Wednesday, December 31, 2003

New laws for 2004 affecting California Real Estate

There are a number of new laws affecting real estate to be aware of. Some that we'd like to mention:

AB2776 - Airport Noise Disclosure is designed to alert potential buyers to neighboring airport influence areas.
AB313 - Loan interest revises accrual date of interest on a loan for residential property 1-4 units.
AB1049 - Fair Reporting of Insurance Loss History
SB804 - Homestead Exemption increases from $125,000 to $150,000 for persons over 65 years old with a gross annual income of $15,000 (or $20,000 if married).

Please refer to the actual law, as we have included only a one line summary. We advise you to check with your lawyer, tax accountant or other legal/financial advisor to see how they affect you.

There are many, many more new laws affecting real estate. We will update you regularly.

Fran and Rowena's predictions for 2004 Southern California Real Estate
Our crystal ball broke, but we forsee a continued strong real estate market. As it is an election year, we suspect that interest rates will remain favorable. Home prices show no sign of softening that we can see right now. Of course, we'll keep you posted throughout the year!

Our best wishes for a happy, healthy 2004

Monday, December 29, 2003

Real estate over the holidays

We are currently pricing many homes for marketing in 2004. In addition, interest rates remain favorable so buyers are anxious to get into the real estate market. In our area, home prices remain strong.

Now is a good time to get your home ready for the new year. Clean out, donate, and get a fresh start!

Our best wishes for a happy 2004!

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Thinking about relocating?

Here's a neat little calculator that compares the cost of living between two cities.

So many times when people are relocating, they forget to factor in the difference in the cost of living. Sure, real estate prices are difference. In addition, the new location can have a significant impact on costs other than real estate. Have you stopped to think about the cost of car insurance, your children's activities, utilities, transportation, and other everyday expenses.

Use the calculator as a guide!

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

California real estate prices still strong

Is this getting redundant? The California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) reports that the median price of a home in California has increased 17.8% in November, and that sales are up 15.7%. Also reported is that interest rates are down from the same period last year. The complete report on California real estate prices is here.

Some real estate facts:
California's highest median home price by C.A.R. region - November 2003: Santa Barbara South Coast $735,000 (Source: C.A.R.)
California's lowest median home price by C.A.R. region - November 2003: High Desert $172,620 (Source: C.A.R.)

Wishing everyone a joyous holiday!

Monday, December 22, 2003

California real estate and earthquakes

Our thoughts are with those affected by today's earthquake north of us. We know first hand the affect this can have on people. The American Red Cross offers valuable information about an earthquake disaster plan.

Of course, being prepared is the best offense. Batteries, water, food, first-aid supplies, other necessary supplies. And, an out-of-state contact for all to touch base with since local telephone service may be interrupted.

As part of the mandatory California real estate disclosures made by a seller, the Residential Earthquake Hazards Report and accompanying booklet is provided to the buyer. If you would like a copy, please send us an e-mail.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Home sales still strong

According to DataQuick Information Systems, real estate sales for all six Southern California counties --- Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura --- were up 7.9%. The regional real estate median price appreciated 16.7% to $366,000. California Association of REALTORS® chief economist Leslie Appleton-Young notes that the biggest gains in real estate appreciation have been seen in lower-end neighborhoods due to high demand for real estate and a rush to beat the next hike in interest rates.

This confirms our feelings that the real estate market is still very busy, with people trying to get in on the entry level in less expensive areas, such as the inland counties of Riverside and San Bernardino.
Source: Realtor Magazine online

Thursday, December 18, 2003

The American Dream Downpayment Act
Can't afford to buy? How about a $5000 grant?

Need help to afford to buy real estate? Did you know you may be eligible to get approximately $5000 as a grant? Recently signed legislation will provide an average grant of $5,000. Over the next two years, these grants will go to about 80,000 lower-income families. The grant is for homebuyers, and can be used for a down payment and to pay closing costs.
Grants will be made to state and local governments through HUD's HOME Investment Partnership program. Additional information is here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Southern California Real estate notes

We've had many calls asking for more information on landlord and tenant issues. We will post our opinon, and observations to help both parties in this important real estate transaction. Real estate law and practice differs, so please check your local and state laws.
1. Compete a move-in and move-out statement. The California Association of Realtors has a form for this purpose. Document condition and have this written document signed by both parties. Take pictures (use date stamp option on camera) to document written statements.
2. As stated before, read and understand your rights and obligations under the written lease.
3. Any modifications to the written real estate lease should be in writing, and signed by both parties.
4. Keep the lines of communication open. Treat each other honestly and fairly.

