What the experts say
Cities versus homeowners
Fines have “become a big—and rapidly growing—business” for cash-starved cities, said Kristine Phillips in USA Today. “States, cities, and counties collected $15.3 billion in fines and forfeitures in 2016,” a 44 percent jump from a decade earlier. Some cities have especially aggressive ticketing practices. In Dunedin, Fla., one woman was fined $103,559 “for overgrown vegetation and a stagnant swimming pool” at a house she had actually vacated. Because her name remained in property records while her foreclosure was finalized, the city kept fining her. Another 33 homeowners owe the city more than $20,000 in penalties, mainly for “violating laws that prohibit grasses taller than 10 inches, recreational vehicles parked on streets at certain hours, or sidings and bricks that don’t match.”
English majors need not apply
“Your college major can affect your ability to get a student or personal loan,” said Jillian Berman in MarketWatch.com. Lenders are using criteria such as what you studied and where you went to college to make underwriting decisions. Those experimenting with that data believe it can be a “better predictor of [a borrower’s] future income and ability to repay a loan than what’s measured by a traditional credit score.” While two-thirds of college lenders use only standard financial measures, the practice of looking at students’ majors and colleges may soon grow “in an explosive way.” Lenders say it could mean lower interest rates for some, but advocacy groups argue it could result in discrimination against students from some colleges—and consequently in racial discrimination as well.
Amazon’s real estate deal
Amazon is offering customers as much as $5,000 to use a service that helps prospective homebuyers find realtors, said Conor Dougherty in The New York Times. The retail giant is partnering with the brokerage firm Realogy, which owns Century 21 and Coldwell Banker, to “help its brokers separate the closers from the lookie-loos.” Prospective buyers find an agent through Amazon.com/TurnKey. If a buyer ends up closing on a house, Amazon offers credit for home products and services—from $1,000 for a purchase under $400,000 to $5,000 on a $700,000 house. The company sees it as “a way to encourage people to adopt products like Alexa speakers and Ring doorbells and to promote its list of handymen, furniture assemblers, and other home services.”