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Business The Salina Journal Sunday, April 7,1985 Page 18 Realtors anticipate good year despite flood issue By JUDITH WEBER Staff Writer There is an over-supply of houses on the market in Salina and buyers are wary because of concerns about a proposed flood insurance- program. But nonetheless, Salina realty agents are optimistic that the spring buying season will be a good one. "We expect it to be an excellent season," said Mike Flory, vice president of Security Savings and Loan Association. "We've certainly seen an upturn in business. I think most people are looking at (interest) 'rates eventually going up." Interest rates, generally less than • .they were a year ago, are quoted at .about 11.5 percent on one-year adjustable rate mortgages and 13.8 .. percent on fixed-rate mortgages. Another selling point, albeit iron- ,ic, is that home prices have not in- .ijsreased significantly since last r^year. Realtors say that makes • ;home buying today more attractive. •-« Prices have been stagnant be;*cause the supply of homes for sale j'Ms greater than the demand, ex> plained Dave Antrim of Coldwell (•" Banker-Antrim Piper Wenger Real- >jtors. '\ "There's more supply, but we're ^seeing a lot of activity," he said. "If ••ithe supply decreases and there's i still a lot of activity, prices could go : 'up." I» Proposed developments — includ- ;!ing the Central Mall, downtown ren- jjovation and the Holidome — have j£made Salina more attractive, An- *itrim said. a* "It creates a positive atmosphere, -i That's something we haven't had in '-} the past several years," he said. *i Don Thorn, a broker for ERA r*First Realty, said there were 444 I,; residential properties on the market ;; in late March. :; Sue Baxter, a broker for Coldwell [ " Banker, described the housing mar:; ket as a "buyer's market." f- And, she added, "We've taken >;more listings this March than in any other month since we've been in business." Chuck Kilgariff, broker for Century 21 All Gold Real Estate, said he sees indications pointing to a good spring sales season. "The market's been there, but people haven't been willing to go out and fight the elements. But since the weather broke, more people are looking. The last 1% weeks have been good. We're looking forward to a good summer." Thorn, of ERA First Realty, said March was one of the company's best months in sales volume. But the uncertainty of the effect a proposed federal Flood Insurance Program will have on the marketability of some property could affect sales. The city later this year is expected to adopt the federal flood program, which would restrict development in flood-prone areas. For instance, those building houses in flood-prone areas would be required to elevate them to a level determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If existing homes in flood-prone" areas sustain more than 50 percent damage in a flood, tornado, fire or other natural disaster, owners would not be able to rebuild the dwelling unless they raised it to minimize flooding risk. Realtors and builders hope to stall adoption of the flood program long enough to find ways to reduce the flooding risk, especially in south Salina. "It (flood program) will delay some decisions in those areas until people know where they stand," said Bill Chaffee of American Realty Inc. Century 21's Kilgariff said, "It's hard to tell the effect. It's not the tremendous problem we feared. But the potential buyers in that area, it's softened them some." Thorn, of ERA First Realty, said many potential buyers are concerned. "They bring it up at open Illamj Carolyn Hatfield, agent for ERA First Reality, describes the features of a house for sale to Martha Brown, Salina. houses. They ask to look at the map" of flood-prone areas. But despite the flood problem, real estate agents are optimistic about the prospects of the spring and summer home buying season. E. L. Bengston, agent for Realty Associates, said he expects 1985 to be better than 1984, when housing sales rebounded. Home builders nationally started nearly 1.75 million new homes and apartment units in 1984, the highest number since 1979, according to the National Association of Home Builders. The National Association of Realtors also reported that existing single-family home sales reached its highest level in four years in 1984. In Salina, the city issued 101 permits for new dwellings in 1984, up from 91 the year before. For the first three months of 1985, the city reported 19 new home starts as compared with 20 for the same period in 1984. Helping the local real estate market, agents say, is $8.5 million in mortgage revenue bonds issued to the county in November. Through the end of March, $4.5 million of the MRBs had been funded, and another $1 million will be funded April 12, said Linda Rohrer of Southwest National Bank, Wichita. United Securities, Wichita, is the underwriter for the bonds. Some of the remaining money may already have been committed by lenders, Rohrer said, so she could not say how much is still available. The interest on mortgages funded with the bond money is 10.95 percent. At least 90 percent of the money must be loaned to first-time home buyers. A loan cannot exceed $76,450 for a new home or $60,390 for an existing one. No income limit exists for first- time buyers, but the limit for people who have owned a house is $45,000. Long distance companies form association By JUDITH WEBER Staff Writer Officials of several long distance telephone companies in Kansas fear a proposal under consideration by the Kansas Corporation Commission could put them out of business. Ten of the companies that compete with AT&T and Southwestern Bell