These are just a few suggestions, but valuable ones. Please feel free to contact us for any additional information, or consult the California Dept. of Consumer Affairs booklet referenced in our December 14 post.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Tenants and Real estate
We get a lot of calls from tenants and landlords. Certainly, this relationship can be good or not so good!

There are a number of resources online.

In California you have a resource for information from the California Department of Consumer Affairs - an online Landlord/Tenant handbook.
Get informed here.

Please, make sure you read the lease and understand its terms. Ask questions.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Topics for Seniors - Downsizing
In an effort to continue our seniors real estate issues, today we want to mention a few strategies regarding downsizing. This important decision can be very exciting, yet many approach it with apprehension. Consider it a new chapter in your life! Embrace the change, and your positive attitude will carry you through the necessary steps.

Consider the location first.
Determine the size of property you will need.
Think about amenities you would like.
Start to go through your current home and sort through the items. Give things to family members and friends, donate, etc. Think about your future needs ... if you don't plan to have a yard, or plan to have a small yard, you might not need all of the gardening tools you have.
Consult with your tax advisor, estate planner, etc. to see the effect that timing will have on your decision.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Mortgage News
In their weekly report, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America announced yesterday that refinance applications were down over the previous week, wehn measured as a percent of the total applicaiton. In addition, the number of adjustable rate mortgages (instead of fixed rate) increased over the previous week. 49.4 percent of total applications, from 50.0 percent the previous week.
For more complete information, read the press release of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Interest Rates
The Federal Reserve left the Federal funds rate unchanged Tuesday. The compete press release of the Federal Reserve can be read online.

Home prices - interest rates - the economy... what's your opinion?
What's your opinion of the direction of the economy - interest rates - home prices? Send us an e-mail. We'll post them! (if you send us an e-mail, we will use first names only)

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Property Taxes are Due!
If you live in California, the first half of your property taxes are "due" (actually read on about the word "due" ... ) today!

Here's how it works . . .

The property tax fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.
Tax bills are sent around the last week in October.
The first installment (covering July 1 to December 31) is due November 1, but delinquent after December 10 (but we all generally think they're "due" on December 10).
The second installment (covering January 1 to June 30) is due March 1, but delinquent after April 10.

Don't you love how the timing is here . . . December 10 (around the time you're spending all that money on the holidays) and April 10 (around the time you're writing a check to the government for income tax).

Well, that's the way it is!

For further information, we urge you to visit the tax assessor's online info site.
For Los Angeles County, there is an extensive site for the Los Angeles County Tax Assessor

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Response to our Holiday Shopping with Home in mind

Wow! We're amazed at the response to our recent home present suggestions.

Here are some others that were sent to us by e-mail:

From Betty: computer program - home design, landscape design, etc.
From Tom: bird house
From Paul and Jenna: garden stakes (to mark vegetable garden, etc)
From Elizabeth: wind chimes
From Emily: personalized doormat
From Jane: personalized stationary with photo of their house on front of notecard

Thank you one and all! And hey . . . these are good ideas for ANY time someone has bought a house! Keep sending us your ideas! We will continue to post them from time to time. Check back here if you need ideas for that new homeowner on your gift list!

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Holiday Shopping with Home in mind

As we head into the holiday season, remember that home owners (especially first time homeowners) might appreciate a gift for their home! Stuck for ideas? Here are some of ours:
. Cute "themed" mailbox
. Personalized houseplaque (with name and address on it)
. House ornament, personalized with address, year, name, etc.
. Pen and ink house sketch, house painting, etc.
. Subscription to "house"-type magazine or periodical
. Theme gift basket - garden, cooking, etc. Put items in a cleaver, reusable, container such as a ice bucket, picnic basket.
. Live plant, tree
. Some cities have somewhere that old photographs are kept - historical society, etc. See if you can locate an early photo of their home and frame it!
. If their home was designed by a known architect, give a book on that architect
. Stationery with photo of their house (and them!) or personalized return address labels (can you make them on your computer?)
. Home repair book, helpful hints book, etc.
. Home inventory computer program (p.s. you can download a free one from our website)
. Fireproof safebox for valuables/papers
. Flashlights that plug into the wall for use when power is lost
. Anything homemade by you for them!

