Sunday, April 8, 2007

Final day at Ford bittersweet for scores of salaried workers

Final day at Ford bittersweet for scores of salaried workers

Janak Mehta, 29, business analyst, 4 years at Ford: 'It's a shake-up time but Ford will come back.

DEARBORN -- Teary long-timers hauled boxes brimming with photos and dusty folders to their cars Wednesday, while their co-workers hosted laughter-filled farewell lunches at local haunts.
In one restaurant, 60-year-old Joe Burnstein handed out business cards marked "Retiree at Large" that featured a photo of him wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
In another, Diane Faught reminisced about how a mailroom stint in the mid-1970s turned into a 30-year career.
Such bittersweet scenes played out throughout the city Wednesday, as the last wave of white-collar workers taking buyouts from Ford Motor Co. left their cubicles for a final time and said goodbye to a company and co-workers they've come to think of as family.
"I'm going to go back to my office, turn in my badge, pick up my empty pop cans and start the rest of my life," Glenn Kern said, following a farewell lunch at Cheli's Chili. "It's going to be hard."
The automaker began offering buyouts to salaried workers last fall in an effort to trim 10,000 jobs. Employees had until Feb. 19 to sign up.
Ford isn't saying exactly how many opted for a buyout, but it's clear that a seismic shift is taking place throughout Ford's operations.
Doug Wood wept as he walked out of Ford World Headquarters on Wednesday afternoon for the last time after 22 years.
"Today was a day of going in and realizing you're going to see a lot of people for the last time," said Wood, of Madison Heights.
Area restaurants were brimming with farewell parties Wednesday. Lunch business at Andiamo Dearborn has nearly doubled since January, as Ford employees gather for retirement parties.
Workers reminisced about the big moments they shared with co-workers and the minutia they just realized they're going to miss: daily commutes to Dearborn, morning office banter, lunch with friends.
"It hasn't fully hit me yet," said Burnstein, 60, of Oak Park, who's been with Ford 38 years. He was glad co-workers thought to bring a box of tissues to his lunch.
"But when I think today is my last day -- that I won't be going back to work -- it chokes me up," he said. "A lot of great people work here."
Roger Engleman's co-workers honored him with a framed caricature that accentuated his wavy hair. Co-workers signed the picture as they ate pasta at Andiamo Dearborn.
Engleman, 55, said his workday Wednesday, his last at Ford after 21 years, was finished before noon, as he just filled out some paperwork before departing.
"When I went through the door for the last time I didn't have many emotions," he said. "It will take time to settle in."
Engleman, of Fowlerville, said he was unsure if he'd retire for good or look for a job. His long-term plan is to live in warm Phoenix.
Others are forging into the future with similar uncertainty. Many are in their early to mid-50s, not typical retirement age.
But not all of those departing the company are Ford veterans.
Janak Mehta, a 29-year-old business analyst from Detroit, plans to use the buyout to expand his real estate investing business and start an online public relations firm. Mehta said many of his fellow 20- and 30-something colleagues jumped at the buyouts.
"They're excited to go for further studies and some are getting married and taking a new job somewhere out of Michigan," he said.

Several described the atmosphere within Ford's offices as similar to a high school graduation, with co-workers exchanging hugs and handshakes and rushing to get one another's e-mail addresses and phone numbers.
In one department, employees had T-shirts printed that read: "Ford Retiree, Class of 2007."
Ashok Dharmani, 58, of Rochester Hills was working up to 4 p.m. on a last-minute project assigned by his boss in the design department.
A self-described Ford loyalist, Dharmani is proud to have convinced his brother-in-law to buy a Lincoln this week.
"It all came so fast, I haven't had time to think about it yet," he said.
Earlier in the day, Faught laughed with co-workers who joined her at Cheli's to mark the end of a three-decade career at Ford.
She was 25 in January 1977 and desperate for work when a neighbor who worked at Ford got her a spot in the mailroom.
She worked her way up through the company, eventually getting a degree -- paid for by Ford -- and landing a job as a supervisor.
"At the time, I was so appreciative just to have any job," she said. "I've been through so many cutbacks, I feel lucky to get 30 years. I feel the time is right now."

