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New Orleans Real Estate News

May 15, 2015

All His Ducks in a Row

Robert W. Merrick SIOR, CRE, CCIM, MAI Chairman & CEO, Latter & Blum Inc. Robert W. Merrick
SIOR, CRE, CCIM, MAI
Chairman & CEO, Latter & Blum Inc.
Bob Merrick, Chairman & CEO of Latter & Blum Companies, shares with Biz New Orleans magazine how his executive suite at the company’s headquarters plays host to major real estate deals, while showcasing his prized collection of hand-carved duck decoys and housing gifts and other mementos from the company’s illustrious 100-year history.  The article is part of Biz New Orleans’ “Great Offices” series.

Read more



May 7, 2015

Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans Honors Robert Merrick with Lifetime Achievement Award


Robert W. Merrick SIOR, CRE, CCIM, MAI Chairman & CEO, Latter & Blum Inc(New Orleans, LA) – Latter & Blum Inc. Chairman & CEO, Robert “Bob” Merrick received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans at the organization’s annual Business Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony Wednesday evening. Established in 1984, the Business Hall of Fame recognizes and honors local men and women who have embraced the spirit of entrepreneurship in our community. 

Bob is a down-to-earth visionary who has helped New Orleans and Louisiana grow,” stated Latter & Blum Inc. President, Richard Haase. “Every day, he leads by example, in his professional and philanthropic endeavors, and inspires our people to do the same,” he added.

“Since its inception, the Junior Achievement Lifetime Achievement Award has recognized and honored individuals of the highest caliber.  This is truly an elite group of savvy business and community leaders with a history of business excellence, vision and integrity,” said Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans President, Jack Brancewicz. “Bob Merrick not only exemplifies all of these traits, he has also raised and set the bar for giving back to our community.  For these reasons and so many more, Bob is our 2015 recipient,” he explained.  

The Lifetime Achievement Award is one of the highest honors bestowed by the organization. Selection criteria for honorees include: “a record of outstanding entrepreneurial achievements, recognition by his or her organization or profession to have made a very significant contribution to the success of the organization or profession, adherence to high moral and ethical principles, and service as a role model for others,” according to the organization. Prior honorees include Dr. Norman Francis (2013), Thomas Coleman (2012), James Fitzmorris Jr (2011), Ella Brennan (2008) and Frank Stewart (2006) among a host of other local community and business leaders.

About Latter & Blum Inc.
LATTER & BLUM Inc., established in 1916, is the largest full-service Real Estate brokerage in the Gulf South with 1,400 Agents in 30 offices located in the markets of Greater New Orleans, Greater Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Alexandria, Houma, Lake Charles, and Southern Mississippi. Latter & Blum Inc. operates LATTER & BLUM Inc./REALTORS, C.J. Brown REALTORS Inc., Van Eaton & Romero REALTORS, and Noles-Frye Realty (all four owned by Latter & Blum Inc.). Latter & Blum Classic Homes & Properties, Latter & Blum Shaw Properties, and Latter & Blum Hometown operate under franchise agreements. All are networked nationally and globally as ERA Powered Companies. Additionally, LATTER & BLUM Inc. operates NAI Latter & Blum Commercial Real Estate, Latter & Blum Property Management, Latter & Blum Insurance Services, Platinum Title, and Essential Mortgage Corporation.

February 11, 2015

Top 6 Reasons to work with our Agents

  1. Six reasons to work with our agents.We've been the market leader for nearly 100 years.
  2. Our Agents are professionally and continuously trained and many hold advanced certifications.
  3. Our Agents are assisted daily by a team of Managers and Support staff.
  4. Our Agents have a variety of unique products and online tools to help find and sell homes more quickly.
  5. Our monthly market reports educate you about the market and help you buy and sell more efficiently.
  6. Our website has more traffic, placing your home in front of more people every day! That means www.latter-blum.com is where more local buyers start their search. It's where you'll want to be.

February 3, 2015

Hear what our Agents are saying about our training & education!


1/9/2014
KATC.com logo

Another Successful Angel Tree at Van Eaton & Romero

Team members from Van Eaton & Romero pulled angel tags that included a wish list for a needy area child from the Salvation Army Angel Tree. The gifts were distributed by the Salvation Army in time for Christmas 2014.

Van Eaton Romero Angel Tree

Pictured Left to Right: Richard Tanory, Jacque Trahan, Jilliann Gainey, Barbara Rogers, Abbott Harris, Troy Hebert, Denise Ordoyne, Cheryl Hebert, Todd Trappey, Sharon Broussard, Judy Schepps, Bill Bacque.

Notes from the Corporate office:

For the third year in a row, our Van Eaton & Romero Agents sponsored an Angel Tree in cooperation with the Salvation Army. Agents selected children’s names from the tree and donated gifts that were on the children’s Christmas wish lists. In addition to participating in the Angel Tree project, Van Eaton & Romero donated $1,000 to the Salvation Army at their annual Christmas breakfast.

In our Family of Companies, we donate thousands of volunteer hours and contribute to local charitable causes during the holidays and throughout the year. We make it our priority to invest in our community to create a better place to live and work for everyone. We are building stronger communities in the markets we serve!

Thank you, Agents for your generosity and support of your communities!



Latter & Blum Companies Logo

January 7, 2015

Real Estate Merger Expands Latter & Blum’s Commercial Operations into Lake Charles

New Orleans, LA –LATTER & BLUM Inc. announced today their expansion of their commercial operations into Southwest Louisiana through a merger with Lake Charles-based commercial Real Estate firm, NAI Lake Charles. The addition extends the companies’ referral networks and service areas throughout the Louisiana Gulf Coast. The new commercial affiliate will operate as “NAI/Latter & Blum Inc.” in Southwest Louisiana.

“Our merger uniquely positions NAI/Latter & Blum as the only privately held commercial brokerage with a regional network spanning from Central to Southwest Louisiana and across the entire Louisiana Gulf Coast,” stated Bob Merrick, Chairman & CEO of LATTER & BLUM. “This important development allows our Agents to serve the commercial needs of our clients more effectively in the wake of an unprecedented industrial expansion underway in Louisiana,” Merrick added.

“The addition of our Lake Charles commercial firm will provide our New Orleans Agents with more residential and commercial referral opportunities, while effectively addressing the need to maintain a high level of service for our clients,” stated LATTER & BLUM President, Rick Haase. “LATTER & BLUM has expanded its service network from Texas to Mississippi along our state’s energy corridor. As a result, our Agents and clients are better positioned to benefit from the industrial investment and economic growth in our service footprint,” explained Haase.

“Joining NAI/Latter & Blum provides immediate access to a regional commercial network with the scale and resources to more effectively serve the growing commercial Real Estate needs of our clients,” stated Associate Broker, Matt Redd, CCIM, SIOR, CPM. “I’m very excited about the growth opportunity this represents for our Agents and Clients,” he commented.

Today, LATTER & BLUM Inc. is a Top 40 Real Estate brokerage and home services company with sales of over $2.92 billion and one of the fastest growing Louisiana-based private companies. The firm’s existing commercial offices are located in Alexandria, Houma, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans and are part of the NAI Global Network, a managed commercial Real Estate network with more than 350 offices worldwide. Together, LATTER & BLUM and NAI/Latter & Blum will offer the most extensive portfolio of commercial properties in the Gulf South region.

LATTER & BLUM Inc., established in 1916, is the largest full-service Real Estate brokerage in the Gulf South and operates Latter & Blum Inc./REALTORS®, C.J. Brown REALTORS Inc., Van Eaton & Romero REALTORS, Noles-Frye Realty. Latter & Blum Classic Homes & Properties, Latter & Blum Shaw Properties and Latter & Blum Hometown operate under franchise agreements. All are networked regionally, nationally and globally as ERA Powered Companies.  Additionally, LATTER & BLUM Inc. operates NAI Latter & Blum Commercial Real Estate, Latter & Blum Property Management, Latter & Blum Insurance Services, Platinum Title and Essential Mortgage Corporation.


1/5/2015
by Kathy Finn
Gambit Logo

Gambit Cover with Bob Merrick

New Orleanian of the Year: Robert Merrick

The real estate mogul and philanthropist talks about the importance of giving


Robert Merrick in Gambit Cover Story
Photo by Cheryl Gerber

   If Robert Merrick's car had a bumper sticker, it likely would say, "I'd rather be hunting." At least that's what New Orleans' foremost real estate mogul would have people believe.

