Friday, December 30, 2005

Mortgage rates drop! Thinking about refinancing?

Bankrate.com reports for the week ending 12/28, "The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 5 basis points to 6.28 percent. One year ago, the mortgage index was 5.83 percent; four weeks ago, it was 6.36 percent."


To read more, go here: Mortgage rates

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

End of year ... and house buying

Yes, there is house buying and selling going on over the holidays! The sellers who have kept their home on the market during the holidays are finding that there are buyers out looking for that giant holiday present ... a home!

We say that the best time to buy or sell a home is when it fits in with your plans!


Tax planning ... start now!

If you've bought or sold a home during 2005, you will want to have a copy of your closing statement to use in preparing your income tax return. If you cannot locate a copy, contact your realtor or escrow officer to get a copy. You'll be glad you did!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Mortgage rates steady

Bankrate.com reports that for the week ending December 21, mortgage interest rates have remained relatively steady. "The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 1 basis point to 6.33 percent ... One year ago, the mortgage index was 5.75 percent, and four weeks ago it was 6.32 percent."

To read more: Mortgage interest rates

Saturday, December 24, 2005

C.A.R. reports on November 2005 prices

The California Association of Realtors® (C.A.R.) reports that "Median price of a home in California at $548,400 in November, up 16.2 percent from year ago; sales decrease 11.2 percent."

Again sounding the slowing of the market, "While year-to-date sales in November were 1.7 percent above last year’s pace, we are starting to see the ‘soft landing’ we have been expecting. The year-to-year decline in sales is not surprising, given the market was so strong in November 2004. Additionally, rising mortgage interest rates, which have moved above 6 percent over the last few months, contributed to the slowdown in sales," " said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young.


To read more: November 2005 home prices

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Another 2006 housing market prediction

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) economists predict that "Following strong growth over the past three years, home sales and housing production will ease back next year to around 2004’s historically healthy levels."

Remodeling is also expected to experience growth, and the NAHB cites the hurricane as a contributing factor.

Their prediction on appreciation is that "The pace of home price appreciation will be cut about in half over the next year, from an estimated average of 10.7 percent for 2005 as a whole (according to the OFHEO house price index for home purchases) to 6.5 percent in 2006 and about 4.4 percent in 2007."

To read more: NAHB 2006 housing market prediction

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Real Estate Blog interview

Our internet interview with Dustin of The Rain City Guide, a Seattle real estate blog, can be read here:
Real Estate Blog interview.

Thanks, Dustin, for the real estate insight your blog provides!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Home Safety over the Holidays

At this time of year, we would like to take time to remind you about safety in your home over the holidays.

The U.S. Fire Administration has tips on Holiday Fire Prevention, including Holiday Tree Fire Hazards.

The National Safety Council also has Christmas Tree Tips.

The U.S. Product Safety Commission has released their Holiday Season Decorating Safety Tips.

SMOKE DETECTORS make a great holiday gift! And, make sure you have adequate, working smoke detectors in your home.

Be safe ... and enjoy the holidays!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Holiday Real Estate Market

We are asked about the real estate market during the holidays. Some of our thoughts:

There are fewer homes on the market at this time. Most people would say that they would prefer not to have their home on the market while trying to enjoy the holidays. And, there are fewer buyers at this time. Their attention is elsewhere.

So, what does this mean? For sellers and buyers, less competition.

We always say ... it doesn't matter what time of year it is, if the right home for you comes on the market, then buy it. And, if your plans are to sell at this time of year, go ahead and put your home on the market. The holidays can be a win-win time of year for all!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Prediction for 2006 Housing Market

The National Association of Realtors® is predicting that 2006 will again be a strong year for housing, second only to record-setting levels of 2005.

David Lereah, NAR's chief economist, said that market conditions are still favorable for housing. "The slowdown amounts to a tapping of the brakes on a hot market. Home sales are coming down from the mountain peak, but they will level-out at a high plateau – a plateau that is higher than previous peaks in the housing cycle. This transition to a more normal and balanced market is a good thing."