Pre-construction Investment | Preconstruction Investing

Pre-construction Investment Preconstruction Investing: "Getting Started In A Pre-construction Investment:
Three Steps Towards Success
By Chris Anderson, PhD

Through our website,, the most common question that we receive is “How do I get rapidly started in getting a pre-construction investment”. Realistically, you only need to take three steps on your path from being a “beginner” pre-construction investing to one that is quite savvy at finding a very good preconstruction investment"

Mechanics of A Pre-construction Investment
Before you even begin looking for a preconstruction investment, you need a working knowledge of exactly what is meant by preconstruction investing, why has preconstruction investing generated returns in excess of 100% per year for many investors, what is the terminology used. The good news is this is your easiest step to take.As an example, in this stage you will learn terms like reservation, hard contract, assignment of contract, letter of credit, to name a few. Even if you are new to investing, don’t let that intimidate you. Whenever I teach a class on this topic, it only takes about 30 to 60 minutes to get everybody up to speed on this to feel like the understand the mechanics of a pre-construction investment.So how do you learn the mechanics of being a preconstruction real estate investor? My suggestion is to take advantage of the free resources available on the internet. For example, at we give a way a 30-page pre-construction investment ebook about that will walk you through this basic terminology and will give you some real world preconstruction investing examples. Also, if you conduct an internet search on “preconstruction” “pre-construction investing” “preconstruction condo”, etc., you will find tons of websites with this type of information readily available. Give yourself an evening or two and you should be a master.

Becoming a Savvy Investor
Unfortunately, over 80% of new investors stop after Step 1 and immediately want to look for a “hot” pre-construction investment. In my opinion, this is a big mistake because they are lacking what separates the beginning investor from the street-seasoned investor with 10 pre-construction investments under his belt; the methodology to RAPIDLY pick “smart investments” If you did an internet search in Step 1 above, did you notice how many real estate web sites you found with a preconstruction investment on them? If not, simply put in the term “Miami preconstruction” in any internet search engine and you will see the number of results. Here is a test for you. From the internet searches done above, can you rapidly look at those projects and choose which ones might be worthy of further investigation? Most people interested in pre-construction investing become overwhelmed at this point whereas most savvy investors could sort through most of these in a matter of minutes.Over the years, in both the stock and the real estate markets, I have had the opportunity to work with some truly outstanding investors and I have also seen many, many beginners. When a beginner looks at a pre-construction investment, they ask the real estate person “How much will I likely make on this preconstruction investment and should I buy it?” When an experienced investor looks at the same investment, they first ask THEMSELVES “Is this investment really low risk and if so, how much money is really at risk?” Then they ask THEMSELVES “How much money am I likely to make if this pre-construction investment works?” In their mind, they are trying to determine the amount of reward, relative to the risk. They know that the person marketing this project is UNLIKELY to think this way but they know how to ask the right questions to quickly decide if this project has an acceptable reward-to-risk ratio for THEMSELVES.If you are reasonably new to pre-construction investing, or have always counted on others to make investment decisions for you, how do you perform Step 2? Simple. You must learn how a savvy investor thinks, how they calculate risk, what back-up plans they have in place in case the investment does not work, how they calculate reward, etc. None of this is rocket science or even difficult to do. If you’re new to preconstruction investing and are trying to do all this on your own, it can be a daunting task, however. I find that truly savvy investors are always talking to others, getting their opinions, learning anything they can to make THEIR OWN decision. They know that every little tidbit they can learn can literally mean several 10’s of thousands of dollars into their own pockets. Practically, you need somebody to mentor you that has “been to the dance” many times before. If you know somebody in that category, buy them lunch, dinner, movie tickets, whatever and ask if they would look over your shoulder. If you know several people in this category, better yet. Your lunch bills will be pricey but your education gained will be priceless. In addition, learning to think like a savvy investor hunting a good pre-construction investment, is the reason that we created our original home study course as well as our more complete live teleseminar course. Many people don’t have someone to turn to other than maybe the real estate person bringing them the project. I personally find that most real estate agents/brokers are fantastic resources for information, however most do not analyze the investment like I would. If you ever find yourself asking your agent or salesperson if “they really think you should buy this,” then that is probably a good indication that you are ill prepared. No matter how you accomplish it, learn to think like a savvy investor for YOURSELF; it just is not that hard to do.