  Merrick says his favorite times are the days he spends fly-fishing in Mexico or stalking wild turkeys in rural Mississippi, and he prefers the peace of the woods to his plush office in the Warehouse District headquarters of Latter & Blum. But if that's really the case, it's a mystery how he ever finds the time to don his outdoor gear.

  Over the past several decades, Merrick has built the largest real estate business in the Gulf South and one of the largest in the country.

  And when he wasn't doing real estate deals, he was engrossed in charitable work, becoming one of the foremost benefactors of nonprofit organizations in the region. The Latter & Blum chairman has showered millions of dollars and many volunteer hours on dozens of groups, with some of his most substantial investments benefiting the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America, Junior Achievement, Habitat for Humanity, March of Dimes, the Fore Kids Foundation and the University of New Orleans.

  In the past year, his charitable efforts hit a new high when he made a single $1 million gift to the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, becoming the first person in the state to join an elite circle of million-dollar donors to United Way worldwide.

  All this giving, of course, was enabled by Merrick's prowess in real estate.

  Though today his com- pany is best known by many as the dominant player in housing sales across south Louisiana, Merrick, now 70, built his career on a foundation not of home sales but commercial real estate. "Years ago, I couldn't spell 'residential'," he jokes.

  Born in New Orleans, and just 14 years old when his father died, Merrick found a mentor in the man his mother later married, real estate appraisal expert Max Derbes Sr. Merrick began working in Derbes' appraisal business while still in high school and continued during summers leading to his graduation from Tulane University.

Later recognizing that "you couldn't make a whole lot of money" in appraising, Merrick delved into real estate development and commercial and industrial property brokerage.

"Bob Merrick is a true real estate visionary and one of our region's great humanitarians."— UNO President Peter Fos

  Teaming with another mentor, Baton Rouge real estate pro Heidel Brown, Merrick earned his brokerage chops through numerous transactions for industrial sites along the lower Mississippi River.

  Merrick and various partners also built millions of square feet of warehouse space throughout the region. And when a willing buyer appeared in the mid-1980s, Merrick sold his entire portfolio of warehouses and found himself flush with cash.

He bought Latter & Blum in 1986, a year that showed little promise for real estate. Oil prices at the time hovered around $10 a barrel, a devastatingly low level for a region economically dependent on the energy business. Rising unemployment and business failures produced a flood of loan defaults, and as lenders swung their foreclosure axes, the real estate market led the economy toward a free fall.

  "Every day somebody in New Orleans went bankrupt, and every month a savings and loan went bankrupt," Merrick recalls.

  The conditions helped him snag Latter & Blum at a good price, but keeping the company on its feet in the face of a severe recession was a challenge. Merrick followed his mentors' advice that tough times often present buying opportunities. Latter & Blum went on an acquisition binge, and Merrick rapidly brought almost 40 real estate firms under the company's wing.

  As he expanded the bus-iness, he slashed overhead and focused on efficiency. His agents brokered and managed properties wherever they could, and Merrick pared down the company's debt by selling nearly all the real estate he still owned.

Robert Merrick in Gambit Cover Story

  Gradually the economy began to improve, and in 1990 Latter & Blum emerged from a sea of red ink.

  "It took four years and basically all my cash to turn this company around," Merrick says.

  Latter & Blum continued to grow, making a big leap in 1994 when it acquired Baton Rouge-based C.J. Brown Realtors, a well-known firm founded by the father of Heidel Brown. The merger became particularly valuable a decade later, when the post-Hurricane Katrina flood devastated New Orleans, destroyed a number of Latter & Blum offices and sent local agents scattering to new locales.

  "For a week or so, I didn't think I had a company left," Merrick says.

Through the ups and downs of several decades, Merrick maintained his commitments to charitable organizations. His latest contribution to the United Way, for instance, was "a byproduct of a longstanding relationship," according to Michael Williamson, president of United Way of Southeast Louisiana.

  Williamson says Merrick began supporting the organization when he first acquired Latter & Blum, serving as a United Way board member and chairman, chairing an annual fundraising campaign, sponsoring various events and consistently making corporate contributions.

Over the past several decades, Merrick has built the largest real estate business in the Gulf South and one of the largest in the country [and became] one of the foremost benefactors of nonprofit organizations in the region.

  Last year, as Williamson began laying the ground-work to host a meeting in New Orleans of million-dollar donors for United Way worldwide, he realized the local organization did not yet have a million-dollar contributor to attend the meeting. Williamson gathered with a few board members, and they made the decision to approach Merrick.

  "Bob has always been very generous, but we just had never made that kind of 'ask' of him," Williamson says. When they made the request, he says, Merrick didn't hesitate to write the check.

  Over the years, Merrick's philanthropy has reached many other organizations as well. The American Red Cross honored him as its Humanitarian of the Year in 2005, and in 2012 named him to its Chairman's Council, which recognizes donors whose cumulative giving to the organization exceeds $1 million.

  In December 2014, the University of New Orleans (UNO) awarded Merrick an honorary doctorate. Merrick has chaired the UNO business school advisory board as well as the university's board of trustees. He endowed a chair in real estate; helped create the Max Derbes III Professorship in real estate; made substantial donations to the university's economic research division; and recently gave $100,000 to support scholarships and graduate programs in coastal sciences and engineering.

  "Bob Merrick is a true real estate visionary and one of our region's great humanitarians," UNO President Peter Fos said in announcing Merrick's honor.

As his company has prospered, Merrick's extended family has grown. The father of four daughters, he also is a grandfather, and family members often visit homes he has built in Poplarville, Mississippi, and in a national park south of Cancun, Mexico.

  Meanwhile, Latter & Blum continues to expand its territory and now operates 35 offices in Louisiana and Mississippi. Merrick expects to complete several more corporate acquisitions in the next few months and says the company's 2014 real estate transaction values will set a new high. In late December, he predicted Latter & Blum would end the year with $3 billion in sales.


12/26/2014
CBS NEWS

Louisiana: The new Hollywood

From LA to L.A. CBS NewsCalifornia isn't the epicenter of movie making anymore.

The business has left the Gold Coast and gone south, to Louisiana.

While Hollywood is traditionally thought of as the global film capital, there's one big reason most of the lights, cameras and action have moved thousands of miles away, reports CBS News correspondent Anna Werner.

"Dallas Buyers Club, "12 Years a Slave," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" -- all of these award winning blockbusters were not filmed in California -- they were made in Louisiana.

In fact, the Bayou State is now the film production capital of the world, with 18 feature films released into theaters last year, three more than runners-up Canada and California.

Jesse Berger is a producer of the upcoming thriller "Abattoir," one of the many productions currently filming in New Orleans.

"It's very difficult to justify shooting in California when you have these type of incentives," he said.

Berger isn't talking about Louisiana's Cajun cuisine or lively nightlife -- he's talking about money.

In 2002, Louisiana began offering a unique tax credit -- 30 percent for productions shot in the state. Movie producers can get even more money back by hiring local crews.

"Coming here, the tax credit is a big draw for sure, because you get to actually put funds back into the production," Berger said.

And other states are taking notice. Some 39 now offer film-related tax incentives, and it seems Hollywood is feeling the pressure. Next year, California hopes to bring back the lost business with newly expanded tax credits of up to 25 percent.

But for now, Louisiana remains ahead of the pack.

"G.I. Jo: Retaliation" was filmed in the Big Easy in 2011 and received $30 million in tax credits.

Herbert Gains was an executive producer on "G.I. Joe" and the superhero flick "Green Lantern," one of the first big-budget movies to be made in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

"When it came time to do 'Green Lantern,' I thought of Louisiana," Gains said. "I was familiar with their program and I knew it could work financially, but I wasn't sure if it could work creatively."

It worked. Following "Green Lantern", box office hits like "21 Jump Street", "Pitch Perfect" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" were all filmed in Louisiana.

"There's benefits that you can't even put on paper," Gains said. "People come down here for six to nine months on a movie and it has increased the economy."

And with potential blockbusters already in the works for 2015, it seems big movies in the Big Easy are here to stay.