To read more: 2006 housing market forecast

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Make your home safe in the winter months

Preparing for the winter months includes making sure your home is a safe place to live. The Home Safety Council has good tips for winter with regard to fires in your home, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and power outages.

There are also a lot of good home safety tips on their website. Check it out!

To read more: home safety tips for winter

And, if you are shoveling snow this winter, the National Safety Council has tips here: snow shoveling

Sunday, December 11, 2005

California Association of Realtors 2005 Survey of Home Sellers

The CAR has released the results of their 2005 Survey of Home Sellers, which was conducted in the second quarter of 2005.

Some key findings:
". The share of sellers using the Internet surpassed 50 percent for the first time ever, rising from 47 percent in 2004 to 57 percent in 2005.

. Sellers used the Internet mainly to research comparable prices, get current information on the neighborhood, and to find an agent. However, 97 percent of all sellers used an agent to assist them in the home selling process.

. Sellers sold their home primarily because they wanted a larger home or a better location. However, market conditions influenced their decision to sell, especially low interest rates.

. While sellers increasingly obtained information about the market from the Internet, they continued to rely on the experience and expertise of real estate agents who guided them through the home transaction."

To read more: Survey of Home Sellers

Friday, December 09, 2005

Luxury Home Values increase

The third quarter of 2005 saw a double digit rise - leading to record all time highs in the value of properties over one million dollars in the California areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego according to the First Republic Prestige Home Index™.

The Prestige Home Index™ found that:
1. "Los Angeles values jumped 8.6% from the second quarter of 2005 to the third quarter of 2005 and rose 17% from the third quarter a year ago."
Los Angeles average luxury home value - $2.28 million.
2. "San Diego values increased 2.9% from the second quarter of 2005 to the third quarter of 2005, and were up 11.6% from the third quarter a year ago."
San Diego average luxury home value - $2.07 million.
3. "San Francisco Bay Area values rose 1.8% from the second quarter of 2005 to the third quarter of 2005 and gained 12.9% from a year ago."
San Francisco average luxury home value - $2.85 million.

To read more: Luxury Home Values

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Cost vs Value - to remodel or not?

Remodeling magazine has once again issued their Cost vs Value report, analyzing the return on investment for certain home remodeling projects and breaking down the return by region.

As expected, bathroom and kitchen remodels lead the list of remodeling money well spent.

The National Association of Realtors has detailed information online here: 2005 Cost vs value report

Monday, December 05, 2005

Remodeling Market Slows

According to the National Association of Home Builders'Remodeling Market Index (RMI), "Growth of remodeling activity slowed moderately in the third quarter of 2005".

The report looks at both owner-occupied and rental units, stating that "Owner-occupied housing represents 69 percent of total housing in the U.S." There was more of a decline in the rental market than the owner-ocupied market.

To read more: Remodeling market slows

Saturday, December 03, 2005

CAR reports on October Median Home Prices

The California Association of Realtors (CAR) reports that "The median price of an existing home in California in October increased 17.2 percent and sales decreased 2.8 percent compared with the same period a year ago".

Further, "The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California during October 2005 was $538,770, a 17.2 percent increase over the revised $459,530 median for October 2004, C.A.R. reported. The October 2005 median price decreased 1 percent compared with September’s $543,980 median price."

To read more: October 2005 Median Home Prices

Friday, December 02, 2005

Where are the affordable homes?

Trying to decide where to move? Perhaps you'll be interested in today's information.

There's an article online Where the affordable homes are that goes through the housing affordability outlook region-by-region.

In addition, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) has released their quarterly report on the median sales price of single-family homes for metropolitan areas. The least expensive city for this third-quarter report was Danville, Illinois with median priced home of $72,800.

You can see the NAR report on Median Price Homes here: (note: this is a PDF file and requires Adobe Acrobat to open): Median price of U.S. homes

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Conforming Loan Limit for 2006

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight "...announced the maximum 2006 conforming loan limit for single-family mortgages purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This limit, after the customary rounding down to the nearest $50, can be no higher than $417,000 for one-unit properties."

The conforming loan limit for 2005 for single-family property has been $359,650.

