No, this isn’t CGI.
Here it is: the grand finale of the James Webb Space Telescope’s f
2=Carina Nebula ❤️🌌 pic.twitter.com/0em6CchT57
— Curiosity (@Sciencenature14) July 29, 2022
A Weekly Shout Out To My Columbia Grad Students
Our third class of the summer semester was held on the Columbia University campus this week, and my ±150 students energetically scrambled to class on time…
…and were engaged in conversations about the recent market pivot through the slew of charts I shared. Also, to my students: don’t worry about the Appraiserville section near the bottom of this newsletter but you may find it interesting!
See you next week!
But I digress…
The Hamptons Market Sets Price Records As Sales Come Down From Sugar High
I’ve been the author of an expanding series of market reports for Douglas Elliman real estate since 1994. Covering the East End of Long Island, namely The Hamptons and North Fork, has been especially challenging. One of the characteristics of The Hamptons is that it has long been closely correlated with Manhattan real estate trends until the pandemic era. While Manhattan slumped after the pandemic lockdown ended, the East End soared, largely because of the new found ability to work remotely. The Hamptons shifted from a luxury second home vacation market to a “co-primary” or alternative primary market.
The surge in activity is now coming to an end as the Fed continues to batter the economy with a baseball bat.
Bloomberg shared our data through an article and charts (a chart two-fer!!)
Prices are at record levels…
But listings are starting to rise (but remain very low)…
There was other good coverage on the state of the market out east worth reading, including:
– Hot Long Island housing market shows signs of slowdown in second quarter [Newsday]
– Low Supply and Rising Rates Slow Hamptons Sales, but Prices Are Still Going up [Mansion Global]
– Long Island, Hamptons sales slow and listings tick up [The Real Deal]
Elliman Report: Q2-2022 Hamptons Sales
“Price trends pressed higher as sales volume slowed, responding to a combination of lack of supply and rising mortgage rates.”
– Median sales price has reached both record and near-record levels for nine consecutive quarters
– Bidding wars accounted for one out of three sales during the quarter
– Listing inventory rose quarter over quarter from a new low to the third lowest on record
– The number of sales fell sharply year over year, restrained by a combination of low supply and rising mortgage rates
NORTH FORK HIGHLIGHTS
Elliman Report: Q2-2022 North Fork Sales
“The market was in sync with its southern counterpart with record prices, but lower sales volume caused by limited supply and growing economic uncertainty.”
– Median sales price has reached both record and near-record levels for eight consecutive quarters
– Bidding wars accounted for nearly one out of two sales during the quarter
– Listing inventory rose quarter over quarter but remained roughly one-third of normal levels
– The number of sales declined year over year, restrained by a combination of low supply and rising mortgage rates
[Business of Home Podcast] Jonathan Miller on rising mortgage rates and the folly of Zestimates
I joined Dennis Scully on The Business of Home podcast to talk about the changes to housing in the pandemic era. Their audience covers a lot of the verticals that rely on the performance of the housing market. It was a fun conversation.
The pandemic has shifted the housing market in fundamental ways that are still playing out, says Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants. “This doesn’t seem like a reactive, short-term move,” he tells Dennis Scully on this week’s episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “This seems more structural.”
Long Island Prices Set Records As Sales Continue To Cool
Sales have been slowing year over year for the past three quarters but the reasons for the slowdown prior to the current quarter was the collapse of listing inventory. However with the spike in mortgage rates at the beginning of the spring market, sales are slowing because mortgage rates have essentially doubled since the end of December, crushing affordability.
Newsday produced an awesome summary table in their coverage of the second quarter results:
LONG ISLAND HIGHLIGHTS
Elliman Report: Q2-2022 Long Island Sales
“Price trends pressed higher as sales volume slowed, responding to a combination of lack of supply and rising mortgage rates.”
– Median sales price has reached both record and near-record levels for thirteen consecutive quarters
– Bidding wars rose to a new high and accounted for six of ten sales during the quarter
– Listing inventory rose sharply quarter over quarter but was half the pre-pandemic level
– Luxury median and average sales prices reached new highs and remain well-above pre-pandemic levels
– Luxury listing inventory fell year over year for the tenth straight quarter to the fourth lowest
level on record
– Luxury bidding wars rose to a new high for the eighth time in ten quarters
An Important Remind That The Repeat Sales Methodology Has No Seasons
Housing has seasons.
