August 31, 2014

Bits Bucket for August 31, 2014

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August 30, 2014

Bits Bucket for August 30, 2014

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August 29, 2014

Bits Bucket for August 29, 2014

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August 28, 2014

Bits Bucket for August 28, 2014

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August 27, 2014

Paranoia About Buying At The Top

The Marin Independent Journal reports from California. “Marin home prices edged up 5 percent in July. The median price of a single-family home was $960,000 in the county, and 276 homes sold this July, compared with 325 in July 2013, according to CoreLogic DataQuick. Sales were down in most Bay Area counties, plummeting 7 percent in the area overall and 33 percent in San Francisco. ‘There’s a whole range of thinking’ as to why so few homes are on the market, said Jeff Sterley, a Pacific Union agent. One reason, he said, is that ‘people want to see their price come back to at least the amount it was at the former peak.’ Prices peaked around 2006 and then plunged, coming back around 2012. Sterley believes these would-be sellers are watching and waiting to make a move, and many will make that move in 2015.”

“‘People who want to retire and move out of Marin and are ready to downsize will feel more comfortable once the nest egg has been restored. There are people who will get strong appreciation in 2015. They are going to feel they are in a position to make a move once they have gotten their equity back plus,’ Sterley said.”

The Union Tribune. “The yearly growth in home prices continued to slow in real-estate markets across the United States in June, and San Diego’s was no exception. Michelle Silverman, a La Jolla based Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway, said she’s seen the market slow as higher inventory has made buyers more sensitive to price. ‘I think the move-up buyer isn’t moving up right now,’ she said. ‘They’re looking at what I have, and what is out there, and do I want to make that stretch right this moment?’”

The Los Angeles Daily News. “Housing inventory surged again in July in the San Fernando Valley from a year earlier. Last month, the Valley’s supply of properties for sale jumped 27.5 percent — from 1,470 in July 2013 to 1,874 — said the Van Nuys-based Southland Regional Association of Realtors, noting a two-and-a-half-month supply at the current sales pace. The year-over-year inventory increases began in July 2013, and they have been more than 20 percent each month since October, the association said.”

“Prices continued moderating last month. In July, the median home price increased 3 percent, from $505,000 a year ago to $520,000, but a drop of 3 percent from June. Sellers are becoming more realistic about setting prices, buyers are becoming more selective, and multiple offers, common a year ago, are rare now, association CEO Jim Link said. ‘They have a choice for the first time in a while, and they will not overpay. There are still a lot of people in the market who are sensitive to the last (price) run-up, and there is also some paranoia (about) buying at the top,’ Link said.”

“In the smaller Santa Clarita Valley market, home sales fell 4 percent — from 221 a year ago to 212 in July, an increase of 12 percent from June. The median house price there increased 8 percent, from $430,000 a year ago to $465,000 in July, but declined 3 percent from June. Inventory in the market, though, soared 48 percent, from 492 to 726 properties. ‘The rapid price rise had to moderate,’ Nancy Starczyk, president of the association’s Santa Clarita Valley Division, said in a statement. ‘Each tick up in prices locked more prospective buyers out of the market. Some owners still mistakenly expect prices to keep going up, up and up, yet that’s not realistic.’”

The Orange County Register. “What’s up with mortgage rates? Jeff Lazerson of Mortgage Grader in Laguna Niguel gives us his take. ‘From rate sheets hitting my desk that are not part of Freddie Mac’s survey: Locally, well qualified borrowers can get a 5-year ARM at 2.875 percent with 1 point, borrowing all the way up to 1 million dollars in loan amount or add 1/4 percent to 3.125 percent in rate and get a loan amount to 2 million dollars. I have a confession to make. Today’s flat prices are going to start falling pretty hard after the first of the year – when the Fed starts raising short-term interest rates. Uncle Sam is the leading suspect behind the crisis of home affordability.”

“If you need to sell between now and the next two years, sell now. List your home at fair market value. There’s too much competition in the market to do otherwise. According to Steven Thomas of, the number of Orange County property listings now is 8,000, compared to 5,869 one year ago. He observed, ‘Buyers are second-guessing purchasing altogether.’”

“The U.S. government controls 90 percent of the U.S. mortgage market. In one form or another, a tremendous amount of unnecessary and unaffordable rate and points are added to your mortgage with no change to this thinking in sight. Housing is sinking, for one, because of this expensive anchor around every borrower’s neck.”

