Buying a home will take an extra year of saving, study says

By Aysha Diallo | Bloomberg

Would-be homebuyers in the U.S. will have to save up for an extra year before taking the plunge, thanks to pandemic-era price gains.

For the typical American, it would take eight years of stashing away 10% of monthly income to build up enough for a 20% down payment — up from seven years before COVID-19 ignited a homebuying frenzy, according to a study by Tomo, a real estate startup.

For many renters hoping to become buyers, scraping together a down payment has always been a challenge. Now the hurdles have gotten higher as bidding wars for a tight supply of listings push prices even further out of reach. The share of existing home purchases by first-time buyers declined to 29% last month, the lowest level since 2019, the National Association of Realtors said last week.

The people who save for a down payment “are the people who can,” Skylar Olsen, principal economist at Tomo, said in an interview. “Folks who have a lot of rent burdens tend to save nothing, and there’s always a fairly sizable share of the population who have a pretty substantial rent burden.”

The areas with the highest years-to-save timelines are Los Angeles, with 19.2, San Francisco, with 17.9 and San Jose, with 18.2, according to the Tomo study.

In Seattle and New York, it would take 12.3 years and 11.9 years, respectively, to save for a down payment.

Judge suspends Britney Spears’ father from conservatorship

By Andrew Dalton | Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — A judge on Wednesday suspended Britney Spears’ father from the conservatorship that has controlled the singer’s life and money for 13 years, saying the arrangement “reflects a toxic environment.”

Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny agreed with a petition from Spears and her attorney, Mathew Rosengart, that James Spears needs to give up his role as conservator. The move is a major victory for the singer, who pleaded in dramatic hearings in June and July that her father needed to be out.

“The current situation is untenable,” Penny said after hearing arguments from both sides. “It reflects a toxic environment which requires the suspension of James Spears.”

James Spears sought the conservatorship in 2008 and had been its primary controller and biggest champion. He reversed course in recent weeks, asking the judge to end the conservatorship.

Britney Spears and Rosengart agreed that the conservatorship should end and said in court documents that James Spears’ removal was a necessary first step.

Spears’ attorney has been aggressively pushing for the ouster of her father since moments after the judge allowed her to hire Rosengart in July.

Hours before the hearing, a major street outside the courthouse was closed to vehicles, allowing about 100 Spears supporters to march and host a rally where they shouted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the conservatorship has got to go!” and other pro-Britney chants. As the crowd grew, fans sang Spears hits “Toxic” and “Baby One More Time,” and speakers described abusive conservatorships that had affected their families.

“We’re making making history right now,” said Martino Odeh, 27, who traveled from Phoenix to be at the courthouse. “And the fact that we could change a pop star’s life, who has been robbed of her rights for 13 years, is crazy. It’s monumental.”

“We’re hoping for a big change today,” Odeh said.

Britney Spears and Rosengart emphasized in court papers the importance of removing her father, calling it a necessary first step toward her freedom and “ending the Kafkaesque nightmare imposed upon her.”

Rosengart said in another filing this week that James Spears “crossed unfathomable lines” by engaging in illegal surveillance of her, including communications with her lawyer, as reported in “Controlling Britney Spears,” a documentary from The New York Times and the FX network, one of two dueling documentaries released on the eve of the hearing.

Britney Spears was also engaged to her longtime boyfriend, Sam Asghari, earlier this month, which means putting together a prenuptial agreement that her father should not be involved in, her court filings said.

James Spears in 2019 stepped aside as the so-called conservator of his daughter’s person, with control over her life decisions, maintaining only his role as conservator of her estate, with control over her finances. He and his attorneys have said that renders many of his daughter’s complaints about his control over her life meaningless.

Jodi Montgomery, a court-appointed professional, now acts as conservator of Britney Spears’ person, and Rosengart said in court documents that Montgomery also consents to ending the conservatorship so long as it can be done safely and smoothly.

James Spears has denied acting in anything but his daughter’s best interest. He has said in court papers that he does not know of “a single medical professional nor the report of a single probate investigator” that concluded that his presence as conservator was harming his daughter or that he should be replaced.

The conservatorship was established in 2008 when Britney Spears’ began to have public mental struggles as hordes of paparazzi aggressively followed her everywhere and she lost custody of her children.

Popular 85°C Bakery Cafe expanding pastry production to Buena Park

The pastries are coming. A lot of pastries.

85°C Bakery Cafe is growing, this time leasing an industrial building in Buena Park where the Taiwanese chain will expand production.

The building at 7101 Cate Ave. is an extension of the popular chain’s bakery and distribution center in nearby Brea. The company plans to build out 2,000 square feet of coolers and 12,000 square feet of freezers, according to The Klabin Company/CORFAC International.

