Jul 18

Sometime you read something so fundamentally interesting that you wish you were the one smart enough to figure it out so you could write about it yourself. Here’s one of those. 

Expected Value Calculations – Millionaire’s math

Most people don’t think in terms of EV, and it’s costing them a lot of money.

If you’re not familiar with EV, you’re probably asking, “okay, what is EV, and how can I use it to make more money?”. Even people who are familiar with EV have sent me emails asking how they can apply it to business to make more profitable decisions.

Read the full post by Billy Murphy at ForeverJobless.com

Jul 10

You look at conversions such as the knitting factory being turned into loft apartments on the near Southside and you wonder ‘How could they afford to do this, in this market?’

The answer is Low Income Tax Credit Financing.  A brief overview is you design a project, go to the state (WHEDA) and apply for tax credits.  If all goes well you and you are approved,  receive federal income tax credits.  There is a formula based on the amount you spend, the number of units that are reserved for occupants below the county median income and a bunch of other factors.

These credits will be far in excess of what a normal investor/developer can personally use.  So they “syndicate” the tax credits to an investment group.  The investors get income tax saving in exchange for the money you need to put the project together.

It is a very competitive application process.  It is a very intense process. It is a fairly expensive process.  If you are looking for an easy dollar, you are looking the wrong way.  I speak from the experience of having tried and failed at obtaining tax credit financing to create accessible infill housing on the near north and near south sides of Milwaukee a bit over a decade ago.

But if you can break into this market you can do well, while doing good.

So it was a decade ago and I haven’t tried since, so why bring it up today?  The July Apartment Association meeting features Keith Broadnax of Great Lakes Capital Fund, one of the tax credit financing investment groups.  Years later I still find this was an intriguing opportunity. Maybe someone in attendance will become the next Gorman and Company.  😉

When: Monday, July 15, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.

WhereThe Best Western, 1005 S. Moorland Road, Brookfield 53005

Who:  Keith Broadnax of the Cap Fund

Cost:  Free for current AASEW members, $25 for guests and expired members.

 

 

 

May 19

In my embarrassingly long time at rental real estate, I started in 1977, I have seen low prices, I have seen low interest andI have seen easy money, but never all three at once. If real estate investing was a horse race this would be the trifecta.

Today there are really powerful opportunities as interest rates are at record lows, real estate prices remain depressed and there is actually money available for the right deals and the right borrowers.  As far as depressed pricing you can purchase properties today at the prices they were going for in the mid 90’s but now those properties have vinyl siding, new windows and good roofs.  Interest rates? HUD has 35 year, assumable, fixed rate multifamily loans available at silly low rates.  LTV of 83%. I think they are even non recourse.   Friday the rates for the 223 (f) were posted as 2.95%.

Find the right larger deal today, get it financed under these terms and you could quite honestly be set for life, barring of course our government doing something really stupid and destroying the entire economy.

AASEW president Joe Dahl has arranged to have four leaders in Milwaukee area lending speak to the Apartment Association tomorrow Monday May 20th.

The meeting is free for current AASEW members and $25 per person for those who are not members, but at $99 a year who would be in this industry and not be a member.

When: Monday, May 20th, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.

Where: The Best Western, 1005 S. Moorland Road, Brookfield 53005

More info about the meeting and the Association at:

http://apartmentassoc.org

May 11

all, another, any, anybody, anyone, anything, both, each, each, other, either, everybody, everyone, everything, few, he, her, hers, herself, him, himself, his, I, it, its, itselfmany, me, mine, more, most, much, myself, neither, no, one, nobody, none, nothing, one, one, another, other, others, ours, ourselves, several, she, some, somebody, someone, something, that, their, theirs, them, themselves, these, they, this, those, us, we, what, whatever, which, whichever, who, whoever, whom, whomever, whose, you, your, yours, yourself, yourselves and I would add “thing

Pronouns –   They confuse coworkers, cause mistakes and in general put your business more at risk of failure.  Rather than say “him” say Joe. Rather than “there“, say the west wall of the living room.  Say a few more words now to save a long discussion about what went wrong and who is to blame later.

Mar 03

The Journal had an article last week wherein city officials were lamenting about the effects of foreclosures on the quality of life in Milwaukee. Below is my experiences as we put a number of properties back on line without any government funding.