The Desert Sun. “Trying to sell a home in the Coachella Valley? Soon, fewer agents outside of the desert may see it. The desert’s largest group of real estate agents plans to remove its property database from a giant pool of regional listings across Southern California. The split goes live Wednesday, eliminating access from agents in the Inland Empire and Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties.”

“But the move concerns outside agents, who say making data more exclusive will hurt home prices and hinder their ability to sell a desert home. Laura Steelman, a La Quinta homeowner, wants to eventually sell her 3,000-square-foot house in a gated community. She’s now concerned that fewer buyers will see her property, leading to fewer bids and offers. ‘It’s a disservice for the homeowners in the valley,’ said Steelman, an assistant to an Orange County broker. ‘A lot of owners here come from not only out of the state, but out of the country, so how does that work?’”

“‘We want those prices to go up,’ said John Stewart, an individual investor from Orange County who flipped two desert homes in the last two years. ‘By having this kind of closed system where you exclude other agents, the 100,000 agents from the rest of Southern California from seeing your properties, how can it not affect sales?’”

Bits Bucket for August 27, 2014

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August 26, 2014

Snapshot: The Romance Only Works In A Rising Market

The Daily Mail reports from the UK. “One in five of the 171,000 loans taken out in the second quarter of this year had a term of 30 years or longer, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders. Among first-time buyers the figure was even higher, at 28 per cent. Ray Boulger, of mortgage broker John Charcol, said: ‘Is there anything inherently wrong with 30-year mortgages? No, it depends on individual circumstances. The idea that a mortgage has to last 25 years is outmoded. Most people will be better off with a long-term loan, if the only alternative is renting.’”

This is Money UK. “Falling temperatures have put summer on hold — and our overheated housing market is following suit, cooling so rapidly that thousands of sellers are slashing prices. Rightmove says the average asking price of a home on sale in England or Wales has plummeted £7,750 in four weeks. That’s a 2.9 per cent fall, the biggest ever in August. London was the worst-hit region with prices collapsing 5.9 per cent in one month. In July alone, there was a 20 per cent surge in homes on the market, meaning supply now significantly outstrips demand in certain areas.”

“‘This is evidence of a summer sales mentality. We expect more price falls next month,’ says Rightmove’s market analyst, Miles Shipside, who believes the sharp price decrease is down to the public realising ‘a five-year holiday of low interest rates is coming to an end.’”

The Khaleej Times. “Johan and Alejandra are the kind of Swedes the IMF has been warning about - piling up debt to keep up with an ever-rising property market and fund a lifestyle of travel, maids and nights out. The couple plan to buy a flat in Stockholm for five to six million Swedish crowns (724,000 to 869,000), initially with an interest-only bank loan, among other spending plans. ‘I may travel, I may want to invest in a new business,’ said Alejandra, who runs a cafe in the city centre.”

“Four in 10 mortgage borrowers in Sweden are not paying off their debt, and those that are repaying the principal do so at a rate that would on average take nearly a century. Swedish property prices have nearly tripled in just two decades. In July, home prices rose at a double-digit pace from a year ago - the first time in more than four years.”

From Todays Zaman. “Sales of new houses fell for the sixth straight month in July, the Turkish Statistics Institute announced. In July, the number of houses sold was down by 20.2 percent compared to the same period of the previous year. In the same period, mortgage house sales also dropped by 32.9 percent year-on-year. July’s drop in house sales is a remarkable one, pundits argue, adding that upcoming months could see even sharper declines in sales.”

“‘It is not hard to predict further declines in house sales through the end of this year amid increased debts, low demand and high prices. … The housing markets face bigger risks,’ Yeliz Karabulut from securities company ALB Menkul Değerler told Today’s Zaman. She recalls that the Turkish construction companies had TL 95 billion ($43.6 billion) in unpaid debts in June, adding that this was an astounding 61 percent rise over the end of 2012, when the figure was TL 59 billion.”

“Cemal Gökçe, president of the İstanbul branch of the Chamber of Civil Engineers, told Today’s Zaman that housing sales would drop more than 20 percent during the last five months of this year. ‘The current picture reveals serious structural problems in the Turkish housing industry… there are not enough affordable units for the lower class,’ Gökçe said. He also referred to the growing risk of a housing bubble in Turkey markets. ‘The number of housing units on sale has exceeded the 1 million mark in Turkey; prices are high and this is not a sustainable situation.’”