Use your imagination and have fun!
What's your favorite idea? Send us an email and we'll include it in our blog!

Friday, December 05, 2003

Buying and selling a home during the holidays

Our thoughts on buying or selling a home during the holidays.

People looking to buy a home during the holidays:
. are serious buyers
. may buy for tax reasons
. may make a more "emotional" purchase due to the season
. are competing with fewer buyers
. may be dealing with a more serious seller
. may receive better service and rates on their loan as mortgage applications are slower, as well as on related services

People selling a home during the holidays:
. are serious sellers
. are competing with fewer listings
. have a home that is decorated for the holidays and festive
. may benefit since sales can be historically lower in January and February
. will be able to buy in spring without having to wait for their home to sell
. may need to adjust the showing hours of their home to accomodate the holiday season

We sell homes over the holidays! Timing is everything, and if your home is out there right now . . . buy. And, if your buyer is out there right now . . . sell. There's no wrong or right time to buy/sell real estate. The right time is when it works for you!

Thursday, December 04, 2003

New Home Sales
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that new home sales were down slightly in October over September. We include a link here or more info from the U.S. Census Bureau on new residential sales .

Mortgage news
The Mortgage Bankers Association released it's weekly survey. For the week ending November 28, they report a decrease in mortgage loan applications. We include a link here to the Mortgage Bankers Association for their survey on mortgage application activity.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Seniors Real Estate

Did you know that certain realtors are designated as a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES)? This designation involves a specialized training program to address the needs and concerns of maturing Americans when buying or selling residential or investment properties. To qualify for the designation, the realtor must complete the education program and other prerequisites. Less than 1% of realtors natoinally have qualified for this designation.

SRES realtors help seniors and their families make real estate decisions. Issues that are unique to seniors must be considered.

Learn more about the SRES Realtor.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Identity Theft
Today's threat to personal security is identity theft. For those of you who have experienced it, you know what we are talking about. For those of you who haven't, consider yourself fortunate - and guard yourself!

The L.A. Times, on Sunday November 30 calls it "The fastest-growing consumer crime in America".

What can you do? Be smart! Don't take chances with your personal information. We have a booklet available titled "Identity theft ... how to protect yourself". You may request a free copy by email.

Some good resources on the internet:
The Identity Theft Resource Center
The U.S. Department of Justice
The Federal Trade Commission
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Social Security Administration

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Know your financial strength
Recently we've found that many buyers are unaware of their financial position, including their FICO score and credit history. We strongly suggest a buyer contact a lender in advance of purchasing a home, to examine the elements of the buyer's financial strength. Working with the lender to improve your credit or FICO score can be the edge you need when you are making an offer on a property, and there are multiple offers competing with your offer. For more information, go here.

Thursday, November 27, 2003


MORE Home Price News
The California Association of REALTORS® (CAR) reports that "The median price of an existing home in California in October increased 17.4 percent and sales increased 9.9 percent compared to the same period a year ago. The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California during October 2003 was $381,200, a 17.4 percent increase over the revised $324,670 median for October 2002, C.A.R. reported."
For the whole story from CAR

Mortgage Applications Up Too
The California Association of REALTORS® also reports that "The Market Composite Index of mortgage loan applications, a measure of mortgage loan applications for purchases and refinancings, increased by 16.9 percent to 775.6 on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week ending Nov. 21 from 663.2 one week earlier, according to a report released today by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased by 28.1 percent for the week ending Nov. 21 compared with the previous week and was down 33.8 percent compared with the same week one year earlier."
For complete info from the MBA

Housing Affordability will be helped for some
And, CAR announced that more people will be able to afford housing due to "Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's announcements yesterday that each will increase its single-family mortgage loan limit from $322,700 to $333,700 in 2004"
For more details from CAR

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Cost vs Value Report

It's out! The 2003 Cost vs Value Report has been issued by Remodeling Magazine. This informative report has been published for many years, and we refer to it often when a client is making that sometimes difficult "remodel versus move" decision.