  • As an employee brings out more fresh bread, customers line up to pay for their bread and pastries at 85ºC Bakery in the Diamond Jamboree shopping center in Irvine. (File photo: PAUL RODRIGUEZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER)

  • Customers at 85ºC Bakery wait anxiously as an employee restocks bins with pastries at the popular bakery in the Diamond Jamboree shopping center in Irvine. (File photo: PAUL RODRIGUEZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER)

  • A boy checks out the pastries and bread at 85ºC Bakery in the Diamond Jamboree shopping center in Irvine. (File photo: PAUL RODRIGUEZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER)

  • 85ºC Bakery Cafe is one of the reasons the Diamond Jamboree shopping center is so popular and known internationally. (File photo: PAUL RODRIGUEZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER)

  • A steady stream of fresh bread and pastries are brought out to refill the bins at 85ºC Bakery in the Diamond Jamboree shopping center in Irvine. (File photo: PAUL RODRIGUEZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER)

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Klabin said the 10-year lease with landlord Oltmans Construction Co. was valued at $11 million.

The chain, founded in Taiwan in 2003 and launched in 2008 in the U.S. at Irvine’s Diamond Jamboree shopping center, has grown to 1,000 locations worldwide and has at least 30 locations in Southern California.

When it first landed in Orange County, long lines were often found in the morning as customers waited to buy the bakery’s sweet bread and unique coffee combinations. 85°C serves up to 50 types of sweet and savory pastries and bread that are baked in-store hourly. It also offers a variety of specialty cakes.

The Sea Salt Iced Coffee is one of the chain’s most requested drinks. Its made with cold coffee and sugar syrup topped with a lightly salted sweet cream. A plastic film is sealed over the cup so customers can shake the cream into the coffee. Tea combinations range from rose to green to black, served hot or cold with boba and egg pudding add-ons.

  • The most popular drink order at 85°C Bakery Cafe is the Sea Salt Iced Coffee, seen here. The company is expanding production, leasing a 66,000-square-foot industrial facility in Buena Park. (Samantha Gowen / SCNG)

  • 85°C Bakery Cafe has put each of its pastries into plastic bags to ward off contamination in light of COVID-19. Customers walk a line of baked goods in cases using a tray and tongs. The company is expanding production, leasing a 66,000-square-foot industrial facility in Buena Park. (Samantha Gowen / SCNG)

  • 85°C Bakery Cafe sells a variety of specialty cakes and small desserts. The company is expanding production, leasing a 66,000-square-foot industrial facility in Buena Park. (Samantha Gowen / SCNG)

  • 85°C Bakery Cafe customers can get large milk tea jugs to go. The company is expanding production, leasing a 66,000-square-foot industrial facility in Buena Park. (Samantha Gowen / SCNG)

  • 85°C Bakery Cafe has a desserts case filled with cakes and small gourmet treats. The company is expanding production, leasing a 66,000-square-foot industrial facility in Buena Park. (Samantha Gowen / SCNG)

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The name 85ºC is derived from what the founder believes is the ideal temperature for hot coffee.

Klabin’s Zach Middleton, Max Farkas and Todd Taugner represented 85°C in the lease for 66,510 square feet. Oltmans Construction Co. was represented by Kevin Romano and Joe Maiolo of INCO Commercial Brokerage. Randall Dawson of CCP Real Estate Advisors referred 85°

C to The Klabin Co.

 

UCLA defense relies on accountability over gimmicks

No. 20 UCLA’s defense continues to hold its players accountable in an effort to maximize the team’s potential this season.

The Bruins are off to a fast start this season, winning two of three home games at the Rose Bowl before earning a 35-24 conference-opening victory at Stanford on Saturday.

UCLA’s rush defense is ranked fifth nationally, among 130 FBS programs, allowing an average of 64 yards per game and just three rushing touchdowns this season.

“I think we have a great group of guys up front,” defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight said. “Not only are they good pass rushers but literally just run to the ball every time. That’s what we do.

Despite the success stopping the run, UCLA (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) continues to experience a series of up-and-down moments with a pass defense that ranks No. 126 nationally and allows 330.2 passing yards per game.

Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener threw for 455 yards and two touchdowns and exposed UCLA’s ability to give up explosive plays in the Bruins’ 40-37 loss Sept. 18.

While UCLA managed to keep Stanford to 55 snaps and 11 first downs, the Cardinal kept the score close as quarterback Tanner McKee threw three touchdowns, including scoring passes of 52 and 56 yards in the second half.

“We need to eliminate the explosive plays,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. “(The defense) did a nice job but there’s some corrections we need to make there.”

The Bruins continue to draw from their accountability system, instead of pointing fingers, by swarming to the football.

“(You need) 100% effort,” safety Kenny Churchwell III said. “We play fast and we play strong.