The Business Recorder. “Many of Brazil’s biggest retailers, homebuilders and carmakers are cutting jobs as Latin America’s largest economy teeters on the edge of recession. Now jobs are disappearing in retail, construction and food processing, which had been reliable engines for growth and new employment over the last decade. In Bahia and Pernambuco, construction companies have cut over 14,000 jobs this year. New project launches by homebuilders in the second quarter, a leading indicator for construction jobs, fell 25 percent from a year earlier, according to J.P. Morgan Securities analysts. ‘There is no outlook for improved hiring among builders by the end of the year,’ said economist Danilo Garcia.”

The Sun Daily in Malaysia. “As part of an effort to curb speculative buying of properties by investor clubs, which is one of the causes of runaway prices of properties in the Klang Valley, Local Government Minister Abdul Rahman said developers who intend to sell more than four units to a purchaser must obtain prior approval from the Controller of Housing. According to him, the market has slowed down considerably with developers’ sales falling 50% so far this year. In Sabah, the Sabah Housing and Real Estate Developers Association (Shareda) announced a 65% drop in sales.”

“‘The romance has left the group buying clubs because it only works in a rising market…the lure of group purchase is not so much there anymore,’ he said.”

“‘Between 2011 and 2013, the market rose too high, too fast and too quickly. Now the market is screeching to a halt,’ said Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents president Siva Shanker. He said talk of a property bubble, property prices rising and responsible lending guidelines have created a negative market perception, which has slowed down the market but values are still ‘grossly inflated.’ ‘The market is in a tailspin and it has yet to recover,’ he told SunBiz.”

Want China Times. “China’s authorities have taken anti-corruption measures up a notch by mandating all government officials register their real estate on a digital platform. Officials with multiple properties have already begun dumping onto the market, reports our Chinese-language sister newspaper China Times. Zhang Xu, a real estate analyst said that the information platform might cause multiple house owners to undersell their properties. Zhou Feng, a manager at real estate firm Man Tang Hong, said that the demand for houses has been declining in the past few months, but that owners began underselling their properties several years ago when the war of corruption was first declared.”

The Globe and Mail in Canada. “One of the largest real estate companies in British Columbia says that more than one-third of all the single-family detached homes it sold last year went to people with ties to mainland China. Those buyers, the company added, tended to spend more money, too, with the average cost of a house sold to these clients topping $2-million, compared to $1.4-million on average overall. Richard Kurland, a Vancouver immigration lawyer who works with wealthy Chinese immigrants, believes Vancouver may see a slowdown in foreign investment. He said some wealthy Chinese buyers might get anxious and sell off second properties because of the current crackdown on corruption in China.”

“In meetings with top real estate agents earlier this year, Mr. Kurland predicted that luxury residential real estate could drop in value by as much as 25 per cent as foreign investment dips. As evidence, he points to July real estate figures that showed 106 homes for sale on the west side in the $3-million to $3.5-million price bracket, and just nine sales, compared to 73 active listings and seven sales during July of 2013.”

Bits Bucket for August 26, 2014

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August 25, 2014

HBB Snapshot

I’ve been running into a problem due to my schedule and the news flow. It’s that I find many interesting housing bubble related articles, but not enough to create a typical HHB post. Then time goes on and I end up putting 40 or more links into the desk clearing post, even while I may not have weekday posts. So I’ve decided to try a snapshot of what I find most interesting on any particular day. I’ll keep it around 6 links, and call it the HBB Snapshot.

The Credit Union Times. “Investors may be pouring less cash into houses, according to RealtyTrac. Matt Kershaw, VP for sales and mortgage lending for the $531 million Clark County Credit Union, said his Las Vegas institution has booked about $15 million in purchase money loans so far in 2014 and that this is about 30% less than last year. CCCU has seen investor activity peak and then retreat, Kershaw said. ‘It was a more substantial problem during 2012 and 2013, but during 2014 the cash investor has backed out of the market,’ he said.”

“Don Genevie, SVP for real estate and business lending at the $2 billion Grow Financial Federal Credit Union, reported the Tampa, Fla., institution had seen cash investors have an impact on the home aspirations of some of its 174,000 members in 2013, but the pressure had diminished somewhat. ‘I’ve been doing this 38 years, and I have never seen a market quite like this one,’ Genevie said, noting that cash investor pressure had been felt across the state and that the credit union had adopted things like commitment-to-buy letters to help a credit union member compete in bidding battles.”