12/30/2014
New Orleans Official Guide

Holiday Happenings

New Year's Eve in New Orleans

Event Details
When: December 31, 2014
Where: Jackson Square
Cost: FREE!

Multimedia
Watch a fun video about the New Orleans New Year's Eve celebration

High above the Mississippi River the sky will be exploding in a panoply of colors and shapes as a New Year begins!

A spectacular, 15-minute fireworks display launched skyward from twin barges anchored in mid-river will herald the midway point of the 21st century’s second decade. This colorful, sonic-booming, pyrotechnic extravaganza is consistently ranked as one of the best in the nation, and it can be yours to enjoy if you’re lucky enough to be in New Orleans on New Year’s Eve.

No place on earth can offer a more fun-filled experience on the first night of the new calendar year. Some of the best things you’ll enjoy that night are free, including a fleur-de-lis drop from the rooftop of Jax Brewery and fireworks over the nearby river that you can see (and hear!) with unobstructed views.

New Years Eve in New OrleansIt’s a night you will always remember, and the fun doesn’t stop there either.

Just a short few blocks away is the French Quarter, the epicenter of which is Bourbon Street, widely reputed to be the liveliest half-mile on the planet. Bars and music clubs will rock and swing all night long, into the wee hours of the morning, inviting you to come in and celebrate the New Year and the joys of being alive.

Frenchmen Street is also just a few blocks away, with a concentration of music clubs rivaling those of the French Quarter. Whatever suits your musical tastes and dancing impulses, you’ll find it there.

If the weather is warm, which it often is at this time of year, you can party outdoors in the street and take your drinks out there with you. Make the most of this great opportunity! There aren’t many other places in the country where you can do THAT.

Live music, exotic drink specialties, great food, happy people celebrating in the streets and much more can be found in New Orleans on New Year’s Eve.

Dining and Entertainment

If outdoor celebrations and big crowds are not for you, there are plenty of classy places around the city to relax and enjoy the festive occasion. You can make a reservation at one of the city’s many fine restaurants and celebrate the evening over a delectable meal. Don’t forget to order a glass of champagne for a traditional New Year’s toast with your loved one(s). Many restaurants offer special deals or packages for the evening, so make sure you check ahead to ensure the perfect night for you and your party.

You can also check out local listings to find out which other bands are playing that night in other venues. New Year’s concerts in music clubs feel more like parties. Many places offer hors d’oeuvres and open bars for a flat cover fee. Most bars and restaurants, regardless of size, have something special going on that night.

Two large-scale events that have already begun taking reservations will be at the Hyatt Regency and Westin Canal Place Hotels, both of which are on Canal Street in close proximity to the action. “Big Night New Orleans 2014-2015” at the Hyatt offers, for one all-inclusive price, open bars, food buffets, 10 live bands, dancing, party favors and more. The party runs from 9:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.

The Westin Canal Place, with spectacular views of the river and the fireworks, offers an evening of New Year’s fun featuring a menu of prime rib and Cajun fried turkey, pasta, Louisiana fresh seafood, fresh shucked and Oysters Rockefeller, sausage gumbo and hot hors d'oeurves, with Bananas Foster flambé for dessert. Champagne and party favors are also included in the single price. The action goes from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

When planning your trip, make sure you call ahead of time to make any reservations, since many of these private parties sell out before the big night. Most major credit cards are accepted and reservations can often be made and confirmed online.

Riverboat Fireworks Cruises

Two paddlewheel riverboats operating from the docks of New Orleans are offering cruises on the Mississippi River before, during, and shortly after the New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations. You can choose between the Natchez or the Creole Queen and either way you can’t go wrong. Both offer a fantastic waterborne experience you’ll always remember.

The Creole Queen will be taking on passengers between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. and setting sail an hour before midnight. In addition to being as close to the fireworks as possible, you will also be treated to a late night buffet, open bar, champagne toast and the music of a live deejay. The boat returns to the dock at 1:00 a.m., leaving you plenty of time to still get out and enjoy the festivities of the French Quarter nearby. Reserve online or by calling (504) 529-4567.

Passengers who book reservations on the Natchez will be boarding between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. on Dec. 31, with the boat setting sail at 10:00. The cruise will feature a delicious holiday buffet, a premium brand open bar and live entertainment. The boat will dock shortly after the fireworks display ends and the party continues dockside, at the Toulouse Street Wharf, until 12:30 a.m.

Reservations are required and holiday attire recommended. Call toll free (800) 365-2628. The local number is (504) 586-8777.

For the Kids (and their parents)

New Years in New Orleans If you’re looking for a celebration the whole family can enjoy, there are fun options for all of you. The Louisiana Children’s Museum hosts an annual Countdown to Noon – a festive celebration featuring games, entertainment, and a New Year’s countdown to 12:00 noon, complete with balloon and confetti drops and a soda-pop toast. Festive hats and noisemakers are also included to make the afternoon an extra-special affair.

Similarly, the Audubon Zoo hosts a “Noon Year’s Eve” celebration, so your little party animal can ring in the New Year in one of the country’s top-rated zoos. This event features live music, games and prizes, and a countdown with sparkling apple cider.

Whatever your preference is, New Orleans has all the bases covered for New Year’s Eve: everything you could possibly imagine for everyone. It’s a time you will never forget! Once you’ve experienced New Year’s Eve in New Orleans, you won’t want to celebrate it anywhere else. That’s a promise!

For more detailed information as the date gets closer check out the following website: www.crescentcitycountdown.com

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you plan on spending New Year’s Eve in New Orleans you need to make your reservations as soon as possible. The Allstate Sugar Bowl is being played on Thursday, January 1 and hotel rooms will start filling up several days before that.


12/24/2014

The Later & Blum Family of Companies 2014 Holiday Video


GNO, Inc. Newsflash
12/14/2014

NOLA #1 Food City in the USA


Thrillist, a leading food, drink and travel website, has named metro New Orleans the "#1 Food City in America."

New Orleans, #1 Food City in AmericaThrillist considered "restaurants, signature contributions & traditions vis-a-vis national cuisine, and the strength of their dining cultures” in making their ranking.  About GNO was said:  "New Orleans is a city drenched in its cuisine…Its seasons are centered, not around the calendar, but around food…you could eat all day, all week in New Orleans and never get a bad meal or fully grasp the cuisine melting pot that fills the city.”

The Top 10 Food Cities are:

  1. New Orleans
  2. New York City
  3. Chicago
  4. San Francisco
  5. Portland
  6. Austin
  7. Seattle
  8. Houston
  9. Philadelphia
  10. Los Angeles 

You can read the full article here.



December 4, 2014

Louisiana Business Climate Ranked #2 in the USA

Site Selection magazine ranked Louisiana #2 in its annual state business climate survey, Louisiana’s highest ranking ever. Since 2008, Louisiana has secured over 83,000 new jobs and now ranks higher in every national survey than ever before, according a GNO, Inc. bulletin issued last month. Louisiana jumped from sixth to second place this year, ahead of North Carolina and Texas - two states that have battled for first place for much of the past decade. Nine out of the top ten ranking were in the Southeast United States. Only five years ago, Louisiana ranked #25.

The top five states in 2014:

  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • North Carolina
  • Texas
  • Ohio

“This is great news for our industry and state. We’ve made great progress in moving economic development forward,” stated Rick Haase. “As the leading Real Estate firm in Louisiana, and through our involvement in economic development activities, our Agents are extremely well positioned to benefit from this growth,” he explained.

Latter & Blum Inc. partners with local and regional economic development organizations such as Greater New Orleans, Inc. with the goal of improving the welfare and livelihoods of people in our community. We believe that when we build a better place to work, we also build a better place to live.

Building Stronger Communities in the Markets We Serve, Every Day



November 14, 2014

Latter & Blum, Inc./REALTORS Joins 4,000 Race Participants
to Benefit Children’s Hospital’s Cancer Program


Jazz Half Marathon & 5K Race Raises over $350,000 for Pediatric Cancer Patients

Jazz Half Marathon

L to R:
April Gonzalez, Rick Haase, Gary Marshall, Patty Willhite, Irene Hernandez, Drew Dodenhoff and Leigh Ann Bogran

Latter & Blum, Inc./REALTORS was a proud sponsor of the 6th Annual Jazz Half Marathon and 5K Cancer Walk, benefiting the Cancer Program at Children’s Hospital on Saturday, November 1. One of the largest races in Greater New Orleans, the event was a great success with over 4,000 race participants and live news coverage from Lafayette Square.