“We just have to finish. We just have to believe, trust the process and make an effort running to the ball and having fun and congratulate the teammates making the plays.”

If defenders are not swarming toward the football, they will have to perform an up down workout.

“It’s not so much a punishment but it’s a learning experience,” linebacker Carl Jones Jr. said. “If you’re not running to the ball, you count those up. … I’ve been trying to keep (my up downs) to a minimum so I’ve been trying to fly to the ball.”

Knight and Jones were among the team’s leaders in tackles and found opportunities to be disruptive.

Knight had a team-high eight tackles and contributed on one of two sacks on McKee. Jones finished with five tackles, including a tackle for a two-yard loss.

“Practice makes perfect,” Jones said. “Luckily the plays came to me and I just had to do my job.”

The defense doesn’t thrive off the significance of a turnover chain or a reward system but rather the continued sense of urgency to locate the football, help make a tackle and possibly cause a turnover that puts the ball back in the hands of quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and the offense.

“Right before Datona (Jackson) made that big sack, we were on the sideline saying, ‘Who is going to get the sack first?’” Jones said. “We have those little games that we play right before we hop out on the field because we know something’s going to happen and someone has to make the big play.”

SPECIAL HONORS

UCLA’s Kyle Philips was voted as the Pac-12 special teams player of the week.

He had 74 yards on three returns against the Cardinal. Philips’ longest return went for 59 yards on the opening kickoff, before he was brought down at Stanford’s 13-yard line to set up the Bruins’ opening score.

“We got to pay respect to (Philips) for that return,” running back Zach Charbonnet said. “That was a big return and put us in great field position.”

After Philips’ return, Charbonnet started the drive with four consecutive carries, moving the ball 12 yards before Thompson-Robinson ran for the 1-yard touchdown to take the first lead of the game.

INJURY REPORT

Center Sam Marrazzo is unlikely to play Saturday against Arizona State.

The senior was not listed on UCLA’s two-deep depth chart after suffering an injury against Stanford.

Duke Clemens is expected to start at center with Jon Gaines II listed as the backup center and the starting right guard.

OC-based LoanDepot cut corners in echo of 2008 mortgage crisis, suit says

By Stacy Cowley | The New York Times

Foothill Ranch-based LoanDepot, one of the mortgage industry’s biggest nonbank lenders, was riding a boom.

Historically low interest rates last year sent residential loan refinancings to their highest level in well over a decade. And thanks to an aggressive sales push, loanDepot made $100 billion in loans, a company record.

But in its eagerness to grow before an initial public offering early this year, loanDepot illegally cut corners and processed thousands of loans without required documents such as employment and income verifications, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by one of its former top executives.

The allegations by Tammy Richards, loanDepot’s former chief operations officer, echo some of the abuses that fueled the mortgage meltdown in 2008, which led to extensive new industry regulations. Richards, who was a midlevel executive at one of the most notorious firms during the crisis, said in her suit that she had been forced out of her job at loanDepot for refusing to break the rules.

“I reported this to everyone I could internally, and I was retaliated against,” Richards, 56, said.

Tammy Richards, loanDepotÕs former chief operations officer, at home in Highland, Utah, Sept. 19, 2021. Ahead of a planned initial public offering, loanDepot illegally cut corners and processed thousands of loans without required documents like employment and income verifications, according to a lawsuit filed by Richards on Wednesday, September 22. (Kim Raff/The New York Times)

Her lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court in Orange County, accuses Anthony Hsieh, loanDepot’s chief executive, of leading a scheme to increase sales by flouting regulations and taking on risky loans, some of which, the suit said, were intentionally excluded from the company’s standard underwriting process. The suit — which cites copies of corporate emails, internal messages and company documents that describe the plan — said employees were offered bonuses to process the loans fast and without asking questions.

In a statement, loanDepot said that it took the claims in the lawsuit seriously, but that an outside investigation — conducted by two law firms hired by the company — had previously found them to be without merit.

“We intend to defend ourselves vigorously against these outlandish allegations and will respond as appropriate during the legal process,” the company said.

LoanDepot was founded in 2009 by Hsieh, who had created and sold two previous online lending companies. The first, LoansDirect, was bought in 2001 by E-Trade; the second, HomeLoanCenter, was acquired in 2004 by LendingTree.

Those deals made Hsieh rich, but loanDepot catapulted him to a new stratosphere of wealth. Hsieh — by far its largest individual shareholder — became a billionaire on paper when the firm went public in February. LoanDepot’s shares debuted at $14; they have since dropped to about half that price, leaving the company with a valuation of around $2.2 billion.

The planned initial public offering was a motive for the company’s executives to cover up Hsieh’s increasingly reckless behavior, Richards said in her suit. In 2020, as the offering approached, loanDepot paid what it described in regulatory filings as “a special one-time discretionary bonus” to its leaders. Hsieh received $42.5 million, and other top executives took home cash bonuses ranging from $9 million to more than $12 million.

