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Airbnb suffers major loss in fight for Santa Monica rentals

Cities continue to tighten their grip around Airbnb and other short-term rental sights, and Santa Monica, California, is no different.

In the latest loss, Airbnb and Expedia Group’s HomeAway lost their case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to the city of Santa Monica. This means the previous ruling still stands that the short-term rental companies are liable for illicit rentals on their sites.

In Santa Monica, short-term rentals must be licensed by the city. If they aren’t, the companies will now be responsible for taking them off the site.

“This critical local law prevents residences in our community from being converted into de facto hotels – it protects affordable housing and it helps residents stay in their homes,” Santa Monica City Attorney Lane Dilg said in a statement.

And while the short-term rental sites tried to argue this regulation would make it impossible for the sites to operate, the three panel judges disagreed.

“Even assuming that the ordinance would lead the platforms to voluntarily remove some advertisements for lawful rentals, there would not be a severe limitation on the public’s access to lawful advertisements, especially considering the existence of alternative channels like Craigslist,” the judges said in the ruling.

Santa Monica’s regulations are among the strictest in the nation. They prohibit rentals of whole homes to travelers for less than 30 days. Vacation-rental hosts in the city can only rent rooms to tourists and must be present throughout the stay.

As for the city, it is pleased with the ruling and called it a win for housing and affordability.

“We are thrilled to have confirmation from the Ninth Circuit that our balanced approach to home sharing is working at a time when housing and affordability continue to challenge the region,” Mayor Gleam Davis said. “This is a big win for Santa Monica residents and our residential neighborhoods.”

But Santa Monica isn’t the only city Airbnb is fighting. New York City is upping the ante in its fight against Airbnb, as the two sides battle it out in court and in the court of public opinion.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced that the city is issuing a subpoena to Airbnb, demanding that the short-term rental site turn over the listing data that’s at the center of a legal battle between the two sides.

Last year, New York passed legislation designed to combat the rise of short-term rentals in the city. The law prevents landlords and tenants from illegally renting out apartments for a few days at a time to tourists.

And Massachusetts recently passed a law that extended the state’s current 5.7% hotel tax to most short-term rentals, along with giving municipalities the option of tacking an additional 6% onto the tax; 9% if an owner rents out two or more units in the same community.

But despite all of these battles, the company seems to be remaining optimistic.

“Airbnb has made great strides around the world, working with dozens of cities to develop more than 500 partnerships including fair, reasonable regulations, tax collection agreements, and data sharing that balance the needs of communities, allow hosts to share their homes in order to pay the bills and provides guests the opportunity to affordably visit places like the California coast,” the company said in a statement.

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These are the best counties to buy single-family rentals

Single-family rental purchases inched forward in the first quarter of 2019, according to ATTOM Data Solutions‘ latest Single-Family Rental Market report.

The Single-Family Rental Market report analyzes single-family rental returns in 432 U.S. counties each with a population of at least 100,000.

According to the analysis, the average annual gross rental among the 432 counties was 8.8% for 2019, rising from an average of 8.7% in the prior year.

ATTOM Data Solutions Chief Product Officer Todd Teta said buying single-family homes to rent them out is a better deal for investors in 2019 than it was during the same time in 2018.

“Last year, at this time, investors were seeing returns drop in three-quarters of the counties that were analyzed,” Teta continued. “So far this year, those margins are up in six out of every 10 counties analyzed.”

However, despite the generally rosier picture, Teta notes profits vary widely and investing in the single-family home rental market is not always a great move.

In fact, according to Teta, the typical bottom-line gain from county to county this year has ranged from as little as 3% to as high as 29%.

Notably, the report indicates the housing markets that posted the highest rental returns included Baltimore City, Maryland, up 24.5%; Bibb County, Georgia, up 21.9%; Cumberland, New Jersey, up 21.2%; Winnebago, Illinois, up 17.1%; and Wayne County, Michigan, also up 17.1%.

However, the housing markets that posted the lowest rental returns included San Mateo County, California, up 3.4%; San Francisco County, California, up 3.7%; Marin County, California, up 4%; Santa Clara, California, up 4.2%; and Kings County, New York, up 4.3%.

NOTE: ATTOM Data Solutions calculated rental returns by utilizing annual gross rental yields provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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This housing market clue predicts pending economic slowdown

When it comes to the health of the economy, the housing market is the canary in the coal mine, providing clear and early clues of pending trouble. And that’s why analysts track its performance intently, looking at a multitude of indicators that might signal the looming recession some are forecasting.

