Welcome Aboard! … the “for your eyes only” blog

“Paris, Now and Then”

(wc on 300# arches paper)


Your life, my life, the neighbor’s life and the world around us all combine to create days filled with ups and downs.  Oh, we probably spend more time on the level spots, but when life happens…..it is like a roller coaster.

I am a real estate agent.  O.K., the National Association of Realtors prefer that I call myself a Realtor.  Fair enough.  I do pay my annual dues and when I joined I promised to uphold their code of Ethics.  I have been an artist much longer. It has been my life’s passion. (That’s one of mine up there at the top of this blog.) You?  You could come from any walk of life.  Visitors to my blog include other agents, folks in the mortgage industry, major news publications as well as Doctors, Lawyers and an occasional Indian Chief.

I love this venue.  Admission is free and the only requirement is the desire to read.  The content here will not follow any discernible pattern.  I might share information about the Home Buyers Tax Credit one day and the next post a personal entry about my life, my love, my children or the pain of being a sports fan in the Nations Capital. At other times, I just might share a new piece of my art.  I use this little spot to expose me.

I believe a stronger bond is formed when two sides have something in common.  I will not deny, my goal is to present myself to those of you that do not know me and might be in need of my services.  I do my best work when there is a comfort level between me and my clients.

So, scroll through the offerings.  If you have a specific question, well you can send an email, (email address – macarthurgroup@gmail.com . If you like it, you can even share with a friend.

You can search by using categories or terms. Or you can be brave and read every entry. It is your blog.

If nothing else, welcome aboard and enjoy the ride


Comerica Bank … Social Security Administrations Sweetheart Thieves


Ok, so this is just a logo


It should actually look like this

Now maybe I should start at the beginning. You see, when you make the decision to begin receiving your social security benefits, you are given the option of direct deposit, a check or they will deposit you money in a bank and send you a handy debit card. My first mistake was believing that any bank chosen to work with the Social Security Administration must be suspect and potentially rife with under the table payoffs, etc. Kick backs are an essential part of large government contracts. It is not how well you do your job, it is how much largess can you spread around to the people making the decisions.

ralph babb

Ralph Babb

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Comerica Bank

(He does look tired, but then, I doubt he sleeps at night)

Every month, the Social Security Administration would deposit my monthly benefit (you know, the money I paid in every year before I was 62). I would use the card for personal expenses and business expenses. It was easy to keep track of where the money was going. I could check the account on-line anytime.

For awhile, these bums had me fooled.

Let’s fast forward to July 4th weekend in 2014.  My wife has a friend that invited us to join them for a camping trip in Assateague, Maryland. I had never been camping and thought it would be a fun thing to do. It was. Had such a relaxing time that when she suggested we do it again the following weekend to celebrate my birthday, I immediately agreed.

Stay with me. On July 10th, I stopped at Rodman’s Discount Gourmet and purchased some Brie for the upcoming weekend. I then went to Ranger Surplus on Hungerford Drive in Rockville, MD and bought a shovel for the camping trip (I had learned that one needs a shovel when camping at the beach). I used my Direct Express (Comerica) card to pay for the purchase. At the Ranger Surplus store, the machine jammed and I was not given a receipt. I then went across the street to the Great Wall Supermarket and bought can of Cafe Dumond coffee for the trip.

So far, so good. I left the Great Wall store and drove home at 1:52.

The next morning, I played a round of golf with friends at Gunpowder Golf Course. My wife came home and we left for the ocean at around 5pm. We got to the Food Lion in Ocean City at around 7:30 pm. I used the card to purchase wood for the campfire at that time.

It was a great weekend.  On Tuesday, around lunch time, I attempted to purchase an app for my iphone. The purchase was denied. I went to the computer and signed into my account. You can not imagine my surprise to learn I had no money left in the account.