That’s a fact. It’s in the data. Yet the repeat sales methodology as an academic exercise does not. It is used as a leading economic indicator and is loved by academia but it has no real place in market analysis because of the reporting lag is much longer than aggregating methods and takes a very top level view, unable to drill down reliably to local submarkets.
I had this thought when I was reading the essential Calculated Risk Substack and saw this chart. Even on a national level, the NAR’s Existing Home Sales approach is much more nuanced. This is a relative comparison only. I’m not suggesting you use national data to illustrate local market trends!
Ritholtz: The Great Resignation Is Kaput
My friend and prolific econ blogger/writer/podcaster/wealth manager makes the case that with a weaker economy and higher unemployment, consumers won’t have the same work flexibility they recently enjoyed.
Perhaps the most eye-opening observation for me was that wages since the 1960s have been deflationary (they haven’t been keeping up with inflation), and now they have become inflationary. Fascinating. But I’m happy to see real wage growth and a possible slow down in the erosion of the middle class.
C’mon, Tree Houses Are Overrated
Here’s the most literal tree house we’ve ever seen. Listed for $3,800,000 in Pismo Beach, CA. pic.twitter.com/TtAyBwBVvA
— Zillow Gone Wild 🏡 (@zillowgonewild) July 24, 2022
Looking Forward To Jim’s Note
I’ve known Jim Duncan, a Realtor in Charlottesville, VA, vicariously through our respective online musings since 2005ish. He stood out to me among the noise but my wife told me anyone you only know online are “fake friends” until you meet them in person.
Well I did meet Jim in person eventually and did a video interview with him a few years ago for a podcast. About two years ago he added a substack to his efforts. I always look forward to receiving his thoughts and absorbing his take on real estate and being human.
I highly recommend his substack: Jim’s Note. “Charlottesville, Virginia real estate trends, insight, stories. For people, not Realtors.”
My Photo Shoot At The Waldorf!
I was fortunate to have my photos taken at the Towers of the Waldorf-Astoria | Park Avenue Condominiums in Manhattan by Sara Fox. Fun!
My favorite charts of the week of our own making
My favorite charts of the week made by others
(For earlier appraisal industry commentary, visit my old clunky REIC site.)
TAF Admits Their Fair Housing Course Is Misleading But Opts To Keep Using It Because, You Know, Money
Last week I shared the ASC letter sent to state appraiser regulatory officials pointing out that TAF’s USPAP update course is factually inaccurate and puts appraisers in legal jeopardy if they follow it.
I wanted to point out that TAF has known this course was misleading since January as presented by fair housing experts but because they have decided to lay low to reduce their exposure to the ongoing flood of criticism, it finally took the above ASC letter sent last week to get them to potentially do something about it.
I was surfing the Association of Appraiser Regulatory Officials (AARO) web site, and found the “TAF Letter to State Regulators” which has a link to the July 15 2022-23 7-Hour National USPAP Update Course letter. What I thought was odd was the fact that this letter does not appear on the TAF press section as of 12:30 pm today:
This letter was sent out to the same State Appraiser Regulatory officials that last week’s ASC letter was sent to. My guess was they wanted to respond to the states but didn’t want the public or appraisers to see they were admitting the flaws of their course.
While they say “We are sensitive to the concerns which have been raised regarding the 90-minute section of the course focused on bias as it relates to USPAP” they have not done anything about it! They’ve known about the misleading information in the course since January, so how sensitive to any concerns can they be? They are teaching appraisers misleading information. Shouldn’t that warrant a pull down of the course until it is fixed? And seriously, how long would it take to fix it, a few weeks?
Instead of having “retained the preeminent fair housing law firm Relman Colfax” firm to assist the review, they should have hired them before launching the course, right? And by the way, when you use a word like “preeminant” on a vendor, you are merely trying to score credibility points even though the problem was made public more than six months ago. Apparently, the law firm has not identified any issues, but they will update the course material anyway. In other words, TAF is dancing around the issue and agrees that the course needs to be updated – that’s an admission that the existing course is flawed. They haven’t provided any specific counters to the January report yet.
