Archives March 2015

CMBS Loans Saturated Yet Strong, Financial Experts Say

some of the money
Though commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) loans are still doing very well, some financial experts are concerned that there may be too many CMBS lenders in the market today.

National Real Estate Investor reports that the number of lenders who provide CMBS may lead to complications. It is estimated that there are 35 lenders or conduit lenders that provide CMBS loans, and given that the top five lenders — Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo, CCRE, and Bank of America — issue 50% of all CMBS loans, there is talk of oversaturation of the market.

“To say that there are too many conduit lenders today is an understatement,” said Bryan Gortikov, associate director at George Elkins Mortgage Banking Company in Los Angeles. He added that the large number has affected both prominent and smaller CMBS lenders. Smaller lenders are forced to offer better deals to borrowers, such as lower interest rates and better spreads, in order to compete with the more established firms. The established firms, in turn, have to change their terms in order to sway borrowers away from “cheaper” deals.

Regardless of the difficulties the CMBS market is facing, it is still doing phenomenally well with borrowers and lenders alike jumping at the opportunity. Over the next three years, roughly $300 billion of these loans will mature, which is 2.5 times larger the amount of maturity between 2012 and 2014. Many of these loans have a 10-year balloon plan, which is advantageous to borrowers.

Generally, the commercial real estate market is growing much faster than many other sectors of the economy.Newsweek reports that real estate has done much better than other economic sectors since the Great Recession due in part to the better yields commercial real estate loans provide than other investments such as bonds.

However, one problem with CMBS lending is that the volume of issuance has gone done. In 2007, for example, American CMBS issuance was $230 billion. Last year, the issuance was only worth $94 billion. One reason for this may be the increased number of lenders. The smaller lenders, especially given their lack of reputation and experience, have ultimately driven down the amount of CMBS issued. The bottom 20 CMBS lenders issued a mere 8% of CMBS loans last year.

Still, financial industry insiders remain confident that CMBS loans will continue to flourish as borrowers become more confident.

“I do think it’s a great time to be a borrower. There is a tremendous amount of liquidity out there,” said Gregory H. Nalbandian, senior vice president and managing director at NorthMarq Capital in Morristown, New Jersey. “It will be interesting to see with the increased competition, how far lenders will be willing to push the underwriting envelope.”

Infinit Jest: New Mobile App Enables Users to Send Massive Files Without Fuss

woman uses a smartphone
Sending and receiving large files will become much easier with a new release from French startup company Infinit.

TechCrunch reports that Infinit just released a mobile app for both iOS and Android systems. Previously exclusive to computers, Infinit will now allow users to send large files such as videos and photos without altering the content size right from their smartphones. The file-sharing service company uses peer-to-peer technology to enhance sharing features between two users. Unlike many other file-sharing services, Infinit has no file size restrictions.

Before the mobile app’s release, Infinit was popular with video game developers and media specialists in that it allowed them to send massive digital files sans compression or other alterations. Transferring is quick and easy, especially with other Infinit users. Among other advantages, Infinit permits users to leave their computer during an upload. If an upload is disrupted for any reason (for example, if the computer falls asleep or gets locked-out), it will simply pause and continue the upload when the computer is back up.

Infinit is fastest when two users are on the same local network, but it works just fine with a home peer-to-peer connection. If the recipient is not online, Infinit will store the content on its servers. In addition, the recipients do not need an Infinit account to access the files. They can download them through a link on Infinit’s servers.

The app comes at a time when smartphone use is rising at an astronomical rate. Experts estimate that global smartphone users are growing at an annual rate of 42%. Most smartphones have some kind of camera; several models have built-in HD cameras. Smartphone users with such cameras often have trouble sending videos and photos with large file-sizes to other users and even their own computers. Because these files are so large, they are often compressed or altered so that they can be shared either through file-sharing systems or email.

Infinit is similar to file-sharing apps such as AirDrop and Dropbox in that it can be used to share files between your personal devices, making it a popular choice with many smartphone users. The company plans on introducing a premium service soon.