Richards, who said she was demoted in November and left out of that special bonus round, resigned in March. Her lawsuit seeks compensation for unpaid bonuses and forfeited stock that she estimates would have been worth at least $35 million.

LoanDepot is in the vanguard of a group of online upstarts that use technology to speed up and simplify mortgage loans. Last year, it originated nearly 300,000 — twice the number it did a year earlier — and was the nation’s fourth-largest mortgage provider in dollars lent, according to iEmergent, which tracks industry data.

A lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court in Orange County, accuses Anthony Hsieh, loanDepot’s chief executive, of leading a scheme to increase sales by flouting regulations and taking on risky loans, some of which, the suit says, were intentionally excluded from the company’s standard underwriting process.

Hsieh has long put a priority on growth and regularly adds new incentives and products to his firm’s lineup. “We will never be a company that is satisfied or one that rests on our laurels,” he told analysts on an earnings call last month. Some workers have said they appreciate the intensity and opportunities for big paychecks, but complaints about crushing workloads, high turnover and burnout are common among former employees.

Richards’ complaint describes the company, which she joined in 2018, as having a “misogynistic ‘frat house’ culture,” where harassment was commonplace and top sellers were feted at wild parties that sometimes involved drugs and prostitutes.

In 2019, a high-ranking woman at loanDepot accused a male executive of sexually assaulting her at a company party on Hsieh’s boat; Richards, who was not at the event, was asked to run the investigation because the company’s male officials, including its head of human resources, did not want to, her suit said. (She said she had learned that both employees were drunk and disagreed about whether the encounter had been consensual.)

But the company’s lending was always done by the book, Richards said — until August last year, when Hsieh began complaining that loanDepot’s loan volume was lagging behind Quicken Loans’ Rocket Mortgage, the industry’s largest refinancing lender. At a sales meeting that month that she attended, Hsieh told employees to move faster and “immediately close loans regardless of documentation,” Richards said in her complaint.

Allegations by Tammy Richards, loanDepot’s former chief operations officer, echo some of the abuses that fueled the mortgage meltdown in 2008, which led to extensive new industry regulations. Richards, who was a midlevel executive at one of the most notorious firms during the crisis, said in her suit that she had been forced out of her job at loanDepot for refusing to break the rules. (File photo Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register)

As loanDepot’s head of operations, overseeing more than 4,000 employees, Richards managed the process of completing its loans. She said she had refused to allow loans to be finalized until all the required vetting was complete, but Hsieh saw that as unacceptably slow. By early November, Richards said in her lawsuit, he had stripped her of her decision-making responsibilities, and the company pressured her to accept the newly created, lower-paid position of chief mortgage officer — effectively a demotion.

Later that month, Richards said, she learned from other employees about an initiative called Project Alpha. Hsieh personally selected 8,000 loans and told employees to process them without the required documentation, according to emails and internal spreadsheets that she cited in her complaint; those loans were then deliberately excluded from the company’s standard post-closing internal audits.

Richards, who once worked at Countrywide Financial, one of the most notorious subprime lenders of the mortgage crisis, said loanDepot’s actions reminded her of the misdeeds she had helped untangle after Bank of America bought the collapsed firm in 2008.

“The job was going to put me right in the middle of the inappropriate activity, of talking to regulatory agencies and certifying that the loans we give them are correct,” said Richards, who added that she had started having panic attacks.

She soon went on unpaid medical leave; her usual $1.2 million salary and bonus were cut off. Four months later, she resigned.

Other, lower-level workers who recently left loanDepot also describe a pressure-cooker culture. Several former employees, who asked not to be identified to protect their job prospects, said they were unaware of Project Alpha and had never been explicitly told to flout requirements, but each said the company’s blistering work pace had led to sloppiness and mistakes.

One loan officer who left last year said the company had set unreasonably high sales targets that forced employees to originate low-quality loans, many of which were likely to be rejected, just to meet their quotas. A loan processor who quit a few months ago said that she had often been assigned dozens of loans in a single day, and that customers had frequently received closing documents with inaccuracies. She added that Hsieh had threatened — at large company meetings — to personally fire those who could not keep up.

Hsieh makes few apologies about his brash management techniques. When an employee survey of loan officers found that nearly half were unhappy in their jobs, Hsieh told them to “stop whining” and quit, according to an email that was forwarded to HousingWire, a trade news source.

On LinkedIn, where Hsieh maintains a chatty stream of posts, he once scoffed at the “top 10 rumors” about loanDepot, including “we work too hard” and “we play too hard.” Another item on the rumor list: “Regulators are shutting us down.”This article originally appeared in The New York Times.