Please note: "The limit in statutorily designated high-cost areas (Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) will be 50 percent higher, for example, $625,500 for a one-unit, single-family mortgage."

For your information, if a loan amount is over the conforming loan limit, then it is treated as a "jumbo loan", which affects the loan interest rate and terms.

To read more: Conforming Loan Limit

Monday, November 28, 2005

Mortgage rates decline

Bankrate.com reports that as of November 23, "...30-year fixed mortgage rates fell for the first time since August. They had either risen or remained unchanged for 11 weeks in a row. A mixed bag of economic data, including a slowdown in housing starts, led to the decrease in rates."

Where are rates now? "The benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell 10 basis points to 6.32 percent".

To read more: Mortgage rates decline

Saturday, November 26, 2005

City Crime Rankings released

Where's the safest city in the United States? Well, according to a new survey by Morgan Quitno Press, a Lawrence, Kansas-based publishing and research company, for the second year in a row it's Newton, Mass.

There are six California cities named among the top 25:
#4 - Mission Viejo, CA
#7 - Thousand Oaks, CA
#9 - Lake Forest, CA
#13 - Irvine, CA
#17 - Sunnyvale, CA
#22 - Simi Valley, CA

And the most dangerous city in the United States? The report names Camden, New Jersey with that title.

In the top 25 most dangerous cities, California has four noted:
#11 - Richmond, CA
#15 - Compton, CA
#18 - San Bernardino, CA
#21 - Oakland, CA


To see more rankings (including rankings by population group): City Crime Rankings

To read more about the survey: City Crime Rankings survey

Friday, November 25, 2005

Real estate travels

Having just returned from travel to Las Vegas, Nevada for the holiday, it is interesting to report from the Nevada perspective. First of all, the front page of the business section reported on the slow down of the California market, singling out the slowing San Diego market as a sign of the times (as many articles do).

In my conversations with a Las Vegas commercial realtor, he stated that there is an abundance of rentals available (second homes now for rent?), and new construction still all over the area. I saw many billboards advertising new condominium developments. When will the growth end?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Homeowner Associations please residents

A recent national survey disclosed that "Almost 40 percent of community association residents say they are "very pleased," with only 10 percent expressing some level of dissatisfaction. Almost 20 percent expressed neither point of view."

The survey was conducted by Zogby International, a leading public opinion research firm.

To read more: Homeowner's Association satisfaction

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Mortgage rates finally remain constant

With the trend towards rising interest rates, Bankrate.com reports this week that mortgage rates remain steady for the first time since early September.

"The benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage remained 6.42 percent, according to the Bankrate.com national survey of large lenders...One year ago, the mortgage index was 5.76 percent. Four weeks ago, it was 6.17 percent."

To read more: Mortgage rates remain steady

Thursday, November 17, 2005

"Seniors" share their thoughts on housing

We use the term "seniors" lightly ... we're there with you!

Having said that, the Senior Advantage Real Estate Council® (SAREC®) sponsored a September 2005 study to give us all a better idea of what "seniors" are looking for when it comes to housing. The study was conducted on recent home buyers (last six months) who are age 50 and older. One trend was the difference between the preferences of those seniors between the ages of 50 and 64, and those age 65 and older.

The study, titled "Moving Forward: 50 and Beyond," found that regarding internet use, "...nearly two-thirds (61 percent) did so to locate a specific REALTOR®, 92 percent utilized the Internet to research comparable prices, and 19 percent went online to learn about specific neighborhoods to move to."

That surprises us a little, as we would have thought that there would be more use to explore neighborhood possiblities.

Additionally, "The survey also revealed that not only did most senior homebuyers stay within their home state (82 percent), they moved less than 100 miles from their previous home. Younger seniors tended to move farther away from their previous residences than did older seniors. Of those senior homebuyers who did move to a new state (18 percent), the most popular choices were: Florida, 26 percent; Texas, 11 percent; Arizona, 8 percent; Nevada, 7 percent; and Virginia, 6 percent."

Interesting statistics and information!