“Genevie said investors had purchased so much of the existing housing stock in Tampa, the credit union worried about what might happen if the rental market began to fail, adding that he worried about whether many of the investors might conclude they need to liquidate the investment and put all their homes on the market at once. Genevie acknowledged such mass marketing would be against the investors’ own interest by driving prices down further, but there was no way of knowing what legal or organizational structures underpinned some of the investor groups that had purchased so much housing. ‘If a partnership fails or if something else happens, they could wind up selling quickly,’ he said.”

“‘The smart thing to do would be for them to release their housing a little bit at a time,’ Genevie said. ‘If they did that and released enough to move increase our housing stock to a six months’ supply, they would still make money.’”

The Arizona Republic. “New-home prices across metro Phoenix soared too high and too fast in 2012 and 2013 for many buyers to handle, leading to a slump in sales that has builders worried. Home prices have dropped slightly this summer, and builders are trying to lure buyers by offering incentives that include lower mortgage rates and free upgrades on appliances, countertops, lighting and flooring. Norm Nicholls, president of Fulton Homes, said builders have learned a tough economic lesson over the past several months. The generous incentives are one approach to attracting buyers again.”

“‘Builders are being much more aggressive with incentives to bring in buyers who have been holding off,’ he said. ‘We brought new-home prices up so hard and fast in the Valley. The past 11 months have been pretty desperate for the area’s new-home market.’”

“‘Everyone in Valley homebuilding got excited 24 months ago when the market started to show the first signs of a recovery,’ said Matthew Cody, president of Scottsdale-based Cachet Homes. ‘Big investors bought land, and prices climbed. It was all premature.’”

The Portland Business Journal in Oregon. “Data from real estate buyer Gorilla Capital suggested that the Oregon housing market will be slower to recover due to a large number of foreclosure filings that have yet to be resolved. Changes to Oregon’s mediation law prompted a flood of requests for face-to-face meetings between lenders and homeowners with delinquent mortgages, slowing down foreclosures. ‘When you’re behind on your mortgage payments by 20 to 30 months, it’s really hard to catch up,’ said John Helmick, the CEO of Gorilla Capital. ‘I wonder if people would have been better of having the foreclosure and a fresh start.’”

“Helmick said that of the homes his company researched, 87 percent were vacant when they were foreclosed upon. In most cases, the owners had long ago moved on with their lives. ‘These zombie homes are sucking the values out of neighborhoods,’ said Helmick. ‘Having a process that takes two or three years is nuts. We need to have a fast-track system for homes that are vacant. They are a blight on neighborhoods.’”

The Herald Mail in Maryland. “More than five years since the nation’s recession ended, the number of Washington County properties being hit by some sort of new foreclosure action — mortgage default notice, scheduled auction or bank repossession — has increased again. In the Tri-State, 12 percent were in such trouble in Franklin County, Pa., and 10 percent were ’seriously underwater’ in Jefferson County, RealtyTrac said. Maryland posted the nation’s second-highest state foreclosure rate in July, for the sixth straight month, RealtyTrac said.”

“Of those homeowners who meet with counselors, there are new clients ‘and we also have repeat ones,’ said Hagerstown Home Store Director Vicki Bender. The repeats ‘may have gotten a (loan) modification three years ago and even though our counselors went over that with them and did a budget with them, (such clients) are coming back to try to go get another modification,’ she said.”

“‘Usually, they don’t get another one’ because their lender has already tried to give them a break, by lowering their mortgage’s interest rate so their monthly payments are more affordable, Bender said. It’s frustrating ‘because we really shouldn’t have any repeats,’ she said. The loan is modified and a personal budget plan is worked out so that the homeowner can keep his or her home, she said. While working with the counselors, the borrowers are saying ‘like, ‘Yeah, we’ll do that,’ Bender said. ‘Yet (when they come back as a repeat client), we go over their finances and you see they haven’t curbed any of their expenses.’”

