Tag Archives: Armonk NY Commercial

Zillow kickback problem | Armonk Real Estate

Earlier this month, Zillow Group Z, +0.39%  , the popular online real estate data provider, reported blowout earnings. Revenue rose 32% compared to a year ago, and online visits were up 18%.

But there was a note of caution in its earnings release. In April, the company said, it had received a notice from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that questioned whether some of Zillow’s advertising revenues violated regulations against kickbacks.

At issue is the question of how a real estate service provider, like a real-estate agent or lender, gets business from a home buyer. Congress passed the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, also known as RESPA, in 1974 to make sure those providers weren’t funneling customers to each other in exchange for kickbacks or other inappropriate rewards.

Real estate market observers say that while Zillow’s broad footprint and accessible data have been a boon for customers, deciding whom to hire for the transaction is often a fraught process that could benefit from more transparency and less of the old handshake-deal approach that has often characterized real estate.

In Zillow’s case, what’s called “co-marketing” works by allowing a real estate agent to share the cost of an ad on the web site with a preferred lender.


This practice makes it seem as though those lenders or agents are receiving a seal of approval from each other or from Zillow itself. Many industry participants see the co-marketing process as little more than advertising that may appear like due diligence to a captive and uninformed customer.

There’s broad recognition among consumer advocates – and the CFPB itself – that would-be home buyers don’t shop for mortgages. It’s hard to spend the time required with more than one lender, and there are concerns about checking credit scores too frequently. And many lenders use confusing jargon that makes it hard for consumers to compare one offer to another.

“People do real estate transactions rarely, a couple times in their lifetime, so it’s not like people can gain experience, and it’s hard to shop around because you don’t know what you’re asking for,” said Andrew Pizor, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.

“It’s opaque and there’s very little competition,” Pizor continued. “It’s a horrible market. As a consumer advocate I have my doubts about the free market, but this is not a free market in terms of supply and demand and transparency. It just puts consumers even more at risk.”

As Pizor puts it, “you only want people to be making a referral for reasons based on the merits of the product or the service: they’re good and you trust them or they have a product you can’t get elsewhere, not because you’re getting referrals.”

The CFPB’s interest dates back to 2015. The agency has requested information several times since then, with the most recent request, a civil investigative demand, coming in April. “We are continuing to cooperate with the CFPB in connection with their most recent request for information,” Zillow’s earnings report noted. “We continue to believe that our acts and practices are lawful and that our co-marketing program allows lenders and agents to comply with RESPA.”

The next step, Zillow added, could be what’s known as an “enforcement action,” which could include “restitution, civil monetary penalties, injunctive relief or other corrective action. We cannot provide assurance that the CFPB will not ultimately commence a legal action against us in this matter, nor are we able to predict the likely outcome of the investigation into this matter.”

A Zillow spokeswoman declined to answer MarketWatch questions on the scale of the co-marketing program. Company management fielded four analyst questions on the CFPB review on its quarterly earnings call and said little except that “it’s a small portion of overall revenue.”

But the prepared remarks for the earnings release noted that customer leads rose 30% compared to a year ago in the first quarter, and “we continue to expect that growth in contacts sent to Premier Agent advertisers will outpace unique user growth.”

In an emailed statement, the spokeswoman wrote, “Zillow offers myriad ways for consumers to comparison shop for lenders and agents. Rather than offer a few service providers, consumers can browse more than a million reviews for agents and lenders, including published, up-to-the-minute mortgage rates being offered and skill sets of particular agents. Zillow Group’s mission is to give consumers lots of information so they can make good choices when choosing agents and lenders for one of the most important transactions of their lives.”

The CFPB also declined to discuss the matter with MarketWatch.

The agency usually only takes actions like the ones against Zillow when it believes its case is “pretty clear-cut,” Pizor told MarketWatch. “I think the CFPB is being generous. I think the law is pretty clear.”

Still, Pizor said, a ruling from the CFPB would help bring clarity to the market – a step many real estate professionals would welcome. The National Association of Realtors has released best practices materials recommendations and industry lawyers are watching carefully.

The CFPB earlier this year fined Prospect Mortgage, a lender, with failing to comply with RESPA. It also fined two real estate brokers and a mortgage servicer, all of whom it said took kickbacks from Prospect.

To many industry participants, it seems clear that the co-marketing arrangement must be very profitable for Zillow. Why else would a new-media company founded to, as it says in its mission statement, “empower” customers with new ways of shopping for and maintaining a home cling to an outdated way of doing business, rather than trying to disrupt it with a newer, better model?

“Nobody is doing referral fees any more. They were done away with. Marketing service agreements are the next wave of that,” said Brian Faux, CEO of Morty, an online mortgage brokerage.

Faux describes Zillow as a “great web site with a lot of data that’s good for consumers,” including data that helps them understand the cost of owning a home.


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Home price expectation over the next 12 months | Armonk Real Estate

Yes, home prices are expected to grow. And a recent October 2014 survey by the National Association of Realtors shows by how much.

Thanks to the combination of rising inventory and modest expectations for demand growth, Realtors expect home prices to increase only modestly in the next 12 months.

The rate varies across the nation but the median price increase is about 3% and never goes above 5%.

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Purchase Loans Fell 19.8 Percent in Q3 | Armonk Real Estate

Rising rates caused residential loan originations took a hit in the third quarter, and fourth quarter volume is poised for a further decline. But the top three lenders and servicers maintained their standings.

