you can read the entire piece here):
"Artificially low interest rates and a government tax credit are luring buyers, but both those inducements are scheduled to end. Defaults and distress sales are rising in the middle and upper price ranges. And millions of people have lost so much equity that they are locked into their homes for years, a modern variation of the Victorian debtor’s prison that is freezing a large swath of the market.
"... The only hot sector of the real estate market has been foreclosures. Investors and first-time buyers have been competing for these, often creating bidding wars. But with the economy still weak, many analysts expect more foreclosures."
Locally some 70 percent of our home sales come in the "distressed" category, so while that's a good thing in terms of moving inventory, the larger threat (as the Times notes) is coming in the mid-to higher-end homes where folks with excellent credit are now getting into trouble because of job losses or simply being upside down in their mortgages. As the story noted, in California defaults are "beginning to migrate from the subprime inland areas to the more exclusive coastal region" in cities like Santa Barbara (defaults up 25 percent) and San Luis Obispo (defaults rose 46 percent). The truth is always in the details and we need to pay attention to it.
* ... CHAINLAW CELEBRATES 75 YEARS: I stopped by the recent celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the law firm of Chain, Cohn and Stiles, the plaintiff's "slip and fall" law firm formerly known as Chain-Younger. Dave Cohn, a principal in the firm and a personal friend, held the event in the outdoor, shaded annex next to the downtown Bank of America building where the firm is headquartered. The event was catered by Lisa Borda of Bord A Petite and among those attending were Carla Musser of Chevron, former Cal State Bakersfield development officer Mike Chertok, Colleen McGauley and Teresa Fahsbender of CASA and Jim and Beverly Camp of the Camp farming families. Conspicuously absent from the soiree was Milt Younger, Cohn's uncle who was one of the founders and driving forces behind Chain-Younger for decades, who left the firm and has continued law practice with his old partner Tim Lemucchi.
* ... SWINE FLU UPDATE: I noted here recently that the folks over at Preferred Family Physicians on Truxtun Extension had seen a spike in swine flu cases, up to as many as 20 a day. (previous post here) Dr. Raj Patel, who owns the place along with Dr. John Heidrick, told me Thursday the numbers had now declined significantly. "We don't know why but it's quite a relief," he said. "This week we've had two or three cases a day, much better than last week." Patel said it was puzzling why he had seen such a dramatic change but warned "we shouldn't celebrate" or let our guard down. Like other medical providers across town, Preferred Family has yet to receive more shipments of the swine flu vaccine.
* ... A SCROOGE'S TAKE ON HALLOWEEN: Accepting my own Scrooge-like tendencies, I have to wonder if I am alone in dreading Halloween and the carnival-like atmosphere it creates in Bakersfield. In many neighborhoods Halloween is marked by hundreds - seems like thousands - of strangers showing up at your door, some pushing strollers with infants and holding a sack hoping for a large Snickers. It's a never-ending stream of total strangers who leave a trail of candy wrappers up and down the street until the supply runs out. When the Californian posted a question about Halloween and out of neighborhood kids on Facebook Thursday (the question was: Should parents be driving their kids to different neighborhoods to trick or treat?), a couple of responses that caught my eye. (go to the Facebook link here) Enough said.
"NO. Leave the van and baby in strollers (who obviously can't eat candy) and accept the neighborhood you live in."
"The bus loads of kids is why I don't give out candy anymore. I want to see my neighborhood kids, interact with them and their parents. When I see a bus or van unload of 10 plus kids I turn off my lights."
"Children don't get to decide which family or neighborhood they are born or live. If the neighborhood is unsafe, then by all means, visit a SAFE neighborhood. All children deserve a fun and safe night of trick-or-treating."