Now, one critical clue from the housing market has emerged to suggest economic growth is likely to backslide, and that is a steady decline in single-family authorizations.

In essence: Construction activity appears to be slowing.

Single-family housing authorizations – what some call a key predictor of economic recessions – represent building permits requesting permission to commence construction. In contrast, housing starts signal that construction has already begun. 

According to the latest data released by BuildFax, single-family housing authorizations fell for the third consecutive month in February, declining 4.24% from the previous month. This also represents a 5.75% decline year over year.

The data left BuildFax to conclude that, “without relief from this steady decline in single-family housing authorizations, an economic slowdown is likely forthcoming.”

Existing housing maintenance and remodeling volumes are also down, continuing a four-month decline. Maintenance volume was down 5.53% year over year, while remodeling volume was down 10.07%.

But at the same time, spend for both maintenance and remodeling increased, which BuildFax attributed to recent spikes in construction labor costs.

Interestingly, some cities are defying national trends, posting increases in new construction and maintenance in February.

Dallas, New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C., saw activity in new construction and maintenance rise.

BuildFax said Chicago saw the greatest increases, with new construction up 60.15% and maintenance up 19.51%, which the report said could be a result of the city’s strategic five-year housing plan to solve affordability problems.

“It’s yet to be seen whether housing activity in these cities will eventually slow as it has on a national level or if these will be key metros to watch as the U.S. potentially heads towards an economic slowdown,” BuildFax wrote.

BuildFax CEO Holly Tachovsky said the performance of these indicators over the next several months will be key to determining the overall impact on the economy.

“There have been persistent declines across key housing indicators for four consecutive months. However, we anticipate some economic relief as we head into 2019’s spring home buying season,” Tachovsky said.

“Mortgage rates have reached recent lows leading to increased potential for home sales, which is oftentimes followed by a surge in remodeling activity,” she continued. “The performance of single-family housing authorizations, maintenance and remodeling activity through this next season will shed light on whether declines in the housing market will spread to the broader economy.”

Here is a map of new construction and maintenance activity in the 10 largest metros:


(Source: BuildFax)

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PwC reaches $335 million settlement with FDIC over Taylor, Bean & Whitaker/Colonial Bank audits

PricewaterhouseCoopers will pay $335 million to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in a settlement that ends claims that the auditor failed in its duties by not discovering the accounting malfeasance that led to the late-2000s collapse of Colonial Bank, which funded the mortgages originated by Taylor, Bean Whitaker.

Once upon a time, TBW was the largest privately held mortgage company in the country, employing more than 2,000 people. But TBW collapsed in 2009 after it was discovered that TBW Chairman Lee Farkas and others were cooking the books to cover for hundreds of millions of dollars in nonexistent mortgages.

PwC acted as the auditor for Colonial Bank, which also collapsed when the issues at TBW were uncovered.

When it failed, Colonial Bank was taken over by the FDIC, which then sued PwC and claimed that the bank’s failure cost the insurer $5 billion, making it one of the country’s largest ever bank failures.

Eventually, a federal judge ruled that PwC was “negligent” in its role as Colonial Bank’s auditor, stating that the company could have done more to prevent Colonial’s collapse.

And last year, the judge ordered PwC to pay more than $625 million for its actions in the Colonial/TBW matter.

But, late last week, the two sides announced that they’d reached a settlement in the matter that will see PwC pay $335 million to the FDIC for its role in the TBW affair.

That amount is much closer to the $306.75 million that PwC originally contended it should pay the FDIC, rather than the $625 million awarded to the agency by District Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein.

And the FDIC agreed to the settlement over the objections of former FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg, who still serves on the FDIC board of directors.

Gruenberg issued a statement through the FDIC, in which he stated that he did not vote to approve the settlement because the settlement did not require PwC to admit liability in the matter.

“As a result of its failure to follow required auditing standards, PwC did not detect that hundreds of millions of dollars of assets claimed by Colonial did not in fact exist, had been sold to others, or were worthless. If PwC had complied with auditing standards, it would have discovered the fraud, the fraud would have been stopped, and the damages to Colonial Bank would have been limited,” Gruenberg said in his statement.

“As noted, the settlement announced today did not include a written admission of liability by PwC,” Gruenberg added. “Given PwC’s professional negligence, which contributed directly to the failure of Colonial Bank and large losses to the Deposit Insurance Fund, I voted against authorizing the settlement without a written admission of liability by PwC.”