File sharing isn’t the only hot feature for smartphone users. According to, Twitter rolled out its Periscope app, which allows users to use their phones to live-stream videos and images of their everyday lives, last week. The app comes after existing live-streaming apps like Meerkat and Ustream.

New Study Comparing Costs and Benefits of Uterine Fibroid Tumor Treatments

Doctor explaining diagnosis to her female patient
About six medical centers are comparing the relative cost, benefits, and complications of three minimally invasive techniques used to reduce and eliminate uterine fibroids in women who don’t have cancer and want to preserve their uterus.

Uterine fibroids, which are sometimes referred to as myomas, are muscular tumors that grow in the walls of the uterus. Typically benign, fibroids can grow as a single tumor, or as multiple tumors. Some can be as small as an apple seed, but they can also grow to be as big as a grapefruit.

Though they’re typically asymptomatic, fibroids can cause problematic symptoms depending on where they develop and how large they grow. Some women who have such uncommonly problematic fibroids may experience pelvic discomfort, bladder problems, lower back pain, or even abnormal menstrual bleeding so heavy it can lead to the development of anemia.

Doctors usually recommend that a patient undergo a hysterectomy, which is the removal of the uterus and the most common surgical procedure to treat uterine fibroids. Although surgery is the only fully curative method, (because without the uterus, fibroids cannot occur), there are other minimally invasive procedures that can eliminate the problematic tumors.

The Treatment Results of Uterine Sparing Technologies — or TRUST — Study follows 300 women over a period of five years, and is funded by Halt Medical Inc., the medical device company that developed the Acessa™ Procedure system. This system uses radiofrequency energy to destroy or shrink fibroids so that they no longer cause pain or bleeding, and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012.

In order to find out which of three alternative treatments is best, researchers will compare the procedures’ direct costs, such as hospital stay, procedure costs, complications, safety, and the need for additional therapy. They are also comparing the procedures’ indirect costs, such as recovery rate and time lost from work, as well as quality of life.

With the study’s conclusion, patients who want to preserve their uterus will be able to choose the best direction for their treatment, rather than automatically opting for hysterectomy.

But Who Gets Fido in the Divorce? Pet Custody Battles Could Become a Thing

cat and dog sleeping together
Legislators in Alaska have introduced a bill to protect family pets in cases of domestic violence or divorce. As people attempt to leave abusive situations, they are often manipulated into staying or become fearful of leaving because of concern for their pets’ well-being.

If made into a law, the bill will allow courts to decide who keeps pets during the divorce process, and after. Courts will make decisions based on what is best for the animal. For purposes of the law, any non-human vertebrate is considered a pet, with the exception of fish.

“Texas divorce law treats family pets like inanimate personal property such as a couch. The dog or cat is valued on what it could be sold for and not what the animal is worth emotionally to its owners,” said Greg Enos, principal attorney at The Enos Law Firm, PC. “I have had cases where spouses testified about why each should be awarded the dog and a judge had to make that decision. I have even heard of judges ordering visitation with beloved pets that live with the other spouse while a divorce is pending.”

The divorce process isn’t the only thing affected by the new bill. If signed into law, the bill requires amendments be made to domestic violence policy to include protection for family pets. Representative Liz Vasquez, one of the bill’s authors, explained to Reuters why such a bill was necessary.

“More and more animals are used by an abuser for punishment, manipulation or revenge against a victim,” Vasquez stated. “They will threaten to kill, maim or torture a pet to gain control over the family.”

Provisions for the safety of family pets will be written into protective order, granting custody of the pet to the appropriate party and helping them find safe housing.

“Victims and children would hesitate to leave an abusive relationship or abusive environment for fear of leaving behind their pets. We can stop that,” Vazquez told the New York Daily News.

The amendment would also require owners whose animals were seized for cruelty or neglect to cover the costs of their care in a shelter. The bill must be passed by April 19, or it will not be considered again until next year. There are currently 13 confirmed legislators in support of the bill.

