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Thread: Alan Reiss' "Dear Wayland Neighbor" flyer and unsupported claims

  1. #1
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    Default Alan Reiss' "Dear Wayland Neighbor" flyer and unsupported claims

    In his "Dear Wayland Neighbor" flyer, Alan Reiss makes a few statements that simply cannot stand without further elaboration on his part.

    First, he cites a median home value drop of 20% from 2007 to 2008. There is no evidence to support this claim, which is actually a misinterpretation of data reported by the Warren Group. Specifically, they report that the median sales price of homes sold in 2008 was 20% lower than the median sales price of AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SET OF HOMES in 2007. Without looking at the location, lot size, and square footage of the two different sets of homes, one simply cannot infer the 20% drop.

    His statement is akin to saying the following. Apples cost $1.00 in 2007. Oranges cost $0.80 in 2008. The price of fruit has therefore decreased by 20%. Of course, you simply can't make that statement based on the data presented. Additional details on this point are available here.

    Second, Mr. Reiss desires to avoid overrides. Of course, we'd *all* like to avoid overrides. What he does NOT do, however, is elaborate on how he would "make significant budget cuts and still maintain the quality of our schools." Even freezing salaries and making cuts in the salaries of the highest paid administrators would not be enough--our most recent overrides would have been required even without pay increases simply by virtue of increases in health insurance, non-teacher pension, and utility costs.

    In the past, Mr. Reiss has said that the budget cuts for which he advocates would come via significantly larger class sizes. Presumably, this is the hidden scenario behind this recent statement of his. Mr. Reiss is of course free to advocate for whatever reduction in services necessary to achieve his financial goals. That said, hand-waving promises of the sort he makes in the attached flyer simply aren't enough--he owes it to Wayland residents to spell out what these reductions will entail.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
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    Thumbs down Contact the Warren Group yourself

    Jeff,

    Your unsupported claims statement is, itself, unsupported.

    I called the Warren Group, got to their chief analyst. I questioned him about the 20% drop, the use of moving median, the non-use of case shiller, the sample size, the lack of high end homes not selling and on and on using all of the arguments that I've seen blogging around.

    The analyst told me that the moving median is a standard way to perform this analysis and they should know because they have 135 years of experience. He said the sample size was no problem. He said that case shiller is not practical on a local level. He said that the lack of high end homes sold moves the median down which is what you would expect and that translates effectively into less market for the high end. So the median with its data inertia of the entire list represents what is actually happening.

    But if you and others want to deny the 20% drop and it makes you feel better to do that then go ahead and feel better because the bottom line is that the Warren Group with its statewide and countrywide exposure is placing articles in the Boston Globe and the Boston Magazine with colorful charts showing Wayland real estate in the toilet.

    This is affecting you, me and the other 13,000 residents.

    You feel good about this? Good. The rest of the planet sees differently and by denying there is a systemic problem here then you have your head in the sand. I don't have my head in the sand and I'm not blogging every 30 minutes about somebody's piece of literature that I personally feel offended by - or disagree with. You are throwing the term MISLEADING around way too much. And honestly, people are reporting that to me.

    By the way, the last email I had with that Warren Group analyst he got very frustrated with me and he said...

    "Alan, good luck on the selectman race... and you are fighting with Ostriches"

    Jeff, don't argue with me and my literature... go argue with the Warren Group.
    Last edited by AlanJReiss; 04-04-2009 at 06:17 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Here's an apple, and another apple

    My house has dropped 24% in value since we purchased it in May 2007. I am basing that on the tax assessment when we bought vs. our current tax assessment. Apple:Apple.

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    Default

    The Warren Group's 135 years in business doesn't negate the point that I'm making--unless you can place a value on all houses in town, you can't say anything about how much the value of all houses has risen or fallen.

    I never said that I'm happy with the current situation. I should surprise no one that housing values have dropped. In next door Sudbury, using the apples-one-year to oranges-the-next year approach, they've seen the same percentage drop as Wayland, just spread over two years rather than one.

    If the Warren Group is saying that anyone who disputes a housing decline is an "ostrich," I've got no problem. I'm certainly not disputing that fact. And their methodology may work on average--I'm by no means an expert. All that I'm saying is that without normalizing for location, lot size, square footage, and other factors, you have no idea how much of the decline is due to a value drop and how much is due to apples versus oranges.

    Alan, I've taken exception to the Warren Group's report since before you cited it. They, however, are not trying to use that report to get elected. You are. Hence my response to you. Just curious--do you have a response to my second question about how you plan to cut our way to a better education?