From CNET. “As tensions in San Francisco between the tech haves and the resident have-nots erupt in public disputes, entrepreneurs are realizing a lean startup can grow anywhere. The added incentive for nabbing talent outside the main tech hubs: Companies can get top smarts on the cheap. And lower salaries mean lower overhead, which eases the pressure to raise money. For Robbie Allen, CEO of Automated Insights, a house hunt in Silicon Valley, a region between San Francisco and San Jose, changed his thinking about California.”

“‘We kept driving and driving, and the neighborhood became seedier and seedier. It was a million-dollar home and we wouldn’t get out of that car,’ he said. ‘That did it. With that kind of money in North Carolina, you can live in style.’”

“The added incentive for nabbing talent outside the main tech hubs: Companies can get top smarts on the cheap. And lower salaries mean lower overhead, which eases the pressure to raise money. ‘We can pay them half to a third as much as you have to pay in New York,’ Allen said.”

The Associated Press. “Bank of America’s record $16.65 billion settlement for its role in selling shoddy mortgage bonds — $7 billion of it geared for consumer relief — offers a glint of hope for desperate homeowners. But consumer advocates say relatively few people will be helped relative to the devastation triggered by the mortgage bonds. Only a fraction of homeowners would be eligible for refinancing under the settlement. And the process by which people would qualify and receive aid could drag on for years, with payouts set to be completed as late as 2018.”

“Monnette Holland had been anxiously waiting the settlement, wondering if it might save her four-bedroom home in Franklin, Virginia. Holland had refinanced her house in 2006 with Countrywide, a firm that was later bought by Bank of America. Holland used the proceeds from the refinancing to pay off auto loans and install a new roof and windows. But then her husband was forced into an early retirement at a paper mill. And Holland had to go on disability. The couple tried and failed several times to modify their mortgage, only to learn that its owner kept changing.”

“As an alternative to foreclosure, Holland listed her house — worth $270,000 at its peak — for less than $90,000 in a short sale. A buyer made an offer just days before the Justice Department settlement was announced Thursday. ‘It has been a nightmare,’ she said. ‘I was hoping that we could keep our home.”

Bits Bucket for August 25, 2014

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August 24, 2014

The Market Feels A Bit Surreal Again

It’s Friday desk clearing time for this blogger. “Only 95 African-American couples or families applied for home-purchase mortgages in all of Multnomah County in 2012, a paltry 1.5 percent of the total, according to federal data. Six years earlier, before the housing bubble popped, 575 black families or individuals applied for home-purchase loans in the county. African-American families are losing a time-tested way to stabilize their finances while building assets for retirement or economic and social advancement, says Tom Cusack, a retired federal housing official. ‘What are you going to do to accumulate wealth?’ Cusack wonders. ‘You’re not going to get rich or pass along money by putting money into a 1 percent CD.’”

“As Inland home prices move closer to unaffordable levels for many working Janes and Joes, homeowners and shoppers are clamoring for a timeout moment, like the one you get just before a roller coaster car crests the hill. Dennis Kolbeck, an Inland-area home shopper, called last week to say something’s got to give because the market feels a bit surreal again. ‘I was ready to pounce on a house, but the prices got the best of me,’ he said.”

“In the Phoenix-Scottsdale, Arizona market, the summer market is drowsy. ‘We seem to have sluggish demand,’ said Floyd Scott, owner of Century 21 Arizona Foothills. In the luxury market of $1 million and above, supply is more like 18 to 24 months, he said. Scott noted the number of transactions has been ‘trending down’ for three years. Buyers are taking longer to decide on their purchases, shopping around more. ‘We’re not seeing multiple offers on any of our properties,’ he said.”

“‘Sales are lower this year than they were last summer,’ said Bonnie Roberts-Burke, president of the District of Columbia Association of Realtors. ‘Buyers are worried that they’re over-paying. They’re pickier than I’ve seen in the last few years,’ she said. ‘More deals seem to be falling apart than in the past.’”

“The foreclosures in Frederick County, according to RealtyTrac, jumped from 109 in June to 199 in July. Hugh Gordon, a mortgage loan officer with Fitzgerald Financial, said there are mortgagors barely hanging on. Some of those walking away from the house, even though a foreclosure means a loss of credit standing, are doing so because of the condition of the house, Gordon said. ‘What do you do with a town home in a group of town homes that no one wants because of its condition?’ Gordon said. ‘I also continue to see far too many buyers entering the market thinking prices are as negotiable as they were during the recession.’”

