Monday Morning Cup of Coffee takes a look at news coming across HousingWire’s weekend desk, with more coverage to come on bigger issues.
There are two kinds of people in this world — those who appreciate a good April Fool's prank and those who really loathe the idea. April Fools-related antics dominated the Internet on Friday, with Google's "mic drop" prank reminding companies everywhere how hard it is to make people laugh when you're causing them to lose business. One effort we did appreciate was this gem from Trulia, titled, "Can't stand hipsters? Maps to avoid pretentious people." What's not to like about this fabulous lead?
Hipsters are the WORST. It’s bad enough that they strut around town in their skinny jeans and perfectly coifed mustaches and mermaid hair, but their very presence just makes everything unnecessarily fancy and overpriced. In fact, it’s not just your average human that despises hipsters, hipsters hate hipsters.
The article includes metro maps typical for stories of this kind, with hipster neighborhoods marked like so much blight. It was funny and didn't cause anyone to lose their job. We'd call that a win-win.
When is renting better than buying a house? When you're looking for mobility, less maintenance and easy access to shopping and restaurants in a city center. While that description certainly fits many Millennials, it also describes a surprising number of Baby Boomers, as this article from the Chicago Tribune makes clear.
The number of boomer renters is still small. But there were just 10 million in their 50s and 60s in 2005, and in 2015 there were 15 million. They account for more than half of the nation's renter growth in the last 10 years, according to Jennifer Molinsky, researcher for the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.
This increase in renters can't be accounted for by just the job losses and foreclosures experienced by Boomers, the article states, but may represent a new trend. And developers are noticing.
With a tight rental market now, given the increase in renters, Molinsky notes there has been little interest in developing affordable housing for those who need to rent due to economic weakness. Rather, the interest in potential boomer renters is coming from developers seeing opportunity in the luxury market.
Speaking of affordable housing in metro areas, a story from ProPublica details how Habitat for Humanity's New York affiliate may have actually caused some families to become homeless when it bought up housing with federal grant money. The goal was to buy and renovate abandoned apartment buildings in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood with a $21 million government grant, and then provide them to low-income families.
However, the story alleges that the apartments were "cleared" before the purchases by developers looking to sell to Habitat. From the article:
Ultimately, Habitat’s project came with a cost: While scores of families gained new homes, other even needier ones were displaced.
Though Habitat promoted the properties it acquired to renovate as “long-vacant,” four of nine were still occupied shortly before the charity moved to buy them, records show. In two cases, Habitat targeted buildings just days after the last families living there moved out.
The article examines the role of developer Isaac Katz as well as the effect on long-time residents. Read the whole article here.
With April 15 fast approaching, companies are dealing with requests for W-2 forms from a variety of sources. Unfortunately, these forms are being mined by cyber thieves who are then filing fake returns and collecting taxpayer refunds, according to the Wall Street Journal on Sunday. The thieves, posing as high-ranking human resource employees, request the W-2s in what looks like an internal email. Unwitting employees forward the forms, which contain social security numbers and other personal information.
From the article:
Tax officials say thieves are targeting companies of all sizes; at least 50 have already reported that they were victims.
“We are definitely talking about many, many thousands of employees and I would have to think there are some companies that aren’t confessing to it,” said Verenda Smith, deputy director of the Federation of Tax Administrators, an organization of state tax officials.
Phishing scams represent a real threat to financial companies, preying on the most vulnerable part of any company: its employees. Title and settlement companies, which typically handle wire transfers, are coming under increasingly sophisticated phishing schemes, as HousingWire reports in its April cover story, Soft Target.
Because title companies often handle the closing and disbursing of funds, they are a huge target for hackers and scammers. According to Booz Allen Hamilton, third parties were the No. 1 security risk to financial services firms in 2015.
RoundPoint Mortgage Corporation got some welcome news Friday when it received a BB rating with a stable outlook from Kroll Bond Rating Agency. KBRA said the rating for the nonbank mortgage servicer, which is approved by HUD, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, "reflects steady growth of RoundPoint’s mortgage servicing operations, strong capitalization, above-average credit metrics, seasoned management team and potential support from its parent company, Tavistock Group."
In January, Fitch Ratings gave a B+ rating to another nonbank, Freedom Mortgage Corporation. Citing the company's strong management team and integrated technology platform, Fitch also noted some of the challenges faced by nonbanks in the current regulatory environment. "The highly cyclical nature of the mortgage origination business and the capital intensive and volatile nature of the mortgage servicing business represent primary rating constraints for nonbank mortgage companies, including Freedom, in Fitch's opinion."
Looking ahead to this week, the Institute for Supply Management will issue a manufacturing report on Tuesday and minutes from March's Fed meeting will be released on Wednesday.
The FDIC reported no banks closed for the week ending April 1.