Before the new Fair Housing/USPAP course was rushed out the door by TAF and Dave exclaimed in his newsletter how “excited” they were about the course, why does Dave think TAF is a fair housing expert? Remember that TAF hired that preeminent firm AFTER the NFHA January report criticizing the course accuracy.
In the third paragraph of the TAF letter, they say:
Based on the guidance we have received, this course of action will ensure all students receive the same, up-to-date information and precludes the need to remove the course from the marketplace and unnecessarily disrupt the continuing education of appraisers.
This letter says NOTHING about when this update will take place!
Will it take another six months to pull a misleading course from the states? I’m sure this law firm has an hourly rate at the top end of the scale given their preeminent prefix. Given the six month delay so far and no specific date for an update and certainly no ambition to pull the course, do they just need to gin up their course revenue to pay for the legal fees? Six months of legal fees don’t suggest a small amount of money since TAF said they are sensitive to the issue and is going to update the course so its no longer misleading as it continues to generate revenue for TAF.
As a result, through incompetence, TAF has created massive confusion among the entire industry by:
– Not recognizing they are not fair housing experts
– Not engaging fair housing experts to write the course
– Not engaging fair housing experts to review the course before its release
– Not pulling a misleading course immediately after it was publicly pointed out by fair housing experts
– Not providing any tangible response until ASC sent a note to state regulators
– Requiring appraisers to take a USPAP update course yet USPAP has not been updated!!
And it gets worse…
Why is this letter coming from Dave Bunton, the director of TAF and not from Brad Swinney, the current chair of the AQB? (Screenshot taken today):
The executive team at TAF is separate from the technical boards (AQB and ASB) and Dave has always made a point that the technical boards are independent. Why would Dave usurp Brad? I can only assume that either Brad did not agree with this response, or because of the pressure closing in on TAF, Dave is no longer thinking like a savvy technocrat and more like a monarch under immense pressure. Why on earth would Dave be the one to speak to this issue and not the AQB?
This is why TAF needs oversight. This is a reactive and political response as they are not looking out for the industry nor care about the public trust.
TAF currently has no real oversight but this is not how Congress intended them to operate. The original concept was that TAF would be issued grant money from ASC each year with “strings” attached – those “strings” were intended to be the oversight. A few years ago TAF figured out a loophole and has been raising money off the backs of appraisers to self-fund and be independent. As a non-profit, TAF has around $12 million in the bank? For what? As they say in their 2030 Vision Statement: “Financial Independence.”
The Appraisal Institute Was Reinstated Back In March And Given $500K To Develop PAREA
I saw this press release on the TAF site and was reminded of the money connection. As TAF went on the offensive to aggressively tell ASC to f*ck off with their bat-shit crazy letter they needed an ally so they re-engaged with the Appraisal Institute. On the surface this is a great idea except for the fact that Dave and Jim are mortal enemies and this was a marriage of convenience. After 12 years of petty and serious fighting, how did they become best friends? What better way to get AI back as a sponsoring organization than pay them $500K to pay them to develop a PAREA course? Change my mind. Incidentally I’d be remiss without mentioning the TAF chickenshit letter too.
Before writing the PAREA course, here are some serious questions that should be thought through:
– How much will this cost to the end user?
– How many states will accept it?
– How will it fit into USPAP?
– How will it improve diversity in an industry that is 98% white?
The AI Sham Petition Process Results Will Be Determined On Thursday August 4th
Last week I shared a letter about someone who had direct experience working with FOJ and the NNC choice Paula Konikoff and it did not sound very pleasant. I’m hearing that there have been letters of opposition to her nomination. Supposedly there were 2 letters from the Savannah Chapter, 2 from Florida, 1 from Indiana, 1 from Nevada, 1 from New York and 1 from Pennsylvania. I haven’t seen any of them myself.
And Rick Borges, past AI President and someone who has had a business relationship with Paula for quite a while, picked her and pushed for her on the NNC. Why is a former president (he’s not the Chairman of NNC) on the NNC? Former presidents carry more weight with board members and executives at AI than those who haven’t. Are there so few members in AI now that they aren’t able to pick people with fresh ideas? There continues to be a closed group of people that hold multiple positions to keep the CEO in power (FOJs). This is the same pattern we see at TAF.
