Category Archives: Opinion

Requiem for FDotD

We had a creative idea back in 2009, as waves of foreclosed homes began to really flow into the Redding area marketplace. Why not pick the best deal we saw each day and post it online? Thus began FDotD, for our Foreclosure Deal of the Day website. We posted about 1500 or so bank and government owned homes over the next several years, nearly daily, until last year. We met lots of great people along the way, and we made many friends. We attracted bargain hunters, but also fans of what became our fairly snarky posting style. One could not avoid seeing some pretty stupid stuff during the worst of the REO (foreclosed homes for sale) peak, and we commented on it all.

Now though, there are much fewer REO homes for sale, and most cannot be be described as “Deals” at current market prices. Or they are an auction, so the “price” is only made-up. So, it’s time to fold up shop on FDotD, and use the server space for new things. Here to post one last time about it in case anyone wonders what happened to us, or searches online for FDotD.
fdotdsm
Aside from the great people we met through FDotD, a favorite memory was receiving some free coffee. We know we had avid readers, but not all of them would use our services to buy. So we added a “Buy us coffee” tab that allowed for small donations. Thank you for letting us know you were out there.

Least favorite thing about FDotD was that every foreclosed home is a sad story. It fed into the realization that the rampant mortgage fraud crisis that nearly brought down the entire economy and which provided so many REO homes for us to write about, resulted in nearly no prosecutions. Really? When we started in 2009, it seemed likely that somebody was going to jail. Nope. Here we are 8 years later and it’s like it never happened. Snark took on a bitter edge, and nobody wants to read that.
banker-catWe hope it doesn’t happen again, but memories are short. Meanwhile, we apply our attention to more pleasant pursuits.

Thank you to everyone who supported us at FDotD!

Real Estate photo trickery

We get these email solicitations. I wonder if if most consumers are aware of this entire industry? Click to enlarge if you can’t quite read it.
Photo trickeryWe’ve done our share of twilight shots (in actual twilight). Probably, it’s a lot easier to consign them to these boiler room operations. Most likely run from the Philippines, Vietnam, or China. We see other brokerages using all kinds of visual trickery like this. And we can also offer this same “enhancement” if you like. It’s not that we don’t use HDR, and all the other digital photographic techniques. We definitely use all the visual sales tools we have available, without materially altering the look of the real estate. And without farming the work out to a third world country.

But it’s fine line.

Arguably, getting a buyer in the door for a look is very important. But, if once they get there, they say “This doesn’t look anything like the pictures,” you have to ask what sales goal is accomplished? A fine line now more easily crossed.

You won’t find us in the Yellow Pages

Many years ago, the YellowPages was equivalent to Google for finding a business. Today, this yellow book arrived unwelcome and uninvited on my driveway, I paused briefly before recycling it to see if our 3 year old local real estate brokerage, The Address Realty, was listed.

Turns out, we are not.
Yello PagesWell that’s just rude. We wonder how many other fine local businesses are not listed?

Anyway, it says you can opt out of having this waste of paper delivered to your driveway by letting them know at YellowPagesOptOut.org. Please do so. If enough of us opt out, maybe this paper wasting relic of a bygone era will finally cease. The sooner the better.

Actually, why is it even necessary to opt out? When did I opt in?

REALTOR TV spot

Here’s some feelgood claptrap they are running on TV about Realtors. I think you could just as easily substitute Plumber for Realtor, and the message would be equally meaningless, but hey that’s just my reaction. I hope they didn’t spend too much Realtor money on it, because I think it fails to be very compelling.Mr. Talented Architect might be better off renting. Heresy!

Stillwater search

Saw this abandoned lumber mill in Siskiyou County yesterday. It had an old For Sale sign. Later I went looking for it online, but couldn’t find it listed anywhere. Even if I was looking for an abandoned lumber mill with a million dollar view, I couldn’t find it unless I drove by it.
McCloud MillWhich set me to wondering where Stillwater Business Park might be listed for sale. Not in the Shasta MLS. Didn’t see it at Loopnet, although to be fair they want money to see all their listings. Nope. Not at Cushman & Wakefield, which is understandable since we fired them in January. New sales representation is by Voit Real Estate Services. Typed in “Redding” and “Land.” No results.
You can Google Stillwater Business Park, of course. And sadly, my recent ranting at ReddingHomesBlog ranks fairly high. Although Google results have become unreliable in this age of social search, your results may vary. It’s at the EDC site. And at the Stillwater site. But what if you didn’t know Stillwater existed by name, and were looking for something like it online in all the usual places?
Keep looking, I guess. If you spot it listed anywhere online in the wild, let me know.

