Thursday, January 03, 2008

Awakening From My Slacker Slumber?

The Implode-o-Meter suit has been settled and has been dismissed. The last paragraph of the statement made by the Implode-o-Meter's author re-inspired me somewhat:
We feel that the outcome of this suit represents only a partial victory for bloggers and internet-based public forums in general. The judge in our suit did agree that the site was indeed fundamentally focused on an important topic of public discourse. However, almost incomprehensibly to us, he did not dismiss the suit in line with the letter and intent of the CDA (section 230) and California's "anti-SLAPP" law. We strongly believe this was a grave mistake.

As is made clear by the costs we faced in the suit, providing a forum for whistleblowing and debate on critical contemporary issues remains a risky and expensive proposition. It is virtually "death upon challenge" for any individual or small-scale operation. It is thus unclear to us why anyone would ever get involved in such an enterprise if they truly understood the peril they were placing themselves in. We certainly would not have, if we knew then what we know now.

At a time when the internet's promise of lower communication barriers for average citizens is becoming a reality, the legal system remains the greatest threat to the public's receiving the benefit of this gift. Now, more than ever, we need to provide mechanisms which enable regular people to organize and fight back against entrenched corporate and government interests which have deeply corrupted our economy and society. This starts with, and relies centrally upon grassroots communication. So-called anti-SLAPP laws, such as California's law that we attempted to invoke, seem to be more of a fig leaf put out by these interests rather than a genuine attempt at reform. Sadly, this seems to be the state of affairs across the country, and the entire country is worse-off for it.
* * *
Someone over at the Sonoma Bubble blog left a comment that lamented my taking yet another break from blogging and stated that I have a responsibility to continue blogging. Responsibility? I beg to differ. But I understand the sentiment. The fact is that now that the housing bubble is widely recognized to have been just that, the bubble as manifested here and elsewhere has lost much of its interest for me. In fact, I've barley kept up with the news vis the housing bubble these last couple of months. This bubble blog was a lot more fun when the existence of the bubble was hotly debated.

So I am not sure what to do with this blog. I've asked for help from readers but have received no commitments. I suppose I could shift gears and start focusing on the real estate industry itself as it is sorely in need of reform and frankly the NAR and its lobbying power should be outright destroyed. But perhaps they will self-reform (yeah, sure): One thing I found potentially inspiring was this statement from the owner of Marin's Vision RE newsletter:
I have not calculated the average days on market for this summary for one reason and one reason alone. The average days on market (DOM) per the Marin Multiple Listing Service (BAREIS) is NOT calculated correctly. It does not take into account a property that has been on the market with multiple brokers and those that have been removed for 30 days and then relisted. Once this is done it starts the days on market to ZERO. I will be doing an individual report on the actual DOM per community but it is very time intensive as the only way to accurately calculate the number is to look at the property history on each individual property. Since we have 659 single family homes on the market that will take a while. I promise to get you that information for the yearend report.
You mean like these Marin POSs? That one shack in Mill Valley has been trying to sell since at least mid-December, 2005 (currently also trying to rent) but because these flippers (they first tried selling five months after purchasing) are unwilling to drop the price to what the market says its worth and instead are listing for what they owe on the dump, it can't sell and it doesn't rent and so they bleed cash month after month. Great Marin investment guys.

So Vision RE is going to start reporting more realistic DOMs. If so, kudos to them. Is it possible that perhaps, just maybe, this and other similar blogs are having some effect? I mean I know I've ranted on more than one occasion about the bogus nature of the DOM statistic as commonly calculated. Can the real estate industry be reformed? It so badly needs it. One can only hope. Next stop for them is to make it clear that the bottom has fallen out here in Marin and current statistics are dominated by sales in the upper end. Furthermore, they should be making it clear that the paltry number of sales (140 or so in November, 2007) in Marin make the county statistics next to useless (and forget about being able to conclude anything based on statistics calculated for any individual town... yeah, only one house sold in Belvedere and it sold for $2 mill and Vision RE reports the town average/median is $2 mill? Give me a friggin' break already. See the problem folks? You cannot calculate meaningful statistics on a small sample size and expect to be able to generalize it to the entire population. You just can't. But that won't stop salesmen from trying).

