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