on stage for the former Delaware senator’s opposition on forced busing and for his recent remarks touting friendships with segregationist senators as examples of civility.

Even so, Biden remains the front-runner by a solid lead. The latest polling on display from Real Clear Politics still shows Biden with an average ten-point lead ahead of every other candidate.


Report: Low-Income Entitlements Make Recipients Less Likely to Work

GAO finds Medicaid and housing assistance may cause lower labor force participation

by Ali Meyer     •     Washington Free Beacon

GAO Government Accountability OfficeGovernment entitlement programs such as Medicaid and housing assistance may make their beneficiaries less likely to work, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

According to the GAO, an increase in income could result in a loss of Medicaid benefits for an individual and thus cause them to be less likely to pursue employment.

The GAO found the same result when looking at the housing assistance program, especially in Chicago. GAO found that the Section 8 program had a negative effect on labor force participation and earnings. Continue reading


BUSTED: Paul Krugman removed 20 years of data from a chart to show a correlation that wasn’t really there

by Cullen Roche     •     Business Insider

Someone sent me an email Wednesday evening with some details on the Paul Krugman response to James Montier, which I discussed here. I had previously stated that the Krugman response was lacking meat. But it’s actually worse than that. It’s actually highly misleading and appears intentionally so.

In the post, Dr. Krugman tries to show how much interest rates matter by comparing the Fed Funds Rate with Housing Starts. He shows a chart and declares that there appears to be a strong correlation. Except, as this emailer notes, he appears to have shifted the chart to make it appear as though there is a correlation where there isn’t one.

Here’s the Krugman chart:

Continue reading


WP2FB Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com