Fox News legal analyst Bob Massi talks with Opportunist’s Managing Editor Leslie Stone about his new TV show and what viewers can expect during the second season.
Bob Massi joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1996 and currently serves as a legal analyst and makes weekly appearances on “Fox & Friends” in his “Rebuilding Dreams” and “Legal Ease” segments. He also appears in real estate and legal segments for both FNC and Fox Business Network. Last July his half-hour real estate series “Bob Massi is the Property Man” debuted as part of FNC’s weekend lineup (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET / encore Sunday, 3 p.m. ET). Now entering its second season, the program gives viewers insight into various facets of the real estate industry and features experts who talk about topics from current trends and pricing deals to how to avoid real estate scams and more.
As a television personality, author, radio host and public speaker, Massi combines more than three decades of courtroom experience with more than two decades as an on-camera legal analyst. During his career, he has provided analysis and reported on high-profile trials including the Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson, Unabomber, O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, Warren Jeffs and Casey Anthony cases. Massi has practiced law in Las Vegas for 35 years and operates his own boutique law firm, Robert Massi & Associates. He is also the author of the book People Get Screwed All the Time: Protecting Yourself from Scams, Fraud, Identity Theft, Fine Print and More and has presented more than 400 seminars across the country.
Opportunist: How did you get into television, Bob?
Bob Massi: Back in 1985 I got this idea for a video. It had three things: how to find a lawyer, how to get out of jail and what to do if you’re in an accident. When I look back on it, it’s hysterical. [Laughs] I put the video together and went to local TV stations in Las Vegas. A respected news director at Channel 8 looked at it and called me a week later. He believed in me. He started me locally. Roger Ailes and Chet Collier gave me a national shot.
What’s great about TV is that TV is the ultimate challenge. What I mean by that is people either accept you or they don’t like you. It’s like going to a restaurant. If it’s good, you tell five people. But if it’s bad, you tell 100. I’ve been working with Fox for 19 years and I think people believe in my honesty. I don't have an agenda. I just absolutely love educating people. This has been my entire platform since 1985.
Opportunist: What made you decide to host your own TV show about real estate?
Bob Massi: I did a segment on Fox & Friends for five or six years called ‘Shattered Dreams’ that covered issues affecting homeowners, from modifications to short sales, foreclosures and all the things that lenders were doing. The American Dream was being shattered and people didn’t know what to do. I wanted to educate them. Viewers sent in hundreds of thousands of emails with their questions over the years. I was fortunate that at some point Fox approached me about doing a pilot, which I did, and it was obviously an honor. If somebody had told me in 1996 that I would have a show in 2015 I would have said, ‘Where do I sign up?’ [Laughs]
Opportunist: We understand you chose Las Vegas for your debut episode because it was ‘ground zero’ for housing prices in America.
Bob Massi: We did 10 shows out of Vegas. They were a mix of personal stories, high-end homes and homes that are maybe $300,000 to $400,000. We have the ‘Massi Memo’ at the end of the segment with tips on whatever I covered on the show. The ‘Massi Memo’ became very popular with the viewers. They like that. The show was designed through my eyes by an amazing group of talented people who make it look the way it looks. I’m only one in the scheme. My job is easy. Those people work so hard to make it right. As with any show, it evolves. Our great producers and the whole team make it what it is. The show was designed to entertain, educate and inform and I think we accomplish that. It’s a nonpartisan, clean show that provides good information, which I think we all need.
Opportunist: Have the housing markets in Nevada and the other hardest hit areas—Arizona, California and Florida—recovered?
Bob Massi: In general, the housing market is getting better but there is still a long way to go. Homes in Nevada in excess of $1 million haven’t appreciated the way they should, but homes from $250,000 to $500,000 have appreciated. They’re building a lot of homes in Las Vegas right now. That’s working out OK. Lenders are tougher, which is what they should be because easy financing is one of the reasons we got into this jam. There are still a lot of homes that have not been foreclosed on—the zombie foreclosures. Let’s say you own a home and haven’t made a payment for six or seven years. Maybe you tried to modify or do a short sale and you’ve been living there and the lender either lost the note or it’s in the servicer’s hand and nobody has any idea what to do with it. People are living literally free for years. Until the lenders foreclose on these properties and take them back, the market is never going to be real.
I’m concerned that homeowners will make the same mistake again if buying is made easy because we all forget what it felt like. Don’t just buy because it fits right into your budget. This is what happened years ago. People bought a home with interest only payments. That was the pitch back in 2003 through 2006 or 2007, particularly in Vegas and Florida. People got sold a bill of goods. A primary residence should be viewed as a primary residence, not as an investment.
Opportunist: A recent National Association of Realtors survey revealed that 87 percent of U.S. households believe homeownership is part of their American Dream. What advice would you give prospective homebuyers in search of the American Dream in today’s post-recession market?