Finding A GoodPre-Construction Investment
Once you think like a pro in Step 2, you will have just created a problem for yourself: you will probably find that few pre-construction investments that will fit your objectives. New investors tend to think this is like the stock market….. When they are ready to invest, you should just be able to plunk down your money and move forward. Realistically, in the stock market and the preconstruction market, TRUE OPPORTUNITIES appear when they are good and ready. When that occurs, and only at that time, then the savvy investor will pounce with lightning speed. Remember, for many people, a couple of good preconstruction investments PER YEAR is plenty and may then more investment returns than they ever dreamed possible.While this may be hard to imagine right now, after Step 2 you should have a clear understanding of the type of pre-construction investments that you would consider. As an example, suppose you end up concluding that you really like condo/town home projects, not on the beach, and in the southeast. In addition, you want these investments in some emerging markets but not necessarily those that have been explosive for a long time. Great! Now start getting on lists of brokers/developers that bring out those projects. If you can work with a group of like minded people, all the better because you can share the workload and also have additional clout because of a higher potential buying power than just one individual.I will caution you however that when you think like a savvy investor, you are going to want a lot more information than is typically provided by these types of sources. You will want a true assessment of the local market (other than “boy has this been hot”), you will want a true assessment of the amount of similar projects that have been or are going to be offered, and you are going to want to know a lot about who is buying these projects and why. Because we like a lot of detail and because we know we have to move very quickly for good investments, we have always found it better to operate as a group, rather than one lone person trying to sort this out after work. In addition, we have found that by pooling together the buying power of a group we can get much better access to really good investments. It is for these reasons that we at have created our “Mastermind Group.”
I hope this has given you an understanding of the 3 steps needed to become a true preconstruction investor. Some people will look at this and say that it is too hard, or too time consuming. Yes it will take some time and some effort. The question that I always ask them is then “How many hours in your regular job would it take you to make some of the large $75,000+ returns that some preconstruction investors are making?”

Buying pre-construction « Real Estate Miami - Pre-construction- Condominium - Condo-Hotels