But I digress...

Anyway, I turned comments back on so let me know what you think. Should this blog continue? What should we talk about? The bubble is old news now. Or has everyone given up on this blog in disgust with its blogger?

Because I am so very busy with work and family matters, I am more pressed for time now than I was before so please do not hesitate to email me content and let me know if you want to be acknowledged or not for said content.

PS - Please take note of the Terms of Use I added to the end of the page. I wrote it myself and because I am no lawyer I am not sure if it matters in a legal sense. If there are any lawyer readers out there who would be willing to write something better for me free-of-charge I would be most sincerely grateful.

27 Comments:

Blogger clemente619 said...

Marinite,

Good to see you back.

I'll help in any way I can on your blog.

I understand that you've got other responsibilities, other time pressures. So let me know what I can do. Your effort on this blog has made a difference. My hat is off to you, especially considering what you had to put up with -- the IJ, threats, etc.

True enough, the housing bubble is now not a point in question. But the thing that is just killing me lately is the statements coming out of the Marin Association of Realtors. If nothing else, I would like to take a crack at writing responses to their nonsense.

So, let know if I can help.

Jan 3, 2008, 4:11:00 PM  
Blogger marinite2 said...

I would like to take a crack at writing responses to their nonsense.

That would be perfect. Collect a list of their statements and compare to reality, point for point. Or something like that. Then send it to me and it will get published here for community review.

I would very much like to see this blog become more of a community effort.

My invitation to certain of you to become admins for this blog is still open. You know who you are.

Jan 3, 2008, 4:29:00 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I check this blog every day and am quite thrilled to be rewarded today with a lengthy post to read. One day I'd like to buy a home, but not while the prices are so far from reality. I'm really curious to see what will happen this year. My husband hasn't been following this blog (and others, though yours is hands down my favorite) and he doesn't share my belief that prices will drop in the next couple of years. The sooner, the better, or I may have to give into my dear husband and buy a place that will put us upside-down. We might have the money, but not so much money that it's okay to throw away hundreds of thousands of dollars...

Thank you so much for your research, wisdom and guidance. Without the beacon of light that you and other bloggers provide, I would be so lost, with only a strong hunch to guide me.

Jan 3, 2008, 5:34:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

I don't think the fun is over - see http://consumerist.com/340334/monthly-mortgage-rate-resets-2007+2016 - It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

I too check the blog regularly - as a home owner in Sausalito with a 5 million dollar spec house on the market across the street I find it fascinating reading.

Jan 3, 2008, 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger Athena said...

Welcome back Marinite! You definitely should continue as the mood strikes you. While the bubble as we saw it has arrived in the general consciousness, there are still going to be inane happenings from time to time that will best be experienced with commentary from you. You inspired me to start Sonoma Housing Bubble and your partnership and inspiring style has been such a gift to myself and to the participants of our sites. I too have job and family that takes up most of my time, and I feel that during this phase of the crash if I posted all the time, the content would be equivalent to "I told you so" over and over, and I don't wish to be such a bore. However, there are times when there is fun to be made of others. there are times when foolishness needs to be penned into monument as a lesson, or at least a horrible warning. And there are times when I just need to ask some WTF questions out loud. I hope that will be enough for the time being... and I know if I didn't get to read what you think during the times to come, there will be an intellectual hole in this experience. You provide not only a valuable tool for people to find and share information about the biggest financial decision in their lives... but you also do it with style, grace and intelligence. You have a gift for speaking to people in a way that makes them think, and nobody ever forgets someone who inspires real thought. Please at least hold on loosely rather than let go.

Sincerely,

Athena

Jan 4, 2008, 12:48:00 AM  
OpenID captain3d said...

Just wanted to say thanks for the last 2 years that I have been reading.

In many ways it is mission accomplished the question is whether or not it is worth following the news all the way until houses are selling for 'normal' prices.

I say enjoy a bit of 'I told you so posts' at your leisure.

phil

Jan 4, 2008, 1:14:00 AM  
Blogger josh said...

In Marin, the bubble is old news but the bubble has not yet burst.
Sales are still occurring, albeit at a slower rate, and the prices they're closing at keep feeding agents' delusions.