Latter & Blum was the official Post-Race Party Sponsor, which included live musical performances by artists such as Kermit Ruffins, James Andrews & the Crescent City Allstars, and Big Fun Brass Band. Dozens of sponsors were on site distributing food, beverages, and giveaways to the thousands of participants at this year’s event. To learn more, visit www.jazzhalf.com

Thank you to our Agents and volunteers who participated in the fundraiser to benefit pediatric cancer patients and embracing our guiding principle of “building stronger communities in the markets we serve.”

Building Stronger Communities in the Markets We Serve

Our corporate philanthropy in each of the markets we serve is just one of the many reasons why the Latter & Blum Family of Companies is one of the most admired and widely recognized Real Estate firms. Our legacy is built no only on our investment in our business and those who work with us, but also on our investment in the communities that have supported us for nearly 100 years.

It’s our way of doing business, it’s our guiding principle, it’s the Latter & Blum Family of Companies difference…
investing in WHAT REALLY MATTERS.


November 24, 2014

 by April Siese
nola,curbed,com

New Orleans is the Seventh Most Inspiring City In The World


photo via Flickr

GOOD Magazine has released their second annual City Index and New Orleans is ranked seventh in their list of inspiring cities from around the world. Just what does an inspiring city such as ourselves look like? Why, one of possibilities — New Orleans is seeing an increase of entrepreneurs, a decrease of blight, and a focus on its future in the form of the Greater New Orleans Water Collaborative. Only slightly touched upon is the creative inspiration that the city has on its residents and visitors. Sure, festivals are nice for the weekend, but there are plenty of long-standing creative endeavors that don't simply happen once a year or are simply brought in by outsiders. Read the full report of why New Orleans is inspiring right here.


November 18, 2014

Latter & Blum Companies Receives Prestigious Service Award

Latter & Blum Companies Receives Prestiigious Service AwardLatter & Blum, Inc. was recently awarded the prestigious Supplier Excellence Award from Lexicon Global Relocation last month at the Worldwide Employee Relocation Council’s Global Symposium in Chicago.

The Supplier Excellence Award recognizes the achievement of the supplier who achieves the highest customer satisfaction rating from Lexicon’s client surveys. Our company competed against hundreds of other companies from around the world for the honor.

“It is a huge accomplishment to receive this award and I would like to thank our phenomenal Agents, engaged Managers, and our wonderfully supportive Corporate Services Department staff who made this happen,” stated Director of Corporate Services, Maggie Kiesow.

In 2013, relocation business accounted for nearly $270 million in sales and 1170 transactions for our Agents. We are thrilled to have received this important award and excited about the international exposure it brings to our company and Agents.


November 5, 2014

REALTORS Conference & Expo, New Orleans

November 7-10, 2014

REALTORS Conference & Expo, New OrleansThe annual REALTORS Conference & Expo is being held in New Orleans this year and offers seminars and educational opportunities to learn about information critical to our industry. Learn about emerging tools and techniques available to improve services for your clients and to improve your productivity.

The Expo is the largest trade show floor in real estate, where 400 exhibitors will be on-hand with innovations and ideas.

Some of the real estate solutions showcased at the Expo include:
  • Tech tools
  • Real estate software
  • Internet advertising
  • Mobile devices and applications
  • Mortgage and financial services
  • Home protection and warranties
  • Professional development and training
  • Franchises and referral services
  • Office products
  • “Green” innovations
  • Real estate properties and developer referral programs

Most of the Conference & Expo activities will take place at the Morial Convention Center.

Download the official event mobile app, NAR Annual, to access sessions, meeting schedules, exhibitors and more.

  • For iOS devices and Android phones: Visit the App Store or Google Play, and search for “NAR Annual”
  • For all other phone types: While on your smartphone, point your mobile browser to m.core-apps.com/narannual .
    You will be redirected to the proper download for your device.


Welcome to our REALTOR visitors!

We hope you have a wonderful time while at the conference and that you enjoy the New Orleans experience. Check out exciting Things to See and Do while you are here in New Orleans.


October 30, 2014

Latter to Success

Designed Exclusively for Our Agents

We've made the investment in the educational development of our Agents with sales success training courses like Latter to Success. Our latest Agent training offering is designed exclusively for our Company from the teachings of international sales experts, and taught by expert trainers.

After 42 days, our Agents walk away with the skills and confidence to:

  • Generate at least two leads per week
  • Convert those leads into "gettable" appointments
  • Refine and perfect their Listings Presentation skills
  • Maintain a full pipeline of business for financial stability

Best of ALL…our Agents benefit from this for a fraction of the cost elsewhere. We do MORE for our Agents so they can do more for their clients.

If you have ANY questions, or to hear more about how you can get started on this program, please contact Leigh Ann Bogran at 504-569-9309.


October 27, 2014
By Jed Lipinski, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune 

Bob Merrick of Latter & Blum to receive honorary doctorate from UNO 

Robert Merrick, chairman and chief executive of Latter & Blum, Inc. will receive an honorary doctorate from UNO. (Photo by Ted Jackson, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Bob Merrick, chairman and CEO of Latter & Blum real estate company, will receive an honorary degree from the University of New Orleans at its fall commencement on Dec. 18 at the Lakefront Arena.  

Merrick, a noted philanthropist, has been a longtime donor to the university. He gave $100,000 to UNO in September, half of which went to the school's newly created graduate certificate programs in coastal science and engineering, and half of which went to scholarships.

UNO president Peter J. Fos said Merrick is "a true real estate visionary and one of our region's great humanitarians."


SEPTEMBER 2014
BY MELISSA DITTMANN TRACEY
REALTOR®Mag

The Safety Talk You Need to Have With Clients

Keep all parties safe in a transaction by offering buyers and sellers these important tips.

Have you had the safety talk with your clients yet? It’s not only for their safety but for yours too.

It’s a conversation far too many real estate professionals omit from their discussions with home sellers and buyers. September is REALTOR® Safety Month, and most real estate safety information mostly centers on how to keep you safe when meeting new clients during showings or at open houses. But safety from your clients’ perspective presents an entirely new set of issues.

“When you go to listing appointments, do a security survey with your clients,” suggests safety specialist Tracey Hawkins, founder of Safety and Security Source and a former real estate professional. “Discuss with them how to make their home burglarproof when it’s on the market and how to keep their belongings safe. No other real estate agent is talking about that. This can be a way to distinguish yourself in a listing presentation. They may have already met with four or five other agents, but when you provide them with something different — a handout for a seller safety plan — you help set yourself apart.”

Learn More Safety Tips

Glean more tips to share with your clients to protect them against a crime. In conjunction with REALTOR® Safety Month, the National Association of REALTORS® will be hosting a free webinar at 1 p.m. CDT on Sept. 9, featuring Sgt. Preston Taylor on “Safety Tips to Share With Sellers.” Register for the webinar at . Also, view more safety tips on keeping you and your clients safe at REALTOR.org.

Hawkins provides a checklist for agents to use as they walk through homes with sellers, looking for items to tuck away during showings like those prescription medications and gaming systems and checking the adequacy of the home’s lighting and door locks. She also says safety is an important conversation to have with home buyers prior to viewing homes for sale, particularly vacant homes like distressed properties where squatters could be present or maintenance issues REALTOR.orgmay pose added dangers.

Safety Tips for Sellers: 6 Talking Points to Cover

Safety experts offer the following tips on the safety topics you should discuss with home sellers.

1. Prescription drugs: Remove or lock them up prior to showings.

A growing number of real estate professionals are reporting theft of prescription drugs from sellers’ homes during open houses. Indeed, nearly half of 164 real estate professionals recently surveyed at the Greater San Diego Association of REALTORS® Expo reported knowledge of prescription drug theft taking place at open houses. As such, SDAR has led a charge in raising awareness among the REALTOR® community about the dangers of leaving prescription drugs out or in unlocked cabinets during showings.