And worst of all, not all ten regions were represented on the NNC vote. Fascinating. I suspect that’s why the NNC was able to flip to an FOJ.
This truly is a sham and it is probably the last opportunity non-FOJs will have to get the current CEO out of office. Again, why isn’t the Illinois state prosecutors looking into this institutional takeover?
ANNOUNCEMENT: August 1, The Third Annual Residential Roundtable At House of Blues, Las Vegas.
While I realize this is late notice, if you happen to be in Las Vegas, this sounds like a fantastic event for residential appraisers. James Heaslet, Department of Veterans Affairs Chief Appraiser (and a champion of residential appraisers), Jeff Hogan, Vice President, Veros and Craig Capella, Member at Franklin, Greenswag, Channon & Capilla, LLC and former prosecutor for the State of Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
Here is some information on the organization. When they meet, they draw several hundred residential appraisers and have 1,000 or more attend their video events. It is a free event to:
– Educate residential appraisers
– To enable experienced residential appraisers to give back to the profession they love
– Open to all residential appraisers, not just members of AI
Here is a recap from NRT:
One of the reasons NRT is growing rapidly is the absence of any meaningful residential appraisal representation at the Appraisal Institute. For AI, its all about commercial appraisers. They can’t have it both ways. If AI wants to represent residential members, there has to be a reason for residential appraisers to join. Remember that residential committee formed in 2017 by JA and his FOJs? Of course most of you won’t remember since its literally done nothing for residential appraisers. It was created when JA wanted to take all the chapter money and control it (dubbed “The Taking”). This is why the professional value of the SRA designation has collapsed over the past decade. Designations require brand building and real effort. Lets help residential upstart organizations like NRT thrive in the absence of any AI support.
Cosmic Cobra Guy: West Virginia Appraiser Lori Noble Pivots to Shining Light On Occupational Regulation (hint: USPAP)
My good friend will help make a difference to all appraisers as well as other occupations in her new position. As Jeremy says below, we wish her the very best!
*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***
APPRAISER WILL HELP EXPOSE OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING ABUSES NATIONWIDE
(July 29, 2022) – Her experience as a licensed real property appraiser in West Virginia turned out to be the perfect training ground for the study of public corruption, restraint of trade and government overreach. Who would have thought it?
After 27 years of being whipsawed by West Virginia’s notorious appraiser-licensing apparatus, the Appraisal Foundation – and the latter’s continually changing copyrighted standards – and a complicit federal monitor, Lori Noble has become truly inspired – inspired to warn the public of the dangers of uncontrolled growth in occupational licensing.
In July, the Daniels-based appraiser wrapped up her final assignment as a mortgage appraiser and began a new chapter in her life. She will serve as outreach and public relations coordinator at the Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation. Housed at the University of West Virginia’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics, its mission is to provide information to citizens, policymakers and researchers about the extent, scope and effects of occupational regulation.
There she will help to catalogue and report on occupational licensing across the country.
“She has lived the ultimate cautionary tale,” said appraiser-author Jeremy Bagott. “She’s witnessed firsthand a licensing scheme run amok. You can’t get this from a book. Her career as a licensed real property appraiser in West Virginia will serve her well. She’s developed an eagle eye for identifying fiefdoms, restraint of trade, regulatory capture, conflicts of interest, self-dealing, government zealotry and rogue boards and commissions.”
Noble’s thinking over the years has evolved. She went from viewing occupational licensing as a necessary means to protect the safety and welfare of the public to a cynical tool promoted by established businesses to erect barriers against innovation and competition. This isn’t the case in all professions, she says, but it is in far too many.
Recently, working with lead sponsor state Delegate Brandon Steele, along with Delegates Geoff Foster and Josh Booth, she helped bring about West Virginia House Bill 4285, a long-overdue statute that was signed into law in April.
The statute helps counter cronyism. It attempts to keep the board from maintaining a perpetual scarcity of appraisers in the state, which the board has done by slow-walking applications for years. All West Virginians indirectly paid the price for the artificial scarcity. The new law now requires the board to provide applicants a written statement within 15 calendar days of its decision to deny an applicant’s license or renewal request.