2015 Subaru Legacy Still Reigns Supreme

Car driving fast in tunnel
The new 2015 Subaru Legacy features the same capabilities that has made Subaru popular with American consumers — but seems to fall short when compared to its big brother, the Outback.

The Aurora Sentinel reports that though the Legacy sedan came out before the mid-sized Outback, the latter seems to be outperforming it. Still, the latest Legacy model will more than please Subaru fans and general car consumers alike.

Starting at $21,695, the Legacy gets 36 miles to the gallon (26 miles in the city) and comes with Subaru’s standard all-wheel drive and boxer engine features. It also comes with brand new designs, especially in the interior. From smaller luxuries like heated seats to impressive safety designs such as blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance, and EyeSight, a system that notifies the driver about potential dangers on the road, it is so well-equipped, in fact, that one could say the driver barely needs to drive at all.

Power-wise, the Legacy is also quite stellar. The standard engine is a 2.5-liter, four cylinder boxer engine that spins 175 horsepower at 174 lb.-ft. of torque. For $3,000 more, buyers can have a six cylinder engine with 256 horsepower at 247 lb.-ft, although that upgrade automatically comes with the “Limited” model range that includes leather seats, premium stereo, 18 in. wheels, and heated rear seats, among other features.

All in all, a fully upgraded 2015 Subaru Legacy is roughly the same price as an average, new mid-sized sedan, many of which don’t come with all-wheel drive. It is also worth noting that an upgraded Legacy closely resembles the Outback in features and price, so it may be more advantageous for buyers — especially those who consistently drive on terrain — to get the Outback.

Regardless, the 2015 Subaru Legacy is the latest model from a long, proud line of Subaru vehicles. The Legacy has certainly gone a lone way from Subaru’s first model, the Subaru 1500, in 1954.

Kids’ Fitness Moves into the World of Spinning and Yoga Classes Normally Reserved for Adults

Athlete running road silhouette
Spin classes have long been a favorite of physically active adults, especially in the Chelsea neighborhood in New York. But Peloton Studio recently opened its doors to offer the cycle-based workouts to fitness-minded youngsters as well.

The Studio offers free after-school classes to kids twice a week for 30 minutes each. The goal is to get kids up and off the couch to start early on lifelong fitness decisions.

In addition to regularly scheduled classes, they also offer sessions to young cyclists from Star Track Cycling, an organization that aims to get children and teens interested in track cycling.

Kids’ fitness has long been a hot button topic as more government and medical officials try to push for better nutrition in schools and more opportunities for physical activity during the day.

“[Parents should] encourage children to be more active by offering incredible growth opportunities hidden in fun, creative, and exciting activities,” said Eric Colton, owner of Fitness by the Sea Kid’s Summer Camp. “[They should] also encourage children to ‘learn by doing’ and serve as mentors and participants during these activities.”

But it’s not only health that should be on parents’ minds when examining their children’s daily habits, says Micah Maxwell, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Muncie, Indiana. When kids stay physically active and have a healthy diet, they are more likely to perform well in school, maintain academic success, and show improvements in their self esteem.
Maxwell’s Boys and Girls Club held a CrossFit Field Day to engage kids in a series of fun high-energy activities designed to lower stress.

CrossFit, which uses a WOD, or “workout of the day,” develops strength and agility training and allows individuals to work at their own pace. But even CrossFit gyms, or “boxes,” as they’re called, have been open to children in other settings, too.

Seaside CrossFit in Hanson, Massachusetts, recently held a contest that put kids through three WODs as a sort of tournament. Adults kept score to track each child’s progress in the workouts, but most of the emphasis was on keeping order and making sure that fun was had by all.

And to make the event more kid-friendly, the gym’s owners used a zoological theme that had kids competing with frog jumps, bear crawls, and a weight-lifting exercise that required an “angry gorilla chest.”

But not all exercise programs are about competition. Kids’ yoga classes, which have popped up all over the country in recent years, have also been brought to schools, like PS 205 in Bayside, Queens, in New York.