Earlier this year, SDAR teamed up with the law enforcement and medical communities to create theSafe Homes Coalition. The team created a public service announcement, airing on local television and radio stations, and has also been raising awareness by distributing more than 8,000 plastic prescription drug collection bags since March. Real estate professionals are being encouraged to have their home sellers use the bags to remove prescription drugs from the homes prior to showings or to properly dispose of expired prescription drugs (the bags include a list of drop-off centers for safely disposing of expired medications).

“Similar to asking our clients to remove clutter and valuables when holding open houses, this is another key item to protect that we want our REALTORS® to advise their clients on,” says Leslie Kilpatrick, president of SDAR. “It’s a safety issue for clients and real estate professionals. We don’t want to be confronting someone taking this in a home. We also want our sellers to be protected and to keep their medications safe.”

2. Stow away valuables: Remind clients that you can’t be responsible for thefts.

Valuables include everything from the mail left on the countertops (which may contain personal information and bank statements) to such items as jewelry, artwork, cellphones, and gaming systems.

Agents need to do their part, too. In capturing virtual tours or photographs of the home for marketing purposes, make sure such valuables are not photographed, like a seller’s priceless coin collection, wine cellar, or equipment in a fully outfitted media room.

“Too many people fail to consider that criminals nowadays can case houses from the comfort of their computer,” says Hawkins, who offers safety training for real estate professionals through herConsumer Safety and Security Specialist program. “They can see all the person’s valuables when you put them in fliers and on a website. If the valuables are not being sold with the house, why do they need to be shown anyway?”

Also, Hawkins urges agents to tell their clients at the forefront of their relationship: “I can’t protect your valuables.” Remind them that as a seller’s agent you won’t often be present at home showings, and if you are, you likely won’t be following prospective buyers all around the house, particularly if you’re hosting an open house.

“Before sellers leave the house for a showing, they need to be responsible for walking through the house and making sure everything of value is out of sight,” Hawkins says. “Then, if that antique ring or camera ever goes missing, you won’t get that angry phone call from your client. You already warned them. But if you didn’t say anything to them, they may assume you’re responsible.”

3. Remove family photos: It’s for your clients’ safety.

Many real estate professionals advise sellers to remove family photos from their home. But the conversations are often framed around staging and making it so prospective buyers can imagine themselves living there. Instead, Hawkins says, focus on the safety of their family.

“Clients may be reluctant to remove their family photos just because you say it will help new owners envision it becoming their house,” Hawkins says. “I tell agents to tell sellers: You don’t know who’s walking through the house. You have photos of your wife, teenage daughter, children displayed, and you could have a pedophile or stalker walking through your home. Who would leave their family photos up after you say that?”

4. Make a house safe for the buyers and the agent.

Turn on the lights prior to showings — whether it’s daytime or evening — so that agents and buyers can move safely through the home and not have to face any dark unknowns. (During the initial safety check of a listing, practitioners should ensure all rooms have adequate lighting as well.)

Also, sellers should make sure there are no potential hazards in their home, like loose floorboards or carpets. They don’t want to risk someone tripping and falling in their home and potentially open themselves up to liability.

Hawkins says it’s important to tell sellers to remove not only weapons like guns before showings but also not-so-obvious weapons too. For example, many home owners may have a block of knives on their kitchen countertops; remove these for the agent’s safety as well, Hawkins says.

5.Keep the house locked: Consider extra monitoring.

Another safety reminder for your clients: Doors need to be kept locked at all times. A home is being presented to the public, and it may attract intruders.

Hawkins tells real estate professionals to talk to their home sellers about deadbolt locks and explain to them why they’re safer. Also, sliding glass doors can be secured with bars and extra locks. Motion-sensor lights can be a good option for outdoor areas for added security. Windows should be checked to make sure they are locked securely.

Some real estate professionals are taking an extra step with some of their properties, particularly vacant ones, and talking to sellers about installing a wireless security system. A company called Presence allows you to turn your old smartphone device into a home security system, for free. By uploading the video-monitoring app, you can use your old smartphone to feed videos remotely to your current phone to keep an eye on the listing. You can also use a motion-detection sensitivity feature to alert you to any detected movements in front of the camera and send a video clip to you via e-mail.

6. Beware of unexpected visitors coming to your doorstep.

You may need to warn your clients that when their house is for sale, they may also get some unexpected visitors who ask to see their home.

“I’ve heard agents talk about clients who have had homes on the market, and a couple may knock on the door and just hand them a business card and ask to see the house, and the seller lets them in,” Hawkins says.

Instruct your clients of the proper procedures for showings: Only real estate professionals using the lockbox should gain access to their home.

What’s more, a growing rental fraud scam is causing more home sellers to report renters who are showing up at their doorsteps, too, ready to move in. Real estate professionals say their for-sale listings are getting scraped from websites by scammers who then place them as a rental listing on sites like Craigslist.

Besides their efforts with the Safe Homes Coalition, SDAR also has recently launched a fraud awareness campaign aimed at countering such real estate rental fraud. San Diego had the sixth highest level of rental fraud in the country for 2012, according to SDAR. The association has distributed red and black stickers to its members, which can be placed in the windows of vacant for-sale homes announcing that the home is “Not for Rent.”

“The stickers will make it clear to anybody viewing the outside of the home that it is a for-sale home only,” Kilpatrick says. “The stickers include a phone number for the listing agent and the district attorney’s office, and also a link to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.”

For Your Buyers: 3 Safety Lessons for Home Shoppers

Safety needs to be an added component in your discussions with buyers, too.

1. Educate yourself on the safety of an area.

You may quietly have some concerns over the safety of a neighborhood, and your buyers might express concerns of their own. As a real estate professional, you can’t be viewed as steering them to avoid certain communities. But you can tell them the importance of educating themselves about neighborhoods. For example, you might advise them to drive by the property at different times of the day to get a better sense of the neighborhood for themselves and to talk to neighbors.

Some real estate professionals provide a list of third-party resources for their buyers to check on crime statistics in an area, such as Family Watchdog to locate registered sex offenders in an area; CrimeMapping.com’s mobile app to uncover crime activity near your current location; and sites like DiedInHouse.com that reveal if any deaths occurred at the property in the past.

2.Take extra precautions in distressed, vacant homes.

As real estate practitioner, you’ve been told to take extra precautions in viewing distressed properties, but you may need to warn your buyers too.

First, when showing an REO, make sure it’s safe to go in, Hawkins says. Do a perimeter search around the property before entering. Do you see broken windows, a kicked-in door, or any signs of someone living there through the windows (such as a sleeping bag on the floor or food left out)? If you see such signs that a squatter may be present, don’t go inside.

Also, homes that have been vacant may have maintenance issues. Buyers and agents may need to watch their footing as they tour the house, navigating away from any loose floorboards, steering clear of a rotted deck, and avoiding loose railings. Loose gutters or lighting fixtures may pose added dangers.

Abandoned animals might be inside too. In an REO, pets can sometimes be left by the previous owner, or wild animals may find a way in. Never approach an animal. It can become hostile. Contact your local humane society or shelter.

“These are not things you usually need to worry about in a home,” Hawkins says. “But in a distressed home that may have sat vacant, you need to be careful and prepare your clients to be more careful too.”

3. Prevent buyer regret — and illness.

Another growing concern reported with REOs: drug contamination, and how a home’s tainted history can get lost if it sits in foreclosure limbo. The number of meth- or clandestine drug-contaminated homes is growing, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. These drugs can seep into a home’s surfaces, and unsuspecting buyers who move in may face not only a range of respiratory illnesses or neurological problems but also a costly decontamination process of the home.

The risk from meth and clandestine contamination in homes is a rising concern that has prompted more real estate professionals to raise the issue to their clients. For example, homes where marijuana was produced may be more prone to mold damage. Rewired electrical work also can present fire dangers too.

No federal disclosure law exists for meth or marijuana grow houses, and the disclosure regulations vary greatly by state. Oftentimes, standard home inspections won’t turn up drug contamination problems either, but requires extra testing by specialists.

Some real estate professionals have been trained to look for the signs, like the strong smell of urine or chemical smells like ammonia or acetone; trash filled with products like paint thinner, lighter fluid, drain cleaners, and cold tablet containers; and chemical stains on the toilets and bathtubs. Or, buyers and agents sometimes may feel some of the signs when they step inside the property, such as a burning sensation in the eyes or throat.