recently formed Kansas Telecommunications Association "to provide a unified voice for preserving competition in the long distance field in Kansas," the association said. The companies include Compute-A-Call and TMI (Telecom Management International), which have offices in Sauna. The KCC is considering a proposal to limit long distance competition within an area code, called intraLATA (Local Access and Transport Areas). In the break-up of American Telephone and Telegraph last year, the court left the decision about intraLATA competition to the states, said Stan Krehbiel of American Communications Inc., Wichita. Krehbiel is treasurer of Kansas Telecommunications Association. IntraLATA competition has become an issue in almost every state, he said. Southwestern Bell, one of seven independent telephone companies created by the AT&T break-up, asked the KCC last fall to protect its franchise rights in intraLATA competition, said Jim Gartner, district manager for Southwestern Bell in Salina. Southwestern Bell handles long distance calls within area codes but calls to other area codes are handled by AT&T or by other long distance companies. Southwestern Bell is concerned that companies selling competing long distance services, such as MCI and Sprint, will reduce its revenue, thereby making necessary a rate increase. The KCC recently considered an intraLATA competition proposal and decided it was not workable, said Gary Hayden, a spokesman for the KCC. The KCC staff is putting together another proposal that the commission is expected to consider within the next two weeks, he said. The KCC ruled in November that long distance companies reselling Southwestern Bell WATS lines could offer intraLATA service to customers. But members of Kansas Telecommunications Association fear that a future KCC decision might limit their ability to provide intraLATA service. "That's where we make our money, that's most of our business," said Steve Sauder of Valu- Line of Kansas, Emporia. Sauder is president of the recently formed association. If the KCC restricts competition, many resellers could be put out of business, he said. "It's more critical in Kansas, because we only have two LATAs," he said. If intraLATA competition were prohibited, customers of Compute- A-Call and TMI in Salina could not make long distance calls within the 913 area code. "The bulk of our money goes to Southwestern Bell. Bell hasn't been able to document that they're losing money," Sauder said. "We have no idea of what we're losing," Southwestern Bell's Gartner said. "We know we're losing some revenue." Although Bell primarily is worried about competition from long distance companies other than resellers, Gartner said the KCC might have an impact on resellers. Three states demonstrate do-it-yourself wills work Joint venture leads to blending of cultures at plant 85 N.Y. Times News Service FREMONT, Calif. - "We are in a global industry now," declared Roger B. Smith, chairman of the General Motors Corp. "All the companies in the automobile industry must consider how best to rationalize their facilities and production." Smith's comments came at the formal dedication last week of one of the industry's most prominent such attempts, GM's joint venture with the Toyota Motor Corp. The two companies are making Chevrolets in a former GM plant using Toyota's production system. Although the joint venture, named New United Motor. Manufacturing Inc., or Nummi, has been producing compact, four-door Novas since last December, this was the first time the plant was opened to outsiders. All of the plant's 1,200 workers were given part of Thursday morning off to attend the ceremonies, conducted in English and Japanese. GM, the world's largest auto maker, has said it needs the joint venture to supply it with a small car that is competitive in quality and cost with those imported from Japan and to learn Toyota's production system. the key element here is the organization of the work force, company and union officials agree. In contrast to the standard American practice of having as many as hundreds of individual job classifications in a plant, workers here are organized into "teams" of six to eight, with each member capable of performing any of the team's tasks. The operation here is a blending of cultures, with American workers freely using terms like "ichi ban"— Japanese for No. 1. Under the ven- ture's agreement with the United Automobile Workers union, more than 90 percent of the workers in the plant now had been GM employees before it closed the plant in 1982. "Using the former work force presents a tremendous challenge," said W.J. Usery, a former labor secretary who is a consultant to Nummi. Nevertheless, it is clear that Toyota is counting on its approach to labor to make the plant successful. The plant is clean and modern, and there are substantial numbers of robots. But it is not as technically advanced as some of Detroit's newer plants. "It's the way they treat people. You've got a say in how your job is done. It makes a person feel important." —Jack Martinez. Eiji Toyoda, the chairman of Toyota, said Thursday that the success or failure of the Fremont plant would have a major impact on whether the company expanded its operations in this country. Most of the assembly line workers in the plant seem pleased with the Toyota system, although a few still have reservations that the good feelings fostered by the Toyota managers will endure once full production begins. "These people are for real," said Jesse Pala- mino, a worker in the paint department who had 12 years' experience in the plant when it was under GM's sole management. "I hope Americans try to understand their system. GM never gave us the