It seems that the card (well not the actual card since it was in my wallet throughout this ordeal), had been used at the Walmart in Martinsburg, WV at 4:28 for a purchase of $52.75. I did not drive to Martinsburg, WV. I am not sure I have ever been to Martinsburg, WV. I know I have never been in the Walmart in Martinsburg, WV. According to Google maps, it is about a two hour drive from Rockville. Oh, it gets better. The card was used again at 4:29:46 in the same Walmart for a cash purchase of $50.00. At 4:30:19 it was used again for a purchase of $50.00 in the same Walmart.  At 4:56:15 it was used at Wendy’s #0451 Q2 in Martinsburg, WV for a purchase of $4.84.

I was working during this time in Washington DC. I finished work and stopped at Hungry Howies in Derwood, Md and bought a pizza for $5.30 at 10:30:23 pm.

While I was sleeping, at 00:23:04 (just past midnight) the card was used at a Pilot in Hagerstown, Md for a $20.00 purchase. It was used again at the Pilot at 00:23.25 for another $20.00 purchase ( I think that is 21 seconds later), then it was used again at the Pilot at 00:25:01 for a purchase of $11.63. At 00:27:29 it was used one more time at the Pilot fora cash purchase of $21.19.

My round of golf shows up at 7:51:24 on the 11th in Laurel, Md. We teed off at 9:00 am and finished around 1:00 pm or so. At 10:25:02 the card was used at the Walmart in Martinsburg, WV for a cash purchase of $34.83. At 10:33:43 it was used in the same Walmart for a cash purchase of $50.00. At 5:06:46 (while I was driving to Ocean City) the card was used at a McDonalds #32086 in Martinsburg, WV for a cash purchase of $15.44. At 5:45:02 the card was used in the Walmart in Hagerstown, Md for a cash purchase of $60.72.

Here is the thing that baffles my mind. How could I possibly go from the Walmart in Hagerstown to the Food Lion in Ocean City in less than 2 hours? It is at least a three and one half hour drive according to Google maps.

I called the credit card company and was walked through the process. They sent me a form to fill out to the best of my ability. I filed a police report with the Montgomery County Police Department ( I live in Montgomery County). I was told it was a level one fraud investigation and it would take a bit of time to check out my story.

So today, I receive a letter from Christine B in the Fraud Services Department sharing that “During our investigation we found a conflict in the information provided by you and information resulting from our research. Based on this information, we cannot confirm that fraud occurred. They go on to suggest I report the incident to my local law enforcement (interesting, the police report was with my initial documentation) or contact the merchant directly.

OK………..I call BULL SHIT.


It will not change the world. Those that have read this far may say, damn that’s rough.  No, it is not rough. It has only provided me with a mission. I will harangue congress to kill the deal. I will share the story often. I will delight at every misfortune that falls on any of the the people running this corrupt bank. I will ask friends to keep it mind.

And to paraphrase another that was screwed over by our government.

From where the sun now shines in the sky, I will stay pissed forever.

Really, you really believe that ???

It is the end of another year. I suppose I could share wisdom regarding real estate. Then again, there are more articles floating around than any of you might care to read.  I will get this out of the way, real estate is beyond local. Real estate is personal. Your situation is really all that matters. If you need to buy or sell or rent, you situation should be evaluated based on your facts. General observations are rarely on target.

Now, a few random thoughts about things in general. Oh, the family is fine, no better or worse than any other. We have our share of ups and downs but we remain family. There isn’t much beyond that anyway. We try. Sometimes we succeed and other times we fail, but we always move forward.

Turmoil. That might be the best word to describe the year.  Globally, one tribe is killing another in lots of different places. Nothing new there, I guess I am just tired of all the pain and suffering created in the name of this God or that God.  At some point, humanity will have to accept that too much of the crusty soil on the surface of this mortal coil is soaked in innocent blood. To what end?

When the original framers of the Constitution came up with the phrase “We the people”, they were immigrants. The majority of the land mass was still waiting exploration. Exploitation soon followed.