“The Austin housing market is overvalued, according to the latest Trulia Bubble Watch report. At the end of an alley off East 11th Street is a one bedroom, one bath, 780 square foot home. It’s described by realtors as a likely ‘tear down.’ The asking price is $310,000. Cathy Conley and her husband bought their first home in the 80s. Then Austin’s biggest bubble, burst. ‘We watched the investment in our home dwindle before our eyes,’ said Conley. They were able to wait it out until the 1980s housing market recovered. But, many weren’t so lucky. ‘Austin was booming at the time and everyone was investing in new homes and life was great and then the rug was pulled out from under most people in Austin.’”

“What makes Countrywide special isn’t just that they gave out a lot of bad loans, it’s that they sold those bad loans to others while keeping the good ones for themselves. In a 2005 email, the Countrywide Financial Corporation’s chairman—not named in the statement, but it was Angelo Mozilo—wrote that he was ‘increasingly concerned’ about a certain adjustable rate loan. He feared that the average borrower was not ’sufficiently sophisticated to truly understand the consequences’ of their mortgage, making them increasingly likely to default. He wrote: ‘…the bank will be dealing with foreclosure in potentially a deflated real estate market. This would be both a financial and reputational catastrophe.’”

“According to the CMHC survey, ‘about half’ of condo investors in Toronto and Vancouver currently rent out their last purchased unit. However, one glaring omission from the survey are foreign investors, as it only included condo owners who reside inside their CMAs. And, as several brokers have pointed out, the survey assumes all participants truthfully filled out their paperwork at time of funding.”

“‘I believe that this report is based on a survey or condo owners and is also based on what was reported at the time of funding; So in reality we have no idea how accurate these numbers are,’ commenter M. Robertson said. ‘From experience as a lender I can tell you that a lot of brokers will put owner occupied on an application so that they can get it approved. A lot of lender underwriters also turn a blind eye.’”

“Weekly ­advertised rents have fallen 3.6 per cent in Docklands and 6.4 per cent in ­Southbank over the past 12 months while they have stayed still in the central business district, RP Data figures show. Over the past five years, rents in Docklands have fallen 8.6 per cent. In Sydney, Hugh Eriksson tells a similar story. The marketing executive, who owns a townhouse in Neutral Bay, says he has bent over backwards to keep rents near to stable and has even allowed pets. ‘There might be low vacancy in the inner city but renters are still in a position where they can choose,’ he says.”

“Jason Plevras paid $600,000 for a two-bedroom apartment in Melbourne’s Southbank last May. The real estate agent assured him he would have no trouble finding a tenant, Plevras says. ‘I remember when I was signing the contract to buy, I made clear that I was worried we won’t be able to rent it,’ the 33 year old says. ‘They said ‘renting will never be a problem. You’ll always have tenants,’ His starting price was $600 a week, but that went down to $525 before it rented. It’s been a ‘yo-yo’ of tenants coming and going ever since, Plevras says. ‘Because it’s so competitive, we’re almost putting anyone we can in.’”

“More wealthy Chinese are moving their money out of China to invest in Australia’s property market as a corruption crackdown in the world’s second-largest economy gathers momentum, according to property consultants and lawyers. Chinese citizens received approvals to invest nearly $5.58 billion into the sector, up 41 percent from a year ago. ‘They are worried, so they are looking for a safe place,’ said a Sydney-based immigration lawyer, who is advising on setting up a new fund exclusively for Chinese investors and regularly travels to Beijing and Shanghai. ‘They don’t want returns, not necessarily. They want a safe place to park their funds.’”

“At a new luxury apartment project called International City Park, a salesperson said sales have slowed sharply since the start of the anticorruption drive. Kaili is the capital of Qiandongman prefecture and the home of many government officials, who used to be big customers. ‘Government officials here have two or three apartments,’ according to the salesperson. They aren’t looking to buy more. ‘They are secretly trying to sell them,’ she said.”

“A group of students from a Communist Party school in Kaili, for instance, recently toured the prison and received a ‘vivid warning’ of the dangers of succumbing to corruption. The climax of the show: songs and dances performed by the prisoners about their crimes and their feelings of remorse. The performers were dressed in prison gray-and-white striped uniforms. ‘We are all party officials,’ said one of the attendees. ‘We all have had similar experiences. Now they have to spend their lives in jail.’”

Bits Bucket for August 24, 2014

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