Short version

Think twice before buying foreclosures in Milwaukee as the city will add unnecessary costs and aggravation to your project.

Longer version:

We were buying a number of foreclosures over the past two years.  We would go in fix them up and put them back on line.  This was good for the city in general in that the properties would remain on the tax rolls rather than being vandalized and ultimately bulldozed.  This is good for neighbors in that these were no longer boarded eyesores.  It was good for the people we employ as it kept them working and in fact resulting in a couple of additional full time positions. And of course it was good for our company or we would not have purchased the properties.

About a year ago the purchasing became more difficult. Not because there was no inventory, there was more property available in our market than ever.  Not because prices were rising, prices were actually the lowest I’ve since 1985.  No, the problem was that the selling banks were now verifying how much was outstanding in city taxes and city fines/fees before they accepted the offer.  If the city had too much in junk fees the banks would walk from the deal and apparently let the property revert to the city for back taxes. After a while the property is  vandalized to the point they have no economic value and are beyond rehab.

We had three offers that listing agents said our offers were solid, but the amount due the city in taxes, fines and fees exceeded that value.  All three properties dropped off MLS.  A couple of weeks ago I noted two remain boarded, vacant and today, a year later, vandalized. The third address I did not go by recently.

Here is another property I anticipate will revert to the city before long and will end up bulldozed instrad of on the active tax roll

At the beginning of this year the city threw yet another wrench into the process of putting boarded vacant and often vandalized properties back on line.  It used to be that only houses with orders to obtain a certificate of occupancy were required to go through this.  If you are unfamiliar with the process it involves paying for an expensive permit, then electrical, construction, plumbing and code compliance inspectors come through and find anything they think maybe a code violation.  They then require you to get plumbing, electrical and construction permits. They look at the dates on water heaters, furnaces etc and issue quad fee permits if someone in the ownership chain upgraded without permits.

Certificate of occupancies require odd expensive things.  In one such inspection we had a house with 1 1/4″ cast iron drain pipes for the bathtub.  Obviously this was installed either during original construction or sometime not too far after as all drains today are PVC and for many years before PVC was common drains were galvanized steel.  Cast iron is hard to work with, hard or impossible to find and expensive if you can find it.  The drains worked fine and did not leak, but the inspector ordered the drains changed to 1 1/2″ at a cost of nearly $1,800.

Back in October we bought a nice little single family on South 15th Place. The interior was in amazingly good condition and we had it rented a couple weeks after purchase.

There were a handful of minor exterior orders prior to our purchase.  These orders were issued upon the prior owner in September.  Even though the orders would have to be dismissed and reissued upon sale, we began them the Monday after the purchase. We also sided the property, which was not on the order.  The inspector signs the order off shortly thereafter.  Then the same inspector issues eight items on two notice letters in November.  It appears nothing on these notices were on the original September notice.  Petty, petty stuff – fine we do it a few days after we receive it.   Inspector signs it off. So far just a PITA and a waste of taxpayer money as well as wasting our money having staff chase a seemingly never ending list of things to do.

Same inspector comes back in December for the certificate of exterior code compliance. This inspection is required when you buy a one or two family rental property.  Four more petty, petty “violations” but this time he now also wants an occupancy permit.  I call his supervisor and am told it is now their policy to demand occupancy permits for anything they think was vacant for more than six months even if no order exists.  He even threatened to have the tenants removed.  At least his boss put an end to that nonsense.

Then in January we get a letter from the vacant building program. We responded that the inspector has seen the property occupied at least three times.  The person who answers the phone for the vacant building registration program says it doesn’t matter that an inspector saw tenants there in October, November and December, we need an appointment to meet you there to confirm it is occupied. And it wasn’t just one inspector that they may not have trusted enough to confirm occupancy, by then we had the certificate of occupancy inspections as well so three more inspectors were through the place and saw it occupied. Yet we had to meet someone from DNS there to prove it occupied.   You just cannot make stuff like this up…

Not an isolated incident:

This same inspector on another exterior code compliance application wrote defective siding on a house that was vinyl sided. I could not see any siding code violation.  I meet him there.  We walk around the house a couple of times because he is having a hard time finding what he wrote up. He points out an inch and a half crack in a piece of J channel by the back door and what may or may not be a missing shake on a gable end.  I pointed out the house adjoining our to the north as well as one across the street should be placarded due to the condition they are in. The inspector agreed with my comment that ours was the best on the block – and this is a highly visible block on an arterial street on the Southside.  Here are pictures of this property on the day of inspection as well as those neighboring it.