Today, we have seen the country grow and become more tolerant. We no longer have slaves and for 50 years the country has attempted to be more inclusive of those ethnic groups that once were slaves. Descendants of slaves and descendants of slave owners now live and work side by side.

Of course, the haters have to have a target and the new “nigga” is the Latino. People born in Mexico, Central America and South America have been cast as the demons. Some have shared that these evil interlopers have come to steal our jobs and others have come to bleed our social services dry.

Really. You really believe that?  You hear the phrase 12 million undocumented residents attached to any problem and you really believe it. If you were to travel to any small town in Mexico, Central America or South America, do you really think you would find legions of people plotting to sneak into this country and steal jobs?

That entire thought process is asinine. People are pretty much the same everywhere.  They are born. Some become parents. They all struggle to survive. They walk dirt roads. They work in fields. They struggle. They want to provide for the ones they love. At some point, they here of this great land of opportunity. Maybe they see one of those thousand points of light George Bush mentioned.  Whatever the reason, the United States is portrayed as a place where you can go and if you work hard, you can provide for those you love.

That’s why they come.

But you really believe that anyone would risk their life traveling trails in the dark of night just to get here and steal your job or milk your social systems? Do your actually believe that anyone, anywhere sits and dreams of shoveling your manure all day? Do you really think that the ambition is to be a helper on a trash truck?  They come and take these jobs because few, if any residents here want to do them. They are not seeking a career, they are looking to build a life.

They are foreigners in a cold land. They do not speak the language well and they are derided for that lapse. They live every day with the fear that in a flash, they will be sent back to the land of their birth. They contribute to this economy every day. They contribute to our infrastructure every day.

Yet, there are some that really believe they represent our biggest problem.

Then you have me. I think the bigger problem is the fact that our homes now need small bedroom size closets to handle the wardrobes we find necessary. I think the bigger problem is we continue to fill landfills with our discards, not because they are worthless, no, we have purchased a newer and shinier model. I think it is a bigger problem that rather than face the reality that we are running out of potable water in the world and we are burning through every natural resource to fuel our lifestyle, we sit back and watch million dollar participants chase balls on grass fields and hardwood courts.

Maybe next year, we will all sit back and accept there is one planet and one species of people and actually learn to get along.

Really? I doubt it.

Happy New Year

The truth about Realestateagent.com (warning – this is ugly)

logo of company     Well, I have to admit, sometimes I make mistakes. While I don’t believe in “silver bullets”, I am always willing to listen to a plan that will expand my internet presence. Note to telemarketers, don’t call me. I am not seeking a torrent of SEO improvement offers nor do I wish to pay to “guarantee” I will be on page one of Google.  I expressed all this when I spoke with Paul Rogers about realestateagent.com .  He was calling to offer me a deal. I could have my name on their site for 90 days for both buyers and sellers for the one time only low price of $70.  I listened. Paul broke it down, five cities for 90 days.

I asked the trick question used by agents in this market, “Is Washington, DC considered just one area by your company?”  Paul responded absolutely! He instructed me to sign into the site and take a look. While he was on the phone, I did just that. Now, $70 seemed like a small amount to pay to see if the company had any traction. I gave him the go ahead. At the time, I only had a debit card handy that is funded by SSI.  I told him that and he said “No problem, if you wish to continue after 90 days, just let me know and I will get the other credit card information.

RESULTS !!!!  Well, nothing happened. Month one went by and month two went by and the experiment became a distant memory. Minimal ventured and the only thing gained was the affirmation that if something sounds to good to be true, it is just that….too good to be true.

You can not imagine my surprise when I discovered that they firm via the shell corporation of  Business Locate Inc dba realestateagent.com billed my debit card $175.oo at the end of November. I went through the emails that had been shared and there was nothing in them about an automatic re-billing. I checked my notes and it seemed pretty clear to me that when I first struck the deal, it was for 90 days.

