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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Las Vegas Housing Market Attracts Asian Investors

A vacant home in Las Vegas owned by Bank of America. Nevada continues to top the nation in unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies.

Investors from Asia are taking advantage of housing prices that have plummeted in recent years, buying foreclosures and short sales at below what it would cost to build them.
Kevin Chu's Hong-Kong investment firm owns property in Las Vegas, but he's never seen any of it. So his first visit to the U.S. is to inspect the houses in Las Vegas.

In the past 18 months, the firm he works for, The Creations Group, bought up distressed homes all over the U.S. — including 13 Las Vegas houses at fire sale prices.
Tracy Bennett, the local property manager, is driving Chu to see one of his firm's houses that has just been renovated.
She points to a disaster of a house that's clearly vacant. Blue graffiti cover the garage. Trash is piled in the yard. Before anyone can say anything, Bennett laughs.

"I'm kidding," she says.

But it is a reminder of the bleak housing reality here, where foreclosure rates are more than three times the national average. Thousands of bank-owned properties that sit empty. Thankfully, for Chu, his real house down the block is in much better shape.

It's a modest one-story house. The firm bought it for $55,000. At the height of the market, it could have sold for more than $200,000. Inside it's clean, with fresh paint. It's ready for a tenant.
"It looks very good, much better than I expected," he says.

In fact, the U.S. housing market as a whole looks much better than expected to Chu's boss, Danny Lim.

"In some places the types of prices that we are getting, I think it's you know, once in a generation, perhaps once in a lifetime kind of opportunity," says Lim, who was in Miami looking for more property.

Andy Chu, a local real estate agent, says he is advertising in the Asian newspapers. He points out the strong rental market in Las Vegas means houses here can quickly become income-producing properties.
"We let them know, hey look, U.S. is a good place to invest," he says.

Andy Chu's clients from Asia are now a quarter of his business, and he wants more.

They're good customers. They often will buy several properties and pay in cash, which means he doesn't have to spend months waiting for financing to be approved.

"From a business perspective, you can get paid in four days or get paid in six months," he says.

The 2012 strategy for the Las Vegas chapter of the Asian Real Estate Association of America is to help local Realtors get even more international business through new Web tools and networking opportunities.

"If you are a homegrown product how do you network with someone in Canada? How do you work with someone in China, Vietnam or Taiwan? It is very hard. That's the reason why our association is trying to bridge that gap," explains Joseph Lai, the association's chapter president.

There aren't reliable data to know just how many properties in Las Vegas are selling to out-of-country buyers. Local Realtors say the bulk of their international business is coming from Asia and Canada. Lai says these buyers are helping the local housing market recover.

"International investors, we see them as absorbing a lot of the inventory," empty houses that otherwise might be left vacant, he says.

"They are going to come in, make them income-producing properties, and then they are going to fix them up, get them into livable shape, get them rented out," he says.

There is a backlog of tens of thousands more foreclosures expected to roll onto the Las Vegas market in the coming months. So that means soon there will be a lot more empty houses for eager investors to buy up.

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Keep Your Eye Peeled for "Matilda"

There's Something About 'Matilda'

The Royal Shakespeare Company's Matilda the Musical, based on the beloved children's book about a five year old very special girl by Roald Dahl, is taking London by storm. Matilda is an unusual girl. She's a bookworm, her parents are abusive and her school headmistress is a battle-axe. That could make for a depressing story, but London audiences have been wowed by Matilda's determination not to be repressed. - Music and more at National Public Radio, by clicking here.

Photos: Kerry Ingram is one of four young actresses portraying the title role in Matilda the Musical.

Las Vegas Economy...

Rodrigo Gonsalez walks along the Las Vegas Strip as he finishes up a night of impersonating Elvis. Gonsalez, a welder by trade, turned to street performing in the absence of construction jobs in the city.