    Mary, my most recent assessment went UP by over 20%. Over the years, it has routinely whip-sawed up and down by this amount. The only conclusion that I draw from this is that using sales prices as the basis for assessment is fraught with error. I know of few people in town who would disagree. What I don't understand is how people can all of a sudden turn around and swear by sales prices as a measure of value.

  5. #5
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    Exclamation My campaign - Your campaign

    When I cite the Warren Group I am citing a 3rd party, neutral, standard and external source who has the reputation and years of experience to be quoted as a credible source. Additionally, I also did my homework by calling them, getting to their core analyst, negotiating for his time and then getting the privilege of being able to debate with him on all of the points that you and others have noted in countless threads and discussions both on this board and on the Crier board. I took so much of his time that he concluded our discussion with the frustrated 'ostrich' comment. That speaks volumes.

    So I have no problem in what I write about Wayland's real estate troubles in my literature and I proudly do it to help me get elected.

    On the other hand, you have now repeatedly used the term MISLEADING to describe the postal messages of other people and unsupported claims for me. I am not here to defend other people, I am here to only defend myself. But consider this, the word MISLEADING or unsupported claims is derogatory and its technical definition is 'deceptive', 'to lead or guide wrongly', 'to lead astray'. This means that you have called me a liar and you have called others the same. You could have said "I don't agree with this..." or "I take issue with this..." or "I want to discuss this with you further..."

    I would have expected more from a person of your high intelligence and one who is a sitting 9 year member of our school committee. You need to drop that MISLEADING term from your debate. Thats my advice to you.

    And, think about this; you just used the term MISLEADING (or unsupported claims) multiple times to get yourself elected. Didn't you?

    What I did was quote a reputable source to try to get elected.

    However, you seem to be missing a vital point here and I'm surprised about this. You say that you are not a 'real estate expert'... thats right Jeff you aren't a real estate expert, neither am I. The Warren Group is. No matter how much you (or others) play with spreadsheets, square foot comparisons, prices of properties sold, land areas and all the other variables, its doesn't mean anything to Wayland.

    I will try to say this again because I don't think I did a good job the first time.

    The Warren Group has the megaphone, the bully pulpit and what they say is what the rest of the world thinks about Wayland's real estate. If the Warren Group says that Wayland real estate is in the toilet and Jeff Dieffenbach says that its not... guess what?... its still in the toilet. The rest of the world looks at Warren's charts, Warren's data and Warren's color coded maps and says: "There must be something wrong with Wayland because its real estate is not appreciated by the MARKET so I'm gonna stay away from Wayland."

    This is what is known as a self fulfilling prophesy and one with a negative feedback loop built right into it.

    In order to fix this problem, you first have to stop denying it.

    Since I can remember, the mantra on overrides and education was always that it pays back with real estate appreciation. Now the economic meltdown is here and thats when you get to see just where the 'house of cards' actually are. Guess what? The Warren Group just identified us as being in that category and frankly, I'm very upset this. I don't like the fact that I now own a property in a town which is not appreciated by the rest of the world and I also pay the generous taxes that I do. Lots of other people now feel this way. I've just spent the last month talking to hundreds of people at the landfill. Thats the word on the street Jeff.

    That whole override / education vs. payback... well it isn't paying back now is it? Looks like the law of diminishing returns to me. Maybe 5 overrides in 7 years just may have pushed us over the edge? Who knows? But this is reality and you and I and the town have to deal with this now.

    As far as I can tell, your school committee competition Baron and Grasso seem willing to grasp this concept and grasping this concept is a major step toward fixing the problem.

    I feel that now its your job to convince Wayland that you are not denying this problem and that you are prepared to fix this problem. You have till Tuesday.

    Because as one voter, this is how I make my decision as to who I'm gonna color those little ovals in for on Tuesday.

    Lastly, you want me to address the second part of your original post?

    I believe in solving one problem at a time. I am distressed that you have used the term unsupported claims with my quote of using the reputable, 3rd party Warren Group data. They were supported, supported by the experts.

    If you blog back that you are withdrawing that inflammatory characterization and you change the title of this thread to a more appropriate wording sequence then I will be pleased to continue this conversation with you and move onto part II.

    But I can only move to part II only when I feel we are done with part I.
    Last edited by AlanJReiss; 04-05-2009 at 12:30 AM. Reason: Clean up

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    Default

    Alan, unless I missed something, I have not used the term "misleading" anywhere in this thread (present sentence excepted).