With Montgomery Street and businesses in general going through somewhat of a tough spell, I would think you'll soon have plenty of blog fodder as it relates to higher end homes.

Jan 4, 2008, 4:03:00 PM  
Blogger Westside Bubble said...

I keep checking in, and enjoy when you have time to post. You're one of the inspirations of my Westside Bubble [Los Angeles] blog, nearing a year old.

The bubble is no longer in question, but its effect in areas like Marin and the Westside that haven't seen much drop yet is still open to debate.

I'm thinking this year will be a combination of documenting evidence of our local trends, plus (how can we not!) entertaining POSs, floppers, etc.

Jan 4, 2008, 9:02:00 PM  
Blogger rdm said...

You definitely have done a service for those of us interested in buying in Marin and its environs. When I moved here in 04 I was both amazed and amused at the housing market. Very few people I spoke to including many very intelligent people could see the absurdity/insanity of what was going on, hypnotized would not be to strong a word. This trance has not been completely broken but I dont feel the housing bubble blogs will make much difference, the market is crumbling and taking the entire economy with it. California IMO will be particularly affected by the economic avalanche kicked off by declining housing prices resonating through the economy. Perhaps this is a direction your blog can take, in any case thanks for your efforts at awakening the sheeple of Marin

Jan 4, 2008, 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

"The bubble is no longer in question, but its effect in areas like Marin and the Westside that haven't seen much drop yet is still open to debate."

Bear in mind that Marin is AltA Central, and those loans have longer reset periods. Subprime is 1-2 years. AltA is typically 5. So, someone who bought in 2003 will be looking at a reset this year. Someone who bought in 2004 is probably looking at 2009.

It doesn't mean we won't see increased foreclosures and desperate sellers, it will just happen at a later point along the curve compared to areas with a lot of Subprime loans.

Marinite, what about posting a bits & buckets post every now and then, so we can all leave stories on what we're hearing and seeing? We can just have a running forum.

Jan 5, 2008, 8:03:00 AM  
Blogger brazos605 said...

I, too, moved to the Bay Area in 2004, and was dumbfounded by the housing market. I thought surely something is wrong here, and yet well-educated friends were shelling out large sums of money for homes believing they would be priced out forever if they didn't. This site served to reinforce my decision that I should not take out a risky loan to buy a home for fear of being "priced out." Your blog gave me confidence that I actually was doing the right thing by saving and waiting.

I do believe there is still a lot to say about the Marin market. Although the press and public now recognize there has been a real estate bubble, large numbers of them still believe that "special areas" like Marin won't really go down. They can't accept the concept that prices need to have some relation to income, perhaps because they can't admit they made a blunder by buying at the prices they bought at, or, they assume because what worked for them in 1990-1996 will work for others now. So the need is still there.

Your blog provides the only critical analysis of the Marin market, along with a forum to discuss it. Work and family should definitely take precedence over this project, but I, for one, hope you continue posting when you have the time to do so, even if it's only every month or so. So keep up the good work, if and when you have the time to do it.

Jan 5, 2008, 8:23:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

"In Marin, the bubble is old news but the bubble has not yet burst."

Well, I respectfully disagree.. I will say the bubble has not burst in Marin the same way it has in other locals in CA or elsewhere, but it's bursting alright.. it's more like a slow burst here or steady leak..

Pick any old 1950's 3/1 1300sf shack in Marin and look at today's list price.. then ask yourselves, hey, it took about 50 years to go from $0 to say $250K (depending on local) but only 5 to go from $250K to $700K and tell me this is not a bubble that won't burst (or continue to leak excessively)..

What most of us did not know from 200-2005 (speaking for myself anyhow) were all the false / misleading / illegal drivers of housing prices, which allowed them to run up the way they did. From unscrupulous Realtors and Mortgage Brokers to out and out fraud and a myriad of behaviors inbetween all designed to hype the market. Say nothign of the roll of the MSM (eg IJ in all of this). Well, it's all BS and all coming undone just as it should.

I'm placing my money (and financial future) on the math involved here and the historic relationship between home prices and incomes. To that, we're about 1/4 to 1/3 they way (already) to the 30-40% haircut prices will take in Marin. Yes, they are falling now, and will fall much more, esp, as Lisa noted, due to the upcoming Alt-A and other mortgage resets..