Mortgage Daily’s estimate of total U.S. originations from all lenders during the third quarter is $441 billion. Business was down around 19.8% from the second quarter thanks to increasing rates that drove down refinances. Compared to the third-quarter 2012, originations subsided around 21.1%.

The estimates were based on data collected by Mortgage Daily. In addition to a quarterly lender survey, the numbers were obtained from earnings reports, public filings and announcements.

With a third-quarter market share of around 18.1%, Wells Fargo maintained its standing as the biggest residential lender during the third quarter.

The second-biggest lender was JPMorgan Chase, where market share was around 9.3 percent.

Originations By Lender (in billions)

Wells Fargo$80
U.S. Bank$22

Compared to the second quarter, business was up 20.4% at Walter Investment Management — more than any other company.

Nationstar Mortgage followed with a 12.7% gain in the third quarter.

Stonegate Mortgage had the third-biggest increase: 12.2%. In addition, thanks to its planned acquisition of Nationstar’s wholesale division, Stonegate is about the only lender that is poised for further short-term growth.

With a 62.3% decline between the second and third quarters, Provident Funding had the biggest drop.

Among lenders to report third-quarter 2012 originations, Nationstar’s 344.4% increase was the largest year-over-year gain.





Try Quick Hoops — Easy-to-Make Mini-Greenhouses | Armonk NY Homes

Gardeners through the ages have tried to extend summer. A sheltered  area in a winter vegetable garden used to protect plants from cold and wind can  often take plants past their normal season. Even the south side of a board fence  or a thick hedge, blocking the cold north winds, will provide a slightly more  benign climate. Old-time gardeners took advantage of these warm, sheltered spots  to keep the fresh harvest going as long as they could in their winter  gardens.

Quick Hoops

Harvesting winter fare is so satisfying that, after you try it, you’ll  probably want to extend your repertoire. But adding more cold frames to winter  gardens means more time and money spent acquiring them. That’s why we came up  with simpler, lighter, and less expensive structures we call quick hoops.  They’re just sheets of clear plastic or row cover material supported by 10-foot  lengths of pipe, bent into half circles and poked into the ground. Quick hoops  look like 3-foot-tall mini-greenhouses.

You can use two types of pipe material to build quick hoops. One is plastic  electrical conduit, which is cheap, lightweight and easy to bend by hand. This  option is fine in areas that receive no more than a few inches of snowfall. But  to support the amount of snow we get in Maine, we needed 1/2-inch galvanized  metal conduit, sold as “EMT” at most hardware stores. In addition to its  strength, the advantage of EMT is that, after bent, it holds its shape  permanently.

To give EMT a curved shape, bend it around a quick-hoop bending form. You  bolt the form to the top of a large, flat surface such as a sturdy picnic table.  You just insert one end of the pipe, pull it against the curved surface of the  form, slide it in farther, and pull again until you achieve the desired shape.  The form itself is reasonably priced and could even be purchased by a group of  friends and made available to everyone for use in year-round gardening. (Bending  forms are sold by Johnny’s Selected Seeds.)

If you take a 10-foot length of EMT and bend it into a half-circle bow, it  will have a 6-foot diameter. That 6-foot width will cover two of our  30-inch-wide beds with a 1-foot path between them. We make 10-inch-deep holes  with an iron bar on either side of the two beds, and insert the ends of the  conduit into them, placing one of these conduit bows every 5 feet along the  beds. Just three bows will cover a 10-foot-long area.

Then, we drape a 10-foot-wide piece of floating row cover material over the  bows. This spun-bonded, white polyester fabric lets in water and light, conveys  up to 4 degrees of frost protection and excludes insect pests. We cut it long  enough so that it can drape down to the ground, plus about 2 feet at the ends of  the structure. We then secure the edges of the row cover around the perimeter of  the structure with sandbags. These can be recycled plastic bags filled with  soil. Be gentle with the row-cover fabric, but try to secure it without any  slack so the wind is less likely to catch it and blow it around in your winter  vegetable garden.

Clearly, you can plant much more ground under quick hoops than under a cold  frame, and you can also grow and protect taller crops for more extensive winter  gardening. You might start seedlings in one covered bed and grow early salads in  another. Because spun-bonded floating row cover is self-venting, there’s no need  for automatic arms to prevent overheating. And the row cover lets in both  sunlight and water. Access to the crops is achieved by removing the sand bags  and folding back the cover.

Another trick is to add a layer of clear plastic over the row cover for extra  protection during extremely cold weather in winter gardens. With added plastic  in place on mini-greenhouses, you can overwinter crops such as spinach, lettuce,  and onions without worrying about the snow load, which can rip row-cover fabric.  The plastic layer can be held down with sandbags along the perimeter and ends,  just as with the row cover. But, because we live in a windy area, we also use  form-fitting plastic clips to secure the plastic to the bowed pipes. When the  temperature inside quick hoops can rise to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll need to  vent the plastic by opening the ends, or remove it entirely so only the  underlying row cover material remains.




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Armonk Restaurant Space Comes on the Market | Armonk NY Homes

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Restaurant FOR SALE


Sit down/Take out restaurant for sale in upscale, suburban Armonk, NY. Known location loved by locals. Great for gourmet shop, burgers, bagels, pizza, sushi, tex-mex, deli, Chinese, ice-cream, yogurt, etc. Reasonable rent. 10 years plus left on lease. All kitchen equipment, refrigerators, freezers, full exhaust system, computer register, chairs, tables included. 1,270 s/f. Indoor and outdoor seating. Open 7 days per week.  For more information, call Andrew 203 391-6801.



Armonk NY Homes