    I'm not disputing that the Warren Group's report is damaging. Rather, I'm saying that their report does not support the contention that the average value of property in Wayland has dropped 20%.

    As for Jeff Baron and Paul Grasso, neither has said anything to suggest that they a specific plan to decrease school spending below that of the current School Committee (all of which has been within Finance Committee guidelines).

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    One other thought, Alan. You mention Jeff Baron and Paul Grasso as "grasping the concept" of fiscal restraint. I'll remind you that neither supported the override reduction that the current School Committee unanimously supported last April. Rather, both would have asked for the larger override. They may talk the talk that you want to hear, but I've walked the walk.

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    Default How does the assessed value compare

    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Camp View Post
    My house has dropped 24% in value since we purchased it in May 2007. I am basing that on the tax assessment when we bought vs. our current tax assessment. Apple:Apple.
    Mary,

    The town will frequently adjust assessed value with new information like a recent sale. How did your purchase price compare to the then current assessed value? If your purchase price was 28% below the then current assessed value it would make sense for the now current assessed value to be reduced.

  9. #9
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    Additionally, I also did my homework by calling them, getting to their core analyst, negotiating for his time and then getting the privilege of being able to debate with him on all of the points that you and others have noted in countless threads and discussions both on this board and on the Crier board.
    Alan,

    In your lengthy debate with the Warren Group analyst did you ever get into the underlying cause of his perceived decline. Was his analysis on the sales price data or did he give a cause for the shift that he saw?

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    BT, thanks for asking, I did some digging this morning. I was a little off as I didnít remember the exact tax assessment in 2007 and low-balled it on our house-I went back this morning and looked it up. We actually purchased in 2007 for 21% below the assessed value. Our current assessment is 28% less than the tax assessment was in 2007. When we moved in, I went to the assessorís office and asked them to come by and look at the house-which they did, although it was a full year later (summer 2008). We found some minor inconsistencies between what was listed on our real estate card and what actually exists in our house, which I suppose it to be expected. The thing that blew me away is that the assessor told me that they hadnít physically been to our house in years. See link from the Town Crier, thereís our house in the limelight, 82 Old Ct. Path, under the letter "Check Everything". http://www.wickedlocal.com/wayland/a...-to-the-editor

    Truthfully, I think our current assessment is a fair one and Iím ok with it. Iím not sure Iím ok with how it was assessed prior to having a real person from the assessorís office show up to give it a look over. I know this opens up a can of worms not in line with this thread, but I do think there are some issues to be addressed within the assessorís office. There should be a mechanism in place to physically review homes on a scheduled basis. Iím not an expert by any means, but it just makes sense to periodically show up and look at the value that youíre assigning. From what I understand and have read, that has not always been the case.

    Itís probably a naÔve non-business way to look at it, but Iím fine with our assessment as it stands today. We love our house, we love living in Wayland, and have every intention of staying for a good long time, if not forever. I guess Iíd feel differently if we planned to move in the next couple of years, but we donít. My point in bringing this up was to respond to Jeffís comment about comparing apples to oranges. My comparison is fair, because itís the same house on the same lot, no normalizing necessary-and we dropped 28% when looking at assessed value. I realize itís one house and cannot statistically represent the whole or the average, but we dropped more than the Warren Groupís reported percentage.

  11. #11
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    Default Warren Group Conversation

    The Warren Group does not speculate as to why the moving median analysis changes. They use a uniform algorithm with the cleansed data (removing non arms lengths sales) and do the computations across all towns. They stand behind their analysis as being the 'gold standard' and then publish their results for all to see.

    The all to see believes them and then forms opinions.
    Unfortunately, those who get to form opinions about us will not form good opinions and this is what I'm concerned about.

    Playing real estate analyst by second guessing the data within our own local domain and then making ourselves feel good about it is dangerous because we give ourselves the false impression that all is well here when the outside world gets different signals.

    The better path would be to try to understand the reasons why this has happened and to address them with an open mind.

    This is a film I took of Moderator Peter Gossels who was acting as a private citizen lawyer and relating one instance of a RE valuation depreciation he was in Wayland. Others have reported the same thing. I think his warning speaks volumes.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5cdaogLvuI

  12. #12
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    Default Grasping the concept

    I know that Baron and Grasso have not put their head in the sand about the large RE valuation drops and are not actively trying to convince themselves that its not real.

    I know that they understand that when Warren speaks the RE world listens and this is bad for us.