One local yoga studio, Little Flower Yoga, brings yoga to kids to get them to relax and connect their mind and body.

The fourth grade participants said that the activity helped them with everything from reducing headaches to improving flexibility for soccer and other sports.

Authorities Suspect Carpet Cleaning Powder Responsible for Mysterious Pet Deaths

Vacuum cleaner on a carpet with an extra clean strip

Authorities in Washington suspect that the mysterious deaths of two household pets were due to a powdered carpet cleaner. The carpet cleaning powder is still under investigation.

A hazardous materials team responded to a home in Lakewood, WA, where a man had found his bird and cat both dead and an odd smell in the home. The man, who rents the home, called 911 and reported the incident.

Though firefighters could not immediately identify the cause of the odor or the deaths of the animals, authorities strongly suspect that they are both the result of the use of a powdered carpet cleaner. The size of the home is also suspected to have contributed to the smell and the deaths of the animals. The home is very small, at only 400 square feet.

Environmental Health Assistant Division Director John Sherman says that homeowners in the area need not worry — this is an isolated incident and only this particular home has been affected.

“Everything we’ve seen so far suggests the problem is limited to this residence. And while initial reports were that a carpet-cleaning chemical or an insecticide were to blame, we’ve not been able to confirm that based on available information,” said Environmental Health Assistant Division Director John Sherman, in an interview with KIRO 7.

Powdered carpet cleaner is meant to be sprinkled on a carpet and then vacuumed up. The process is intended to neutralize odors and clean spots. Experts recommend that carpets get professional cleaning once every year to year and a half, but homeowners often turn to other methods of cleaning in the meantime.

According to the Columbian, the exact brand of the carpet cleaner is not known and the man will not be cleared to return to his home until authorities have deemed it to be safe.

2 Fire Pit Incidents Highlight Importance of Outdoor Fire Safety

Motion Blur Stretcher Gurney Patient Hospital Emergency
A 45-year-old male resident of Dix Hills, NY, was airlifted to a hospital late on March 12 after he was badly burned in a fire pit explosion, Newsday reported.

A gas can was apparently placed next to the fire, exploding around 9:40 p.m. The man suffered first- and second-degree burns on his upper body, hands, and face.

He was first treated by local EMTs and paramedics, then transported to Stony Brook University Hospital via helicopter. Police say that he is expected to survive, despite the serious nature of his injuries.

This is the second incident involving a fire pit that has made headlines this month alone.

On March 2, it was reported that a fire that spread from a pit outside a Lincoln, NE, home had displaced the resident and caused about $40,000 in damage. The home was most recently valued at $52,000, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star.

In that case, the propane-fed fire spread to a home addition due to the wind. Once fire crews arrived on the scene, they were able to cut into the roof of the house and control the flames in about 12 minutes.

Fire Safety Tips
Especially as warmer weather prompts homeowners to spend more time outside, it’s important to remember some basic tips that can allow for safe enjoyment of outdoor fires.

Outdoor fires should always be contained in a fire pit or similar fixture, and should be at least 10 feet away from vegetation or structures of any kind. Homeowners should have a garden hose and bucket of water standing ready beforestarting a fire.

And, as HGTV recommends regarding fire safety in outdoor fixtures, one of the simplest safety measures to take is limiting the size of outdoor fires: “There’s no need for a blazing bonfire, and the bigger the fire, the greater the potential for disaster.”

“Landscaping companies should be telling their customers about the safety hazards of wood burning fire pits,” Tom Rother, owner of Lawn & Leisure. “They need to be completely extinguished before leaving the site, or a screen needs to be put over it. Having pavers underneath the pit also prevents discoloring your deck. Gas fire pits are often much safer than wood because they can be completely and immediately extinguished after use.”

To Tattoo or Not to Tattoo? That is the Question Many Employees Are Asking Themselves

retro photo
Tattoos and body piercings are no longer relegated to the young and restless. They can now be found in the corporate boardroom and the doctor’s office.