I dug deeper and the true picture of this firm began to come to light.  Lest any of you have an aha moment right now, you are correct….I should have checked them out more thoroughly in the beginning. My bad.  My first stop was to google the address. Not a good sign, their business address, 2700 North State Road 7, Hollywood, fl 33021, is listed as Hollywood Self Storage.  I figured I would google their phone number (800) 274-1299, and that search provided this information :

  1. There have been at least 3 complaints to the FTC. Seems that the folks running the company have no regard for the “Do Not Call registry”
  2. The next site listed complaints from real estate agents about mis-leading messages (i.e. “are you accepting new clients?”)
  3. Next was the rip-off report, which shared that the company just keeps on extracting money after the initial payment has run it’s course.
  4. Oh goodness, the BBB has them listed as well

Better Business Bureau    Rating F  (not sure, but maybe the F stands for “Fool if you do business with them”) and then there is the pop-up window which includes the following admonition.

Our files contain a pattern of complaints from consumers who allege unauthorized payments are automatically debited after consumers sign up for a 90 day trial offer. Other consumers state that Business Locate, Inc. continues to debit their accounts months after cancellation is requested. These debits range from $150 – $175.

Business Locate, Inc. responds with their terms and conditions and stating that written notice of cancellation must be delivered via mail, fax, or courier service.

On October 31, 2012 BBB sent certified correspondence to Business Locate, Inc. requesting their voluntary cooperation in resolving complaints on file with BBB and providing steps it will implement to eliminate the pattern of customer complaints; however, as of today BBB has not received a response from the company.

At this point, I am wondering what the hell have I done? I dug through the internet and pulled up the site and checked Washington, DC. Some of the neighborhoods listed are :

Please select a District Of Columbia County city below to find your District Of Columbia real estate agents.

These are neighborhoods?  This is the cracker jack search engine?  This is not worth $70. It is a public embarrassment to share that I paid them for 90 days of crap. Yep, I wasted $70 in a voluntary fashion. They took $175.00 from my account because they could.

Warning, this is a sort of slick looking scam. I have bought the worst and bought the best. This is Madoff Like. It is nothing more than a scam to bilk agents. I would guess they figure who is going to really go after them for such a small amount.

Realestateagent.com/business locate inc… meet JMac………….I am coming for you. To your door if necessary. For now, this post is just a shot across your bow. It may behoove your ownership to crawl out from under the rock and wash off and become fitting members of society. Do what you wish, I am coming.


While America is burning … they watch (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, MLS, NASCAR, MMA) on t.v.

nero playing luteIt is told that while Rome burned, Nero watched while playing a musical instrument. I can believe that. There were no 62″ plasma t.v. screens available. The fall of the Roman Empire has been examined and reviewed and speculated on since the inception of this Republic (Gibbons work “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire dates back to 1776). Wikipedia shares “Many theories of causality have been explored and most concern the disintegration of political, economic, military, and other social institutions, in tandem with barbarian invasions and usurpers from within the empire.”.

Now that is a mouthful. Most of us have a passing knowledge about those times. Shakespeare gave us “Julius Caesar” and the images of political betrayal and assassination. Movies like “Ben Hur” and “Spartacus” and “The Gladiator” regaled us with images of lower class warriors delighting the masses with battles to the death. The combatants had no real fire power, only swords and spears and some sort of balls covered with spikes attached to a chain. The bloodletting spurred on by the crowds in the coliseums.

One is left with the impression that focus on the games may have taken the attention away from the ongoing disintegration of the lifestyle people were living. On the lower end of the scale those among the poor that managed to survive what must have been horrific living conditions were rewarded with an opportunity to fight. They were joined by prisoners of war and peasants captured as Roman armies pillaged and plunder surrounding territories.

Not much has changed in the hundreds of years that have passed. Oh, we certainly have better technology. We have added gunpowder and hot steel to the mix. Political assassination takes place on Youtube and Twitter. Rather than one focus, we have created a world full of instant access to everything that is occurring in real time. With so much information coming in about everything from every direction, it is almost impossible to see what is before us.