Great time to buy my a_ _.. It's a great time to save and think of ways of covering your backside w/a pending recession coming down the pike..

Jan 5, 2008, 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Marinite said...

The bubble is no longer in question, but its effect in areas like Marin and the Westside that haven't seen much drop yet is still open to debate.

Around here, the bottom half has clearly been slammed. It's the upper end that keeps the stats propped up.

Jan 5, 2008, 1:42:00 PM  
Blogger Marinite said...

Marinite, what about posting a bits & buckets post every now and then,

Excellent idea.

Jan 5, 2008, 1:44:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I know prices have been crazy in Marin for a while, but I have to believe that once as more traditional lending standards come into place given the weak secondary market for mortgage junk now, we'll start to see some real price corrections.

The last cycle was 4 years to the bottom, so it takes a while. And sellers will be loath to give up their "gains."

Jan 5, 2008, 4:11:00 PM  
Blogger Omar Cruz said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Jan 5, 2008, 5:41:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

"Great investment opportunity in Costa Rica" ...

Ok now that's funny.

Jan 5, 2008, 5:53:00 PM  
Blogger punchcard said...

I came to your site in early '07 and genuinely appreciate your efforts. It has been helpful and comforting to know that I wasn't the only one who thought prices were unrealistic and that realtors were pure promoters.

However I respectfully suggest that the work of a bubble buster is not done here. At every open house I attend, realtors are still spinning the "not in Marin" line and citing median statistics, talking about all the buyers they have on the sidelines and how prices are about to pick up again. They'll do it until the public knows better and starts calling them on it.

Also, I would resist blaming the IJ too heavily. They are fighting to survive now that newspapers are not the local advertising monopolies they used to be. The IJ doesn't want to be a shill for realtors, but it's probably their only major advertising source left. I find that "expert column" annoying as well and it should be labeled as paid advertisement. But if the IJ puts out too many negative articles on RE, the realtor association calls and the editors are forced to listen because the business office tells them to - which never used to happen, but that power shift is here to stay. They can't afford objective independence all the time anymore. We just have to start looking at the IJ in a different light.

Jan 6, 2008, 7:18:00 AM  
Blogger mountainwatcher said...

Punchcard said......

"However I respectfully suggest that the work of a bubble buster is not done here. At every open house I attend, realtors are still spinning the "not in Marin" line and citing median statistics, talking about all the buyers they have on the sidelines and how prices are about to pick up again."

I agree.
I went to a several open houses today and was blown away by the crazy prices and smug attitude of the realtors.

It was business as usual.

I'm looking in Mill Valley, so I know it is the high zone.
We want to buy, but this is outrageous!
1.7 million for a patched and newly painted slightly moldy 1900 sqft hill house?
1.3 for a badly redone revamp of a wood home.
Way off the beaten path and no electricity.
Nice refrigerator though.
Is it really that "special" here?
Who buys this crap?

Please keep this site going!

We need you Marinite!

Jan 7, 2008, 1:05:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Understand and acknowledge the comment on the IJ, which is about business survival.. perhaps it's time they branched their business out a bit, which would allow them to get out from the grips of the RE machine around here..

Have no fear.. there is no doubt that Novato has caught a cold, and I expect it to (continue) to spread south in Marin...

If Friday's unemployment report was not a reason to question the health of the economy, then I don't know what is.. I can think of fewer things not to do, at the doorstep of a possible recession, than buying an grossly overpriced home, either in Marin or elsewhere..

Went to a few parties this past weekend.. One friend in the biotech field says layoffs are coming (or alreayd started) in several big companies (Amgen for one) and the employment outlook is not nearly as rosy as it was a few years ago.. He may have to do project work out of state just to stay employed.. just anecdotal I know, but ..

A favorite RE machine chant that will continue to haunt this country, esp the middle class, for years and years...

"Housing prices will rebound and resume their rise into the foreseeable future"..

Okay, I ask... Why ? Please explain the economic drivers to me because, well, I just don't see them anymore..

Or, perhaps, a better question would be, with the major changes (tightening) in the lending markets... How ? The entry level market sponge has been squeezed (and squeezed hard) by the machine... not much left there, so sorry..

