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Stellar Recap | Town Ownership & Pocket Listings

Stella Min
Stella Min
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Town ownership. A town in California, called Nipton, can be yours for the price of $2.75 million. This is a discount from the $5 million price tag the current owner paid in 2017. It’s not the only one for sale. There are several others for sale in the US and other countries. It’s been interesting to read through various articles about the people who have or have tried to purchase these towns. Like Dan Sinker and his attempt to buy the town of Johnsville in Connecticut in 2015 by crowdfunding on Twitter. The town was eventually purchased by an international religious organization called Iglesia Ni Cristo for $1.85 million. Then there’s Nancy Kidwell who owns Cal-Nev-Ari in Nevada, the first “fly-in casino town.” She and her late husband pioneered the town over half a century ago but is now ready to retire. She is selling the town for $8 million. The most fascinating story that I came across was about Bridgeville, California, which is the first town to be auctioned on eBay, three times. The first time was in 2002 for $1.8 million but the deal fell through. The second time was in 2004 for $700,000 and was relisted on eBay in 2006. Daniel Thomas La Paille was the last person to purchase the town. He ended his life just a few months later and left the town to his family. It has been listed for sale on and off ever since. While some of the towns that are for sale seem charming, like Story, Indiana, the stories behind many of these places suggest that owning a town is expensive and a ton of work. Best know what you’re getting involved with.
Pocket listings. I learned that as of March, the number of homes sold without being marketed to the public, a practice referred to as whisper listings or pocket listings, increased 67%, from 2.4% to 4.0%. The rates are increasing despite the being banned by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in 2019. That’s because the policy has a major loophole that allows agents to share the listing within their firm. Agents can also use the classification “coming soon” to get around the new policy. This practice disadvantages prospective home buyers in competitive markets like Chicago, Kansas City, Columbus, and Minneapolis where 10%-15% of sales were pocket listings. It’s also been shown to reinforce racial segregation, which is partly driven by the lack of diversity in realtors’ networks. All of this relates to a topic I understand well: social inequality. People of color already face substantial headwinds when buying a home. For example, people of color are more likely to be denied a mortgage loan than their white counterparts. This is especially true for Black applicants who are, on average, rejected at 2.5 times more often than white applicants. In fact, over the past 15 years, Black homeownership has been declining rapidly, such that by 2019, the Black homeownership rate was about as low as in the 1960s, when private race-based discrimination was legal. The ability to afford and purchase a home is an important factor in alleviating longstanding social inequalities. Home ownership is one of the most important factors for building and growing wealth and is a substantial contributor to the racial wealth gap. Even when people of color manage to purchase a home, their home values are appraised for less while simultaneously taxed at higher rates than a similar White household. These biases are so pervasive that researchers estimated that owner-occupied homes in Black neighborhoods are undervalued by an average of $48,000, amounting to $156 billion in cumulative losses. Note that this issue of under-evaluation doesn’t just occur in mostly non-white neighborhoods and it isn’t a relic of the past. There have been multiple recent reports of this occurring to families in predominantly white neighborhoods, like this biracial family in Florida and this Black family in Denver. While much of this can likely be attributed to appraisal methods capturing the effect of redlining, there is evidence that the home owner’s race plays an important role, like with the biracial couple’s experience in Florida. Another is example is Carlette Duffy of Indianapolis who found that removing racial identifiers, such as photos, increased the appraisal value of her home. There are several actions that we as a society can take to address these systemic problems, from encouraging more diversity in the predominantly white appraisal industry to revising policies that capture the historical legacy of redlining. We should also reflect on our own biases, and not just those that are related to race (e.g., ageism; religion; ableism; parental status; mental health). Everyone has biases. By reflecting on these beliefs, we can begin to understand and change the related behaviors that result in social exclusion and deprivation.
