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Lakeway Regional Medical Center Taking Shape

by Michael Scheffe | November 22nd, 2010

For years we’ve watched the 50-acre site on Highway 620 at Flint Rock Trace near Lakeway with interest.  First there were signs with the announcement of a new hospital on it.  Then dirt began to move.  Then dirt stopped moving.  Then the site sat still.  And then it sat still some more.  Then rumors swirled that the financing for the project fell through.  (Rumors that proved to be true.)

Then more news (that financing had been secured.)  And better yet, that it was government-backed financing.  And now here we are on the eve of Thanksgiving 2010 and construction of an over one million square foot medical complex is in full swing! 

That’s right.  I said over one million square feet; 1,100,000 when fully-phased to be precise.  To give you an idea of the scale, that’s very close to the size of the nearby Hill Country Galleria

With a 170-bed hospital at its core, the Lakeway Regional Medical Center site also includes two medical office buildings, parking garages, a day care center, an extended-stay hotel, and a retail center with shops and restaurants.  

The hospital will be operated by a group of doctors who have, collectively, invested $40 million of their own money in the construction of the $200 million+ project.  According to the developers, as a physician-operated hospital, the doctors will have much more control over patient care and how the hospital is run than they would ever have in a traditionally-managed, corporate-run hospital.

The hospital is scheduled to have a Level 1 Trauma Center (the highest level of trauma care in the nation.)  As a point of reference, only Brackenridge and Dell Children’s Medical Center offer Level 1 Trauma centers in the Austin-area.    Otherwise, as it was pointed out to me in a recent presentation that I attended hosted by the hospital developers, a Level 1 trauma center is a 45-minute helicopter ride from here.

As for the economic impact to the area, the hospital piece alone will initially employ nearly 1,500 people.   Likewise, from ancillary services like pharmacies to home health care to linen suppliers, I am told that each bed in a hospital like this has the potential to add 20 jobs to the local economy.  That’s over 3,000 new jobs created.  Moreover, as it stands, over half of the doctors slated to come to the new hospital are coming from out of the Austin area.  These doctors and their staffs will likely see virtue in living near the complex.  This means real estate sales. 

The magnitude of the financial impact the hospital could have on the area is mind-boggling.  Will it add to an already difficult traffic situation?  Almost certainly.  Will it add to the development and re-development of the surrounding area?  Probably so.  But the reality is that population in this area of Austin is predicted to double in the next 10 years.  That kind of population must have quality medical care, both emergency and non-critical, in the area.  The fact that a first-class, physician-managed facility might just be the offering is a real coup for area residents current and future.


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Texas Attorney General Moves to Stop Foreclosures

by Michael Scheffe | October 6th, 2010

In a bizarre twist to the mortgage crisis that has swept across the U.S. in recent months, the Attorneys General for dozens of states are taking steps to halt foreclosures in the their states.  

Most recently, the Texas Attorney General,  Greg Abbott, sent a letter to thirty or so mortgage-loan servicers doing business in Texas.  Here is a list of the mortgage companies receiving letters from the AG’s office.  The letter demands that the recipients immediately halt:  

     1. all foreclosures;

     2. all sales of properties previously foreclosed upon; and

     3. all evictions of persons residing in previously foreclosed upon properties.

The AG is demanding that the banks cease these activities until a review of their internal processes can be conducted. 

Whether or not the AG has the actual authority to stop anything is arguable.  After all, these are banks with contractual agreements with their customers (in the form of deeds of trust) that spell out what the parties to that contract can and can’t do.  What is clear in most deeds of trust is that “if you don’t pay, you can’t stay.”  That is, if you don’t make your mortgage payment then the mortgage company has the contractual right (with proper notice and opportunity to cure any default) to foreclose on the lien that secures your repayment. 

The AGs are not saying that foreclosures in and of themselves are evil and their citizens should be above the law and beyond their contractual agreements.  That would be silly. 

What they are saying though is that there appears to be evidence that some of these foreclosures may not be being handled in a lawful manner.  In that case, they may be invalid, unlawful, and/or most significantly, give rise to claims of fraud.  The allegations are that of widespread sloppiness, corner-cutting and perhaps outright fraud in the way some banks are processing the multitude of delinquent loans, foreclosures, loan modifications, evictions and the like that have inundated their industry over the last few years.

Specifically, Mr. Abbott’s office charges these banks with, among other things: 

     Signing thousands of documents a month without even reading them;

     Making affidavits to facts they couldn’t possible be aware of;

     Notarizing documents before they are signed by the party; and

     Signing documents with inaccurate statements about loan balances, changes, payments, etc.

So what can the Attorney General do about all is? 

Well, what the office does have the right to do is bring lawsuits against companies and individuals who are alleged to have committed fraud against the state’s citizens.  So what Mr. Abbott’s office has done is send a demand letter to these loan servicers saying basically ” it has come to our attention that you may have engaged in certain conduct and if you have we may sue you on behalf of our constituents for engaging in deceptive trade practices in our state”.  (That’s not exactly what was said, but you get the point.)  The demand letter is a required step under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act before a lawsuit can be filed.

Whether lawsuits will be filed or not, whether the loan servicers will be able to properly document their files, whether any missteps were made, etc., will remain to be determined.  But it seems highly unlikely that the recipients of the letter will be able (by any stretch of the imagination) to meet the 10-day deadline issued for producing the documentation demanded by the AG’s office.  That would seem to suggest that this move was merely a formality and a necessary first step in a grander plan.

The processes for approving short sales, loan modifications, foreclosures, and the like these days is ludicrous at best.  I have just negotiated my way through one recently for a client and it was a joke how many twists and turns we took.  That story will be the subject of another blog.  But the point is that there are literally millions of stories just like mine waiting to be told. It’s an enormous problem waiting for a solution. 

In its unprecedented move, the AG’s office has certainly added to the drama of this unfolding story.  Whether it will be part of the solution remains to be seen.   At the moment it would appear that it’s business as usual.  See this video report regarding foreclosure activity as recently as yesterday in Houston’s massive Harris County.

Stay tuned.


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Three Cheers for our Hometown!!!

by Michael Scheffe | February 25th, 2010

CNN reports that Austin’s economy is forecasted to lead the nation in recovery. 


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$6,500 Tax Credit for Non-First-Time Buyers

by Michael Scheffe | November 5th, 2009

us-capitol-1Unbelievable! Congress signed the bill today creating a $6,500 credit for people who buy a home now after living in their current home at least five years. Friends, you combine that with 5% interest rates and negotiable sellers and this is an opportunity to buy a home we will likely never see again. It’s for a limited time though. Call or email me and I’ll give you the scoop.


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