The Report examines the cost of popular home improvement projects and then shows the estimated percentage return in various geographical markets if the owners were to sell their home today.

For example, the Report estimates that a Family Room addition would yield an 87% return on investment (ROI) in the LA market. A major kitchen remodel is estimated to give an 86% ROI in the LA market. There are a lot of factors involved, and we think you'll find the Report very interesting.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Home Prices Still Rising
The National Association of REALTORS® reports that the median price of an existing home in the U.S. rose 10.1% in the past year to a median price of $177,000 at the end of the third quarter.

In the Los Angeles metropolitan area, the median price rose 25.4% in the past year, to a median price of $365,300.

To view the report, including metropolitan areas across the United States, go here (requires Adobe Reader for pdf file)

Sunday, November 23, 2003

We have added a page "About Us" - check it out!

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Our local Realtor association, the Pasadena Foothill Association of Realtors reports that:

California's Luxury Real Estate Sizzles:

The luxury-home market in California shined during the third quarter, with Los Angeles values rising to their highest levels in 12 years and San Diego homes reaching another record high, according to the Prestige Home index by First Republic Bank.

In San Francisco, the luxury-home market broke a string of three consecutive down quarters and posted a 2.1% increase in the third quarter of 2003 in a sign that the market for high-end properties is starting to recover after several years of flat or declining prices.

Los Angeles-area values climbed 17.1% from the third quarter of 2002 and 4.5 percent from the second quarter of 2003. Los Angeles values are now at $1.53 million – their highest level since 1991.

San Diego-area values increased 6.9% from the third quarter of 2002 and 4.3% from the second quarter of 2003. Values reached $1.52 million – the region's second consecutive quarterly record.

San Francisco Bay Area values fell 0.4% from the third quarter of 2002, but rose 2.1% from the second quarter of 2003. Values in the San Francisco Bay Area are still the highest in the state at $2.23 million.

"The Los Angeles luxury-home market is booming because of a strengthening economy, low interest rates, lack of inventory and a rising stock market, while San Diego continues the recent trend of strong appreciation," said Katherine August-deWilde, chief operating officer of First Republic Bank. "In San Francisco, values are beginning to rise, with significant purchasing activity for homes priced up to $2 million. Overall, the luxury-home market in California is heating up."

Thursday, November 20, 2003

We've been working on our BLOG design ... colors, etc. Let us know what you think! To email us, simply CLICK HERE.
Ok....we're off and running!

The revamp of our website is pretty much done. Visit it at - - and let us know what you think! We've been part of a beta test of a new site format with our host, Advanced Access, and we are happy to report that the new site is great! Very flexible and easy to work on. The support staff at Advanced Access is knowledgeable and their response time is ... fast!

Real estate in our area has started the 'normal' holiday slow down. Please understand, though, we are still very busy. Instead of ten offers on a property, our buyers are competing with only two or three other offers. That's what 'slow' means in our area right now!

How's the market in your area? Let us know! We like to keep in touch with what's happening around the nation, and around the world!

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

We continue to work hard ... the last 'push' before buyers and sellers focus on the holidays.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

We're very busy with home buyers and home sellers as our real estate market remains strong.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Many thanks to our friends at grow-a-brain, home of the original Real Estate Blog. We enourage you to visit this award-winning site. Their valuable help and encouragement in the development of our web log is greatly appreciated! Thanks Hanan!
Our websites Did you know that we maintain multiple web sites? Please visit them and give us your comments. They are:
Both feature a wealth of real estate information, as well as the ability for you to search a very comprehensive database of property listings!
When you're surfing around the internet ...... check them out!
Real estate is still hot! We would expect that the week before Labor Day holiday weekend would be a slow real estate week. Things could not have been further from that! We have listed several properties this week. And, one of our listings had multiple offers (let's just say over ten offers), pushing the agreed-upon sales price over the asking price. Well, real estate is still hot in our neck of the woods. The basic economic law of supply and demand. We are grateful to our family, friends and clients for their love and support!

Monday, August 25, 2003

This is the beginning of our real estate web log. Stay tuned as we develop it!