“The West Virginia appraiser licensing board has been a petri dish, incubating all manner of petty corruption over the years,” said Bagott.
In an attempt to quash one reported scheme, the new law bans any member of the West Virginia Real Estate Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board from disciplining a licensee and then hiring on as an expert witness in a lawsuit involving the licensee. The statute attempts to remove the board members’ financial incentive to penalize appraisers by eliminating the possibility of future revenue attached to their disciplinary actions.
Noble points out that in the 1950s, only about 5% of all occupations required licensing or certification. Today, that percentage has grown to about one-quarter of all U.S. jobs. Occupational licensing and other onerous regulations now limit access to diverse professions like dance instructor, hair braider, manicurist, tour guide, interior designer and many more.
She also points out the way in which occupational licensing limits mobility of America’s once famously mobile workforce. If one spouse is in a licensed profession, the family may not be able to simply pull up stakes and move to accommodate the job prospects of the other spouse because of licensing concerns in the new state. It keeps workers from going to where the jobs are. It also disproportionately harms military spouses.
Even in professions where most would agree licensing makes sense, the requirements of licensing are often both burdensome and aimed at protecting the market share of licensees, rather than addressing public health and safety.
Early in her career, esoteric concepts like “regulatory capture” were not on her radar by name, but the deadweight loss she experienced due to increasingly gratuitous regulations placed on real property appraisers made her want to understand the phenomenon and take action.
“I’m grateful to the many who’ve traveled the problem-solving journey with me,” she said. “I’ll be working on research papers, helping to build a national database of occupational licensing across the United States and taking intelligence to policy makers to help them make informed decisions.”
We wish her the very best.
# # #
Established in 2016, The Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation (CSOR) is an academic research center currently within the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University. The Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation offers student fellows the opportunity to conduct, analyze, and present research that goes toward developing a national database of occupational regulation, focusing on healthcare and other occupations.
# # #
Jeremy Bagott, a licensed appraiser and former newspaperman, sends up a warning flare in his 2019 book “Dispatches from the Cosmic Cobra Breeding Farm.” He takes the reader deep inside a tiny Washington, D.C., foundation that has managed to have its copyrighted code of conduct enshrined in federal and state law. All 50 states, even the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, now enforce it. The nonprofit, known as the Appraisal Foundation, has parlayed the arrangement into a lucrative publishing cartel. In his journey, the author uncovers a troubling trend deep in the plumbing of government.
OFT (One Final Thought)
While this happened ten days ago, it still gets to me when I watch it. Wait for it.
Try not to cry as you watch a young Clayton Kershaw fan tell the story of his grandfather, who died of brain cancer and how he always wanted to meet the #Dodgers ace. I’m not crying, you’re crying. 😢😭 #AllStarGame #AlwaysLA pic.twitter.com/HdwTv3EUSR
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) July 20, 2022
Brilliant Idea #1
If you need something rock solid in your life (particularly on Friday afternoons) and someone forwarded this to you, or you think you already subscribed, sign up here for these weekly Housing Notes. And be sure to share with a friend or colleague if you enjoy them because:
– They’ll cry;
– You’ll cry;
– And I’ll cry.
Brilliant Idea #2
You’re obviously full of insights and ideas as a reader of Housing Notes. I appreciate every email I receive, and it helps me craft the following week’s Housing Note.
See you next week.