opportunity to create quality. They didn't care. These people really care and they prove it day by day and minute by minute." Jack Martinez, who spent 17 years in the plant before it was closed in 1982, said the biggest difference was management's attitude toward line workers. "It's the way they treat people," he said. "You've got a say now in how your job is done. It makes a person feel important." Nonetheless, not everything is rosy on the labor front. Negotiations are to begin within days on a formal contract to replace the letter of intent written in 1983 by the joint venture and the leaders of the UAW. Some workers say the Japanese drive for efficiency is running afoul of union traditions. "They want the union to be invisible in the plant," complained Max Salinas, a team leader who is also a member of the Local 2244 bargaining committee. "They want the union to represent people at lunch or on break or after work." Many Fremont workers, few of whom have less than 10 years' experience in the plant, also said they resented being paid at 85 percent of the typical union scale at GM plants. Still, Donald Ephlin, a vice president of the auto union, commended the Japanese for their insistence on a slow, orderly speedup of the assembly line and their emphasis on worker training. "The original question was 'what can GM learn?' " he said. "I think they are learning that it is a lot more than nuts and bolts. It is human relations and management systems." NEW YORK-One thing the world needs-besides peace, prosperity and non-fattening chocolate-chip cookies-is a simple, do-it-yourself will that stands up in court. California developed the first one, in 1983. Wisconsin and Maine wrote different versions. And that's all. States will accept do-it-yourself handwritten wills if they're properly done-with all the i's dotted and t's crossed. But these homespun documents often fail to meet the legal standard for a valid will. For example, they may not have enough witnesses. Also, their provisions may be vague-which could cause a judge to throw a will out of court. Anyone who has privately written his or her will, and slipped it secretly into a drawer, should do some research to see if it will hold up. It simply is not as easy as it ought to be, to leave your property to the people who should have it. In the three states that have them, the do-it-yourself wills are a simple matter of filling in the blanks on a standard form or checking the appropriate box. You sign at the bottom, and voila! A legal and dependable will! The instructions can be confusing, even with these simple documents. So users are well advised to get help. But they don't have to go to a lawyer. "They could go to a paralegal or to someone trained to assist an elderly group," Napa, Calif., attorney Francis J. Collin told my associate, Virginia Wilson. These wills have limitations. In California and Wisconsin, they were developed for couples and parents of young children. In Maine, they're more useful to older couples whose children are grown. They're for people with small estates, uncomplicated families and uncomplicated finances. Nevertheless, for those who can use them-and potentially, millions can-these documents are wonderful. So the question is, why isn't every state, getting into the act? One answer seems to be that some lawyers, and the state legislators they talk to, aren't very happy about the idea. Last year, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) devised standard language, for certain types of wills, that lawyers could use to write documents that would be simple and cheap. They're aimed at married couples with children, and would be good in all the states that adopted the proposal. A layman Jane Bryant Quinn WASHINGTON POST could use the language to write a valid will himself. This concept isn't as simple as the fill-in-the-blanks will, which seems to me to be the best idea. But it does give families a greater variety of choice. ". Unfortunately, lawyers are greeting it with the sound of one hand clapping. In February, the board of governors of the American Bar Association recommended that the organization withhold its approval from the proposed standard will. The standard-language will has already lost in the North Dakota Legislature. It has been introduced in Minnesota, and might be in Michigan-but right now, there is little interest anywhere else. ' The ABA has no formal position on pros and cons of the NCCUSL's standard will. Accounts of the meeting that rejected it say that some lawyers supported the idea, some smothered it in self-serving detail, some thought there were better ways of proceeding. But any way you slice it, the national organization appears to think that the will business is fine just the way it is. In California, it was different. The state bar association itself sponsored and promoted the fill-in- the-blanks will. So far, it has distributed around 250,000 of the forms, which cost $1 each. "The argument that lawyers would lose business wasn't meaningful here, because there was already a huge section of the state's population that wouldn't go to lawyers," Collin says. People from other states cannot use the will forms of California, Wisconsin or Maine. They need something whose language is approved by their own state legislatures. To get it, groups of citizens will have to band together and make a noise. These wills work-and work well-in the states that use them. AJ1 the dire warnings, about how innocent people would be hoodwinked, turned out to be untrue. But state legislators are often dominated by lawyers, who are happy with thie traditional ways of doing business. Citizens will have to tread on their toes, to get them to change.