Buying pre-construction « Real Estate Miami - Pre-construction- Condominium - Condo-Hotels: "When You Buy Before It’s Built
When Seth Ferman looked into buying a $3 million three-bedroom condominium on West Caicos, a Caribbean island that is part of the Turks and Caicos, the development was little more than a pristine stretch of beach. Instead of walking through model units that duplicated the apartment’s 3,300-square-foot floor plan and opening closet doors, he drove around the property in a Range Rover for a tour of where the building would eventually sit.
It was one of many times that Mr. Ferman visited the site — which will eventually include a Ritz-Carlton resort and condo units managed by the hotel chain. He asked about interest from other potential buyers. And he met the developers running the project. It was only then that he gave a 25 percent deposit.
“I really made an effort to get to know the development team,” said Mr. Ferman, 42, a real estate developer who llives in Bedford, N.Y. “That was a big part of the decision.” He now frequently checks up on the construction process, which is scheduled for completion at the end of 2008. He monitors the project’s Web site, and makes phone calls to the developers every few weeks.
Buying into a development before construction has begun is not a new phenomenon, but with the slowdown in the real estate market — and in condo sales in many areas — the rules are changing. A few years ago, the incentive to condo buyers was clear: You would buy early, sit back and, by the time the building was in place, be pretty certain that the unit’s value had increased substantially. But the days of buyers lining up for a condo in a building that might be years from completion are long gone — and developers are facing a new reality.
“The world has changed quite a bit,” said Edward Baquero, a managing partner with Coalco New York, a developer with projects in New York, New Jersey and Florida, including Villa Magna, 787 condominiums in two waterfront towers in Miami that are now in preconstruction sales.
“It took about a year to sell 200 units,” Mr. Baquero said, adding that in the heyday of the South Florida condo frenzy, “the whole building would have sold out in five months.”
But even with the falloff, preconstruction sales are continuing, however sluggishly, in places as varied as Telluride, Colo.; Donnelly, Idaho; the Hawaiian island of Kauai; and Las Vegas, which has seen a huge growth in condominium development in recent years but is now in the midst of a slowdown.
What has truly changed is the developers’ mindset.
“I don’t know many developers that say, ‘If I build it, they will come,’ ” said Peter Forsch, the president of the Club at Spanish Peaks, a second-home community in Big Sky, Mont., that includes the Lodge at Spanish Peaks, a 49-unit condominium project that started sales earlier this year before construction began. “Rather it is, ‘If I sell it, I will build it.’ ”
More than ever, developers are relying on pre-construction sales to give them the green light to break ground. Which means that in the markets with the largest drop in activity, like Las Vegas, it is questionable whether some planned projects will actually be built.
“From a supply standpoint there are a significant number of potential projects out there,” said Brian Gordon, a principal at Applied Analysis, a Las Vegas economic and real estate research firm. “There are only a dozen that are actively preselling that haven’t commenced construction. Those projects are facing some challenges in the ability to generate sufficient sales and allow them to go forward. There has been some cancellation of projects that don’t make financial sense at this point.”
People thinking of buying early at a new project that might be years from completion should take certain steps to make sure that they protect their investment and end up with what they expect.
Mr. Baquero, the developer of the Miami project, recommends that buyers looking at preconstruction sales negotiate an exit strategy in their contract, especially as lead times in some markets grow longer. “If the developer doesn’t build by a certain day,” he said, “it triggers your right to get out of the contract.”
While deposit money is kept in escrow, minimizing financial risk if the project doesn’t go forward, the deposit usually does not earn interest. If that is the case, Mr. Baquero suggests that buyers negotiate to get interest — a request he says more developers are accepting. “Those things are available,” he said, “and developers are giving them for long-term projects.”
It is also prudent to question the developer on changes that can be made to the project once the sales contract is signed. In some projects in the very early stages, for example, finishes and details like appliances might not be set in stone.
“We really can’t change the layout or the floor plan,” said Bill Krokowski, the executive vice president of Monument Realty, which is at the preconstruction sales stage on Silverline, a condominium in Mountain Village, Colo., with ski in/ski out access to the Telluride Resort. But Mr. Krokowski said that options like alternative finishes could come into the mix during the 30-month construction process. He said that since Silverline has just 90 units, it is small enough for the developers to update buyers regularly by telephone.
There are also other potential pitfalls. Because buyers usually see only floor plans, and perhaps artist’s renderings or model bathrooms or kitchens, they do not know how much light an apartment will get or whether a large bed will fit in the bedroom. When the building is completed, the reality can be very different from what the buyer expected.
Another expectation that may not be met is the overall size of the apartment. Yes, the square footage is provided in the offering plan. But the small print may include a disclaimer noting that the actual square footage may be different. For these and other reasons, real estate specialists suggest that before placing a deposit, a buyer should consult a real estate lawyer.
Anyone buying early should also ascertain the current state of the local market and gauge whether the developer is offering incentives to lure new buyers — which, though attractive to buyers in the short term, can put a downward pressure on prices, developers say.
But even with all these caveats, many people feel the need to buy early. When John Robbins, 56, bought a four-bedroom condo at the Lodge at Spanish Peaks, he was well aware that it will not be completed until 2010 — a fact he said was just fine with him.
“I’m a believer that in the right development, if you are willing to take a little risk upfront and don’t mind having your money tied up for a while, you can make good money,” said Mr. Robbins, a developer who lives in Concord, N.C.
Besides, he predicted, “we will be out of the slump before my condo is even a reality.”

Lenders willing to help struggling homeowners - Real Estate -

Lenders willing to help struggling homeowners - Real Estate - "NEW YORK - As home foreclosures mount, mortgage companies are knocking on doors, sending letters and making phone calls with a simple message for struggling homeowners: They’d rather modify your loan than foreclose. EMC Mortgage Corp., which has a $78 billion loan portfolio that includes subprime loans made to homeowners with weak credit, this week launched a 50-person team it calls “the Mod Squad.” Members will spend an unlimited time on the phone with troubled borrowers, sifting through their bills to compute a workable monthly payment. In an industry that often rewards workers for getting off the phone quickly, the team is preparing to speak to just three people a day. “You can’t just run this like a call center; it needs to be run like a counseling center,” said John Vella, president and CEO of EMC. Right now, $2.14 billion in mortgages, 2.74 percent of EMC’s portfolio, is in default, up from 1.93 percent a year ago."