Reads, Listens and Visuals I Enjoyed
- Most Expensive Condo in Los Angeles Hits Market at $75 Million
- Deserted DC Office Buildings Are Becoming Apartments
- Flawed Expertise Breath Moving [Jim Duncan]
- How Can Big Cities Get Us To Live There (Again)? [WSJ]
- Median vs Repeat Sales Index House Prices [Calculated Risk]
- Yankee legend Lou Gehrig's former New Rochelle home is back on the market for $1.5M [6sqft]
- ‘There’s a Recession Coming’: The Rich Rush to Offload Luxury Properties [Vice]
- Carlyle Group Builds Empire of Small Brooklyn Apartment Buildings [The Real Deal]
- Mortgage Rates [Freddie Mac]
- Jeff Bezos helps buy parents adjacent $74M South Florida estates [NY Post]
- Jeff Bezos’ Parents Tied to Coral Gables Home Purchase [The Real Deal]
- Berkshire Hathaway-owned lender to pay $20 million in redlining case. [NY Times]
- Housing Affordability Crisis Increases Odds of Recession [Bloomberg]
- The Great Resignation Is Long Over – The Big Picture [Ritholtz]
- What if the suburbs were just a first draft? [VOX]
- US Home-Price Growth Slowed in May as Buyers Began to Pull Back [Bloomberg]
- NYC Evictions Have Increased Every Month This Year [City Limits]
- The Standard Tracker: Here Are the Return-to-Office Policies of SF’s Public Companies[SF Standard]
- Is Recession Staring Us Down? Already Upon Us? Here’s Why It’s Hard to Say. [NY Times]
- Study: Millennials didn't stray far from where they grew up [AP News]
- Hong Kong’s Fix for China’s Mortgage Boycotts [Bloomberg]
- Becoming a Blockchain Broker: Q&A with Danielle Garofalo [Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Blog]
- Homebuyer Competition Drops to Lowest Level in Over Two Years [Redfin]
- Soft Landing RIP – The Big Picture [Ritholtz]
- Why Your House Was So Expensive [The Atlantic]
- Luxury Rental Buildings Take ‘Working From Home’ to the Next Level [NY Times]
- We Need to Keep Building Houses, Even if No One Wants to Buy [NY Times]
My New Content, Research and Mentions
- US Cities Where Rents Have Increased the Most [CNET]
- As rents increase in New York City, so do evictions [6sqft]
- Long Island Housing Market Reaches Turning Point [The Reall Deal]
- Hamptons Home Prices Hit a Record in Pandemic Boom’s Last Gasp [Bloomberg]
- Hot Long Island housing market shows signs of slowdown in second quarter [Newsday]
- Low Supply and Rising Rates Slow Hamptons Sales, but Prices Are Still Going up [Mansion Global]
- Surging NYC rents are displacing tenants who got discounts early in the pandemic, report says [Gothamist]
- TRD Pro: Ranking Queens’ Most Expensive Housing Markets [The Real Deal]
- Jonathan Miller on rising mortgage rates and the folly of Zestimates [Business of Home]
Recently Published Elliman Market Reports
- Elliman Report: Long Island Sales 2Q 2022 [Miller Samuel]
- Elliman Report: North Fork Sales 2Q 2022 [Miller Samuel]
- Elliman Report: Hamptons Sales 2Q 2022 [Miller Samuel]
- Elliman Report: West Palm Beach Sales 2Q 2022 [Miller Samuel]
- Elliman Report: Wellington Sales 2Q 2022 [Miller Samuel]
- Elliman Report: South & Greater Downtown Tampa Sales 2Q 2022 [Miller Samuel]
- Elliman Report: St. Petersburg Sales 2Q 2022 [Miller Samuel]
- Elliman Report: Pompano Beach Sales 2Q 2022 [Miller Samuel]
- Elliman Report: Palm Beach Sales 2Q 2022 [Miller Samuel]
- Elliman Report: Naples Sales 2Q 2022 [Miller Samuel]
Appraisal Related Reads
- The Third Annual Residential Roundtable At House of Blues, Las Vegas [NRT]
- Paula A. Konikoff, Plaintiff-appellant, Vthe Prudential Insurance Company of America, Defendant-appellee, 234 F.3d 92 (2d Cir. 2000) [Justia]
- The Tide is Turning- July Newsletter [DW Slater Company Blog]
- Association of Appraiser Regulatory Officials| TAF Letter to State Regulators [AARO]
- Birmingham Appraisal Blog [Tom Horn/Birmingham Appraisal Blog]
- Sacramento Appraisal Blog | Real Estate Appraiser [Ryan Lundquist/Sacramento Appraisal Blog]
- CFPB closely examining appraisal industry [Valuation Review]
Extra Curricular Reads
- Why So Many Supercars Have Montana License Plates [Bloomberg]
- Before Air-Conditioning [New Yorker]
- Splash Down in the Hamptons [New Yorker]
- Pizza Exchange Rate [Flowing Data]
- What to read to understand cricket [Economist]
- Diana Kennedy, Food Writer Devoted to Mexican Cuisine, Dies at 99 [NBC Connecticut]