Nevertheless, the FDIC agreed to the settlement.

“PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation as Receiver for Colonial Bank have settled professional negligence claims brought by the FDIC-R against PwC to their mutual satisfaction,” a spokesperson for PwC said in a statement.

According to Rothstein, PwC was negligent in its audits of Colonial Bank’s business in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2008. Rothstein ruled that PwC’s audits were not designed to detect fraud and did not fully inspect Colonial’s business in the relevant years.

According to Rothstein, PwC did not inspect any of TBW’s loan files at Colonial in 2003 or 2004, failed to follow up on the “illogical” dates on Colonial’s financial reports, failed inspect any of the supposed collateral backing the mortgages in question, and neglected to follow-up on sample loans that failed quality control checks.

TBW is one of housing crisis’ most notorious collapses.

Beginning in 2002 and stretching to 2009, Farkas and his fellow conspirators swept funds between accounts at Colonial and Ocala Funding, a TBW subsidiary that also provided funding for TBW’s mortgages to cover constant overdrafts.

By December 2003, the rolling overdraft had grown to more than $120 million and sweeping the funds back and forth became too complex, so Farkas and others began selling mortgages that didn’t exist to cover the shortages.

By 2009, Colonial Bank had more than $500 million in nonexistent loans on its books.

TBW also sold loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2002, loans sold to Fannie represented 85% of TBW’s business, but Fannie Mae canceled its seller/servicer agreement with TBW after it learned that Farkas had personally taken out $2 million in loans that were not actually backed by homes or any other eligible collateral to pay for the buybacks on non-compliant loans that TBW sold to Fannie.

In fact, Farkas planned to sell eight fraudulent loans (totaling $2 million) to Fannie to cover the money he needed pay Fannie for other non-compliant loans.

Fannie Mae discovered this fraud when Farkas was unable to make payments on the eight fraudulent loans, but did not communicate its findings to Freddie Mac, its regulator or other interested parties.

Subsequently, Freddie considerably increased the volume of its business with TBW.

Farkas’ schemes were finally discovered when Colonial, which was on the verge of insolvency, applied for $553 million in funding from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

According to a 2014 report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Office of the Inspector General, Farkas planned to use TBW to invest $150 million in Colonial and help raise the additional $150 million because he knew that without the injection of funding, TBW’s massive fraud would be discovered.

The additional $150 million wound end up being diverted from Ocala’s books to Colonial’s, but the entire nature of Colonial’s fundraising raised a red flag with the Special Inspector General for TARP.

Investigators questioned whether the injection of funding from Farkas was a “round trip” transaction, where the $300 million from TBW would be paid back from the TARP funds.

In the process of the investigation, several of Farkas’ co-conspirators eventually revealed the details of the multi-year, multi-billion dollar fraud.

Farkas eventually received a 30-year prison sentence and was ordered to forfeit $38.5 million in ill-gotten gains for the $2.9 billion scheme after he was found guilty on 14 counts of bank, wire and securities fraud, becoming one of the only people actually jailed for financial crimes in the run-up to the housing crisis.

And this isn’t the first time that PwC has been forced to pay up over its role in the TBW collapse. Back in August 2016, the auditor settled a $5.5 billion lawsuit over the same issue.

For much more on the fall of TBW, click here.

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New York man admits to playing key role in massive multifamily real estate scandal

A New York man has admitted to taking part in a massive multifamily real estate scandal that harkens back to some of the darkest parts of the housing crisis, including fake residents, fake incomes, and inflated mortgages.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York, Patrick Ogiony pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

The charges stem from an investigation that the Wall Street Journal previously called “one of the biggest mortgage-fraud probes since the financial crisis.”

According to the U.S Attorney’s Office, Ogiony conspired with others to defraud financial institutions including Evans Bank, UBS Securities, MT Bank, Arbor Commercial Mortgage, SteepRock Capital, and Berkadia Commercial Mortgage by providing false information about apartment communities in several states that were owned by Morgan Management.

Ogiony is a former employee of Aurora Capital Advisors, a mortgage brokerage company owned and operated by Frank Giacobbe, who is also charged in the matter.

Court documents show that Ogiony conspired with Giacobbe, Kevin Morgan, Todd Morgan, and others, to broker mortgages on behalf of Morgan Management, a real estate management company that managed over 100 multifamily properties

Kevin Morgan was employed as a vice president at Morgan Management, while Todd Morgan was employed as a project manager.

