St. Johns is One of 10 Most Endangered Rivers

17 04 2008

The St. Johns River has been named one of the 10 most endangered rivers in the country by a nonprofit group dedicated to waterway conservation.

The river landed on the Washington D.C.-based American Rivers’ list because of plans to allow the removal of up to 262 million gallons of water per day to quench Central Florida’s growing thirst.

Opponents of the St. Johns River Water Management District’s plan say the withdrawal will harm the river’s plant and wildlife. The district counters that early research indicates no such effect, but that it will make a final decision on allowing “significant withdrawals” when a two-year environmental impact study is complete.

“No matter what the problem is, stealing is never an acceptable solution,” Rebecca Wodder, American Rivers president, said in a news release. “Yet, instead of embracing water smart solutions like conservation and efficiency, Florida lawmakers seem set on sanctioning this river robbery.”

The American Rivers’ reasoning for the St. Johns making the list was a two-page advocacy paper with no scientific basis, said Alfred Canepa, the water management district’s assistant director of resource management. The proposed withdrawals would account for less than 1 percent of the river’s flow.

“The withdrawal from the St. Johns River is not the biggest danger,” Canepa said. “The biggest dangers are wastewater discharges and stormwater runoff that add pollutants and nutrient loads to the river.”

The American Rivers report will help keep the St. Johns Riverkeepers’ fight in the forefront and stir agitation among people who don’t completely understand the issues.

The issue isn’t just an environmental one but also an economic one, said Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon. He warned that millions of dollars in commercial fishing and recreational activities will be lost if the withdrawals are allowed.

“In a state with theme parks, cruise ships, and any number of other tourism-based ventures, it’s simply mind boggling that decision makers are telling those who enjoy the St. Johns to take their money elsewhere,” he said in a news release.

Duval County and Northeast Florida are improving conservation by increasing reclaimed water usage and will improve the quality of stormwater by making drainage improvements, which are funded through the new stormwater fee, said Mayor John Peyton in a news release.

Source: Jacksonville Business Journal





New Housing Permits Down 41 Percent

17 04 2008

The construction of new housing continued to slow around the nation in March with permits falling by 41 percent.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 927,000 permits were issued for privately-owned homes, down from about 1.6 million during the same period last year. The South accounted for 501,000 of those permits, down 33 percent from 753,000 in March 2007.

Housing starts were also down around the nation and in the South. The 947,000 privately-owned houses that started construction in the U.S. in March were 36.5 percent down from about 1.5 million filed in March 2007, and the 499 started in the South were down 35 percent from the 765 started a year earlier.

Lastly, privately-owned housing completions were down 24.5 percent in the U.S. from about 1.6 million in March 2007 to 1.2 million. In the South completions were also down 24.5 percent from 828 in March 2007 to 625 in March 2008.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau





New Housing Permits Down 41 Percent

16 04 2008

The construction of new housing continued to slow around the nation in March with permits falling by 41 percent.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 927,000 permits were issued for privately-owned homes, down from about 1.6 million during the same period last year. The South accounted for 501,000 of those permits, down 33 percent from 753,000 in March 2007.

Housing starts were also down around the nation and in the South. The 947,000 privately-owned houses that started construction in the U.S. in March were 36.5 percent down from about 1.5 million filed in March 2007, and the 499 started in the South were down 35 percent from the 765 started a year earlier.

Lastly, privately-owned housing completions were down 24.5 percent in the U.S. from about 1.6 million in March 2007 to 1.2 million. In the South completions were also down 24.5 percent from 828 in March 2007 to 625 in March 2008.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau





How the Super-Rich Buy Homes

12 04 2008

It’s not easy for a movie star, basketball player, or corporate chief to buy a house without attracting a bit of attention.

