This could be a story about unbridled greed. Or about making money without regard to consequences. Perhaps, it is a tale that simply exemplifies responsible real estate investing as defined by Chris Gleize of Northern Value Group. Chris figures large as a protagonist in this drama. But I will let you, the reader, draw your own conclusions. A good percentage of the information provided in this story comes from public court documents. Other information was provided by Mr. Gleize’s attorney and the homeowner who is now subject to immediate eviction.
Nafeesah a strong, middle aged woman who has lived in single family four bedroom house since 1991 is the other major player in this unfolding narrative. Just down the block from from Lake Street, it has stood in its present location since 1904! It is not a fancy house nor a big house. And like most houses in the neighborhood, the housing crisis reduced the value, which now sits at about $131,000. But despite the devaluation, Nafeesah mortgage is only $32,000 so she has plenty of equity-a crowning achievement in these times!
Like most of us, life has dealt Nafeesah challenges, she had a heart attack two years ago and her husband is disabled. But thankfully she has always had a place to call home. A place to anchor her. A place where her extended family (she just recently became a grandmother) could come together as a family.
So back to our first character in this drama, Chris Gleize. Who is he? Well we know he owns an investment company and has an active real estate license. He also runs the French Meadow Bakery outlet at the State Fair. I imagine that is a lucrative venture for him, but I cannot say for sure. In all likelihood, he began that business because of a family tie. You see, his wife is the daughter of Lynn Gordon who started the enormously successful French Meadow Bakery in 1985. So Lynn Gordon also knows that time binds us-in this case to her life’s work and creation.
Chris Gleize also knows about living in a home. Currently he resides in Minnetonka. in a very big house with a swimming pool so he can cool off when it gets really hot and sticky.
Now I don’t know Chris Gleize. I have never met him. When I called him about this story to ask him about the woman who lives in the house in South Minneapolis, he is in the process of evicting, he uttered exactly three words: “Talk to my lawyer” and then he hung up. Well, I am not about to reject out of hand Chris” advice, (besides our conversation was over) so I called his lawyer.
Kelly Griffitts is an attorney who is representing Chris Gleize. Let the record unequivocally state (much of this case revolves legal jargon, so I am paying homage here) that he did not hang up on me but took considerable time to explain why, after twenty two years, Chris Gleize was entitled to throw Nafeesah out of her house. And it boils down to this: it makes financial sense. Chris Gleize, bought a contract for deed for $6500.00 (discounted price) and then demanded immediate payment from Nafeesah. He has big plans for that house. He wants to rehab that house, and resell it. He hopes to make a big profit by doing so. But there is one thing that stands in his way: Nafeesah lives there-but the law supports her removal so it should be a minor detail to displace her.
What does displacement mean? Webster defines it thus:
the act or process of displacing : the state of being displaced. And this of course brings to mind displacement camps-and World War II. Where millions of people had no homes and were in limbo.
Displacement is also a psychoanalytic term one of the defense mechanisms described by Anna Freud that involves taking out frustrations on people or objects that are less threatening. Umm… not sure if this is applicable in Chris’ case but one could speculate about it.
I am assuming (which is always dangerous to do) that Chris never been inside Neffesah’s house. So he doesn’t know how she has arranged it. What stories do the pictures on the walls tell about her family? Where are the family heirlooms? What smells drift from the kitchen as Nafeesah cooks on her stove? Lynn, Chris’ mother-in-law could certainly relate to this picture!
What are the sounds or the creaks or any of the house’s secrets or quirks. Every house has them. Nafeesah has lived with them and made peace with them. They are all friends. And life, goes on.
I try and imagine what it would be like to lose my home. I have lived in my home not quite as long as the Nafeesah and I am trying to picture where my belongings would be…where my sense of place would be, how my daily routine would be obliterated along with my sense of security in this hard cold world. As we get older, it’s harder to imagine how we would blithely deal with all the indignities of being homeless..yet for many it is a stark reality.
