Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Extreme mystery

Kemah's "Extreme Makeover" home has been for sale for months now without a peep as to why, or what will become of the approximately fourteen people, mostly children, who live(d?) there.
Remember this?  Just three short years ago, the project captured the attention of north Galveston County and League City, with then-mayor Toni Randall playing a visible role in its development.  Technically the home was in Kemah, but it was situated just a stone's throw from the League City municipal boundary, so League City residents were very much involved. 

Low resolution photo screengrabbed from the well-known Houston real estate blog Swamplot
Actually, I understate.  The project captured the attention of all of greater Houston.  Screengrabbed from this KTRK story
The circumstances of the sale seem a bit bizarre, if the information posted online is taken at face value.
The internet is positively littered with re-posts of the real estate listing.  It apparently began its life as a sale offering at around $800,000...
...only to see its price slashed to $575,000 a few months later.

Screengrabs from a Google search. 
But here's the weird thing:  the widespread use of the word "infamous" in these listings.  Infamous?!  If you were trying to market a valuable commodity in a positive light, would you refer to it as "infamous"??  Maybe if you were trying to sell a pirate ship or Jimmy Hoffa's Rolex.  But a family home??

I'm not a realtor so I cannot look this up, but some sources suggest that the sale is a foreclosure.
Another Google screengrab, although the active Houston Association of Realtors listing makes no mention of foreclosure or short sale
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only way that a "free" house can be foreclosed upon is if it were effectively re-mortgaged by way of a cash-out refinance or home equity loan of some type

Anyway, this mystery has come to my attention because of a recent attack of foot-in-mouth disease on the part of Councilman Todd Kinsey, and by that I mean the idiom rather than the virus of similar name

The story goes like this.  Another organization is now seeking to raise funds to build another "free" home in League City, this time for a military veteran's family rather than for a family devoted to domestic public service, as the Kemah family unquestionably was.  League City is reportedly contemplating whether or not to kick in about $20,000 to that organization's upcoming fundraising effort. 

During the course of this, Galveston County Daily News quoted Kinsey as referring to "[his own] legacy", which arguably sounds like he's trying to allocate other peoples' money (i.e., our taxpayer dollars) in a way that primarily makes himself look good.  Public response on GCDN has been neither kind nor forgiving. 

The issue raises the obvious slate of questions
  • Should so many tax dollars be devoted to the benefit of just one family who hasn't even been identified yet?? 
  • What about every other needy person and family?? 
  • What makes one family more incrementally deserving than any of the next hundred others who might be considered for a similar benefit?? 
  • And do these "free home" schemes even accomplish their purported goals in the first place?  Who really benefits in the long run? 
In parsing that final question, we might look to the last "free" home that got built near League City, and what happened with it.  Although that story may very well remain a mystery, the verdict is that what happened was almost certainly not good, if the house is now being lost.  I've mentioned in many other posts that I'm a home improvement junkie - real estate porn is my recreational indulgence.  Like thousands of other League City residents, I watched the growth of the project on the Extreme Makeover TV show.  Which makes watching this follow-up video all the more surreal:

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