Vaccine weepstakes. Last week, I compared the odds of winning the vaccine sweepstakes in six states across the US. The most recent data out of Colorado suggest that the program wasn’t very effective in boosting vaccinations. The vaccination rate dropped by 37% since the announcement, which was the largest decline since immunizations began. This ran counter to Google data that indicated that the announcement caught resident’s attention, including over free beer. Axios suggested that the drop could be related to issues with the Colorado’s vaccine database while their newsletter suggested it could indicate vaccine hesitancy. I’d like to add that another potential reason could simply be the timing of their announcement, which preceded a holiday and coincided with the end of the school year for the largest public school districts in Colorado (e.g., Jeffco Public Schools; DPS). This can be a hectic time for households. Additionally, previous holidays have been shown to mess with data reporting. If you’re a vaccinated Coloradan and wondering if this deceleration in shots increased your chances of winning the sweepstakes, the answer is yes and no. A lower number of vaccinated residents means a higher chance of winning, but the pool of eligible residents is increasing. Not only are more and more residents continuing to get vaccinated, the Colorado department of health has found a way to include the nearly 65,000 people who received their jabs from the VA. Putting the sweepstakes aside for a moment, it’s worth noting that we’re all ultimately winners in the end. More vaccinated people means a lower risk of transmission and mortality for us and our loved ones, community, country, and world.
Self-reflection and the one thing project
  • What’s one thing a person can do to try and understand someone else’s perspective?
  • What is one piece of advice you’ve received that has, so far, withstood the test of time?
  • What is one thing you probably take for granted?
  • What’s one thing you look forward to this year?
  • What’s a topic that you get excited to talk about?
Digital Gems
  • Remote destinations are among top destinations for summer 2021, especially near national and state parks in the US. Top vacation spots include Whitefish Mountain, Montana, the Florida panhandle, and areas around the Great Lakes (Airbnb 2021 Travel Report).
  • As of April 2021, prices for U.S. car rentals were 104% higher than the same period in 2019 while spending on lodging was at 95% and flights were at 57.7%, surpassing trends observed globally (The Sassyologist).
  • The average customer spends $36 on their DoorDash orders which leaves the company with an estimated $0.90 in profit (WSJ).
  • Despite fewer people on the roads during the pandemic, traffic fatalities in 2020 were at the highest level since 2007. Total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) declined by more than 13% in 2020 compared with 2019, but motor vehicle related deaths increased by 7.2%. Deaths that involved alcohol were up an estimated 9% and death by occupant ejection increased by 20%. See NHTSA for more stats.
  • Facebook has caught and removed around 150 disinformation campaigns in the past four years. The US was the top target of these campaigns (Axios).
  • A dog’s ability to understand social cues develops at an early age without much training and scientists believe that genetics plays a key role (Current Biology).
  • A new survey of US adults found that half of respondents plan to take 1-2 trips or vacations this year, with 60% reporting that the frequency of their summer travel plans is similar to pre-pandemic levels. Twenty-seven percent said they’re traveling less and 13% said they’re traveling more (Morning Brew).
  • A survey of 200 financial advisors found that their advice was widely variable. One particularly interesting finding was that when comparing the advice given to clients with a medium risk tolerance vs. those with a high risk tolerance, 18% of advisers recommended a riskier portfolio to the more risk adverse client (Oxford Risk).
  • Cultural critique, Anne Helen Peterson, argues that the term “swole” captures the millennial men’s obsession with protein consumption and muscle growth and describes how the vernacular of deprivation, control, and aspirational containment became unquestioned norms among young Gen-X and millennial women.
  • Hurricane season has officially begun and the FTC shared resources to help us all prepare (FTC).
  • About a third of clues and answers of major crossword publications (Wall Street Journal, LA Times, and NY Times) reference women while only about a quarter reference race-ethnic minorities (The Pudding).
  • The UN Panel of Experts on Libya reported that a Turkish-made STM Kargu-2 drone may have “hunted down and … engaged” retreating soldiers fighting with Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar in March 2020. If confirmed, the incident would likely represent the first-known case of a machine-learning-based autonomous weapon being used to kill (Yahoo! Finance).