Subprime meltdown

Loose lending standards followed by lax modifications can merely delay a problem, Lawler said. He pointed to the raft of modifications done in the manufactured housing business in the mid 1990’s, when easy credit led to a wave of defaults and reposessions."
“If people had known what the servicers were doing, red flags would have been raised; but by the time people knew what was going on, it was too late,” he said.
Advocates say that half the people in foreclosure never talk to their banker before losing their house, and many could rework their loans if they only got help.
“It’s tragic,” said Colleen Hernandez, president of the nonprofit Home Ownership Preservation Foundation. “We have the capacity to help a whole lot more people.”
Calls to her group have picked up markedly. Its 24-hour hotline, (888) 995-4673, is getting 300 calls a day, from 75 daily in the first quarter of 2006.
A modification helped Ana Rodriguez, 41, keep her family’s home.
Rodriguez and her husband, Ricardo, bought a house in Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood in 1998. Their mortgage was $1,200 a month. After he lost his job as a machinist, the couple refinanced the home in 2004 with an adjustable rate mortgage. The new payment was $1,500 a month.
He found a new job, but a year later, he was out of work again.
Rodriguez, a secretary, called Chicago’s department of housing, which referred her to a nonprofit. It worked with her mortgage company, Homecomings Financial, part of GMAC Financial Services.
“I did emphasize that if there was nothing they could do before we would lose our home, we wanted to sell it before losing,” she said. “They said they were going to try to work everything out.”
Her husband found a job soon after and the couple made three payments that included penalties and fees for the installments they’d missed. He quickly found a better job and the couple was able to refinance with a 30-year mortgage at 6.62 percent interest last October. The monthly payments are $1,600.
“We really got ahead of this one,” said James Leyba, the community relations specialist at Homecomings who worked with the Rodriguez family.

New foreclosures hit their highest ever level in the fourth quarter of 2006, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Home owners are the obvious losers, but all the financial services companies involved lose. The lender loses the steady stream of payments it counted on. If it sold the loan as part of a securitization, a package of mortgage-backed securities, that investor loses. Loan servicers, who are usually paid a fraction of the interest on a loan, lose too.
With home values falling in some parts of the country, none of the finance companies want to be stuck owning a house that has depreciated, or, worse, a house surrounded by other homes in foreclosure. EMC says it loses, on average, 40 percent of the value of a loan in foreclosure and also has to pay taxes and other expenses on the property.
“The larger the loss of value and the greater the likely loss will be, the more flexible we are,” said Larry B. Litton, Jr., president and chief executive of Litton Loan Servicing in Houston, which services $60 billion in mortgages. “We may waive past-due amounts. In extreme situations, we may even waive principal, if need be.”

Litton said his company is modifying about 1,000 loans a month; up from 300 to 400 about six months ago. Vella said he hopes the Mod Squad will be able to modify up to 2,000 loans a month; six months ago EMC only modified about 400 loans a month.
EMC has hired an increasing number of contractors over the last three months to knock on the doors of shaky borrowers and drop off fliers asking the home owners to call the company. Last month, the contractors visited 3,000 properties.
The Mod Squad is planning a six-city tour; it hopes to attract struggling homeowners to information and counseling sessions with offers of $100 gift cards to Home Depot Inc. The number is (877) 362-6631.

Companies with older programs are trying to stand out. The Hope program sponsored by GMAC ResCap and Homecomings Financial, which has a team of 20 loan workout experts, may change its name to differentiate itself from newer Hope programs.
The investor in securitized loans often dictates how much a loan can be modified, and Litton said his company has demanded more flexible terms from securitizers, which lets it modify problem loans with lower interest rates or extended terms. For instance, a home owner whose adjustable rate mortgage “resets” to a higher interest rate on May 1, 2007 might get a 24-month extension, putting the adjustment off until May 1, 2009.
“That may give the borrower breathing room,” Litton said.
“It’s really up to servicers in this climate, he said. “If the servicers aren’t flexible, then we’re going to see credit losses like we’ve never seen before.”