Friday, March 25, 2005

REAL ESTATE FRIDAY FOCUS: Commercial Real Estate, San Francisco's Goldilocks Market 

Douglas W. Shorenstein, the chief executive of his family business, sold his company's interest in the Bank of America Center and three other properties in San Francisco in the last 18 months.--NYTimes

There has been a sudden spike in commercial real estate prices in San Francisco, according to the New York Times. The privately owned Shorenstein Company is now selling its San Francisco properties in an attempt to diversify its holdings throughout the rest of the country. Prices are high in San Francisco, despite the dot-com bust, and Shorenstein is selling off properties while the market is hot.

Nearly $2 billion worth of prime office buildings changed hands in 2004, exceeding the 1998 record of $1.92 billion, with some properties drawing as many as two dozen bids. The average price for all buildings in the central business district was $304 a square foot last year, up from $235 a square foot in 2003, according to Reis Inc., a New York research firm.

Several buildings have traded for $400 a square foot or more, including 555 California Street, which is no longer the national headquarters of Bank of America but has a roster of blue-chip tenants, including Goldman Sachs.

The 52-story reddish-brown granite tower and adjacent buildings were bought by a group of New York investors, led by Mark Karasick and David Werner, for $825 million, or about $487 for each rentable square foot. Mr. Shorenstein's father, Walter, acquired the building from the bank in 1985 and later sold a half interest back to the bank.

The investment market here is beginning to resemble that of Washington, where the average trading price last year was $363 a square foot, according to Cassidy & Pinkard, a local real estate services company. But the average vacancy rate in Washington was just 7.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

In this city, by contrast, some brokers estimate that the top buildings have a vacancy rate of 19 percent, with most of the empty space on the lower floors. Employment has only just begun growing slowly after four years of job losses. Employment is expected to increase 1.2 percent this year, said Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Economy.com.

The New York Times > Business > Commercial Real Estate: San Francisco's Goldilocks Market


REAL ESTATE FRIDAY FOCUS: Trading Places, Real Estate Instead of Dot-Coms 

The New York Times has an interesting article on how certain people are hopping on the real estate speculation bandwagon. Even though speculative stock traders of the 1990s didn't learn the lessons of 1929, there are now real estate speculators who are forgetting lessons of the 1990s. The danger is when people think that the investments they are making are a "sure thing" because the investments they were smart enoug to purchase are going to continue to incrase in value for the long-term. There were big downturns in the commercial real estate market in the early '80s and especially the early 90's. Young investors and investors with amnesia are not cognizant of these economic troughs when they leap inside the real estate bubble. The biggest danger these investors face is taking on a risky mortgage.

"It just seems like everyone is doing it," Laurie Romano, a 26-year-old self-described real estate investor, said with a giggle as she explained why she was attending an open house this month for the Nexus, a 56-unit building going up in Brooklyn's chic Dumbo neighborhood. She and her fiancé, a dentist, had already put down a deposit on a Manhattan condo earlier in the week and had come to look at another at the Nexus.
And many former stock market enthusiasts are now turning to housing. Douglas Paul, a 46-year-old former analyst, left AT&T in 2002 to buy and sell stocks on his own. But he soon decided that real estate could be another way to make quick profits. Mr. Paul owns two condominium units around Fort Lauderdale and one in Miami Beach, all bought during the last year, in addition to the one where he lives. He plans to sell one of the Fort Lauderdale condos in June for what he believes will be double his investment.

"It really is a very hot real estate market, and I don't know how long it's going to continue," he said. "But in the short term, why not profit from it?"

Mr. Paul's path is an increasingly common one. The National Association of Realtors estimates that nearly one-quarter of home purchases last year were made by people who thought of the house as an investment rather than a place to live. Seminars promising to teach amateurs the tricks of real estate speculation have proliferated.

The New York Times > Business > Trading Places: Real Estate Instead of Dot-Coms


Yahoo! News - Man Sells Device That Blocks Fox News 

I have a device that blocks CNN and MSNBC... It's called my remote control, seems to work every time.

It's not that Sam Kimery objects to the views expressed on Fox News. The creator of the "Fox Blocker" contends the channel is not news at all. Kimery figures he's sold about 100 of the little silver bits of metal that screw into the back of most televisions, allowing people to filter Fox News from their sets, since its August debut.

Yahoo! News - Man Sells Device That Blocks Fox News



The media has ignored the disastrous and pervading influence of marijuana

Jeff Weise's blog

"I'm nothin' but your average Native American stoner. I'm mellow half the time, mostly natural, but mostly drug induced as well. I'm not a junkie, or an alcoholic, MJ is my gal' of choice. Enough about that though, I don't know why you're readin' this anyway. I'm gonna roll this joint so I'll c'ya later..."

The media has examined many aspects of the life of Jeff Weise, who massacred family members, teachers and students in Red Lake, Minnesota. What has been ignored (but only mentioned in passing) is Weise's illicit drug use. His fascination with guns and Nazi history have been justifiably examined.

For some reason, marijuana has been ignored as a harmless drug. But, marijuana must be examined in this case as a pernicious influence on the young killer. Weise proudly discussed his marijuana use. Questions must be asked about what role marijuana played in his desire to kill as many people as possible. Was Weise high on marijuana when he started his killing spree? How long has he been a user? How often did he use marijuana and how did it affect his mental state, judgment and violent tendencies?

This was a young, trouble man who suffered alone. Instead of reaching out to friends, relatives and adults he sought solace in the destructive force of marijuana. It certainly didn't help his life.

Very few media outlets have discussed the role that marijuana played in Jeff Weise's life. All factors in how this tragedy came about should be thoroughly examined. Marijuana has been tacitly ignored with a wink and a nod by an entertainment media that think it's harmless. It's about time that the destructive and negative influence that marijuana has on young people should be seriously discussed.

Other bloggers commenting on this sad story: lawreligionculturereview, Great Separation, Presurfer, Education Wonks, Myopic Zeal, SpunkyHomeSchool, Hit and Run, Catallarchy, Say Uncle, Last Home, Kefuffles, and Michelle Malkin.


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