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Up Close and Personal: 99 Homes

Water Cooler Talk

Working at Patch of Land, I tend to hear a lot about the latest news in technology, finance, and real estate.  Recently, something that sparked a conversation in the office was the release of an independent film named 99 Homes.  A big reason for the buzz spawned mainly from the movie’s story line which revolves around the housing crash in the late 2000's and some of the key factors which helped contribute to the downfall of the industry during the Great Recession.  Without a doubt, this historic event put a negative stigma on big banks and real estate lending as a whole, which intrigued my colleagues and I enough to want to see the film.  Luckily, a nearby movie theater was showing a screening of 99 Homes which included a follow-up Q&A session with one of the film’s stars, Michael Shannon.  My co-workers and I quickly jumped on the opportunity and headed out to watch a Friday night movie together. Not only did I really enjoy the movie, but I also had the chance to ask Michael Shannon about his thoughts on real estate crowdfunding.  Below is a short recap of the movie and my opinion of the film, plus my brief interview with Michael Shannon:

99 Homes Recap

Written and directed by Ramin Bahrani, 99 Homes is set during the housing crash of the Great Recession and tells the story of Dennis Nash (played by Andrew Garfield), a 30 year old man who lives with his mother and 10 year old son.  After falling on hard times, Nash finds himself unemployed and has no other options but to default on his mortgage.  One day, Nash is confronted at his doorstep by the County Sherriff’s department alongside Rick Carver (played by Michael Shannon), a real estate broker who has come to evict Dennis and his family from the home they’ve lived in for over a decade.

After being evicted, Nash and his family find themselves living in an unpleasant motel and in dire need of money.  Desperate for cash, Nash is faced with an awkward predicament when Rick Carver, the same real estate broker who evicted him from his home, extends Nash an offer for a construction job with his company. Nash reluctantly accepts the position, and quickly shows Carver how skilled of a laborer he is.  Carver takes notice of Nash’s hunger and decides to present him with additional money making opportunities, most of which are illegal and/or immoral.

Ultimately, Carver preys on Nash’s desperation and uses his poor situation to do his bidding.  Besides stealing, scamming, and sabotaging court documents, Nash even goes so far as to evict people from their homes, just as Rick did to him months earlier.  As the pressure comes to a boil, Nash is left with a moral dilemma and forced to reassess what truly matters in his world.  Without ruining the movie, I’ll just say the outcome might be surprising to some.

My Connection with 99 Homes

Overall, I think 99 Homes does a wonderful job of taking the viewer through an emotional journey.  Regardless if you were affected by the housing crash, or know someone who was, you will certainly be able to identify with at least one of the characters in the film.   Personally, I was able to develop a connection with Rick Carver, the real estate broker.  While I was never a broker myself, I did work for a broker and performed housing appraisals throughout Los Angeles County before and during the housing crash.  Like Carver, my job experienced a dramatic change once the economy shifted and the downturn in the housing market began to take effect.  In fact, I recall when I first started appraising homes it was mainly for individuals looking to purchase or refinance their mortgage.  Of course, in those circumstances people were generally happy to see me since they knew I was there to help fulfill their dreams or save them some money.  However, once the housing crash was in full swing, I suddenly found myself on the other side of the fence, appraising homes for the purpose of foreclosures and short-sales, seeing far too many sad faces, tears, and unwelcoming dogs along the way.

While I was essentially doing the exact same appraisal work, the downturn in the market completely altered the feelings people had towards my presence at their doorstep, and in many ways changed my general outlook on how I was earning a living.  These feelings of being misunderstood were also expressed by Carver in the movie when he explains to Nash that when he first started working as a real estate broker he was putting people into homes.  Carver went on to regretfully state that he can’t control the economy, and made it clear that he never intended to kick people out of their homes in the first place.  These scenes and sentiments by Carver made it easy for me to identify and construct an emotional connection with his character.  I'm sure many other real estate professionals who worked through the last housing crash can certainly relate in some way, shape, or form. If so, I highly encourage you to watch this movie.

The Opportunity of 99 Homes

As I mentioned, there was a Q&A session with Michael Shannon (Rick Carver) after the screening.  Many people used this opportunity to express their feelings towards the movie and the characters in it.  Some shared personal stories and experiences they had been through, while others tried to seek the meaning behind the movie.  In regards to the significance of the film, according to writer and director Ramin Bahrani, “It is not an agenda film. It’s an emotional story, a deal with the Devil story that for me I hope makes people talk when it’s over.  There is no conclusion at the end of the film, it doesn’t wrap everything up, there’s no good guys and bad guys… it wants there to be a conversation, a chance to reassess where we are.”

During the Q&A I was lucky enough to be able to ask Michael Shannon a question, and since I work with Patch of Land I wanted to pick his brain and hear what he thinks about real estate crowdfunding and its ability to put power back in the hands of the people.  Michael’s response was “It’s a beautiful thing…” (Listen Below)

1 Home at a Time

At Patch of Land, one of the sayings we have around the office is, “if you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.” This African proverb speaks volumes, not only about our belief in the power of the crowd, but also our company’s mission to help grow communities both at home and eventually abroad.  Our CEO and Co-Founder, Jason Fritton, instills this mindset in his employees and continues to inspire us all through his dreams, actions, and efforts to revitalize neighborhoods in places like Chicago, Newark, Boston and many more cities throughout the country.  With over 160 fully-funded projects, I’m extremely proud to be part of the crowdfunding movement, and look forward to our continued efforts to bring positive progress towards our nation's recovery one home at a time.



If you want to learn more, take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions we receive about real estate crowdfunding on a daily basis and find out why so many people are crowdfunding real estate projects across the country with Patch of Land.
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