Buyers can be encouraged to check the Drug Enforcement Agency’s National Clandestine Laboratory Register, a searchable database of addresses that have been uncovered by law enforcement agencies to have clandestine chemicals or drug labs. Some counties and states also have databases to track such homes. They can also purchase meth-testing kits or have a professional test for contamination.

Remember, It’s For Your Safety Too

Having a safety talk with your clients is an important element in REALTOR® safety too. If sellers keep valuables out and prescription medications out in the open during showings, you may find yourself in that potentially dangerous situation of having a criminal in your midst and being unsure what to do.

In those cases, do nothing, Hawkins says. “The person is a criminal and they could attack or assault you if you confront them,” Hawkins says. “That puts you in a bad situation.” Let law enforcement later handle it.

Educating buyers and sellers about safety issues helps avoid trouble and, in the end, keeps everyone safer in a transaction.


SEPTEMBER 2010
BY MELISSA DITTMANN TRACEY
REALTOR®Mag

Real Estate's 6 Most Dangerous Everyday Situations

If you work in real estate, you undoubtedly do the following tasks all of the time, but did you know that you could be putting yourself in danger? Here's how you can stay on guard and protect yourself.

As a real estate professional, you put yourself at risk every day — you just might not realize it.

Meeting new clients, showing properties, holding open houses, letting strangers get into your car, and even your marketing may be jeopardizing your personal safety.

Such everyday tasks seem harmless, but as some real estate professionals have learned the hard way, these situations can expose you to danger.

Real estate is considered by security experts as a high-risk profession, says Robert Siciliano, CEO of RealtySecurity.com in Boston, and author of The Safety Minute: Living on High Alert (Safety Zone Press, 2003).

“The root of the issue is that you have real estate agents with no formal security training who are then meeting with complete strangers at odd times of the day and in vacant homes,” Siciliano says. “Real estate professionals put themselves at risk at so many points. The industry opens itself up to predators.”

Below are tasks common to practically every real estate professional. Learn the risks associated with each and what precautions you can take to stay safe.

1. Entering foreclosed or vacant homes

The Risk:Foreclosures may attract unexpected house guests — such as squatters — or former home owners refusing to leave. The homes also may be damaged and poorly lit or attract wildlife since it’s abandoned, leading to more potential safety hazards.

Safety Tips:

  • Inspect the exterior. Walk around the perimeter before you enter the house and make sure the door hasn’t been kicked in and no windows are shattered, suggests Tracey Hawkins, owner o fSafety and Security Source in Kansas City, Mo. Call police if you suspect someone is in the property. (Read: Be on the Lookout for Clues)
  • Don’t confront a squatter. If a squatter is in the home, leave immediately, Siciliano says. Call law enforcement once you've left and allow police to deal with any trespassers.
  • Use the buddy system. Ask a coworker, spouse, friend, or family member to come with you when you show the home.
  • Let others know where you are. Before you leave, tell your coworkers, family, or friends where you are, whom you are with, and when you expect to return.
  • Visit during the day. Visiting homes at night makes it more dangerous, Siciliano says. Try to make appointments during daylight hours only.

2. Meeting with a new client for the first time

The Risk:Meeting with people you don't know can put your safety at risk. You don’t know whether this person could potentially be a criminal, stalker, thief, or worse.

Safety Tips:

  • Meet at the office first. Get them on your territory before you visit any property with them so you can learn more about them and collect personal information about them for your files.
  • Ask for identification. The public is used to having their identification checked, so don’t be reluctant to ask because you’re scared you’ll offend someone, Siciliano says. Tell clients it’s company policy that all clients' driver’s licenses are photocopied. “This will significantly reduce your risk because the bad guys don’t want to give you their I.D. or get their picture taken,” Siciliano says.
  • Have all clients fill out a customer identification form. You can find an example of this at REALTOR.org. Click on “Prospect Identification Form” under the Office Safety Forms heading. The form asks for car make and license number, contact information, and employer information, and also requests a photocopy of the driver’s license.
  • Introduce them to a coworker. When you meet them at the office, introduce them to at least one other person in your office. Criminals won’t like that others have seen them for identification purposes, according to tip sheets provided by the Washington Real Estate Safety Council.

3. Showing a property alone

The Risk:You’re touring vacant properties with strangers.

Safety Tips:

  • Use the buddy system. “There’s always strength in numbers,” Siciliano says. Whether you bring a coworker, spouse, or even your German shepherd, avoid going alone.
  • Don’t go into confined places. Avoid basements and attics — it’s too easy to become trapped. Instead, know the selling points of these rooms and remain in the foyer on the first floor with the front door open as the buyer tours these areas, Siciliano suggests. If you must join them in each room, always stay by the door, leaving doors open so you can flee more easily if necessary, the Washington Real Estate Safety Council suggests.
  • Walk behind. Let potential buyers take the lead when exploring a home, with you always following behind.
  • Let others know where you are. Tell them where you are going, when you will be back, and who you’re with. Better yet: Share this information while the client is with you so they know someone else knows where you are.
  • Have an excuse. If you feel uncomfortable, tell the person your “cell phone or beeper went off and I have to call the office” or “another agent with buyers is on his way,” suggests the Washington Real Estate Safety Council in their tip sheets. (Read what one real estate professional said to get out of an uncomfortable situation she experienced at a client’s home.)

4. Open houses

The Risk:You’re inviting the public to a property, which is an invitation to anyone, from thieves to those who might want to harm you.

Safety Tips:

  • Promote security in your advertisements. When you advertise the open house, note that identification will be required at the front door and video surveillance will be in use. “The bad guys will be less likely to show up,” Siciliano says.
  • Partner up. When would-be assailants see two people at the front door, they’ll be less likely to go in. (Read one agent’s story how the buddy system protected her).
  • Introduce yourself to neighbors. Let them know you’ll be showing the house so others know that you are there.
  • Watch for patterns. At an open house, note any patterns in arrivals, particularly near the end of the open house. One common scam: Thieves come near the end of the open house, working as a team. They have “buyers” distract the agent as others steal valuables in the home. (Read what happened to one sales associate.)
  • Stow away your valuables. Never leave your purse, laptop, or wallet unattended on the counter in plain view. Keep them in the trunk of your car. However, always keep your cell phone on you so you can call for help if you need to. Also, before the open house, tell your clients to put away all of their valuables, prescription drugs, and mail.

5. Flashy personal marketing

The Risk: Marketing materials that contain photos of yourself may attract the attention of criminals. Police have found criminals circling real estate professionals’ photos in newspapers and marketing materials (Read one agent’s account of this.)

Safety Tips:

  • Avoid provocative photos in your marketing. Low-cut blouses, full-body photos, and looking over your shoulder in a sexy pose can send the wrong message to criminals. “Why do you have to have photos anyway? What are you selling?” asks Hawkins, who advises against ever using a photo for business reasons; she uses a caricature. “You make a living meeting complete strangers in empty houses. They see your photo and if you’re exactly what they’re looking for — whether that be an older or younger agent, blonde hair, blue eyes, whatever — they know all it takes is one phone call to meet you in a house. A picture can be dangerous.”
  • Watch what you wear. Only wear shoes that you can run in. Avoid short skirts, low-cut tops, and expensive jewelry. “Predators don’t have the same boundaries as you do. They look at you like that and say ‘She’s asking for it,’” Siciliano says.
  • Protect your personal information. Use your cell phone number and office address in your marketing so it can’t be tracked back to your home address. Never use your home address or home phone number. Also, don’t reveal to your client personal information about your children, where you live, and who you live with — you can still build a relationship with clients without revealing all of your personal information, recommends the Washington Real Estate Safety Council.

6. Transporting strangers in your car

The Risk: You’re showing houses to potential buyers and chauffeuring them in your car from house to house. Most people don’t pick up hitchhikers, yet real estate professionals put strangers in their car all of the time and don’t think anything of it, Siciliano says. There’s a risk of being robbed, your car being stolen, and you victimized and thrown to the side of the road.

Safety Tips

  • Drive separately. Have the client follow you from listing to listing. If you absolutely have to take one car, then you should drive.
  • Watch where you park. Make sure your car won’t be blocked in and that you park in a place where you’ll be able to get out quickly. Park on the street or the curb, if possible, suggests the Washington Real Estate Safety Council. You’ll attract more attention if you run and scream when fleeing, and it’ll be easier to escape than having to back out of a driveway, experts say.