In pleading guilty, Ogiony admitted to providing false information to financial institutions and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac overstating the incomes of properties owned by Morgan Management or certain principals of Morgan Management.

Specifically, Ogiony admitted to using various means to mislead lenders about the properties’ occupancy, including providing false rent rolls to lenders and appraisers on a variety of dates, overstating either the number of renters in a property, the rent paid by occupants; providing or conspiring to provide false and inflated income statements for the properties; and working with others to deceive inspectors into believing that unoccupied apartments were actually occupied.

By providing that false information, Ogiony and others induced the financial institutions to issue loans that were either for larger amounts than the financial institutions would have authorized had they been provided with truthful information or that the financial institutions would not have issued at all had they been provided with truthful information.

In one instance, Ogiony and others provided false information to Berkadia Commercial Mortgage in connection with The Rochester Village Apartments at Park Place, a multifamily apartment complex owned by Morgan Management principals.

According to court documents, that information included falsely inflated income from storage unit rentals, false reports of rental income, and falsely reporting apartment units as occupied before certificates of occupancy were obtained for those units.

In all, Oginony admitted to providing false information about the following properties:

  • The Preserve at Autumn Ridge, Watertown, NY
  • The Eden Square Apartments, Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania
  • The Rochester Village Apartments at Park Place, Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania
  • The Reserve at Southpointe, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
  • 7100 South Shore Drive Apartments, Chicago, Illinois
  • The Avon Commons Apartments, Avon, NY
  • The Morgan Bay Apartments, Houston, Texas
  • Brookwood on the Green, Syracuse, NY
  • The Creek Hill Apartments, Rochester, NY
  • Hickory Hollow, Rochester, NY
  • The Knollwood Manor Apartments, Rochester, NY
  • The Links at Centerpointe, Canandaigua, NY
  • The Nineteen North Apartments, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • The Overlook at Golden Hills, Lexington, South Carolina
  • The Penbrooke Meadows Apartments, Rochester, NY
  • The Trails of North Hills Apartments, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • The Rivers Pointe Apartments, Syracuse, NY
  • The Union Square Apartments, Rochester, NY
  • The View at MacKenzi, York, Pennsylvania
  • The Villas of Victor, Rochester, NY

Ogiony will be sentenced at a later date and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Kevin Morgan was previously convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and is awaiting sentencing. Charges remain pending against Giacobbe and Todd Morgan.

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Do home equity loans affect your credit score?

Despite record amounts of home equity, fewer homeowners are tapping into this source of wealth. While a number of factors contribute to this fact – including tightening lending standards – could concerns about a home equity loan’s effect on credit score play a role?

To determine the impact a home equity loan could have on a borrower’s credit profile, LendingTree analyzed data from 2,500 consumers to see how their credit scores changed in the months after they took out a loan.

The report found that borrowers saw their credit scores decline by an average of just 13 points. According to LendingTree, because the average credit score of borrowers was 735 to start, such a decline would have a negligible impact on access to credit and would only marginally increase the cost of credit.

LendingTree also noted that it took about 60 days after closing or longer for the loan to show up on a borrower’s credit report.

The decline in credit score took an average 158 days to reach its lowest point, and then about 163 days to recover completely, meaning that the complete cycle to return to the original credit score was 321 days, or less than 11 months, the survey found.

Why is a borrower’s credit score affected at all?

LendingTree says scoring agencies take into account the total amount of money a consumer owes, and the presence of a large line of credit drags down that score, although with less weight than a large increase in outstanding debt.

But, over time, the impact is lessened, LendingTree says.

“Making on-time payments helps a borrower improve their credit score as they demonstrate they are managing their new home equity loan account well. If it is a home equity line of credit and the borrower does not use the full credit line, their credit utilization ratio falls – which also boosts their credit score,” LendingTree notes. “Having a home equity loan also increases the diversity of accounts in the credit file, which boosts the score as well. Eventually, the score returns to its pre-loan level, and in most cases surpasses it.”

Here is a chart ranking cities by average decline in credit score as a result of a home equity loan:

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Goldman Sachs is going to hire more women

Goldman Sachs announced it is expanding its year-old program to add more diverse employees to the company worldwide, according to an article from CNBC.

CNBC’s Hugh Son reports the big bank says that half of its new analysts and entry-level associates must be women. The bank also, for the first time, issued goals for it to meet in hiring black and Latino employees.