It requires ingenuity – and help from pricey lawyers – to keep the paparazzi, celebrity bloggers, and stalkers guessing. Last year movie star couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie failed to hide their $3.5 million purchase of a 19th century house in New Orleans’ French Quarter. News got out despite real estate records that listed the buyer as the “Mondo Bongo Trust,” a reference to the Joe Strummer song, Mondo Bongo, which Brangelina danced to in the 2005 movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Other stars have hidden behind trusts with such clever names as “Ingodwe Trust,” “I before E Trust,” “Poopie Trust,” “Senior Moments Trust,” and “Thank You For the Trust Trust” [used by the late actor Heath Ledger], according to Bob Goldsborough, the blogger for bigtimelistings.com who has become an expert at unmasking celebrity home transactions.

Hidden identity

The super-rich also use holding companies to hide their identities and, in some cases, shelter themselves from taxes. But for many elite buyers, who live behind gates or hedges far from the street, privacy is the primary concern. They require real estate agents to sign confidentiality agreements and arrange for private showings during which the owners and all household staff are absent.

Some wealthy buyers do their research on the Internet. They can view photos, videos, and floor plans, and decide without even visiting the home, says Laurie Moore-Moore, founder and CEO of the Dallas-based Institute for Luxury Home Marketing. According to her, a house listed for $100 million kept the most sensitive information such as floor plans and specific inside views hidden on a password-protected site. The passwords were given only to pre-qualified billionaires.

Moore-Moore also reveals that a property of this type often has a three-tiered marketing program. A casual inquirer would get a two-sided brochure with exterior photographs and a little more information on a Web site. A luxury agent with a top client would get a 16-page brochure with exterior views and a few carefully chosen interior shots [with haiku poetry alongside each photograph]. Only a fully qualified client would have access to the password-protected Web site with floor plans, information about the heating and air-conditioning systems, and interior photos and videos, she says.

Discretion advised

Regardless of the house, the buyer might be invisible throughout most of the transaction process. “Screeners” sometimes visit an estate and conduct negotiations on behalf of celebrities or high-income buyers who don’t want their fame to influence the sales price. “If Madonna suddenly expresses interest in buying your house, you might say, ‘Well she can afford it, I’m not going to be negotiable,’“ Moore-Moore says.

Some wealthy sellers also like discretion, especially if they’re going through a divorce, illness, bankruptcy, or some other personal crisis that they’d rather not draw attention to. In some cases, the agent is told not to place the home on the multiple listing service or even to advertise it. The agent might suggest selling the house without a traditional marketing campaign.

A well-connected agent can find a buyer by calling another luxury agent or wealthy client interested in a great off-market listing with unique characteristics.

“Lots of really good stuff, you don’t even need to put on the market,” says Christopher Hain, real estate agent with Hollywood Hills [Calif.]-based Ramsey-Shilling. “Agents facilitate the deal because it allows them to do both ends of the deal.”

Marketing plan

But most clients selling expensive homes are happy to have a strong marketing campaign. Their agents might set up a booth with brochures at an air show or boat show and put an advertisement on the Internet, in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, European publications, and niche magazines such as Unique Homes, Moore-Moore says.

“The more expensive a house is, the smaller the pool of potential buyers in the area,” says Rick Goodwin, publisher of Unique Homes, a magazine and Internet site devoted to the luxury market. “As the price goes up, so does the need to expose it outside the marketplace and outside the country.”

But the advertisements frequently provide limited details. Goodwin says it’s common for ads for expensive properties to say “price upon request.” The owner of a house on the market in Beverly Hills asked that the name of the property be digitally removed from a photograph appearing in the magazine; the name was displayed on the welcome mat in front of the house, Goodwin says.

“Some people may not want to make a big deal about it,” Goodwin says. “They might think, ‘I don’t want the fact that I’m selling my house to be a big item in the newspaper.’“

Source: McGraw-Hill





How the Super-Rich Buy Homes

11 04 2008

It’s not easy for a movie star, basketball player, or corporate chief to buy a house without attracting a bit of attention.