I'll continue to hold on the sidelines, thank you very much..

I can state very honestly that the one thing I don't concern myself about is whether I will be "priced out forever" in Marin.. nope, not anymore..

Matt

Jan 7, 2008, 5:07:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Ah yes, the proverbial "buyers on the sidelines" waiting to pounce..

This must be the new strategy by the machine to entice the offer..

Well, then I'm guessing I'm one of those "buyers on the sidelines" too... but, I hate to say, I'm not on the sidelines anymore, I left the game a while ago and went for a hike when I discovered that the reason the one team was routing the other team was everyting was juiced.. the ball, they players, the rules..

The league has recently discovered all of this (or admitted all of this is more like it), and all those inequities (eg fraud etc) are just now correcting themselves and the tide of the game has shifted..

So, I'll return to the "sidelines" to watch and think about getting into it myself when the score is back in balance.. right now, the RE machine team still has a 4 touchdown lead, all built on BS..

Jan 7, 2008, 5:25:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Most of the housing price charts I've seen showed the period of price appreciation and the period of price depreciation to be about the same...

So, depending on when you think this bubble started (1998 - 1999 ish), and ended (late 2005 - early 2006), we've got about a 6 year bubble period which should be followed by a 6 year period of price depreciation.. 2010-2011 is my forecast for the depreciation to level off..

The slope of the curves is dependent on other factors (going up it was fraud, greed and almost no lending standards).. going down, it will be largely dependent on the health of the economy... the worse the economy, the steeper the depreciation curve..

timing the bottom in this market is not a make or break financial decision either.. it will be flat for a period as everyone (and I mean everyone) will know somebody (friend of family) who has been burned by RE when this is over, so the hype won't have the same impact this next period as it did this period..

Jan 7, 2008, 5:42:00 AM  
Blogger bob said...

Marinite,
It has been a long time since I left any comments here. My bad as I too have been busy with business matters.

I have two lines of thought. The first line is that as someone who as early as 5 years ago thought the whole Bay Area RE debacle was ridiculous and being egged on by one giant scam after another, I've seen this thing come full circle. There were a few years where people like me knew that someday there would be " A reckoning" of sorts that would ultimately bring things back into line. It was through blogs like yours that people were able to rectify and console their opinions while the rest of the "smart" Bay Area public went absolutely RE crazy. Blogs like these were in my mind partially responsible for not only educating people, but stopping the boom perhaps sooner than later. If you look at blogs of a similar nature in the UK and Australia, there's actually a tiny fraction of those that exist even in California alone. That the UK has yet to totally go into a downward spiral makes me wonder how educated their public truly is and if the existence of blogs such as these help bring sanity to insanity.

Bottom line, if you feel that the time has come to stop the press, you wouldn't be hurting my feelings. That being me to my second point.

The second line of though is that after years of people like us predicting the ultimate demise of RE while others gloated over paper wealth and lunatic loans, we have finally seen everything that we KNEW would happen.... happen. So in a ways it is almost too entertaining to see it all unfurl and perhaps see all those who in effect made RE unaffordable to all of us who save suddenly have the tables turned. In fact the scary thing is that what I figured would happen is actually becoming far worse than I even contemplated. Not only is housing tanking, but it is so nationally, in all markets, and furthermore taking the entire economy with it.

I've been saving up for events like these for years. I have no doubt that if anyone buys a home here or anywhere else for the next several years, they might as well take out a bag of cash and burn it because buying a house will have the exact same effect. EVen in my somewhat affluent East Bay Neighborhood where it is deemed pretty, whitewashed, and 'safe', nothing and I mean NOTHING is selling save for a few richy-rich houses in the most expensive part of town. A house that sold for 650k just two years ago- a miserable, small place with no yard- now sits at 450k and close to being foreclosed upon. There it sits and sits week after week, month after month. This is what I see everywhere.