From the article:

The firm has set “aspirational goals” of having half of all new analysts and entry-level associates hired in the U.S. be women, 11 percent black, and 14 percent Latino, according to a staff memo sent Monday. The firm set a lower goal for black hires in the U.K., where it is seeking 9 percent level.

By increasing the ranks of women and minorities at entry-level positions — analysts and associates are the two most junior job titles in Wall Street’s hierarchy — Goldman is hoping to improve diversity across the firm over time. More than 70 percent of new hires are at the analyst and associate level, the bank said.

Goldman, like Wall Street overall, is dominated by white males, particularly at senior levels. About 60 percent of the bank’s U.S. employees are white, while 38 percent are female, 5.4 percent are black and 8.5 percent Latino, according to the firm’s most recent disclosure. When it comes to top managers, 80 percent are white, 22 percent are female, 2.9 percent are black and 4.3 percent are Latino.

According to CNBC’s reporting, the memo sent to staff on Monday outlines some very ambitious goals for the bank, but they are not unattainable, according to the bank’s senior leaders. According to the article, CEO David Solomon and two deputies said in the memo that the targets “are aspirational, we have access to an incredible talent pool and believe they can be achieved.”

According to the memo, the bank is also looking at new ways to further representation of LGBT, disabled and veterans communities across the company’s workforce.

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Homebuilders advise some-more affordable supply could be on a way

Mortgage activity mislaid some steam during a finish of a year as aloft home prices and prior expansion in rates pushed down home sales. But a slack helped stabilise a housing market, and consumers could see some-more affordable home register on a market, according to a National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo.

“In a healthy pointer for a housing market, some-more builders are observant that reduce cost points are offered well, and this was reflected in a government’s new-home sales news expelled final week,” pronounced NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz in a press release.


“Increased register of affordably labelled homes — in markets where supervision policies support such construction — will capacitate some-more entry-level buyers to enter a market,” he said.

Starter home register has been quite parsimonious as homeowners continue staying put longer and opt to reconstruct rather than pierce into another house. Homebuilders, struggling with construction costs and aloft prices for land, tend to arise houses during aloft cost points to make a profit. But justification that lower-priced homes are doing well, atop a cooling in cost appreciation, helps incentivize builders to emanate some-more affordable supply.

This also comes during a time when debt applications for new home purchases are on a rise.

Builder certainty in a housing marketplace hold solid during a reading of 62 in March, according to a NAHB and Wells Fargo’s Housing Market Index, where a value over 50 means some-more builders perspective conditions as good than poor. Builders also design a clever open home shopping deteriorate ahead.

Despite this, affordability stays a tip jump for homebuilders, and shortages of workers, buildable lots and parsimonious zoning restrictions — quite in large cities — continue to plea them as they aim to emanate entry-level inventory, according to NAHB.

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Your Money: State taxes are too hard for mere mortals to compute

NEW YORK(Reuters) – Can regular people calculate their state taxes in light of the new U.S. tax law?

No way, experts say.

“There isn’t a way to figure it out,” said Craig Smalley, an enrolled agent tax preparer in Orlando, Florida. “I’ve worked with clients all over the United States. There’s nothing you can do.”

But surely, users of do-it-yourself software can get a little window into what is going on?

TurboTax’s answer is that you need not know the intricacies of state law. The software “automatically imports your information into your state tax return from your federal tax return,” explained Lisa Greene-Lewis, a CPA and tax expert with TurboTax.

The Tax Cuts Jobs Act passed in December 2017 has already created a particularly challenging tax year. But situations in the 44 states that levy income tax are even more confusing.

Some states are following federal rules, but others like New York have broken ranks. Some, like New Jersey, have never been on board.

Virginia may be the winner for the most complicated taxes, according to Tynisa Gaines, an enrolled agent tax preparer based in Herndon, Virginia. It is among those states that say if you take the standard deduction on the federal return, you cannot itemize on your state return.

Since federal changes doubled the standard deduction to $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for married couples, fewer taxpayers are expected to itemize than before. But Virginia’s standard deduction is low, just $3,000 for singles and $6,000 for married.

Gaines said she would pay $1,000 more in state taxes if she did not itemize. She runs returns multiple ways to figure out the least painful options for her clients.

Keeping up with changes for her nationwide clientele requires constant attention. The only way Gaines manages is to download the regulation handbook from each state’s tax information website and pore over it.

“It’s not easy. I have to look it up for almost every client every year,” Gaines said. “A state might decide not to tax veteran retirement pay when they did before, or they might exempt military spouse pay suddenly. There is no shortcut to it at all.”