To Reignite Its Light, 

Las Vegas Needs To Diversify

Rodrigo Gonsalez walks along the Las Vegas Strip as he finishes up a night of impersonating Elvis. Gonsalez, a welder by trade, turned to street performing in the absence of construction jobs in the city.

One in every two Americans are now considered poor or one paycheck from poor, the worst since the Great Depression. Estimates are as high as two our of three Las Vegans fall in those categories.

Las Vegas' unemployment rate is down, but it's still over 13 percent. Not too long ago, it was around 15 percent.

The city of lights is also home to the country's highest foreclosure rates, for 37 months in a row.

But before Las Vegas epitomized the housing bust, it was the epitome of the housing boom. And that was all tied to the city's legendary gaming industry.

"People were building housing for other people building housing. We were building it for the hotel workers," says Rob Lang, who runs the Intermountain West - Brookings Institution at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Now those jobs — building houses — are gone.

"That's the biggest share of unemployment," Lang tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "It's 100,000 displaced workers in that industry across the state, the majority being in Las Vegas. And in gaming, by contrast, you know we bottomed in '09. There are 16,000 jobs added. And, of course, the gaming operations outside of Las Vegas — in China, in Singapore — are booming, and that wealth is accruing to the management of those firms."

So, the real hurt is in construction. Even so, there are silver linings to that cloud. You can see them in every cul-de-sac.

Affordable Housing
If you happen to be looking for a second home — or like Richard Smith, of Altus, Okla., you're about to retire and move — then real estate agents like Terri Monroe, in suburban Henderson, Nev., have no shortage of houses to show you.

Monroe shows off a 2,100-square-foot house with a modern kitchen and huge garage for $219,000.
"In 2005, it would have sold for $450,000 to $500,000," Monroe says. The house lost more than half of its value.

Monroe says the real estate market is looking up, slightly. But no one expects homebuilding to return to what it was: 12 percent of the state's economy, the second-biggest local industry.

Vegas Needs More Than Gaming
Of course, there's no question about what's No. 1: gaming.
And if people elsewhere praise the job-creating powers of small business, in Las Vegas, big business, big hotel owners, historically drive the economy.

Carolyn Goodman, the mayor of Las Vegas, cites a common rule of thumb — the ratio of population growth to increases in the number of hotel rooms is 6 to 1.

People up in the Silicon Valley need to be coming down here because the weather is perfect — it's the ease of everything here.
 - Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman

Click on "read more' below to continue.

Las Vegas worst in nation for foreclosures and loss of property value

'Slow, Plodding' Economy 

Stalled By Housing Market

According to the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Index released Tuesday, home prices were down 3.4 percent this year as of October — around a 35 percent drop from their peak.
Enlarge Scott Olson/Getty Images
  According to the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Index released Tuesday, home prices were down 3.4 percent this year as of October — around a 35 percent drop from their peak.

This month, consumer confidence jumped to its highest level since April, a sign that the U.S. economy is starting to mend. But the housing market isn't going along yet with this cheerier mood: Home prices were down 3.4 percent for the year as of October, according to a new report released Tuesday.

Housing has been at the center of the country's economic troubles since 2007, and heading into 2012, it still has a lot of problems.

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray keeps waking up to live the same day over and over again. President Obama might feel the same way about the troubled U.S. housing market. In a 2009 speech in Arizona, he spoke about his plan to prevent foreclosures.

"The American dream is being tested by a home mortgage crisis that not only threatens the stability of our economy, but also the stability of families and neighborhoods," he said.

Click "read more" below to continue...

Spring will be here's proof

‎99 days to Opening Day of baseball season!

Republican Congress funds private industry while cutting funds from states and local government

More money to an already bloated industry? We should expect an increase in immigrant detentions it seems. SPREAD the word, SHARE this post!
mycuentame.orgWhy is it that for-profit prisons get some holiday cheer (and break) while everyday, working class Americans cannot? What is wrong with this picture–and why is it that Congress is funding an industry that reaps profits out of human misery?