The larger effect of this:

I’m sure DNS and the city is all giddy over the hundreds of dollars in permits they collect from each property under their current scheme.  However, this is short term expedient and long term costly for the city.

As the city continues to make it more expensive and difficult to turn around vacant homes there will be an increasing number of properties that are no longer economically viable to rehab. This results in more houses being bulldozed and taken off the tax rolls due to unchecked vandalism and theft of anything metal inside them.

Despite what the City Assessor espouses, boarded, vacant, vandalized properties suppress all property values in their immediate neighborhood.

As more properties leave the tax roll the city will be forced to try and squeeze more money out of those that are left while providing less services.

The current city attitude is a no win for everyone.

Bottom line:

If you are thinking of buying foreclosures or other vacant property in Milwaukee make sure you figure in the extra costs and hassles associated with certificate of occupancy inspections.  Then decide if it is still worth it. There are plenty of other areas that welcome your investment of time effort and money as well as the jobs our industry creates.   Perhaps your investment would produce better results elsewhere.

Jan 09

Real Estate Ideas for 2013 Part Five: Tech Meets Real Estate

What can be done collectively to improve our businesses, save costs or generate additional revenue?

On January 1st I posted a list of ideas that I had that some of us could consider to collaboratively work on.  I intend to pursue one or two of the ideas presented and may entertain partnering with the right person or persons.

This post is the fifth and final of my more in depth notes on the ideas.  I will post others over the next week or so as time permits me to clean my notes into coherent sentences. If any of the topics interest you comment either on the list or directly to me at:Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com


Part Five:

Tech Meets Real Estate

There certainly huge opportunities for software/web solutions for things that cause frustrations for owners and perhaps tenants.

I see this as the greatest opportunity of those presented by me.  We are in an industry that has low margins and high expenses. A 10% swing in effectiveness can mean the difference between wildly successful and a miserable failure.

Some thoughts on where tech and rental real estate may intersect:

  • Setting rents to market rates. How much are you losing because your rents are too low or how much have you lost due to your rents being too high and your vacancies languish? Me, too, to some extent. ;-(  What if there was a site that effectively tracked what other rents are at in your area?
  • Property acquisition. Look at what sites like SpotProperty are doing elsewhere, but not here.
  • Vacancy filling Craig’s List used to work, but now there is too much spam and fraud. What about a system where the tenants need to prequalify before actually applying. While pre qualifying without processing the full app  by an individual owner may be problematic from a fair housing standpoint, a proper third party system could work.
  • Tools for  group maintenance supply buying mentioned in Part One of this series where owners could opt into a group purchase of bulk supplies
  • Improved tenant screening.  Things like “Bad Tenant Lists” are illegal, but there must be things that are not being done today or being done in a manner that is more difficult than necessary or simply be improved by tech solutions.
  • A site for creating and serving 5-day notices etc. by certified mail or personal service from your computer without ever having to leave your home or office.
  • Put your solution here…

Where tech helps our industry today

Obviously MLS is the big tech tool of real estate.

The right property management software is essential for all but the smallest of property owners.  Our company uses very customized management software that makes many tasks and decisions automatic or semi automatic. In general a click a button and the machine does exactly what a well trained person would. Receive a WE Energies service termination notice and a work list item is created to check for vacant. Tenant collection actions are automatically determined on amount due, last pay date and how long they have been a tenant. One button and it select the proper notice or reminder for all tenants. Of course there are overrides as special circumstances require special treatment.

Automation of routine tasks frees our employees to think about things that need thought about, rather than thinking about the repetitive and mundane.  Computers are great at those tasks.

Another example of tech meeting rental real estate is the free eviction notices we provide members on the AASEW site.

Outside of MLS, management software, five days and the examples above, there are certainly other solutions and improvements just waiting for us to identify.  Well, waiting for you to identify, as I’ve put all I can think of in the above list.