Bob Massi: First of all, young people in their 30s don’t necessarily have to own a home. Lending practices from before made it easy for young people to buy homes and now their credit is ruined. So I would advise young people to step back for a second. A lot of people who lost their homes ended up renting for years. Now they’ve saved up money, their credit is OK and they’re ready to step into a new home. They need to get prequalified first—that doesn’t mean preapproved. They also need to be proactive and get educated about different loans. Once they are past that step, they need to decide if they want to buy a new home or an older home. People think if you buy an older home you buy ‘as is,’ but whatever home you buy is ‘as is.’ Make sure if you find the home of your dreams that you get a competent Realtor who understands what your needs are as opposed to what their needs are. Tell them what you want and don’t settle for anything less—and make sure they explain exactly what it is you’re getting into. Disclosures give buyers the opportunity to rescind in up to three days, so if you read the documents and think, ‘Wait a minute, this is not what my understanding was’ or ‘that’s not what I was told,’ you can rescind. Do you need to run to a lawyer every time? No, you don’t. But there is nothing wrong with getting advice from a lawyer. It’s a preventive measure. There is nothing worse than buying a home and getting into an issue with mold or termites. Also, if you buy a home with a room addition, you want to know if a contractor was hired and if proper permits were pulled because you inherit the sins of the past. You could end up resenting the home you wanted to love.
People need to think it through and make sure they’re really ready before buying a home. Other than marriage, it’s the longest contract there is. It’s not a small purchase. It’s a commitment. Make sure you have rainy day money to sustain you for at least six months if you lose a job or get a cut in pay. You’re never done with a home. You may buy the home, but you’re always painting it and fixing it and something is breaking. [Laughs] That’s the essence of what I try to tell people.
Opportunist: After the Federal Reserve raised interest rates last month—the first time in a decade—Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the process is likely to proceed slowly. How do you see this impacting the real estate market in particular?
Bob Massi: I think there will be a percentage of people who are sensitive to what it really means if it goes up half a point. Those are more informed people who understand what a half a point means in dollars and cents over the life of the loan. They will want to own again and they aren’t going to let that dictate what they do.
Opportunist: What are the hottest real estate markets in the nation right now?
Bob Massi: It goes back to where the ‘ground zeros’ were. Vegas is doing well. Arizona—especially Phoenix and Scottsdale—and Miami, Orlando and Tampa are booming. Lots of money people have gone into these different places that are building infrastructure, like Tampa where I interviewed Jeff Vinik, the guy who bought the Tampa Bay Lightning ice hockey team, about his plans to redo downtown Tampa. He’s a great guy.
One place that is amazing to see is Lake Nona in Orlando. It’s a self-contained community with affordable condos all the way up to million dollar homes. It has a hospital and an infrastructure where people can live and work and be invested and never leave that community. They are even building a university there.
Opportunist: Can you share some highlights from Season 2, which takes place in Florida?
Bob Massi: We went to Al Capone’s house in Miami Beach and it was fascinating. That episode was a lot of fun. I’m not sure which week it’s going to be on. He bought the house in the 1920s and put like $100,000 into it, which is equal to about $5 million now. We were in the room where he died. He had syphilis and he had a stroke. Oh, if those walls could talk. I thought if we got a backhoe we would probably find some skeletons in his backyard. [Laughs] My understanding is that I think the family bought the house and is not having it occupied. It is going to be used for films.
We did a whole show about sinkholes in Florida. With all of its underground limestone, Florida is like Swiss cheese. We talked about how to protect yourself and your wallet from sinkhole damage, what to do about insurance coverage, how you get it and if you can get it.
The show that aired this past weekend features Lou Holtz, the iconic football coach of Notre Dame. His home was hit by lightning. We also did a segment on a private airpark community in Wellington where retired pilots have airplane hangars instead of garages.
Opportunist: What do you enjoy most about working on the show?
Bob Massi: Here’s what’s wonderful about the show. I’ve met people and gone places I never would’ve had the opportunity to go. I must tell you—I want to make this clear—the show is great not because of me but because of the people who put it together and the brains behind it—the camera people, the producers and the rest of the team. I’m proud to be part of Fox. No matter where I go in the country people recognize me. I was in San Diego recently and had to go up to a little supermarket and this guy looks across at me and says, ‘Aren’t you Bob Massi the Property Man? What are you doing here?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve got to eat.’[Laughs]
Opportunist: Can you tell us about some of the future locations viewers can look forward to?
Bob Massi: Arizona will be our next venue. We are heading to Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tucson and many more cities along the way. We are visiting some very interesting and historic areas. It will be great. It actually gets hotter there than in Vegas in the summer. [Laughs]
We are always looking for new ideas and new stories, so if people have anything they think we can bring to light they can always contact me through my Facebook account or through the website. I do my best to answer emails.
Leslie Stone is an award-winning writer, editor and journalist with more than two decades of experience covering business, finance, real estate and lifestyle issues for newspapers, magazines and online publications. Originally from Virginia, she currently resides between Florida and Michigan. Follow Leslie on Twitter: @lescstone.
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