Michael Jackson in CityVille

ENTERTAINMENT: Play it before you see it

Social game titan Zynga is introducing a promotion for the Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson tribute "The Immortal" into its "CityVille" game.

Here's a look at the stage players build in order to unlock an exclusive tour video. And, as with Lady Gaga's visit to "FarmVille," the Jackson component is "a very integrated experience" and "very integral to the game," says its general manager, Scott Koenigsberg. "Most players will opt in."

 Click here for more on this and other entertainment news from the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Franki Valli & The Four Seasons - Big Girls Don't Cry

Wherever You Are (Military Wives with Gareth Malone) Official Video

Tom Cruise rules; Taylor Lautner is target of hoax; MGM quiet as a mouse; Angelina Jolie's directorial debut; Look for sitcoms and reality rip offs instead of quality dramas on TV.

From the LA Times Company Town here for the latest industry news... (additional material added from sources llinked to or by SAG ACTOR blog author Art Lynch)

Tuning in to MGM:
The historic MGM film studio, which made "The Wizard of Oz" and "Singin' in the Rain" on one of Hollywood's largest lots and for decades boasted that it employed "more stars than there are in heaven," is today housed on six floors of a nondescript Beverly Hills office building.
Sent into bankruptcy last year after decades of dysfunction, the former home of Louis B. Mayer and Leo the Lion is now led by two low-key executives who have transformed the 87-year-old studio into, essentially, an international TV rights company servicing MGM's library of 4,100 movies.

Until four months ago, movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. occupied 11 floors of a glittering office tower capped with its familiar roaring-lion logo. Now, it operates out of six stories of a gray-carpeted office space barely noticeable amid a Beverly Hills retail strip. MGM's new location is emblematic of its effort to reinvent itself, after going through a dramatic decline from one of Hollywood's most storied studios into an incapacitated, debt-saddled asset forced to file for bankruptcy-court protection in November 2010. Since emerging from bankruptcy protection a year ago, MGM bears little resemblance to either the entity in its golden-age.

Hollywood's historic Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has transformed primarily into an international television company in its latest incarnation, reports the Wall Street Journal. In addition to selling its library of pictures, and some new ones, to foreign broadcasters, it's also working on a "Silence of the Lambs" TV show. Here's a similar analysis of the same company two weeks ago from the Los Angeles Times.

The Skinny: I (Morning Fix backup Ben Fritz) have returned after a week off, during which the best movie I saw was the Imax preview for "The Dark Knight Rises" (that's not a dig at other films; the preview was just that good). Tuesday's headlines include some good box-office news that doesn't make up for a weak year, a look back at an interesting TV season, and a fake People magazine cover featuring a startling revelation about Taylor Lautner. illion other outlets that wrote about it.

Pilot Season. Be prepared for pilot season to resume in about two weeks, but until then the streets will be slow around LA as studios are closed and industry folks celebrate the holidays with friends, families and their home offices here and around the world.

MissionImpossibleGhostProtocolBox-office impossible: It was a good launch at the box office for supposedly fading star Tom Cruise, as his "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" was No. 1 over Christmas weekend. "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and "War Horse" also did decent business, while several other movies including "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked," "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" and "The Adventures of Tintin" are doing disappointing if not flat-out weak business. Weekend coverage by the Los Angeles Times. And here's a look back at a not-so-hot year at the box office from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Size really doesn't matter: This fall the TV networks opened their wallets for some big bets, but found viewers were more interested in inexpensive comedies. Among the disappointments have been costly dramas "Terra Nova," "Pan Am," and the already-canceled "The Playboy Club," while comedies like "Two Broke Girls," "Suburgatory" and "Up All Night" have fared better. Analysis by the Los Angeles Times. Also, a look at two new TV trends (one and two) from the New York Times. If you don't want to take a risk, make it cheeply and copy something that is already working. Reality and non-star driven sitcoms do the trick nicely.