The events of the housing bust signals an end to a long era- the era in which America was the dominate power both economically and influentially.By power of severe capitalism, the US consumer was ultimately bled dry to such an extent, that even the wealthiest in the wealthiest neighborhoods found themselves downgraded to perhaps upper-middle class. What used to be middle class in the BA is now working class. What used to take a moderate income to purchase a starter home now takes at least a dual 6-figure income. Americans witnessed the complete deterioration of their society into one that mirrors 19th century Europe. Those that have quietly been growing at a rampant pace with booming middle classes- aka- India and China- will fill our place as we remain mired in debt.

So if you were to keep blogging, I think now is time to switch gears and report the 'aftermath' because we are now in the period that we yearned for. Let's enjoy this time and report the effects. This is what Ben's Bubble Blog has been doing for about a year, which is to focus on reports coming from Wall Street, and various national cities and their 'problems' with the fallout. That has been very helpful to me because I am seeing that the deflation in values is also hitting areas like Nashville, Atlanta, Raleigh, and so on. These places for me were still extremely affordable even in their own booms. But soon they will be even MORE affordable, which to me is fantastic. With numbers like this, one can see opportunity through the quagmire.

Anyhow, I deeply appreciate the blog and all of your hard efforts. Whatever you decide will be good for you.

Jan 7, 2008, 1:34:00 PM  
Blogger Holland said...

Even the Wall Street admits:

"The US has entered its first full-blown economic recession in 16 years, according to investment bank Merrill Lynch.

Merrill, itself one of Wall Street's biggest casualties of the sub-prime crisis, is the first major bank to declare that a recession in the world's biggest economy is now underway.

US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has admitted that the US economy faces severe challenges

David Rosenberg, the bank's chief North American economist, argues that a weakening employment picture and declining retail sales signal the economy has tipped into its first month of recession.

Mr Rosenberg, who is well-respected on Wall Street, argues: "According to our analysis, this [recession] isn't even a forecast any more but is a present day reality."

His comments are the strongest sign yet that the gloom on Wall Street over the US economy is deepening as the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the credit rout show little sign of easing.

Mr Rosenberg points to a whole batch of negative data to support his analysis, including the four key barometers used by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NEBR) - employment, real personal income, industrial production, and real sales activity in retail and manufacturing.
advertisement

Mr Rosenberg notes that although the NEBR will be the final arbiter of any recession, such confirmation may be two years away as it typically waits for conclusive evidence including benchmark revisions.

However, he believes that all four of these barometers "seem to have peaked around the November-December period, strongly suggesting that we are actually into the first month of a recession."

His view is at odds with some otherl forecasts on Wall Street, with Lehman Brothers going so far as to issue ten reasons why the US economy will not enter into a recession.

Mr Rosenberg argued that "This isn't about 'labels.' What is important about recessions is that while each may have its own set of particular characteristics, there are also unmistakable investment patterns that emerge time and time again."

His views were cemented by last week's jobs numbers, which showed the unemployment rate hitting 5pc, an increase of 13pc year-on-year and the highest in two years."

Jan 7, 2008, 5:16:00 PM  
Blogger marinite2 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Jan 7, 2008, 6:42:00 PM  
Blogger mike said...

Irish owned real estate ready for crash in Portugal
News Type: Event — Thu Dec 27, 2007 6:59 AM EST
world-news
Irishinfo

Yesterday boxing day the owners of Oceanico developements in Portugal where summoned to appear before the local courts , concerning the close knit relationship with another irish held company Kendar Properties , it is believed by the relevant authorities that the Oceanico and kendar owners had set up a cartel of Price fixing and a very complex financial structure where several mortgages where given on the same piece of land , the owner of Kendar Properties has absconded bail and is actively being sought by the Irish authorities , the local courts have been given authorisation to investigate Oceanico developements in Portugal , given that the loans where granted by Irish banks , this is a very worrying situation for all the future buyers of real estate in Portugal given the size and nature of the fraud relating already to Kendar Properties .

Jan 8, 2008, 3:41:00 PM  
Blogger SoldAtTheTop said...

Marinite,

It's Good your back... now gets back to blogging!...

We all get burn out but look at it this way, the real unwinding has just begun and what we are going to witness in the next 24-36 months and beyond may not be seen again for some time to come.

Keep being part of the public discourse so some day when our descendent's are questioning why this era was so unbelievably freaking screwed up, they will have real answers.

Jan 8, 2008, 6:49:00 PM  

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