A $70 million settlement in a controversial lawsuit, a celebrity football player as a potential neighbor and a big win for gas stove lovers. From the wild and wooly world of real estate, here are the Hits and Misses for the week of Jan. 29-Feb. 2.
Hit or Miss, Depending on Your View: $70 Million in Go Away Money. The biggest story this week was Keller Williams’ decision to pay a $70 million settlement in the Sitzer/Burnett lawsuit. Company founder and Executive Chairman Gary Keller obviously disagreed with the judgment in that case and insisted his company “had full confidence in the strength of our appeal,” but he also admitted the settlement would spare the company from the “long and unpredictable” appeals process, adding that “our Keller Williams family needs and deserves protection now, not later.” On one hand, Williams’ decision saves his company from years of onerous legal costs – but on the other hand, it could be seen as capitulating to a shakedown of the real estate profession.
Hit: But Will She Be Next Door, Too? Perhaps the silliest story of the week was Zillow Group’s poll regarding which football player they would most like to have as a next-door neighbor. The answer was Travis Kelce, the Kansas City Chiefs tight end, who snagged 12% of the survey’s votes, just topping his teammate Patrick Mahomes who scored 11%. Kelce was the overwhelming favorite among 18- to 34-year-old women, 26% of whom selected the tight end as their preferred next-door neighbor, compared to 8% of men in that age range. But it was unclear whether Kelce’s appeal was strictly for himself or for the chance of sharing adjacent property with his extremely famous girlfriend – and, seriously folks, do we really need to identify her?
Hit: Doing Good By Doing Nothing. The least surprising story of the week was the Federal Reserve’s decision to keep its foot on the brake when it comes to rates. It was no surprise that rates were not increased, nor was it a surprise that the central bank opted not to cut rates. The less Jerome Powell and friends have to do with shaping the economy, the better it is for all of us.
Hit: Cooking With Gas. The most misunderstood story of the week involved the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) newly published energy-efficiency standards that gave a thumbs up to 97% of the gas stoves now on the market. This should put to rest the endlessly misreported story that the Biden administration wanted to ban gas stoves – that was traced to an interview given last year by Richard Trumka Jr., a member of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, who claimed gas stoves represent a health hazard. While Trumka’s commission is independent of the White House, his comments somehow evolved into a conspiracy theory regarding a Biden-fueled ban on the appliances. However, some cities including Los Angeles and New York have their own restrictions on using natural gas for the appliances in newly built homes, but that’s independent of the DOE announcement.
Hit: A New Beginning in Boston. And finally, the most optimistic story of the week came out of Boston. After 13 years, Ashkenazy Acquisition Group is no longer the landlord at the Boston’s high-profile tourism destination Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and city officials are happy for that. The Boston Globe reported that New York City-based Ashkenazy displeased city leaders for years by focusing on out-of-state retail chains instead encouraging local businesses, while merchants at the retail and office property felt the company was not investing in long-overdue repairs and upgrades. Michael Nichols, president of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, compared Ashkenazy to “an absentee landlord for the site, one of Boston’s crown jewels.” J. Safra Real Estate, which took over the lease, issued a statement declaring it was ready to work with city officials to “continue the excitement, pride, and success of this world-class destination.”
Phil Hall is editor of Weekly Real Estate News. He can be reached at [email protected]