If any of the topics interest you comment either on the list or directly to me at:Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com

Jan 05

 Real Estate Ideas for 2013

What can be done collectively to improve our businesses, save costs or generate additional revenue?

On January 1st I posted a list of ideas that I had that some of us could consider to collaboratively work on.  I intend to pursue one or two of the ideas presented and may entertain partnering with the right person or persons.

This post is the forth of my more in depth notes on the ideas.  I will post others over the next week or so as time permits me to clean my notes into coherent sentences. If any of the topics interest you comment either on the list or directly to me at:Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com


Part Four: 

Group purchase of a distressed block or two

There has been this wild idea floating around in my head for years. Long time AASEW member Carl Baryl and I spoke of this many times during the early 90’s. Acquiring a distressed block with a group of active owners and turn it around for fun and profit.

So how would this work?

Choose a very small geo area of Milwaukee. Think something on the terms of both sides of the street for a block or two maybe three at the max. It should be depressed, as in make Detroit look like a nice place to live, depressed. Apologizes to Detroit, but many people know of Detroit’s challenges and fewer of similar challenges of Milwaukee.

Yes, unfortunately, there are many areas like this in Milwaukee and the numbers are increasing as foreclosures work their way through the system.

Oh, you read in the Journal that the foreclosure mess is just about behind us?  They may be correct in a overview of SE Wisconsin, but a walk though the neighborhoods will tell a different story in the City of Milwaukee There are actually more, not less properties sitting vacant and obviously abandoned in these areas than when I first wrote about walking the neighborhoods.

A highly visible face block would be best – something that faces the freeway, a school, a major road, shopping area etc.

Then assemble a group of investors to buy the available, preferably vacant & abandoned, properties in the identified area.

This could be done either as a partnership with all owners having an interest in all properties or as an alternative owners would each have individual ownership of their properties, with a homeowner association type mechanism in place as governing bylaws of the project. I am thinking of one standard screening criteria, perhaps a lawn service and other such bundled services.

Partner with a neighborhood group to provide services to the owner occupants. All aspects – crime, trash, maintenance, throw in some owner occupant foreclosure prevention and even some social help.

Then we work our butts off to turn that or those blocks around. Use this as a best practices testbed, putting private, neighborhood and public efforts and resources into a turn around.

Personally, for me to participate the project would have to be on the Southside (8th and 12th Aldermanic Districts) as that is where my interest lay.  Others may see areas of the Northside that would offer the biggest bang for the buck.

Choosing the correct first block is very important. There are five potential areas I have in mind today. It would take a bit of work to make a final selection. Considerations would be how many bank and city owned properties ( more the better ) how many rental owners we know and their potential level of cooperation. (again more the better ). My preference would be a neighborhood I currently have a presence in, of course, because there would be an advantage for me. However three of the five target areas I’ve selected are not on blocks that we own houses.

Pretty simple eigh? Of course not.

Doable? Absolutely. Worth the effort? Either yes, or don’t bother doing it. This should result in increase rents, occupancy percentages and resale values.

The outline

Organize the existing property owners; everyone – owner occupants, rentals and commercial properties.  Then go at it and buy everything else that is available; vacant land, city owned and banks that are holding etc.

We pitch the idea based on benefit rather than strong arm people to participate. If our initial selection doesn’t result in willing participants we move on to block selection two.

We have our neighborhood group partner find and apply every grant, resource available for both rental owners and the owner occupants in the target area.

The realities of the project

This project would require a lot of work and certainly a bunch of cash as you are not going to typically finance something like this. The City of Milwaukee, despite gaining a benefit from the efforts, will not make it easy.  Having bought a bunch of foreclosures over the past couple of years and putting a bunch of effort into making them solid rentals I can attest to some of the pettiness that goes on.

There are success stories in a similar vien.

Bill Doyle of Milwaukee Lead fame did it with northern Bayview.  On a larger scale, Tony Goldman in SOHO NY, South Beach and Wynwood, Miami, FL.

 

Jan 04

 Real Estate Ideas for 2013

What can be done collectively to improve our businesses, save costs or generate additional revenue?

On January 1st I posted a list of ideas that I had that some of us could consider to collaboratively work on.  I intend to pursue one or two of the ideas presented and may entertain partnering with the right person or persons.