“Security is all about layers of protection. Open house signage, notation in ads, using the buddy system — everything that you do is an extra layer of security,” Siciliano says. “The more you do, the more secure you’ll be. Do nothing and the more vulnerable you’ll be.”


September 4, 2014
houmatoday.com

Forbes ranks Houma-Thibodaux No. 8 among fastest growing small cities


The Courier and Daily Comet
Published: Thursday, September 4, 2014 at 9:23 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 4, 2014 at 9:23 a.m.

Forbes lists Houma-Thibodaux as No. 8 among America's fastest-growing small cities in a list posted Wednesday to the business publication's website.

"The oil and gas industry doesn't need bright lights, but sometimes its presence can create some," says the accompanying story by contributor Joel Kotkin. "Of our top 10 fastest-growing small cities, five are energy-driven boom towns."

The story mentions that Houma-Thibodaux posted the lowest unemployment in the nation, 2.8 percent, in February.

It did get one thing wrong, though, when it spelled the metro area's name this way: Houma-Thibadaoux.

Click here to read the story at Forbes: http://onforb.es/1xfx8XM


August 29, 2014
Greater New Orleans, Inc

GNO VIEWS

Katrina Anniversary: Reaching New Heights, Staying Grounded

Michael Hecht, President & CEO Greater New Orleans, Inc.Nine years ago the levees failed and Greater New Orleans was inundated. Yet from the depths of Katrina – more than a storm, a human catastrophe – Greater New Orleans has not only come back, but has, by many measures, come back better than ever. 

As we recognize the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it is appropriate that we pause and reflect on how far we have come.

We are #1 for: population growth; school reform; “brain-gain”; in-migration of workers; tech growth; export growth; airport growth; business climate; and, economic development wins over the past decade. Travel + Leisure named us “America’s Favorite City” and a “Top 10 Global Destination.” 

What makes these rankings so impressive is not only that they come so soon following Katrina, when mere survival was in question, but that they would have been unimaginable before the storm. We have not only recovered – in many cases, we have transcended. 

This does not exculpate Katrina. But it does mean that through smarts, spirit and extraordinary effort, we are honoring those who lost all or part of their lives by creating something better out of the loss, and now reaching new heights as a region. 

Even so, challenges remain. Our rapid business expansion is causing growing pains in workforce and infrastructure. Our quality-of-life improvements are real, but fragile. Not all of our citizens are yet fully participating in the recovery. And long term, stabilizing the coast is a binary imperative. 

So, upon the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, let’s be proud of our progress – and redouble our effort. Let’s be encouraged but not excused; let’s feel rewarded but not relaxed. To the contrary, let’s continue to aggressively press for improvements, and to honestly confront problems. In short, let’s never confuse encouraging “progress” with enduring “success.” 

As the memory of Katrina fades, the need for disciple grows. Each of us has a responsibility to lead in our own way, and to be part of the greater team. Nine years after Katrina, we can be happy, but not on cloud nine. There is hard work to be done, right here on the ground.


Michael Hecht
President and CEO
Greater New Orleans, Inc.


August 13, 2014

Lake Charles, Louisiana

Industry expansions now top $70B

BY FRANK DICESARE

Estimated capital expenses for the region’s proposed megaprojects have topped $70 billion, according to an updated report released Tuesday by the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance.

Southern California Telephone & Energy’s proposal for a $9 billion LNG plant on Monkey Island and Axiall’s $3 billion plan for an ethane cracker and monoethylene glycol facility in Westlake are two additions to the report. Both megaprojects had a significant impact on the report’s revised $70 billion figure, which is up from $65 billion, a number the American Press reported in April.

David Conner, the alliance’s vice president of economic development and international commerce, said SCT&E’s LNG project is listed at $2.4 billion, which was its initial cost estimate prior to the company’s decision last month to triple the size of the proposed facility.

Conner said new megaprojects and revised capital expenses are not added to the list until company executives verify the information in writing with the alliance. He said the alliance cannot list SCT&E’s project at its current $9 billion estimate until the company authorizes it to do so.

“That could happen any day now,” he said.    Magnolia LNG’s capital expense increase from $2.5 billion to $3.7 billion was also factored in the report’s most recent total, Conner said. He said several megaproject proposals, including Cheniere’s Sabine Pass LNG plant and Sasol’s ethane cracker and gas-to-liquids facilities, have seen increases in their estimated capital expenses over the past five years.

“The first announcement from Cheniere Energy was $6 billion for their LNG terminal,” Conner said. “Now it’s up to $20 billion. As they were doing their planning, they realized that the market demand was greater than they anticipated. So they went ahead and did expansions.”

Sasol’s combined megaprojects, Conner said, began at $8 billion and are now at $16 billion-$21 billion.

“Most of these projects are moving towards final investment decision,” Conner said. “We add projects on this list at different states. Some of them are under construction. Some of them have just announced their project through the media.”

The list also takes into account the estimated cost of many ancillary services that will be needed to support the region’s industry expansion projects. Hotels, casinos, temporary and residential housing projects and rail improvements are among the non-industry capital expenses listed in the report.

Conner said the region’s “massive boom” in project announcements is an anomaly and not a trend.

“This is so far above and beyond anything that’s going on in this country right now that you really can’t call it a trend,” he said. “It’s market conditions being right for these projects right now.”


August 8, 2014

Fatal tragedy after open house reminds Realtors of dangers

10 steps every real estate agent should take to protect themselves

Trey Garrison - HousingWire

Fatal tragedy reminds Realtors of danger.

Philadelphia police arrested and charged two men this week in connection with the July 25 carjacking of a Realtor.

Tragically, the criminal act ended with the death of three children, one adult and the injury of several others in the city’s Tioga section.

Jonathan Rosa,19, and Cornelius Crawford, 23, are being charged with three counts of murder in the second degree, conspiracy, robbery, robbery of a vehicle, kidnapping, sexual assault and other related offenses.

Police said the two men carjacked a 45-year-old real estate agent at gunpoint and forced her into the backseat. 

The two suspects allegedly alternated between getting behind the wheel and sexually assaulting the real estate agent, who was held in the backseat of her own SUV. 

The car subsequently crashed, hitting a pedestrian and her three children. The children died immediately and the mother died of injuries later.

This tragic incident serves as a reminder to all real estate agents and Realtors that they must take care and precautions to protect themselves, given the exposed nature of the business.

“The National Association of Realtors works hard to promote safety awareness  and protect its Realtor members, unfortunately like many other jobs that require interacting with the public, selling real estate involves some risk,” a NAR spokesperson told HousingWire on Friday. “NAR remains committed to its members’ personal safety by continuing to help educate Realtors about potential threats and provide them with resources to protect themselves and stay safe."

NAR reminds those working in housing that open houses can be a great sales tool—but hosting one also exposes you to numerous unfamiliar people for the first time.

They encourage real estate agents to take these 10 steps to stay safe.

  1. If possible, always try to have at least one other person working with you at the open house.
  2. Check your cell phone’s strength and signal prior to the open house. Have emergency numbers programmed on speed dial.
  3. Upon entering a house for the first time, check all rooms and determine several “escape” routes. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked to facilitate a faster escape.
  4. Make sure that if you were to escape by the back door, you could escape from the backyard. Frequently, high fences surround yards that contain swimming pools or hot tubs.
  5. Have all open house visitors sign in. Ask for full name, address, phone number and e-mail.
  6. When showing the house, always walk behind the prospect. Direct them; don’t lead them. Say, for example, “The kitchen is on your left,” and gesture for them to go ahead of you.
  7. Avoid attics, basements, and getting trapped in small rooms.
  8. Notify someone in your office, your answering service, a friend or a relative that you will be calling in every hour on the hour. And if you don’t call, they are to call you.
  9. Inform a neighbor that you will be showing the house and ask if he or she would keep an eye and ear open for anything out of the ordinary.
  10. Don’t assume that everyone has left the premises at the end of an open house. Check all of the rooms and the backyard prior to locking the doors. Be prepared to defend yourself, if necessary.

On a side note, HousingWire also encourages Realtors, agents and others in the industry to adopt these practices to help stay safe.