So now, I think OK..there are differences in these protagonist’s lives. But what do they have in common, besides that they live in the metropolitan area and speak the same language? They both homestead their property! That is, before the law, the act of homesteading recognizes that they are both connected to their respective homes in such a way as to derive a tax benefit. Homesteading laws have changed, but the basic idea remains that if you live in your house, you are homesteading it, and are therefore entitled to certain tax benefits. So are they birds of a feather? That might be stretching it a bit… but their separate and distinct lived experience allows them both to derive a sense of place and permanence to that place they call home.
Chris. Guize as he rests his weary head upon his pillow at night, might have fleeting thoughts of this reality as he dreams about his daily pursuits, but it’s unlikely he connects his dreams with those of others. And when he awakes, he is all business. And business is hard. And business cuts to the quick, slicing through the tendons of emotionality. To the victor, belong the spoils. On with the story.
Here’s a novel idea. We don’t really have to push people out of their homes – there are other ways to run business besides amorally.. Chris Guize knows what it’s like to homestead property. But does he know what it’s like to suddenly lose your dreams? Is this any concern to the mindset of ‘the investor’. The house and property in question all conform to a barren formula which directly correlates with profit per square foot. Very different language-very different worlds. But can we leave room for those worlds to co-exist ?
If you visit Chris’ website (http://www.northernvaluegroup.com)you will find a page that discusses core values. These days everybody has them. Wouldn’t want to admit it if we didn’t. So what are the core values that drives Chris’ everyday behavior with regard to real estate?
Ethical. We hold ourselves and our borrowers to the highest ethical standards.
Fair. We follow all applicable servicing and landlord-tenants laws.
Honesty. We are honest with our borrowers, our investors, our vendors, and ourselves.
Integrity. We do what we say we will do when we say we will do it.
Second chance. All borrowers deserve a second chance to be responsible borrowers.
No one could really argue with these values but looking closely at the sequence of events, I have trouble
putting the values anywhere into the picture. Chris’ company buys the woman’s house. Actually they buy a contract for deed from the deed holder for $6500.00. They send a perfunctory demand letter using the legal system (instead of calling or initial contact) to Nafeesah, who, not understanding what is happening, (since she was never notified about any change in the assignment of the contract) chooses not to reply. She, after all, has a history with the home. She knows this, and this company has come onto the scene very recently. Who are they? She doesn’t. know. She has rights. She has been here a very long time. What do they want with her house? She doesn’t know. She has had medical problems of late and is taking care of her disabled husband. They are on a limited income. Her daily life sustaining activities seems more important than dealing with something that seems illogical and improbable. She also has a mortgage and has been in touch with them about her payments with them. Everything on the surface seems fine. But appearances can be deceiving
Northern Value Group and it’s representatives are ‘wolves’. At least that’s the way the commerce department which regulates the real estate industry sees it. Not necessarily in a malicious way but because they have gained sufficient knowledge about real estate practice and have been granted real estate licenses.
They have taken classes about all the arcane rules and regulations regarding real estate transactions. They have knowledge Nafeesah does not have. They have money, and access to capital this woman does not have. They have a plan.
So, the plan is this. They buy out the current holder of the Contract for Deed. They transfer the ownership to their name. They demand payment of the note. They reduce the woman’s status from homeowner to tenant. They throw her out on the street after 22 years. And then they rehab the house and make a tidy little profit. Market has finally turned a corner!
And that’s pretty much the end of the story. Or it would be the end of the story except for a very dedicated group of people who are known as Occupy Homes Minnesota. They defend people who find themselves in the cross-hairs of the banks and investment companies. They feel quite strongly about seeing people thrown out of their homes..because besides being traumatic and life changing, it creates more inequality, poverty and homelessness. So…now Occupy Homes is trying to change the balance of power. Northern Value Group has money. They have the attorney’s working for them. They have the law. But despite their ‘core values’ they lack compassion. And empathy is not their strong suite either. Neither compassion nor empathy are mentioned anywhere on their site. And these values count to Occupy Minnesota which emboldens homeowners to get up and stand up for their rights. Don’t give up the fight!
So we enter a very interesting period where new messages beside greed and profit are introduced into the transaction. And as the two sides face off…you, the reader, you, the neighbors, you the community, are encouraged to become involved based on your beliefs and core values! Chapter II to follow!
Harry Greenberg- freelance writer-