The most recent entry on James Tracy’s Memory Hole blog promotes the theory that over 30 homes on Yogananda Street and neighboring Charter Ridge were “gifted” in 2009 (http://memoryholeblog.com/2013/09/13/video-over-30-sandy-hook-homes-gifted-in-2009/#comments). The author of the posting supports this claim with, SURPRISE!, a YouTube video which suggests these homes were given away for Christmas of 2009. The unstated implication is that this is proof of payout to willing particpants in the great Sandy Hook Hoax.
Let’s put on our critical thinking caps!
The author begins the article with the following statements:
Newtown property records indicate that on December 25, 2009 a total of 35 properties located on and around Yogananda Street in Sandy Hook were transferred at zero value to new owners.
The transactions include the house belonging to Nancy Lanza and mysterious figure Chris Manfredonia, who was apprehended by police on Sandy Hook School grounds on the morning of December 14, 2012.
35 properties, transferred at $0 to new owners.
Right off the bat, he gives us misinformation. There is no transaction date of 12/25/09 associated with the Lanza property. The second entry simply reflects that fact that the property is currently owned by Ms. Lanza’s estate.
Let’s look closely at Mr. Manfredonia’s record:
If the author’s theory that a $0 transaction on 12/25/09 indicates the property was gifted, it would seem that the data implicates Mr. Spies. Poor Mr. Manfredonia had to pay more than half a million for the property two years later. I’m not sure how that would “buy” his complicity in the hoax.
So, the entire 2nd paragraph is blatantly untrue. If you watch the video, which is linked in Professor Tracy’s blog, you’ll be entertained with image after image of the same type of data. Many of the property owners gifted the property to themselves. Like this one:
I’m not really sure how that works. There is a $0 sales amount, so it doesn’t appear they paid the property off and are now free and clear of a mortgage. If they had, wouldn’t there be a transaction amount involved in the sale?
Can someone point out to me which record reflects a change of ownership associated with $0 transactions. (I have to admit that, in spite of the creepy music, I found the video quite dull so I jumped around a bit.)
An important step in critical thinking is to question the source of the information. So, where is this data on real estate sales coming from?
The author and videographer are referring to data available on-line through the Appraisal Vision Assessor’s Database (http://www.vgsi.com/vision/Applications/ParcelData/Home.aspx). If you peruse their site, you will find that this database is used to assist appraisal offices in various municipalities, including Newtown, CT, in several states for the purposes of appraising properties.
The Town of Newtown has contracted with Vision Government Solutions Inc. of Northboro, Massachusetts to assist with the state mandated revaluation project. The Information provided in this database reflects the new assessed valuation for each individual Town of Newtown property for the October 1, 2012 grand list.
Taxes are collected based on the assessed value of homes, not the sales value. Recent sales values are taken into consideration when assessing property value, so it would make sense that the good folks at Vision Government Solutions would include fields for tracking sales data in their Appraisal Vision database. However, properties are still appraised and revalued for tax purposes, even when there is not a sale or change of ownership. The town of Newtown used this database to record current property values as of Oct. 2012.
There are many, many properties that were involved in this reassessment. Perhaps some administrative clerk was assigned the task of entering the data on the keyboard, but more likely the data was imported from various other sources. Some sources may have had property sales data, others may not have. If you have ever been involved in transferring data from one database to another, then you would know that sometimes you have to manipulate the data in order to successfully import it.
For example, let’s say I create a simple contact management database in Access that records addresses and phone numbers so I can send out my holiday greeting cards. I’m going to transfer my email contacts list so I don’t have to retype everyone’s information. The problem is, I’ve designed my Access database to require a phone number and I don’t have phone numbers for all my email contacts. What can I do? As part of the import, I can tell Access to assign the phone number “555-555-5555” to all records that don’t have a phone number. My import is successful and I can easily identify the records that have invalid telephone numbers because everyone knows that phone numbers with the 555 exchange are invalid.
This is exactly what I expect happened here. If you look up to Lanza property on Trulia, you see the actual sales transaction. The Lanza’s purchased their Newtown home in 1998, well before the 2012 revaluation process. When the record for the property was imported, it was assigned a $0 transaction value and dummy date of 12/25/09, because there was no actual transaction involving money on that date or any recent date, yet it still needed to be included in the database at its current market value. Likewise, the property originally held by Mr. Spies was imported with the dummy transaction data; a second transaction records an actual sale of the property to Mr. Manfredonia. Well, what about the third property–there’s a sales transaction dated 2003 in this record, followed by a $0 sale. My guess is that there was sales data available in the source database from the year 2003, but not years earlier, so that data was imported. The assessed value of the property changed, so a new record was created with a current appraisal value and a zero dollar “sale.” The $0 sales value means there was no sale.
Look at it this way: I just gave you $0 for your watch; you still have your watch. We didn’t complete a sales transaction because no money or property changed hands. There was no sale!
Another point, which should be obvious, is that the sales price of a home is not the same as a mortgage balance. The mortgage value is what I owe on my home. This database, at least from what we can see, presents absolutely no data on mortgage balances.
What’s that you say? It still seems a little fishy? I wonder how much of an anomaly that $0 sales amount is? Look up properties from the other locations in CT, or pick another state. I checked out VA and NH. You’ll see property after property with a $0 sale amount. This conspiracy is even wider-spread than even you thought.
If you are still reading at this point, I hope that you will consider the points I raised before mindlessly repeating the nonsense proposed on Professor Tracy’s blog. Remember, don’t be a sheeple.
Author’s note: As a former database analyst, I was routinely involved in transferring data from one system to another. Leaving a date or value field empty creates a null value in that field. Programmatically, null values can present issues (for example, 1 + null=null). I routinely handled the issue of null values by setting dates to “01/01” or “12/25” and values to “0.” The dates were chosen because everyone knows transactions don’t actually occur on those dates.