The Kansas City Star reports, however, that the issue of tattoos in the workplace is affecting the relationship between employers and employees. Particularly, it is putting a strain on hiring policies.

The paper points out that although having a tattoo or body piercing is perfectly legal and protected under the First Amendment, employers have a right to deny employment to the visibly tatted. Several American courts have ruled that unless the tattoo or piercing is for a religious or class observance, employers have full power to discriminate against people of color…in their skin.

Why do employers have this right? According to many court analysts, employers have an inherent right to regulate the appearance of their employees. Physical features that are “mutable” (i.e. capable of change) are not protected under the law in the workplace. Technically, tattoos are reversible, though tattoo removal is often an expensive and painful process.

Inevitably, this has cause tension between the generally older managerial class and up-and-coming younger workers. According to the New York Times, 23% of Americans have at least one tattoo. Furthermore, 32% of Americans between the ages of 30 and 45 have a tattoo.

However, the workplace dynamics across America are changing. Because tattoos are more common in younger generations, employers often struggle to fully enforce the ban of visible tattoos. A study recently conducted by business professors at Texas AandM University-Corpus Christi suggests that employers should be more lenient with tattoo and piercing bans, considering these bans can block otherwise capable and willing talent from the workforce.

“Some of today’s best candidates may have modifications that you consider undesirable,” wrote Profs. Brian Elzweig and Donna Peeples in the study. “Who knows, as these people grow and mature in their careers, the modifications may suddenly disappear. After all, they have to be competitive in their market.”

The professors point out the fact that tattoos and piercings are still relatively rare in the upper echelons of business, and that the higher-ups in general “subliminally” discriminate against potential employees with body art, due to the attitude that they are uncouth in the business world.

The study recommends that if employers are adamant in banning tattooed employees, they should do so without regard to gender. For example, if a company bans women from having colored highlights in their hair, they should extend that ban to men. If men are required to remove facial piercings or cover tattoos, then their female counterparts should conform to the same standards.

Regardless of what older or more conservative employers think about tattoos, the fact remains that the younger generation, whose acceptance of body art is well-known, will eventually come to replace them and will determine rules accordingly.

Apple Raises the Bar for Service Worker Compensation in Silicon Valley With Sudden 25% Pay Raise for Its 150 Shuttle Bus Drivers


Apple is putting a new focus on the benefits of public transportation — specifically of buses — and is now giving a raise to the shuttle bus drivers in southern California who transport Apple employees to and from work. According to the San Jose Mercury News, this is just “the latest in a series of steps to improve conditions for the service workers who keep Silicon Valley humming.”

The drivers, who are employed by third-party contractors, including Compass Transportation and Royal Coach Tours, will begin to see a 25% raise on their hourly pay rates, thanks to Apple’s funding decision. The drivers who work “split shifts,” which include both morning and evening routes, will reportedly see an even bigger raise to compensate for their less-than-convenient work hours. Additionally, Apple plans to work on creating new regulations for the drivers that focus on longer breaks and convenient rest stops.

According to Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet, over 150 drivers will receive raises for running shuttle buses throughout the Bay Area, exclusively transporting about 5,000 Apple employees on a daily basis.

With all of these new changes already in place — and plenty of future improvements that will roll out in the near future — Apple’s drivers have quickly become the highest-paid bus drivers in the area and beginning to set a precedent for how companies in Silicon Valley treat their service employees; with any luck, Apple’s decision could even set a precedent for safety and monetary standards of the thousands of bus drivers that are employed at more than 3,400 individual motorcoach companies across the country.

“[Apple’s raise] is definitely going to help us attract the best drivers and retain the great drivers that we have,” said Greg Gallup, the chief operating officer for Royal Coach Tours.

As for the individual drivers, who work in one of country’s most vibrant tech communities while receiving “few of the industry’s lavish perks,” the raise is certainly appreciated.

“Anything that Apple is willing to do for us, that’s terrific,” said one current shuttle driver. “I can’t wait to see that in my check.”