This post is the third of my more in depth notes on the ideas.  I will post others over the next week or so as time permits me to clean my notes into coherent sentences. If any of the topics interest you comment either on the list or directly to me at:Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com


Part Three: 

Become better at sharing our collective knowledge 

The ApartmentAssoc@YahooGroups.com is good beginning.  However it does not work real well as a reference tool as the posts are not organized by topics nor apparently easily searchable for many users.

What if the archives were used to form a new reference tool, perhaps a Wikipedia style “Best Practices” Guide for Milwaukee rental owners.  My vision is a user contributed, user edited tool that would be a ready reference to many topics we discuss on these lists.

It would include everything that a property manager runs into. Who is the best plumber, what notice do you use for the tenant that decided that partying till 6 AM everyday is being neighborly.

Many of us know a lot, but none of us know it all. Things change in our industry nearly daily.   Contractors and suppliers who were the best may have become expensive  sloppy or retied.   New vendors and contractors come on the scene every day. Bad tenants learn new ways to circumvent screening. Laws change. Judges and Commissioners change their views on how laws are implemented.

Similarly a Mastermind Group could reap benefits if the right people were involved. Here is a good overview of how Mastermind groups work.

Another model is what groups like StartUpMKE are doing in the tech field.  It is similar to what the Apartment Association does, but they seem  more involved in actual business creation.

Lunch with  AASEW board members was an interesting idea.  If you don’t recall this you can read more about lunch with AASEW board members here.  When I look back on our prior attempt, I think this would work better if the sponsor board members would set a date, place and topic.  Then if there was enough interest for that particular meeting it would move forward.

Bottom line: There is power in shared knowledge and we should do more to harness that power

Jan 02

Real Estate Ideas for 2013 Part One

What can be done collectively to improve our businesses, save costs or generate additional revenue?

On January 1st I posted a list of ideas that I had that some of us could consider to collaboratively work on.  I intend to pursue one or two of the ideas presented and may entertain partnering with the right person or persons.

This post is the first of my more in depth notes on the ideas.  I will post others over the next week or so as time permits me to clean my notes into coherent sentences. If any of the topics interest you comment either on the list or directly to me at:Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com


Part One:

Reducing Maintenance Supplies costs

Pre 1950 buildings in lower income neighborhoods require around $100 per month per unit for repairs, replacement reserves and improvements. Newer buildings in more affluent neighborhoods perhaps $50 – $65. This is all maintenance from leaky faucets and unit turnovers to new cabinets, new roofs, electrical upgrades, replacing parking lots ect.

Do the math on your units over an extended time period. Do not forget to include a reasonable value on your time. You chose $10 an hour? Why not work for me or McDonalds.  Make more per hour and avoid all the hassles of ownership? 😉

A quick check of city data files shows there are 159,658 rental units in the City of Milwaukee alone, inclusive of rented units in owner occupied buildings. Let’s assume a low ball $50 per unit per month in repairs, replacements and improvements. Annually that is a whopping $95,794,800. Yes, nearly $100 million per year. It actually could be a much larger number. Even 1% savings  is a lot of money.

So what can be done?

Improve supply sourcing: Collectively finding the best deals and creating good deals through group purchases.

We did this a couple years back when the CO detector law went into effect. Prices then for COs were in the twenty dollar range. My company alone needed around 2,000 CO units. So we shopped the best deal and found where the quantity price breaks were. We brought in a bunch of other larger owners and the final price dropped to eleven something each due to the number of pallets ordered. So four or five hours of my staff’s time saved our company and the other participants collectively tens of thousands of dollars in a single transaction.

Last spring myself and another midsize owner went to the Hardware Show in Las Vegas. Between us we buy some products in quantities that equal or exceed an independent corner hardware store. In Vegas we found good deals on a number of products and vendors we continue to use today. You can read more about this trip here: http://justalandlord.com/2012/05/13/thoughts-ideas-from-the-national-hardware-show/

This brings us to the million dollar question… ‘How can we use our collective shopping experiences and buying power to improve our bottom-line on a daily basis in 2013?’