Here’s my idea: Red Med

This is 3 of 3 posts about still nascent Stillwater Business Park. I hadn’t given it much thought until the recent firing of the sales broker, which I regarded as a bit unfair. He tried for years to sell our shovel ready park with no demand in a downturn. And now that the economy is improving, he gets the ax. Too much blame for the lack of results on the agent, and not enough reflection on what it is we have to offer. Anyway, this has now officially turned into a bit of a rant. So I want to preface the rest with the clear admission to all reading that this is Just My Opinion, and carries no more more weight than Your Equally Valid Opinion.

Using insight provided by years of hindsight, I expect many might now agree building Stillwater Business Park without a tenant was ill considered. However, there’s no question, none whatsoever, that it could be a “game changer” as EDC Director Mark Lascelles puts it, should it build out. But what if it never builds out?

Even if they came, I argued that the types of enterprises Stillwater was designed to lure are mostly boom/bust propositions. Types of businesses with effects we’ve felt here again and again. Add to that the increased speed of business, which has so accelerated that today’s darling manufacturer is next year’s has-been. Or run over by 3D printer. If instead we were to concentrate economic development on proven lasting institutions, our community would be better insulated from the boom/bust cycle. And then I narrowed the practical institutional options to two, Education and Health.

Shasta regional Medical Center in Redding California

Shasta regional Medical Center in Redding California. Click to slightly enlarge

Which is great news. You may be aware there is an acute shortage of physicians in the U.S. And now that health care is even more of an emphasis under Obamacare, the shortage will only grow more severe. What if we had taken the $28 million dollars spent so far (thanks Bruce Ross for the link) and established a City Medical College in downtown Redding that is designed to crank out general practice physicians as quickly and inexpensively as possible?

By happy coincidence, we have more than one hospital where students could work and intern. And we’ve no shortage of boomer codgers like myself for them to practice on heal. It’s like we planned it. Education and Health. Two booms that won’t soon go bust.

“Can’t be done” I hear you saying. Of course it can’t if you keep saying that. So stop it. It’s complex and difficult. But think about this. There are literally hundreds of medical colleges in India. India! How many of those small towns have even half the economic and technical advantages we enjoy in Redding? Here’s a link to Medical Colleges in India in Wikipedia. Try to count them all. And you think we couldn’t have one here? They crank out doctors there. “India is one of only a few countries where graduates from local medical schools end up working in other countries all over the world, but particularly in the Middle East, the UK and the USA.” Wait, what? We can’t do that?

Mercy Medical Center in Redding with the City Hall complex on Cypress in the foreground.

Mercy Medical Center in Redding with the City Hall complex on Cypress in the foreground.

So what if we moved City Hall to Stillwater (soon to be near REU) and put a medical campus on Cypress? Would that have cost $28 million? or the projected $68 million buildout? I don’t know. Or put City Hall in that empty shampoo factory I showed you in the last post. Whatever. I think the main idea is well worth consideration. Some classes on campus, some at the hospitals. Some in partnership with Shasta, Simpson, and ITT. We leverage our strengths, harness the unmet needs of Education and Health, revitalize downtown, and create a municipal institution that will prosper and serve for generations.

Red Med is what I think everyone will call the Redding Municipal Medical School. Where even a blue collar kid can become a doctor ASAP without back breaking student loan debt. Fact: we already attract spiritual students from all over the world. Why not medical students?

Forget shovel ready. If we build this, they WILL come.

Forget shovel ready. If we build this, they I think they WILL come.

We’ve spent years sitting on our hands, hoping something comes of the money we spent on Stillwater. And then we hope it won’t be a server farm, or a logistic center à la Walmart Distribution Center. Or we seize upon any pipe dream or imaginary movie studio. Let’s turn our attention and effort to something real, something needed:
The first graduating class of doctors from Red Med.

Well that’s my idea. What’s yours?

So what’s to be done with Stillwater if we cannot fill it?

What if we can’t sell Stillwater Business Park? What’s Plan B?

And here I question the premise on which its creation was based. It’s not hard to see how we arrived at building a business park as a strategy for economic growth. Redding itself grew from boom/bust origins. Gold Rush, Rail Town, Mining Town, Lumber Town. We have been all of those. The sad commonality is that the booms all end with a bust. But we remain prisoners of this cyclical thinking. As though this was the only way to nourish our local economy.

Redding was born a boom/bust community.

Redding was born a boom/bust community.


Stillwater Business Park was to be the next boom. And it may be, still. Just not yet. And maybe never. But what if we step back think outside the boom/bust cycle? What are community institutions that persist and build economic stability?

Religion. Government. Education. Health. Even boom/bust Redding has these institutions. And they rarely go bust. Churches. Courthouses. Schools. Hospitals. All have outlasted any manufacturing we’ve seen, and most provide good jobs. Construction, Tourism, Manufacturing, all erratic job sources here today gone tomorrow.

We need only look at nearby Chico to see what a large education institution can do for a small town economy. What would Chico be without the University? Or look to Sacramento to see what a large government institution can provide for what would otherwise be just another valley town over the long term. There are countless examples nationwide of communities based around these longterm institutions.

Shasta College in Redding has been a provider of good jobs for generations.