To read more: Seniors housing preferences

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

California Association of Realtors reports on housing affordability

As of September of this year, 15% of Californians were able to afford a median-priced home (translation: a home costing $543,980). This is down from the 19% who were able to afford a median-priced home one year ago. Clearly rising home prices have outpaced income growth.

With such a dismal picture of home ownership, one has to question why there are so many people coming into the state. What are your thoughts? Send us an e-mail using the link at the right.

To read more: housing affordability in California

Sunday, November 13, 2005

What's up with mortgage rates?

For the ninth week in a row, mortgage rates are up! A sign of the times? Probably. Get used to it.

According to Bankrate.com, "The benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rose 5 basis points to 6.42 percent ...One year ago, the mortgage index was 5.76 percent. Four weeks ago it was 6.1 percent." This represents the highest rate in 26 months.

For more information, read here: Mortgage rates up

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A reminder about Proposition 60 and 90

We are having a lot of calls about Propositions 60 and 90. It's time for a little refresher course here.

First of all, Propositions 60 and 90 apply only to the state of California, and only to the sale of a personal residence, and only if you are age 55 or older, and only if your new residence costs less than the one you are selling (with some adjustments to this "buy down" rule). Plus, you can only use Prop 60 ONCE in your lifetime.

Remember, what we are mentioning here are only the highlights of the Propositions, and by no means is this information the law. You MUST verify your own situation with your accountant, tax advisor, financial advisor, etc. ... you get the picture!

What Proposition 60 does is allow you to keep your "factored" property tax base of your current residence, instead of using the higher tax base of your replacement residence. (Again, there are definitions in the actual Proposition of what your "factored property tax base" consists of, etc.) Proposition 60 applies if you sell your personal residence and move within the same county (regardless of what California county it is).

Proposition 90 comes into play if you want to sell your residence and move to a NEW county. Currently there are only 7 counties that allow you to move into the county and bring your tax base with you from another county.

Quite simply, if you are thinking of using Propositions 60 and 90, you MUST verify all your information before taking such a step. It would be terrible to sell your home and buy another, then only to find out that you didn't qualify to use the propositions, or for some other reason were not able to use them.

There is a lot of good information on the L.A. County Assessor website here. You should also check with the County Assessor for the county you currently live in, and for the county you are moving to (if it is another county).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Are you working with a top Realtor®?

Ever wonder how your Realtor® stacks up against the rest? Well, now there's a survey done by the California Association of Realtors® that lists traits that top producing Realtors possess. Of course, this would vary from region to region, but it is an interesting study. We find many people jump on the real estate agent bandwagon during the "up" markets, only to fall by the wayside when the going gets tough. We've been through the up and down real estate market cycles, and have seen it happen.

From this survey, we learn that top Realtors® (defined as "a REALTOR® with at least 40 closed escrow sales or a minimum sales volume of $18 million in the previous year"):

. Have been in real estate for 14 years

. Work an average of 61 hours per week

. One-third of all top producers have at least 2 personal assistants

. Spend 76% of their time working with sellers

To read more: Top Realtor characteristics

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Californians don't earn enough to afford to buy

The California Association of Realtors® (C.A.R.) has released their Homebuyer Income Gap Index™ (HIGI) report for the third quarter of 2005. This new study shows that "California households, with a median household income of $54,140, are $73,810 short of the $127,950 qualifying income needed to purchase a median-priced home at $545,910 in California".

And, this gap is widening. "The Homebuyer Income Gap Index™ for California increased 33.7 percent during the third quarter of 2005 compared with the third quarter of 2004, when the gap stood at $55,220, the median household income was $52,940, and qualifying income needed to purchase a median-priced home at $461,850 was $108,150."

The widest gap in the state of California is in the San Francisco Bay area.

To read more: Californians gap between income and home buying third quarter

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Mortgage rates up, up, up!

Well, it's happening. Mortgage rates are continuing their rise, as predicted. Average rates are now at an 18-month high.

Bankrate.com reports that for the week ending November 2, "The benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rose 13 basis points to 6.37 percent...One year ago, the mortgage index was 5.72 percent, and four weeks ago it was 6.07 percent. In early September, before this eight-week streak began, the 30-year averaged 5.8 percent."