Even in a small state like Massachusetts, tax law can send professionals into a tizzy. The state conforms to federal law on issues like 529 college saving plan rules, but not on others like the tax treatment of debt cancellations, said John Warren, an enrolled agent tax preparer in Medford, Massachusetts.

“If I call up my tax software company, it’s most likely on the state side,” Warren said.


One reason you cannot just let the software figure it out is that the state takes out money from each of your paychecks. It is likely that the amount withheld in 2018 was incorrect and carried over to this year.

Even if you did projections, those may be obsolete. Enrolled agent Phyllis Jo Kubey did an analysis for each of New York clients, but the state later announced it would decouple from the federal rules.

New York still allows $1,000 per dependent personal exemption, for instance. “So if you just say, I’m going to use the standard deduction and not think about it, you might be leaving money on the table,” Kubey said.

Some state tax websites have withholding calculators, and you can navigate through the inputs – which, like the federal W-4 calculator, now require a lot of information.

You can also use your completed 2018 return as a baseline. Take your total state taxes due and then figure out the filing status and number of allowances that will equal the correct amount for 2019, divided by the number of paychecks you get for the rest of the year.

“The state is the stepchild. People forget about the state until the end,” Gaines said.

Editing by Lauren Young and Richard Chang

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Role of a Lifetime: Life Lessons with Peter Krause

NEW YORK (Reuters) – If you are looking for steady work, it is probably best not to go into show business. Unless you are Peter Krause, that is.

The 53-year-old Minnesota native has been a staple of U.S. TV screens for years, with roles in shows like “Sports Night,” “Six Feet Under,” “Parenthood,” and his current series “9-1-1,” which begins its spring season tonight on Fox.

For the latest in Reuters’ “Life Lessons” series, Krause talked with us about the heartland principles that have kept him working steadily in Hollywood for a couple of decades.

Q: Was an acting career always on your radar, even as a kid?

A: When I turned 16 in Roseville, Minnesota, it was expected that I would get a job, so I got one at the local movie theater.

It’s gone now, which is kind of sad. But I got to see every movie that came out, multiple times: Films like “The Mission,” “Chariots of Fire,” “On Golden Pond,” and “The Pope of Greenwich Village.”

So I got to really study those performances, even though I wasn’t thinking about being an actor at the time.

Q: Did your folks give you a hard time about your career choice?

A: My dad was a farm kid, always doing chores, who didn’t even have plumbing or electricity until he was 16. By the time he was 18, he was boots on the ground in Germany, as part of the army of occupation after World War Two. So the idea of acting was very foreign to him. We had a bit of a battle at first.

Q: What was the money situation like early on?

A: My parents didn’t have a lot of money. All of our family vacations were by car. So when I flew into New York City to go to New York University, I had never even been on a plane before.

I took the bus from LaGuardia Airport to Grand Central Station, and then walked from there down to NYU, which was about 40 blocks. Seeing the city like that was a shock to the system, since I had grown up in a small town in the middle of cornfields.

Q: Were those early acting years tough financially?

A: I had been bartending on Broadway in theaters, which is where I first met Aaron Sorkin, who was a bar manager at the Palace Theatre at the time, when they were playing “La Cage aux Folles.”

But one of my first shows out of college was with Carol Burnett, which was helpful with my parents, because they knew who she was. I finally got to take my dad out for lunch, and grabbed the check and signed the bill. He looked at me and said, “Well, this is different.”

Q: Which of your roles taught you the most?

A: All roles teach you something new. Different characters have different life rules, and some of those characters end up bleeding into me a little.

Nate Fisher from “Six Feet Under” was very difficult to play, because he was so at odds with himself all the time. That was a defining moment in my career. Working on that show was like a daily meditation on life and death.

Q: Have you thought about the future, and what retirement is going to look like for you?

A: I don’t plan on retiring. I’ll do this as long as I can. I still enjoy acting as much as I ever did. Right now on “9-1-1” I get to be a firefighter, which is basically my childhood dream come true.

Q: You have a kid, so what life lessons do you try to pass along to him?

A: He just turned 17, so I have taught him all sorts of things: How to ride a bike, drive a car. I was even his baseball coach for three years. What I have tried to impart to him the most is to figure out what makes him happy. For myself, I spent a fair amount of time trying to make my parents happy, and wanting to be a success in their eyes. That kind of messed me up. So I want to get my son to listen to his own compass.

(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Editing by Beth Pinsker; Editing by David Gregorio

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