Shasta College in Redding has been a provider of good jobs for generations.


In contrast, we can easily look back on our own prior ‘business park’ accomplishments. Jhirmack built a huge plant in Mountain Lakes, then left town. To the south, Simpson Paper stands today an empty shell with a toxic legacy. Old mines, empty mills, the list goes on. At best, Stillwater would simply be more of the same. Think Detroit.
This former shampoo factory lies mostly vacant at Mountain Lakes Industrial Park

This huge former shampoo factory lies mostly vacant at Mountain Lakes Industrial Park


In my prior post, I wrote that if tech giant Intel had somehow decided to build a fab plant at Stillwater in 2009, we’d all be falling all over ourselves congratulating the visionaries of our business park. It’s easy to imagine. Yet ironically, here in 2014, formerly glamorous Intel is now struggling to cope with a drop in PC demand. Would they be laying off employees in Redding today? Such is the nature of industrial park boom/bust. Promising tech in 2009 is trailing edge in 2014. Boom. Bust.

What if instead we’d put our attention and resources to building proven lasting institutions that can make a difference? What qualities can Redding leverage among Religion, Government, Education and Health?

Unless Redding becomes the seat of Jefferson State government, we can probably discard the idea of somehow becoming a government center like Sacramento.

And although we have become something of a center for Religion, I can’t think of a clear way to directly stimulate or nourish that development, and any potential economy that results.

So that leaves Education and Health. And that leads us to my next post…stay tuned for part 3 coming soon.

Simpson University expansion underway. Simpson has been continually growing since arriving here.

Simpson University expansion underway. Simpson has been continually growing since arriving here.

A new broker for Stillwater Business Park

I wrote this post below in response to some articles about John Troughton of Cushman & Wakefield at Redding.com under Marc Beauchamp’s blog. Stillwater Business Park has proven to be a tough sell for Cushman & Wakefield. But the bitter tone surrounding the switch to new sales representation seems to mostly ignore the reality that you can’t sell something if nobody’s buying.

I don’t know John Troughton, and I’m not here to defend him. But I do think recent treatment of his work by the media has been unduly harsh. He promoted Stillwater during a period of relatively unprecedented economic downturn. I did once see him give his elevator pitch at the general membership meeting of the Shasta County MLS. Stillwater looked good online. He’d traveled to trade shows, networked with other brokers, and presented info to specific companies. He’d tried some out-of-the-box ideas. He stood before the fifty or so agents in the room and asked if we could think of anything else. He asked for our help.

And if, say an Intel plant had chosen Stillwater back in 2009, we’d be praising Cushman & Wakefield today as a genius firm that helped transform Redding to some economic powerhouse. Everyone entered into this project with high hopes. But Stillwater was a gamble from the start.
Stillwater

I imagine that few people feel the lack of tangible results more poignantly than he does. I don’t know any details of his compensation. But if it was like the majority of real estate brokerage work so mostly or entirely commission based, then years of effort he put into the project went unrewarded. In a word, that sucks. But that’s the risk-reward equation at work.

Here’s a crucial bit of wisdom I really wish I’d known a decade ago, when I began working as a real estate agent. When people make bad choices in real estate, they look for someone else to blame. It’s human nature. And in the world of real estate, it’s always easiest to blame an agent.

While I don’t disagree that this may be a good time to try somebody else, let’s not sugarcoat it. We are simply tossing John Troughton under the bus for the next broker who can promise us better magic beans. And there are no magic beans.

If Stillwater builds out, it will be a huge transformation for Redding. But quite possibly and so far evidently, it may never build out. Instead of wasting time and energy scapegoating the agent, let us instead reflect on the decision we made as a community to build this project. If it’s fair to say “Time for a new broker,” then it’s also an important moment to ask ourselves, “Is there a productive Plan B for Stillwater?”

20-20 hindsight is a marvelous thing. But what if we step back, and re-imagine Stillwater, knowing what we now know? That’s a subject for my next post.

Redding’s biggest story for 2013 is the real estate rebound

We’ve started to see the typical year in review stories that mark the end of the year in the media. For us, the biggest story in Redding and indeed Shasta County has been the dramatic turnaround in real estate values. The change was striking. Multiple offers on homes have become common. Builders have put our tradesman back to work. The financial effects rippled through the local economy like waves in a pond. This quote from Zillow seems accurate:
Zillow2013prediction

“The median home value in Redding is $210,800. Redding home values have gone up 17.8% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 9.9% within the next year. The median list price per square foot in Redding is $151, which is higher than the Redding Metro average of $147. The median price of homes currently listed in Redding is $239,000 while the median price of homes that sold is $216,250. The median rent price in Redding is $860.”

Zillow2013prediction2

We had our best business year ever. We owe it all to you, our loyal clients and readers. Thank you so much for a great year! And we look forward to contributing our share of ripples in the pond for our community in the year(s) to come.