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Inside Real Estate (Nov 8th, 2019)

1. The Federal Trade Commission is filing a lawsuit against Nudge, a Utah-based company which is accused of bilking $400 million from customers who paid thousands of dollars for house-flipping real estate seminars between 2014 and 2017. In a prepared statement, the FTC said: “Nudge encouraged people to attend one of its Preview Events through mailings and infomercials featuring TV personalities from shows ... but these events were mainly sales pitches to get people to buy workshops costing more than $1,000.” Last year, the FTC brought a similar suit lawsuit against Utah-based Zurixx. - KUTV

2. Cannabis companies have started selling off real estate holdings in an attempt to raise capital. Since marijuana is federally illegal, these businesses have had a hard time finding landlords that will lease to them, so they end up buying properties instead of leasing. Now numerous companies are having to sell back that land to remain solvent. The pot industry — which saw stocks plunge by nearly 60 percent since March —  is facing financial problems due to a dearth of investors. Many people are still wary of putting their money in a novel industry that faces a number of legal hurdles. Cannabis-centric real estate investment trust Innovative Industrial Properties Inc. has reportedly completed $375.6 million in deals this year. CEO Paul Smithers explains that it's "becoming more and more attractive for operators because of the scarcity of alternatives out there.” - YAHOO FINANCE

3. Affordable housing advocates rallied against the city of Los Angeles’ plans to open a Clippers arena in Inglewood. They claim the city is in violation of the Surplus Land Act, an ordinance that requires cities to prioritize selling public land for affordable housing above other uses. However, they city argues that the arena in question would not be built on surplus space, since it would be usable. The city says it will be a boon to the area's economy, which will ultimately benefit housing problems. A judge could announce what will happen at the property as soon as Friday. - KABC

4. Three of the biggest price drops on U.S. megamansions include a beachfront mansion in Hillsboro Beach, Florida, that was listed for $159 million and sold for $42.5 million last year, a 73-percent drop. The second largest residential price reduction is Tommy Hilfiger's NYC Plaza hotel house, which was listed for $80 million in 2013 and sold for just $31.25 million last September. The 61-percent drop came after the 6,000-square-foot duplex spent a whopping six years on the market. Most recently, the 38,000-square-foot Los Angeles mansion that listed for $250 million in 2017 actually went for $94 million when it sold a few weeks ago. - CNBC

5. Some Veterans Affairs home loan recipients may be unaware of some of the benefits of this form of borrowing. Among those advantages: VA loans can be used more than once. Once a previous loan has been paid in full, veterans are eligible to take out another VA loan — although that one may come with increased VA fees. Additionally, if a veteran buys a house and rents it out, they can pull out another loan for another a new primary residence.  - MILITARY 

6. Redfin's iBuying initiative, RedfinNow, helped to grow the brokerage's revenue to $239 million in the last quarter, a year-over-year increase of 70 percent. RedfinNow — which is under the Properties umbrella — buys homes directly from people, flips them and lists them back for buyers to buy directly from the company’s Redfin Direct platform. This quarter, its iBuying services grew to include Austin, Houston and San Antonio. Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman said: “We’ve expanded instant offers for homeowners from six to ten markets, and are now showing homebuyers the commissions that a seller is offering their agent.” - GEEKWIRE

7. "Golden Palace," a Romanov Tsars-inspired mansion in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was just listed at $13.5 million. The ornate, 9,000-square-foot mansion — which is outfitted in floor-to-ceiling gold accents — sits on nearly a half acre of land, according to listing brokerage Douglas Elliman. Its architectural inspiration was drawn from the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, which is considered the second-largest art museum in the world. Outside of the Swarovski-crystal-chandelier-illuminated structure is a heated saltwater swimming pool and a 100-foot boat slip. - BUSINESS INSIDER

8. The New York Times is planning to buy back its former Manhattan headquarters at 620 Eighth Avenue from W.P. Carey & Company. In 2009, the news outlet agreed to a sale-leaseback contract — that helped it raise $225 million — which included a clause saying it would have to option to buy the building back in 2019. At the time of the deal, it benefitted the NYT since the publisher could lease its office space for $24 million, which was considerably lower than asking prices at that time. - THE REAL DEAL

9. Whoopi Goldberg's longtime Los Angeles home is back on the market for $9.6 million. The 1930s Art Deco-style mansion sold for $8.8 in mere weeks last year, just a little more than Goldberg paid for it. Its new owner now hopes to make an additional $800,000 from the sale of the residence, which comes with a long list of prominent former owners. Among the people that once called it home is Oscar-winning actor David Niven, best known for his role as James Bond in the 1967 movie "Casino Royale.” - MANSION GLOBAL

10. Asking rents just plummeted along a seven-block stretch between 42nd and 49th street in New York City. The Lower Fifth Avenue area, which is known for its retailers, decreased in rents by 25 percent year over year, according to a report released on Tuesday by Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. The only New York City market where rents ticked upward is the Meatpacking District, which reportedly benefits from tourist traffic on the High Line. The rest of Manhattan saw a rental decline average of more than 8 percent. - BLOOMBERG

Written and curated by Darla Guillen Gilthorpe. Darla writes for the Houston Chronicle, where she was part of its 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist staff. She was previously an editor at Vox Media site Eater and has had bylines in Elle Decor, SFGate and various other outlets. Follow her on Twitter here.

Editor: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside).

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