Real concerns, that every society needs to address become lost in the shuffle. In order for any society to flourish, the members of the society must have an equal opportunity to fulfill their personal quotient of “Maslow’s Needs”.  It is an unfortunate fact, you have to accomplish the bottom level to move up and you must accomplish each succeeding level before you are able to move to the next. Few ever reach the top.


People in America, some not all, struggle to achieve the most basic level. There are times, when reaching the basic needs, their efforts or choices are criticized. If the struggle to reach what most people take for granite seems insurmountable, how much more difficult must it be to reach Safety, Love, Esteem and Self-actualization? If those struggling only knew, revolution would erupt in the streets.  Not to worry, ESPN is leading the charge to help them forget their plight. Not to worry, all of the other major networks have followed suit.  Modern day gladiators compete in a variety of contests to amuse the populous.

The largest number of competitors come from neighborhoods where surviving beyond adolescence is a challenge. On any given Sunday (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday for that matter) modern day gladiators battle for supremacy of their particular endeavor. Bodies are trained, muscles are developed, skills are enhanced and competitors enter the fray. Millions watch as head-to-head collisions occur, balls and pucks fly, cars crash and bloodied men and women struggle inside a cage. Prior to reaching the top level of competition, combatants are weened on the fine points of the “sport” from early childhood.

Education, one of the most important gifts we can give the younger generation is freely offered at elementary levels. The quality of education offered at the lower levels is commensurate with the tax base of the surrounding communities. It is not equal. It is not fair. It is just there. Graduation rates are directly tied to the neighborhoods that house the schools. Higher levels of education are beyond the reach of  the poor. Exceptions are made for gladiators. Schools use the skill sets of these muscled few to fill the coffers that keep the universities running. Societal flaws in the gladiators are overlooked as long as they manage to perform when called upon. Reprehensible behavior is accepted as long as the entertainment value continues.  Those that survive “academic” contests move on to the glory and fame of the professional gladiators. Those that fail return to the daily battle for survival that continues in the “hood”.

frenzied crowdAmerica burns an invisible bonfire. Those that fill the stadiums find nothing wrong with the mayhem that entertains them. They see the mighty and quickly forget the fallen. They see the finalists, never once considering all those that failed. They see championship trophies raised and never once notice the casualties that litter the road the gladiators followed. They roar with every feat, cheer every victory and return to their lives, ignorant of the world around them.

There can be no other explanation of the apathy that exists in America. Food banks have little supplies to feed the hungry. Every body of potable water is tainted with garbage.  The very air that every one of us breathes is becoming more toxic every day. Trees and green space that provide all important photosynthesis are cut down and paved over on a regular basis. Sex is trivialized and lost in the battle between common decency as it is characterized as rape or a casual past time.  The list of basic needs unfulfilled goes on. When frustrated, we find solace in the next big game, match, race or fight. Attempting to move up to the next level – safety becomes beyond our means.

Bullets fly and young men die. Bullets fly and children die. Bullets fly. Our collective answer is – the Second Amendment gives me the right to  bear arms, therefore my rights trump the pain and loss of  collateral damage. Guns don’t kill, people kill. On the surface that may be true, but it overlooks the fact that people kill people using guns. We can not ever control all the people, but we can control the people’s access to guns. Our love affair with professional gladiators obfuscates our ability to notice that many of them accept “packing” as a normal way of life (even in their locker rooms).  Violence is often accompanied by guns and drugs. America tolerates this as long as it does not invade their upper to elite class neighborhoods. No harm, no foul is just another version of let them kill each other, just not in my neighborhood. Bullets don’t fly without guns.


