I did a bad thing last weekend. My husband and I refinanced our home to change a soon-to-be adjustable mortgage into a low fixed-rate loan. But it’s not the refi that’s a bad thing. The bad thing we did was blindly sign a huge stack of papers filled with tiny print describing what exactly we are getting into with the loan. We tried to scan through and see if there were any glaring oddities. We made sure there are no prepayment penalties or weird lender charges. Our mortgage broker is a solid member of the community that was referred by two personal friends. We know where he lives, in other words. But I worry about what’s in those little bits of print, especially after reading about some of the horror loans that people signed two and three years ago. Those people, too, depended on their lender or mortgage broker to provide them with important information about the terms of their loans. And the lenders and brokers can say they did albeit in arcane legal terms presented in 3-point typeface. There’s a lot of talk going around these days about lack of transparency being one of the contributing factors to the economic meltdown. There’s also a lot of talk about a need for better regulation, more rules and thus even more paperwork for banks, mortgage companies, and financial services providers. Which means even more confusion for the people who have to sign those papers. Most of us just do not have the knowledge, or even just the patience, to really evaluate everything contained in a 3-inch stack of paper. I wonder what would happen if all of us just refused to sign these legal documents from hell? What if we all told our lending institutions that we will only sign documents presented in plain English (or whatever language the borrower understands best), in 12-point type, spanning no more than three pages? How about extending that same idea to those stock prospectuses filled with reams of words that put one to sleep by the third paragraph? Or the “changes to your credit card agreement” announcements that ultimately end up with the borrower agreeing to pay a 35 percent interest rate if one payment is missed and describing interest rate calculations that require a degree in advanced economics to understand? How about this for a mortgage agreement: In return for x amount of dollars to purchase my house, I agree to pay Big Bank a specific amount of money every month for the next 360 months. If I miss a payment, I pay an extra charge of some fixed amount. If I don’t make my payment for three months in a row, you get the house back. Now that would be real transparency. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Kosmont Adds Three Encino-based Kosmont Companies has brought three new executives into the fold. The development consulting firm stable of professionals now includes Mark Hughes, Daniel Cromwell and Sam Hall Kaplan as senior consultants. Developer Mark Hughes has been responsible for numerous large-scale projects including a self-developed $120 million mixed-use project in Oceanside. While serving as vice president of Center Development, he planned and marketed a 330-acre research and development park in Carlsbad., Daniel Cromwell was formerly director of real estate for Bass Pro Shops and also served as an independent consultant to Cabela’s, another outdoor sporting good retailer. He is well-versed in utilizing incentives such as STAR Bonds, job and tax credits, and tax increment financing. Cromwell served on the CCIM Institute’s Board of Directors from 1998 through 2007 and has been active in the National Association of REALTORS. Sam Hall Kaplan has long been an architectural and urban design critic for the Los Angeles Times but you may not know that he has also directed the design and construction of innovative mixed-use public/private urban developments. He has served in such varied positions as special assistant to the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency and urban renewal director of New Haven, Conn., Kaplan has also consulted with corporate clients including Disney Imagineering, Janss Corp., and Howard Hughes Properties and currently directs a design studio at UCLA. Trotter Sales Greg Trotter of Coldwell Banker Commercial represented the sellers in three different deals recently. The first was the purchase by Dr. Ben Shenassa of a 4.968-square-foot office building in Eagle Rock for $1,830,000 from Randolph Osborne. The second two were multi-family properties: Valdimir Yanov purchased a 6-unit multi-family property in North Hills for $1,090,000 from the Azarakhsh Family Trust and Cooper Layne purchased a 10-unit building in Van Nuys for $1,285,000 from the Sunder Trust. Viva la Deal Investment Real Estate Associates vice president Warren Berzack represented a private trust in the purchase of a Del Taco restaurant in Lancaster for $2,250,000. The 2,547-square-foot building was built in 2002 and is located in front of a 24-hour Wal-Mart Super Center. Matthew Mousavi and Dennis Vaccaro of Faris Lee Investments represented the seller, Innovative Property Partners, LLC Better Benefits BenefitMall signed a $3 million, 10-year lease for 8,990 square feet of Class A space in Woodland Hills. Lee & Associates principals Mark Leonard and Marc Spellman represented the building owner, Embarcadero Capital Partners LLC. The move represents a right-sizing opportunity for the benefits consulting firm. It Takes a Village 2G Digital Post has leased 6,500 square feet of space in Gangi Development’s Media Village project in Burbank. Access to the city’s “dark fiber” network was cited as one of the attractions for the lessor that will continue to occupy its existing Culver City property. Duane Cody of Realty Advisory Group, Valencia office, represented 2G and Sal Gangi of Tri-City Realty represented the owner. Voit Move Voit Development is moving out of the Douglas Emmett-owned Warner Center towers it has long occupied but will maintain the company’s local presence at new digs on Variel Avenue just a few blocks to the east. “We just had more space than necessary, said Vice President Tim Regan who added that he’s “actively looking for more bargains.” Staff Reporter Linda Coburn can be reached at (818) 316-3123 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Transparency in Lending Starts at Home; Kosmont Adds Talent