Obviously group buying is a large opportunity.  There are some details that would have to be worked out to prevent this from being a burden to anyone.  The CO detector deal worked because the larger the group the lower the price for all of us.  I knew the other owners, but even then some backed out or reduced the number of units they wanted.  In this instance it was not a problem as the request I received after placing the order exceed the ones that were not taken.  But the situation could have left me with $11,000 of detectors I had no immediate need for, but a bill that would need to be paid within 30 days.

The most viable option that I can think of is a web based system where an item would be presented and people would commit to their purchase with a credit card that would have an authorization hold on the amount of the commitment, but the card would not be charged unit we reached the magic number. Once we were ready then the charge cards would be processed and the order placed.  For this to work we would need a pretty short time frame to order.  Seven days? If the quantity was not reached then the authorizations would be released and nothing would be charged to the owners’ credit card.

The website would show how many widgets needed to be ordered to get x pricing and how many to get y.  Emails would go out saying we are X number of units away from placing the order or X number of units away from the next level price break.  Some larger owners could quickly do the math and figure out if they bought an extra 50 widgets that the price break savings would make it less than they were paying for the original amount.  (That happened with the CO detectors.)

There would of course be some upfront costs here, but not a lot.  There would also be some admin costs finding and securing the orders.

Sharing our purchasing experiences could be an opportunity too.   If we had some easy way of sharing what we were purchasing from whom for how much we would all know the best places to buy.  I just do not see reaching a level of participation that would make this work.  (But I’d enjoy being proven wrong)

If any of the topics interest you comment either on the list or directly to me at:Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com

 

Jan 01

What can be done collectively to improve our businesses, save costs or generate additional revenue?

I will post my in-depth thoughts on these topics over the next week or so as time permits me to clean my notes into coherent sentences. If any of the topics interest you comment here or email me at: Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com

  • Reduce Maintenance Costs
  • Become better at sharing our collective knowledge
  • Group purchase of a distressed block or two
  • IT meets real estate

Reduce Maintenance Costs

Improve supply sourcing: ‘How can we use our collective shopping experiences and buying power to improve our bottom-line on a daily basis in 2013?’  More thoughts on better material sourcing.

More effective Maintenance Labor/Contractors/Services The ability to have skilled, cost effective maintenance available on demand is typically a missing element for most small to medium sized owners. Read more on  effective maintenance labor solutions that could change our industry.

Become better at sharing our collective knowledge

The ApartmentAssoc@YahooGroups.com is good beginning. But the idea could be greatly expanded upon. Perhaps a Wikipedia style “Best Practices” Guide* for Milwaukee rental owners. It would include everything that a property manager may run into.

Similarly a Mastermind Group could reap benefits if the right people were involved. Here is an overview of the Mastermind concept.

Also look at what groups like StartUpMKE are doing in the tech field.  Read my thoughts on increasing the sharing of knowledge.

Group purchase of a distressed block or two

Choose a very small geo area of Milwaukee. Think something on the terms of both sides of a block or two maybe three at the max. It should be depressed, as in make Detroit look like a nice place to live, depressed.

Apologizes to Detroit, but many people know of Detroit’s challenges and fewer of the challenges of Milwaukee.

Yes, unfortunately, there are many areas like this in Milwaukee and the numbers are increasing as foreclosures work their way through the system.

The plan would be to assemble a group of investors and turn the area for fun and profit. My  expanded thoughts on group purchasing of a distressed block.

Tech meets real estate

There certainly huge opportunities for software/web solutions to things that cause frustrations for owners and perhaps tenants.

Some ideas:

    • Setting rents to market. How much are you losing because your rents are too low or how much have you lost due to your rents being too high and your vacancies languish? Me, too. ;-(
    • Property acquisition tools Look at what sites like http://www.spotproperty.com/ are doing elsewhere, but not here.
    • Vacancy filling Craig’s List used to work, but now there is too much spam and fraud. What about a system where the tenants need to prequalify before actually applying. While pre qualifying by an individual owner may be problematic from a fair housing standpoint, a proper third party system could work.
    • Custom Management tools My company’s secret sauce is our highly customized management software. Nearly every task is one or two clicks and the computer makes many mundane management decisions on its own.
    • Put your solution here

You can read my thoughts on tech and real estate here

Conclusion

What? This is not enough ideas for one year? Then post yours on the comments!

Shy, then email directly at: Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com either for my review only or to repost anonymously as you direct.

 

 

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