The American economy is in tatters. An absolute minuscule percentage of people control the majority of capital. Derisive articles regarding the “1%” are combated by stories about a few on the fringe that struggle to make ends meet on incomes exceeding the national average by 5 times or more.  Elected officials fail to reach any sort of compromise regarding how our tax revenues should be spent. Restructuring and simplifying the tax code is thwarted by those that enjoy the most benefits. Elections are purchased by those with the most revenue at every level throughout the country. The vast majority of citizens are not even aware of how their personal well being is impacted. Promises are made and broken. This occurs daily. Where is our focus? In our Nation’s Capitol, concerns about things that truly matter are pushed aside and discussions are passionately shared about whether the local football gladiators should fire their coach or whether or not they should change their nickname from a racist slur to something less offensive. In the halls of Congress, there is more discussion on a fall morning about the fate of the local gridiron combatants than any focus on the impact our chosen lifestyle has on the environment.

At some point, I hope that we find the will to turn away from the passionate following of local gladiators. America is burning, they are just playing games. The outcome really does nothing to change the future. The crazed focus only takes our attention from the very solutions we need to use to correct our plight. Regardless of who wins and who loses, there are empty bellies in our country. Regardless of the outcome of any game, people are cold, people are under educated and people are needlessly losing lives to the violence in our streets. Regardless of whom raises the championship banner,, our natural resources are being dangerously depleted. America is burning and both sides of every political aisle are being singed by the flames.

room with a view

America may not have a Nero, but his sweet tune has been replaced by large screen t.v.’s and our ability to deal with problems is impeded by our desire to watch our chosen gladiators battle to the death (or destroyed acl, mcl or concussed brain).  As long as the focus is on the well orchestrated fray, it remains impossible to see the world around us.

Life’s lessons … it constantly changes … enjoy the good, nothing lasts forever

I was attempting to explain life to a friend.  You start out with lofty goals. You understand the importance of things. You seek happiness. I suppose it is best explained using the simple example of food. Everybody needs to eat.  You try different foods and you find that some you like, some you don’t, some you love and some you hate. Regardless, you know you have to eat.

At my core, I am a hamburger or pizza type of guy.  I guess it is comfort food. I can make it myself. I can get it at a fast food stop and it is served at fine restaurants. It has always been there.  I can remember stopping by my parents house in the summer. The grill would be going. I would be bringing a couple steaks over for me and my dad. He would always make the same offer. “Can I throw a couple burgers on the grill for you?”   I loved those char-coaled burgers.  At the time, I was usually in a hurry and did not realize how I would miss sitting in his back yard with him. Memories of things he shared, bits and pieces of the things that made him the man he was still tumble around in the faded corners of my mind.

Life moves on.  I discovered different restaurants had different ways of preparing a burger. Pizza joints had different crusts and sauces. Sausage could be crumbled or sliced. There was a great deal of variety in the world.  I was like most folks. I got hungry every day.  My diet of burgers and pizza’s expanded.  I entered a world of fried chicken, beans and rice, biscuits and gravy, spaghetti and meatballs, roast beef and lasagna.  Everyone prepared meals in a different fashion.  I will forever remember the joy of tasting red eye sausage gravy on hot biscuits during my stay in Gate City.  The sun had barely crept over the horizon, the animals had been fed and it was breakfast time.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that the finest fried chicken is prepared in lard. It is a toss up between the saint of Derwood (Helen Shumaker) and the good church ladies in the Shrimpboat neighborhood in Anacostia as to who might have prepared the best fried chicken.  To be fair, Mother Shumaker cooked fried chicken every Sunday for a house full of folks. Her dining table was surrounded by her husband, sons and son’s in law, daughters and daughter’s in law and grandchildren. It was a weekly feast. Savory is not enough of a description. It was truly a family affair.  Now the good church ladies would be preparing Sunday meals on Saturday night. I was lucky enough to join a few fellows in a covert climb up a fire escape on a mission of chicken pilfery.  We would quietly move up, one floor at a time, until we reached the window that radiated a epicurean aroma.  One of the women would spot us and offer, “you boys go ahead and take a piece of chicken and go on out of here”.  Midnight on a Saturday night never tasted so good.

Time passes and things changed. Hamburgers and pizza remained.  The world spins out of your control. You still have to eat.