Aug. 08, 2014

New Orleans-area home prices continue gradual uptick

BY JAQUETTA WHITE, The Addvocate

New Orleans Uptown home for sale | The Advocate

Aaron Dare wasn’t quite 20 minutes into the first showing of a stately Esplanade Ridge home on Wednesday afternoon when he received his first offer on the property. He didn’t expect it to be the last.

“We’ve had a lot of calls on it. And a lot of agents have expressed interest,” Dare, the property’s listing agent, said as about a dozen people strolled through the home. “We’ll just give everybody a fair chance to bring their highest and best offer and let the chips fall where they may.”

Dare’s optimism is understandable, given the state of the New Orleans area’s housing market over the past 18 months. Even after prices soared to a record high level last year across the eight-parish region, buyers pushed them even higher in the first six months of 2014.

Sales of homes in average or better condition climbed 2 percent, to $112 per square foot, in the first half of 2014, compared with $110 in all of 2013. Those figures compare with an average price of $102 per square foot before Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Considered another way, a 2,000-square-foot home now sells for an average of $224,000 in the metro area. It would have sold for an average of $220,000 last year and $204,000 before Katrina.

That 2 percent growth, however, is down from the 4 percent rise from 2012 to 2013, suggesting that the market has cooled a bit.

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“It is not jumping at an extraordinary rate,” real estate consultant Wade Ragas said. “It is not a housing market on fire. It is (rising) at the inflation rate or something near that.”

Contributing to the rise in prices since last year have been improved consumer confidence, particularly greater job security and low unemployment levels; speculation that interest rates will rise; and the city’s soft second mortgage program for first-time homebuyers.

The sales numbers are based on Ragas’ analysis of data from the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors. The findings are intended as a market snapshot, not an estimate of the value or likely sale price of homes. The data do not include sales of multifamily homes, townhouses, condominiums and vacant lots.

Prices were highest in Orleans Parish, where homes in acceptable or better condition commanded $155 per square foot on average in the first six months of 2014, a 1 percent improvement from 2013.

That is a modest uptick when compared with the 6 percent jump in home prices in the first six months of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012. But real estate experts cautioned against interpreting the slower price growth as evidence of weakening demand for housing in Orleans Parish.

“It’s much more indicative of inventory being in short supply,” Latter & Blum Inc. President Richard Haase said. “The constraint that we are seeing in sales volume today is very much not having enough (properties) on the market.”

That assessment is born out in Ragas’ data, which show there was greater interest in homes that haven’t been repaired since Katrina. The price of homes in fair and poor condition rose sharply in prime areas like parts of Uptown and Mid-City. Overall, the average sales price of unrenovated homes rose to $79,623 in Orleans Parish in the first half of this year, compared with $52,669 in 2013, a 47 percent increase.

On a neighborhood level, the greatest price jump in Orleans Parish was in New Orleans East. Average prices rose 14 percent in the 70127 ZIP code, an area that includes the newly opened New Orleans East Hospital. The nearby 70126 and 70128 ZIP codes also improved by 7 percent and 3 percent, respectively. Those gains, which began in the second half of 2013, are the first signs of a “real recovery” for that area since Katrina, Ragas said.

“There are a lot of first-time homebuyers who are transitioning from renting to buying” and are choosing to buy in New Orleans East, said Jerome Baylis, of Baylis Realty Group Inc. “There are some good properties on the market, and those good properties, when they’re priced right, are selling fast.”

Baylis said he put two New Orleans East properties on the market late Monday and had three requests for showings by Tuesday evening. That’s a far cry from a few years ago, when properties might sit for weeks before getting a bite, he said.

Broadmoor and the 70115 ZIP code in Uptown also recorded double-digit percentage increases in single-family home prices in the first half of the year.

Prices fell the most, 17 percent, in the 70116 ZIP code, which includes portions of the French Quarter, Treme-Lafitte and the 7th Ward. Homeowners also accepted less for homes in the 70117 ZIP code, which includes Bywater and the Lower 9th Ward, and in parts of Algiers, according to the report.

Jefferson Parish home prices climbed just 1 percent in the first half of the year, on the heels of 4 percent price growth in 2013. Homes sold for an average of $103 per square foot in Jefferson in the first half of the year, compared with $102 in 2013. Prices in Jefferson still are short of their levels pre-Katrina, when homes sold for an average of $105 per square foot.

Ragas said expected construction on the new Louis Armstrong International Airport terminal might help to boost those numbers, especially in Kenner, where prices fell by 3.1 percent in the first half of the year.

At an average sale price of $104 per square foot, homes in St. Tammany are selling just above the pre-Katrina level of $103 per square foot.

St. Tammany Parish, which last year recorded its first year of higher prices since 2009, has seen prices climb again in 2014, though the 2 percent growth was more modest than last year’s 5 percent boost. The average price per square foot for a home sold in St. Tammany this year was $106. Homes sold for $103 per square foot in 2005, before Katrina.

Realtors had anticipated prices to climb more in 2014, said Margie Inman, president of Coldwell Banker TEC.

“The market in our opinion was relatively flat,” Inman said. “We thought it would be higher. It hasn’t ignited as much as we’d hoped.”

Among other parishes in the metro area, home prices were down 2 percent in Tangipahoa and St. Charles parishes and up 6 percent and 2 percent, respectively, in St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. Prices remained the same in St. John Parish.

Overall, the metro area still is a neutral market, Haase said. A neutral, or balanced, market is in between a buyer’s market and a seller’s market. In a buyer’s market, it would take six months or longer to sell all the properties available for sale at any one time. In a seller’s market, the supply could be extinguished in three months or less.

The metro area taken as a whole currently has enough inventory to last 4.4 months, Haase said, though some areas like Uptown have a much smaller supply. As the supply dips lower, more houses will likely go up for sale, he said, as sellers decide to take advantage of the supply curve.



August 6, 2014

Latter & Blum Inc./REALTORS Expands into Lake Charles Market

New Orleans, LA – LATTER & BLUM Inc. announced today that it has acquired Lake Charles-based ERA Moffett Realty Inc. Effective immediately, the merger increases the size of LATTER & BLUM’s residential operations to 29 offices with more than 1,400 Agents across the Gulf South region.

Today, LATTER & BLUM Inc. is a Top 40 Real Estate brokerage and home services company with sales of over $2.92 billion in 2013 and is also one of the fastest growing Louisiana-based private companies. It is the first independently-owned New Orleans-based residential brokerage to enter the Lake Charles market.

“Our expansion into Lafayette in 2013 and today’s entry into the Lake Charles market uniquely positions our company to benefit from the unprecedented growth in Southwest Louisiana,” stated Chairman & CEO Bob Merrick. “Both LATTER & BLUM and ERA Moffett Realty have a long tradition of serving the Real Estate needs of the energy sector. I’m very excited about what the future holds for our company and Agents.”

“Throughout the years, both LATTER & BLUM and Moffett Realty have shared similar values,” commented Rick Haase, President of LATTER & BLUM Inc. “Our shared vision of providing excellent  customer service allows us to work together in effectively addressing the rapidly changing Real Estate needs in the Lake Charles market. Industry Experts project over $70 billion in industrial expansion with projections as high as 17,000 permanent and 30,000 construction jobs over the next few years in Louisiana. Population shifts and rising property valuations are going to generate significant opportunities for our Agents and Clients.”

“Looking into the future of the residential brokerage business, we believe that being part of a regionally dominant, well-respected brand will best position our people for success for the long term,” stated Judy Moffett, Manager of ERA Moffett Realty. “This alignment with LATTER & BLUM, allows us to capitalize on the growth in our market.”

LATTER & BLUM Inc., established in 1916, is the largest full-service real estate brokerage in the Gulf South and operates LATTER & BLUM Inc./REALTORS®, C.J. Brown REALTORS Inc., Van Eaton & Romero REALTORS, Noles Frye Realty (all four owned by Latter & Blum Inc.), while Latter & Blum Classic Homes & Properties, Latter & Blum Shaw Properties and Latter & Blum Hometown, operate under franchise agreements. All are networked nationally and globally as ERA Powered Companies. Additionally, LATTER & BLUM Inc. operates NAI Latter & Blum Commercial Real Estate, Latter & Blum Property Management, Latter & Blum Insurance Services, Platinum Title and Essential Mortgage Corporation.


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