Fuse about to blow: The latest battle between a cable operator and content provider centers on the little-known and little-watched music channel Fuse, reports the Wall Street Journal. Madison Square Garden Co. packages Fuse with its MSG network, which has rights to many Knicks and Rangers games that die-hard sports fans consider must-sees. Time Warner Cable doesn't want to run Fuse anymore, but MSG Co. will only sell the two together.  Regular Morning Fixer Joe Flint wrote about the dispute last week in the Los Angeles Times.

Not out, not proud: Proving once again just how quickly a joke, or a lie, can spread online, people who were surfing the Web on Monday might have been shocked to learn the latest People magazine cover features "Twilight" heartthrob Taylor Lautner announcing he's "out and proud." The cover, of course, was a fake. But as you might have predicted, Twitter and blogs exploded in the time it took to figure that out. Here's a summary from the Hollywood Reporter and a Google News link to the approximately 8 million computers.

Angelina Jolie's film did not get off to a great start at the box office
Angelina Jolie's directorial debut: a film about war. Over a joyous holiday weekend, not even Angelina Jolie could persuade audiences to show up at the multiplex to see a film about the brutal Bosnian war.

The actress' directorial debut "In the Land of Blood and Honey" opened on Friday and has since grossed $27,827, according to an estimate from distributor FilmDistrict. Playing in three locations, that amounted to a weak per-theater average of $9,276 over the four-day holiday.

The movie was written, directed and produced by Jolie, who did extensive publicity to promote it on TV programs including "60 Minutes" and "Good Morning America." But the movie is told mostly in Bosnian and other Slavic languages and features actors unknown to Americans, making it a difficult sell for U.S. moviegoers.

“We obviously realize that the subject matter itself is very demanding,” said FilmDistrict's president of theatrical distribution, Bob Berney. “But Angelina’s name helped tremendously in getting the word out. This appeals to art-house crowds -- people interested in politics or history -- but I think she definitely helped to expand the audience.”

Audiences were more interested in seeing a movie set around another tragic historical event. Warner Bros. debuted its Stephen Daldry-directed 9/11 drama "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" in six theaters on Sunday, and it has so far grossed $136,000. That gives the movie a decent per-theater average of $22,667.

There has been some question about whether moviegoers would embrace a film centering around the aftermath of the American tragedy. Though well-reviewed, the 9/11 pictures "United 93" and "World Trade Center" failed to make a big showing at the box office. "Extremely Loud," adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer's popular novel, has so far received middling reviews from critics and expands to theaters nationwide on Jan. 20.

Also in the Los Angeles Times: In case you missed it Friday, former NBC top exec Marc Graboff is headed to "American Idol" production company CKX. Angelina Jolie's directorial debut "In the Land of Blood and Honey" is faring worse than 9/11 drama "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" in limited release. David Lazarus says Time Warner Cable's latest price hike is outrageous.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Paula Patton and Tom Cruise in "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol." Credit: Joe Lederer / Paramount Pictures

Gimme' the beat

Iran’s suicide fleet

A FLEET of suicide ships is being built by crackpot naval commanders in Iran.

More than 9,000 speedboats have been made with deadly explosives engineered into their hulls.
The vessels — to patrol the Persian Gulf where UK forces operate — will be piloted by extremist "martyrs".

Plot ... Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Plot ... Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
They can be rammed into the side of "enemy" ships and each carries enough explosives to rip a seven-metre hole in a boat's keel.
Around 30,000 kamikaze captains are being trained to steer the ships, a source claimed.

There are plans to build 15,000 of the six-metre vessels. Their C4 explosives go off when rammed into larger ships.

An Iranian defector asked to design the crafts revealed the secret plot after fleeing the country — led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The ex-military engineer, said: "They wanted me to help build a vast fleet of suicide boats. It's shocking. That amount of explosives is deadly. I love Iran and that's why I'm revealing this. No one in Iran wants a war."

A US vessel was attacked by a suicide boat in 2000, killing 17, in Yemen.

The Sun (British)