    Better to understand why this is happening rather than convince ourselves that its not.

    I believe its happening...

    Here is an anecdote...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5cdaogLvuI

  13. #13
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    Default School Spending Reduction

    My literature is very clear about reducing school spending.
    It has to do with people taking pay cuts, pay freezes and even rolling back existing contracts.

    Recently, I saw a list of teachers being let go on various levels but then saw a sharp increase in the school budget and a long list of 10%+ raises.

    Whether negotiated or not, people are taking cuts and getting cut and nobody should be privileged to not contribute to the sacrifice here.

    There are other details having to do with the last contract negotiation in 2006 in that exec session which is now over and I can speak about... but do you really want the blunt truth on this board? I'm not sure I do.

    Jeff you have been asked numerous times about whether you support
    Immediate administrative 10% cuts
    Pay freezes
    Contract reopeners

    Your reply seems to be, "I can't talk about that"

    I'm pretty sure Baron and Grasso both support these things now and they are talking about it.

    Now I've gotta go and campaign.

  14. #14
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    The Warren Group does not speculate as to why the moving median analysis changes. They use a uniform algorithm with the cleansed data (removing non arms lengths sales) and do the computations across all towns. They stand behind their analysis as being the 'gold standard' and then publish their results for all to see.

    The all to see believes them and then forms opinions.
    Unfortunately, those who get to form opinions about us will not form good opinions and this is what I'm concerned about.

    Playing real estate analyst by second guessing the data within our own local domain and then making ourselves feel good about it is dangerous because we give ourselves the false impression that all is well here when the outside world gets different signals.

    The better path would be to try to understand the reasons why this has happened and to address them with an open mind.

    This is a film I took of Moderator Peter Gossels who was acting as a private citizen lawyer and relating one instance of a RE valuation depreciation he was in Wayland. Others have reported the same thing. I think his warning speaks volumes.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5cdaogLvuI
    Your identified cause is possibly part of the problem. It is certainly annecdotal.

    I have spoken to a number of realtors and people in town. They all identify the schools as the main reason for moving to Wayland. The condition of our high school has become an object of media interest. Our real estate valuations are directly tied to this. Our tax rate will decline when our issue with the high school is resolved. Please vote yes on Question 1 and Question 2.

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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Camp View Post
    We found some minor inconsistencies between what was listed on our real estate card and what actually exists in our house, which I suppose it to be expected. The thing that blew me away is that the assessor told me that they hadn’t physically been to our house in years

    [intermediate text removed to shorten quote]

    There should be a mechanism in place to physically review homes on a scheduled basis. I’m not an expert by any means, but it just makes sense to periodically show up and look at the value that you’re assigning. From what I understand and have read, that has not always been the case.
    As I understand it (another non-expert), they can't legally force people to let an assessor into the home for an inspection. Here's a thought though: could they perhaps send every home a copy of their real estate card, and require them to sign off on it, making corrections as needed? Requiring people to look at the card and sign their names attesting to its accuracy (or not) seems like it would (1) quickly unearth places where people are being over-assessed, and (2) force people to put their signature behind the information where people are being under-assessed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Camp View Post
    We actually purchased in 2007 for 21% below the assessed value. Our current assessment is 28% less than the tax assessment was in 2007.
    Mary, doesn't that imply that most of the drop in your particular property was assessment error, and that the actual drop from 2007 to 2008 was relatively small?

    I know my property has fallen in value as well (about 10%, I think), and I'm guessing that's consistent with the actual average assessment drop across the town. I described on another thread my take at it, looking at the assessments of the homes that sold in 2007 and 2008 -- I found that those homes that sold in 2007 had higher assessments than those that sold in 2008 (using any year you'd like - FY06, FY07 or FY08 assessments consistently applied to the two sets of homes). So the apples to orange part explains some, but not all, of the sales price drop - certainly prices have fallen some, I don't think anybody is arguing that. And we should certainly be working to reverse that.

    But what are the root causes that we need to address? Is it high taxes? Needing a new high school? Political divisiveness? The Town Center (that it is not being built yet, or that it is scheduled to be built in the future)? Traffic? Gas prices? Bicycle lanes? Walkability (see today's Globe)? The region or country's economy? A little of each? Something else? You'd need to build a pretty sophisticated model to truly understand it. Nobody can truly post here with "the answer", because I don't believe anybody has done that analysis.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 04-05-2009 at 09:28 AM. Reason: to replace apples:oranges, for which a weird smiley had been substituted

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