  • Median pay increased for chief executives of the biggest U.S. companies for the fifth consecutive year, reaching $13.4 million (WSJ).
  • Researchers from University of California-San Diego found that “published papers in top psychology, economics, and general interest journals that fail to replicate are cited more than those that replicate” (Science Advances).
  • A new study found that hospitalized Covid patients exhibited a vast range of symptoms. The researchers identified 84 different symptoms, with over 70% of patients reporting at least one symptom that persisted sixty days or longer (Stanford School of Medicine).
  • Even if you’re uninterested in baseball, it’s worth watching Javier Báez outwit The Pirates with this incredible play (@HilmSerenity).
  • Humans are novelty-seeking creatures, as long as the information fits within an acceptable range of existing understandings referred to as information gaps (Pocket).
  • Americans cashed out an estimated $49.6 billion in home equity during the first quarter of this year, which is nearly 80% higher than the same time last year. It is the highest level on record since 2007, but still below the $84 billion quarterly cash-out volume in 2006 (WSJ).
  • Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of the Journal of American Medical Association, is stepping down after his controversial statements claiming that no physician is racist and thus, structural racism does not exist within healthcare (STAT News).
  • Audiobook sales rose 12% in 2020 to $1.3 billion. Mysteries/thrillers/suspense remained the largest category, but there were also sharp increases in romance, self-help, and business genres (Publishers Weekly).
  • Lumber prices are up 240% year-over-year (Calculated Risk).
  • The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the many challenges that family caregivers already face, resulting adverse health, psychosocial, and financial outcomes (The Gerontologist).
  • More women than men use TikTok across all ages (Statista).
  • Amazon is debuting a new technology called Sidewalk on June 8. It is a low-bandwidth network that extends the range of its low-bandwidth devices. All Amazon products will automatically enable this feature unless you opt out (The Verge).
  • Low-to-moderate income Black and Latinx households accounted for $255 billion out of the $303 billion spent nationwide last year on interest and fees for financial services (Financial Health Network).
  • Scientists engineered bacteria with a completely synthetic genome to create new proteins from building blocks not naturally found in cells (Science).
  • Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a pediatric mental health emergency after recording a 90% increase in behavioral health visits over the past two years and the inability to meet the sharp increase in demand (CPR).
  • Researchers have found that just 12 influential people are responsible for the bulk of the misleading claims and lies about COVID-19 vaccines that proliferate on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (NPR).
  • 43,000 American children are struggling with the emotional and financial toll of losing a parent to COVID-19 (Aljazeera).
  • Of almost 400 lakes in the US and Europe, scientists found that the dissolved oxygen in the surface waters of the lakes fell 5.5% over the past four decades and 18.6% in the deep waters of the lakes. The declining oxygen contributes to fish die-offs, algal blooms and unhealthy ecosystems (AP).
  • The number of active sellers on Etsy increased from 2.7 million in 2019 to 4.4 million in 2020. The majority of sellers are sole owners and identify as women (81%). Forty percent are caretakers and use their earnings to pay for household expenses (Etsy).
  • An Italian artist auctioned an “invisible sculpture” for $18,300 (Artnet).
  • 6 tips for overcoming loneliness and (re)connecting (Savvy Psychologist).
  • A new database shows how much different media outlets pay writers (Who Pays Writers).
  • All-cash offers for residential real estate represented 25% of all home purchases in April, up from 15% the same time last year (CNN). Accredited Appraiser, Jonathan Miller, shared that about 40%-50% of buyers in New York pay for properties with cash instead of a loan. For properties listed at over $5 million, that figure increases to around 80% (Masters in Business podcast; 110 min.; view Transcript).
  • The median home seller in Silicon Valley gained $575,000 and $420,000 in San Francisco, in Q1 of 2021 (WSJ).
Want to read more content like this? Follow The Sassyologist and browse through my bookmarks.
Wishing you a productive week
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Stella Min
Stella Min @OhhStellar

Stellar Recap is my personal newsletter where I share digest of interesting media that I've come across during the week, along with any personal updates.

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