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Tag Archives: Ozarks real estate

Table Rock Lake and the cost of economic activity

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Kathleen O’Dell’s article about the economic impact of Table Rock Lake in today’s Springfield News-Leader, entitled “Table Rock Dam Gives Much Back to Area,” covers a lot of ground in describing the various kinds of economic activities that are related to the construction and continued existence of Table Rock Lake.

In an economic sense, is the Table Rock Lake area fit (efficient and nimble) or obese (expensive to maintain and subject to falls)? As pointed out below, the two counties most affected by Table Rock Lake have experienced the area’s lowest growth in Read the rest of this entry


Whole lotta nestling going on in the Ozarks

Did they all go to school together? I’m talking about those writers who love the word “nestled.”

Branson and its attractions are frequently nestled. Here’s a sampling: Read the rest of this entry

Calico Sunrise: watch what happens

Residents of the Calico Rock area, on the White River in north central Arkansas, are attempting to plan their future. They have created a blog called Calico Sunrise to serve as a newsletter and forum for their endeavor, which is intended to involve the input of all segments of the community.

The Calico Rock area is lovely, and it looks like a great place to live and to visit. It is similar to the Branson area in a purely physical sense–it is in the Ozarks on the White River with a railroad running alongside, there are lakes nearby, and there are wonderful bluffs and vistas and smaller streams in deep, quiet valleys. While there is some tourism there and a lot of retirees, the tourism lacks the industrial-strength tourism of Branson. In some ways, Calico Rock is what Branson might have been without Silver Dollar City and the music show industry.

I wish the people of Calico Rock well. I hope they will focus on health rather than growth, so that they can have the community they want and stay off the economic roller-coaster. To do this, they will need to look at giving their children great educations and building an economy with an export sector, rather than too heavily based on tourism.

In praise of real estate developers

Much of my work in the past decade has involved representation of real estate developers, though they are fading fast. Though my firm has other sources of revenue–municipalities, lenders and homeowner associations–I really miss the developers, because I admire their courage and enjoy their personalities and optimistic approach to life. All of them are low, and some of them are sunk. Most of them will pop back up eventually: they’re buoyant.

It bothers me to hear people talk about how bad they are and how, in this downturn, they’re getting what they deserve.

Developers are easy targets. They send in bulldozers and push over trees. They cause erosion. They would rather apologize later than ask permission. In other words, they have the energy required to plan and execute capital intensive projects, requiring personal financial risks and coordination of dozens of others–lenders, contractors, subcontractors, architects, engineers, lawyers, escrow companies, mortgage underwriters, insurance agencies, etc.

The result is that we have houses, streets, places to shop, and places to work. Read the rest of this entry

Wish list for the Ozarks economy

Congress is going to do something. The House has approved a stimulus package, full of all kinds of goodies–only a few months after “earmarks” was a dirty, dirty word. And the Senate will put a few more pork cutlets into the package.


But what do we need in the Ozarks?

Whatever we don’t get here will go somewhere else. No matter how ineffective cash infusions are when injected elsewhere, we’d like it to have it go to waste in the Ozarks, where we know how to spend wisely because we’re not liberals mostly.

We might as well make a list Read the rest of this entry

Defunct HOAs: what to do?

Outside of incorporated cities in the Ozarks, the homeowner association (HOA) is often the government for homes in subdivisions and condominiums. The clean water rules enforced by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources include HOAs as eligible “continuing authorities” to own and operate drinking water or sewer facilities, or both, in subdivisions not served by public utility companies regulated by the Public Service Commission or by governmental providers. In addition, the HOAs often have the responsibility of maintaining subdivision streets unless and until the county commission adopts an ordinance to maintain the streets.

HOAs are ordinarily established by the subdivision developer, in order to obtain permits for sewer or water facilities and to create an entity for road maintenance. An HOA’s power to collect assessments from lot owners (or unit owners, in the case of condominiums) is established by the recording of subdivision covenants (usually called CCRs or a declaration). The HOA is almost always set up as a non-profit corporation, with the developer and the developer’s associates making up the initial board of directors.

Even under the best of circumstances, the developer fails to file annual reports for the HOA with the Missouri Secretary of State, and the HOA, as a corporation, is administratively dissolved. When few lots are sold, that also happens. And there are worse omissions and consequences: Read the rest of this entry

Contracts for deed still cause problems

At least once a month, I get a call–usually a referral from a title company–about a problem caused by a contract for deed transaction. I wince, because the people who sell or buy under contracts for deed usually are people who don’t like working with lawyers, which makes my job harder. The people needing help for a problem that is difficult to assess and to fix often want to know exactly how much it will cost and how long it will take to fix. I could have prevented the problem in a couple of hours for $500 or less by configuring the transaction with a note and deed of trust or a lease with purchase option.

Now, fixing the problem it will require a lawsuit that could drag on for a couple of years or even longer. Legal fees and costs will be at least $2,000, but more likely $5,000 to $10,000.

If the property has been paid for under the contract for deed, but the seller has meanwhile died or become incapacitated due to Alzheimer’s or a stroke, solving the problem may require a probate or guardianship proceeding which may involve a nasty fight among the seller’s heirs.

If the buyer has defaulted, but won’t relinquish possession or has recorded some kind of claim in the county land records, a judicial foreclosure or quiet title suit and an unlawful detainer suit may be required. Sometimes the buyer, who has recorded the claim, is hard to find, and the best that we can do is get a default judgment based on service by publication, so the title is still uninsurable for years after the legal procedure to fix it.

I’ve added an article here to explain some of the problems I have encountered with contracts for deed.

Working with troubled real estate developments

Over the next several months, many investors and lenders will be looking at busted projects and trying to make the best of them. I’ve added a Law Article to this site, which I’ll keep updating as I learn new strategies,  called “Working with troubled real estate developments.”

As with all my other writings, this article is primarily based on my experiences in Missouri, though some of this one comes from my time spent in the 1980s, working with troubled real estate in Oklahoma, after the successive crashes of the oil and gas, banking and real estate sectors.

I’d appreciate your comments.

What 2009 holds for Ozarks real estate

My law firm clients are asking me what I expect. They know that I represent a variety of real estate developers active in the area around Branson and Table Rock Lake, where the pace of sales of single-family homes and condo units seemed to slow in early 2008 then nearly stop altogther by mid-2008. My name has shown up in newspapers and public records in relation to my representation of creditors of several large, distressed projects.

When my clients ask me about the future, my first reactions are how would I know and am I really being asked if my other clients are hurting, too? Many of them are hurting, badly.

Here are my ideas about the prospects for 2009: Read the rest of this entry

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