I moved on and into the world of fine dining. I ate at different restaurants. Most of them did not offer burgers or pizza.  I tried it all. One thing I discovered. Who you eat with impacts you almost as much as what you eat.  I learned to really enjoy food that was blackened.  New Orleans’s cuisine was reawakened in my palate.  Blackened pork chops, shrimp etouffee, gumbo and jambalaya became sought after dishes.  Better cuts of meat were offered and enjoyed.  Sadly, as good as the food happened to be, it was difficult to enjoy a meal. You can not have fond memories of what is served if everything around the experience is negative.

I went back to burgers and pizza. At least then, I knew what I was getting and I could refuel when necessary, regardless of the people around me.

Then, just when I was convinced that life would go on with nothing more than my comfort food, I began to enjoy getting out.  I realized that the unpleasant past was not the food but the company.  I discovered that if you stand up and move forward, you can enjoy any meal. I had eat in, I had take out and I had delivery.  I can not remember a time when I enjoyed meals as often. I know there was never a time before when I looked forward to eating. From Spring through Summer, from Summer through Fall, from Fall through the Winter, from Winter to Spring….it was the finest year.  I was free to enjoy whatever I wanted. I never went hungry. I never realized how much sharing truly enhanced any experience.

But, all things must pass.  As Summer began, those meals I loved became harder to come by. Life changes.  The outside world creeps in. People change. Melancholy is not a pretty place, but it certainly is nicer than regret.  I had the opportunity to enjoy a years worth of delight. Every now and then, I still have the chance to enjoy  a great meal. That happiness drifts into regret as the time between meals increases.  It is not enough to remember when.

So, like I said, life’s lesson … it constantly changes … enjoy the good, nothing lasts forever.

Didn’t Shakespeare share “it is better to have loved and lost than never loved at all”?

What the hell, I still have burgers and pizza. I still have my appetite, I have learned there is no shame in finding comfort in the simple things.

The “R” logo … a badge of shame?

So I peruse Inman News this morning.  For the uninitiated, Inman News is one of the trade publications covering the real estate industry.  One of their top writers, Matt Carter shared that the NAR has been “cooking the books” to create the illusion that the market is better than it really is.  The NAR (the National Association of Realtors) has always offered information with a overly positive spin.  Real Estate agents have had to overcome questionable advertising done the by the NAR for years.  A case in point, as homes across the country were falling into foreclosure and the facts were revealed regarding bundling and re-selling mortgages, the NAR decided it was a good time to promote home ownership was a good investment. Mr.Carter’s story is just another black eye.

It is important to share, membership in the NAR is not required for an agent to practice real estate. Of course, if you are not a member of the NAR and your local state association, your access to the Multiple Listing Service is restricted and you can not function as a real estate agent.  It is like saying you don’t need a driver’s license to be a cab driver but you can not operate a motor vehicle on public thoroughfares without a driver’s license.

Now we find out that those of us working as real estate agents that have been convinced something about the data provided by the NAR does not jibe with out local markets have been correct.  The market is as bad as we have imagined.  The data provided by the NAR has been a lie.  They are now scrambling to restate (?) the data.

In the interim, that famous “R” logo is losing it’s luster and fast becoming a badge of shame.  Mr. Carter’s article states:

Statistics published by the National Association of Realtors appear to overstate sales of existing home by 15 to 20 percent, mortgage and property data aggregator CoreLogic says in a new report that concludes home sales fell more sharply last year than previously thought.

A NAR spokesman said the Corelogic claim “is premature at best,” and NAR will be making some benchmark revisions to its historic sales data later this year.

NAR’s figures — based on data collected from multiple listing services and large brokerages — show sales of existing homes fell 5 percent in 2010, to 4.9 million. But CoreLogic, which collects public sales records from county recorders and courts, estimates that home sales actually fell 12 percent, to 3.6 million.

The implications are not trivial: a slower rate of sales means that it will take longer to burn through unsold inventory, and a glut of homes for sale in a given market can undermine prices. CoreLogic says the unsold inventory on the market in November represented 16 months of supply, compared to NAR’s estimate of 9.5 months.