It requires ingenuity – and help from pricey lawyers – to keep the paparazzi, celebrity bloggers, and stalkers guessing. Last year movie star couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie failed to hide their $3.5 million purchase of a 19th century house in New Orleans’ French Quarter. News got out despite real estate records that listed the buyer as the “Mondo Bongo Trust,” a reference to the Joe Strummer song, Mondo Bongo, which Brangelina danced to in the 2005 movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Other stars have hidden behind trusts with such clever names as “Ingodwe Trust,” “I before E Trust,” “Poopie Trust,” “Senior Moments Trust,” and “Thank You For the Trust Trust” [used by the late actor Heath Ledger], according to Bob Goldsborough, the blogger for bigtimelistings.com who has become an expert at unmasking celebrity home transactions.

Hidden identity

The super-rich also use holding companies to hide their identities and, in some cases, shelter themselves from taxes. But for many elite buyers, who live behind gates or hedges far from the street, privacy is the primary concern. They require real estate agents to sign confidentiality agreements and arrange for private showings during which the owners and all household staff are absent.

Some wealthy buyers do their research on the Internet. They can view photos, videos, and floor plans, and decide without even visiting the home, says Laurie Moore-Moore, founder and CEO of the Dallas-based Institute for Luxury Home Marketing. According to her, a house listed for $100 million kept the most sensitive information such as floor plans and specific inside views hidden on a password-protected site. The passwords were given only to pre-qualified billionaires.

Moore-Moore also reveals that a property of this type often has a three-tiered marketing program. A casual inquirer would get a two-sided brochure with exterior photographs and a little more information on a Web site. A luxury agent with a top client would get a 16-page brochure with exterior views and a few carefully chosen interior shots [with haiku poetry alongside each photograph]. Only a fully qualified client would have access to the password-protected Web site with floor plans, information about the heating and air-conditioning systems, and interior photos and videos, she says.

Discretion advised

Regardless of the house, the buyer might be invisible throughout most of the transaction process. “Screeners” sometimes visit an estate and conduct negotiations on behalf of celebrities or high-income buyers who don’t want their fame to influence the sales price. “If Madonna suddenly expresses interest in buying your house, you might say, ‘Well she can afford it, I’m not going to be negotiable,’“ Moore-Moore says.

Some wealthy sellers also like discretion, especially if they’re going through a divorce, illness, bankruptcy, or some other personal crisis that they’d rather not draw attention to. In some cases, the agent is told not to place the home on the multiple listing service or even to advertise it. The agent might suggest selling the house without a traditional marketing campaign.

A well-connected agent can find a buyer by calling another luxury agent or wealthy client interested in a great off-market listing with unique characteristics.

“Lots of really good stuff, you don’t even need to put on the market,” says Christopher Hain, real estate agent with Hollywood Hills [Calif.]-based Ramsey-Shilling. “Agents facilitate the deal because it allows them to do both ends of the deal.”

Marketing plan

But most clients selling expensive homes are happy to have a strong marketing campaign. Their agents might set up a booth with brochures at an air show or boat show and put an advertisement on the Internet, in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, European publications, and niche magazines such as Unique Homes, Moore-Moore says.

“The more expensive a house is, the smaller the pool of potential buyers in the area,” says Rick Goodwin, publisher of Unique Homes, a magazine and Internet site devoted to the luxury market. “As the price goes up, so does the need to expose it outside the marketplace and outside the country.”

But the advertisements frequently provide limited details. Goodwin says it’s common for ads for expensive properties to say “price upon request.” The owner of a house on the market in Beverly Hills asked that the name of the property be digitally removed from a photograph appearing in the magazine; the name was displayed on the welcome mat in front of the house, Goodwin says.

“Some people may not want to make a big deal about it,” Goodwin says. “They might think, ‘I don’t want the fact that I’m selling my house to be a big item in the newspaper.’“

Source: McGraw-Hill








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