Weak sales following the expiration of the federal homebuyer tax credits, an excess supply of unsold homes, and the impact of sales of distressed homes is driving home prices down, CoreLogic said. A national, repeat-sales home price index compiled by the company was down 5.1 percent in November from a year ago.

If that trend continues, national home prices will probably be down 10 percent year-over-year by spring, CoreLogic said.

In its latest forecast, NAR projects that the median existing home price will be down 0.6 percent from a year ago during the first quarter of 2011, but post year-over year gains for the next five consecutive quarters.

CoreLogic says one reason NAR’s existing home sales data may be inflated is because the benchmark multiplier NAR analysts use to adjust for MLSs which they aren’t getting data from hasn’t been calibrated since 2004.

But there’s been consolidation among MLSs since then, CoreLogic noted, and a decline in the number of for-sale-by-owner sales outside the MLS and brokerage process. That means NAR is now capturing a greater percentage of existing home sales and doesn’t need to make so large an adjustment when extrapolating its results.

CoreLogic said that historically it’s only been able to account for 85 to 90 percent of the existing home sales tallied by NAR.

Beginning in 2006, NAR’s sales numbers began to look even more inflated relative to data collected by CoreLogic, the Mortgage Bankers Association, and the U.S. Census Bureau, a trend that has “continued and become more pronounced through 2010,” CoreLogic said in the February edition of its monthly report, “U.S. Housing and Mortgage Trends.”

While NAR numbers show home sales bottomed in 2008 and then rebounded in 2009, CoreLogic data shows no such rebound in 2009.

CoreLogic Senior Economist Sam Khater said the analysis “is less about NAR’s data than a critique of data in general.”

“Anytime you’ve got fundamental changes in the market like that, it’s going to cause market data to go haywire,” Khater said. It’s important to have data from a wide range of sources, Khater said, in order to “see where the truth lies in between them.”

NAR spokesman Walt Molony said that while NAR will be making benchmark revisions later this year to its historic sales data,  “data drift” issues are expected to be “relatively minor.”

“Under the circumstances, the Corelogic claim is premature at best, especially given the process that is currently under way,” Molony said in an e-mail.

The last benchmark revisions of the existing-home sales series was based on 2000 Census data, Molony said, and NAR will soon be rebenchmarking using independent sources. NAR will be consulting with outside housing economists on the methodology to determine if there is any drift in the data, and by how much, he said.

“There’s been a notable increase in nontraditional sales outside MLSs, so a major function in consulting with outside housing economists and government agencies is to determine methodology and obtain consensus on the benchmarking,” Molony said.

He said NAR will also be looking for a new way to rebenchmark existing home sales on a more frequent basis instead of waiting for  Census data to be updated every 10 years. NAR already updates sales rates and months’ supply benchmarks on an annual basis, Molony said.

Molony said the rebenchmarking of existing home sales will result in “no notable changes” to NAR’s previous characterizations of monthly sales changes, and no impact on price data.

Khater said CoreLogic’s public records data captures all sales, whether they involve a mortgage or are all-cash purchases, and regardless of whether a home was listed in an MLS or not.

One drawback with public records data is the lag time before sales are reported and data are collected. Khater said CoreLogic estimated December 2010 existing-home sales in the February report using preliminary data.

There you have it.  Core Logic uses actual data and the NAR uses data from the systems they control…the MLS. If you are interested, have a conversation with any agent about the accuracy of the MLS. All of the data in the MLS is entered by the agents and there is no methodology in place to match it with any facts.

It just could be what was perceived as pessimism on the part of some agents was actually a taste of reality. The market is a long way from recovery.  We know. We work here everyday. We don’t need statistics. We see the results of diminishing returns on our personal income.

So, NAR, forgive me if I don’t endorse you. I pay my dues. I really don’t have a choice in the matter. I only ask that you do not use any of my dues to support your continued skewering the truth.