And, some perspective may help you ... "In Bankrate's mortgage surveys, the average rate on a 30-year fixed was 7.46 percent in 1999; 8.08 percent in 2000; 7.01 percent in 2001; and 6.55 percent in 2002. The annual average was below 6 percent in 2003 and 2004, and has been 5.85 percent so far this year..."

To read more: Mortgage interest rates

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Federal Open Market Committee raises federal funds rate

For the 12th straight time, the Federal Reserve has raised the federal funds rate to 4 percent. This represents the highest rate since Spring 2001.

To read more: Feds raise rate

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Time to fall back ... and replace batteries in your smoke detectors!

With a change in the time, is the time to change the batteries in your smoke detectors. This simple act can save lives!

And, where would you want to have smoke detectors in your home? Check with local and state authorities for the requirements in your area. And, it doesn't hurt to install more than the recommended number of smoke detectors. In case of emergency, the more smoke detectors going off, the better!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Thoughts on moving to distant places ...

All too often in our business we see people who "pick up" and move to other states, or just to a different area of California. And, we also hear about the ups and downs of the adjustments necessary for this transition. Some return, and some continue to move around the country in search of that perfect locale.

We'd like to share some of what we hear from clients who have made moves:

1. Think about renting in your new location. Just because you enjoyed seasonal visits or a few "scouting" trips to a city, doesn't mean you'll enjoy year-round living there.
2. Remember you may have to relocate key service professionals such as your doctor, dentist, etc.
3. Plan for bad weather (if applicable) - appropriate clothing, transportation, and even having adequate supplies on hand (including medication).
4. Consider family and friends. How easy will it be for you to visit them, or them to visit you?
5. Spend time investigating housing and job opportunities (if applicable) before you move.

If you have advice we should pass along to our readers, please let us know! We can be reached via the email link on the right side of our Blog.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Median home price UP in California

The California Association of Realtors® (CAR) reports that the median price of an existing (not newly built) home in California grew in the month of September. "The median price of an existing home in California increased 17.3 percent in September and sales increased 3.9 percent compared with the same period a year ago."

A table of September 2005 and September 2004 median home prices by California County is available online here: median home prices by California County.

So where are the highest median priced homes in California, according to this recent study? Palos Verdes Estates ($1,600,000) topped the list followed by Manhattan Beach ($1,578,000), Burlingame ($1,419,000), Los Altos ($1,410,500), Newport Beach ($1,399,000), Coronado ($1,350,000), Saratoga ($1,314,000), Calabasas ($1,218,000), Carmel ($1,200,000), and Hermosa Beach ($1,200,000).

To read more: September 2005 California median home prices

Monday, October 24, 2005

California's Extra Credit Teacher Program (ECTP) for first-time homebuyers

Did you know that there is special financing available from the state of California for teachers who are first-time homebuyers, and who meet qualification guidelines? Yes, it's true! This program combines deferred downpayment assistance with special interest rates, to help teachers purchase a home.

To read about it: Extra Credit Teacher Program for first-time homebuyers (note: This is a PDF document. You need AdobeAcrobat to open this link.)



Los Angeles Times catches up with The Real Estate Blog

As reported here on September 19, in yesterday's Sunday Los Angeles Times, on the front page of the Real Estate section, there was an article about the new duct sealing law. Of course, faithful readers of The Real Estate Blog sighed a simple "this is old news"!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

NAHB issues their predictions for the real estate market

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has thrown their hat into the ring of prognosticators ... and their outlook is not as bright as we've heard from the realtor organizations (see our October 18 Blog entry below).

NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders feels that the rise in interest rates that has already started, and is expected to continue, will pretty much put a damper on the hot real estate market.

Concerning itself with new construction, the "NAHB is forecasting a decline in total housing starts from 2.032 million this year to 1.94 million in 2006 and a further drop to 1.883 million in 2007."

To read more: NAHB housing market prediction

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Do you remodel or move?

We're constantly asked to come over and help homeowners decide ... should we stay and remodel our current home into our dream home, or should we move?

This is not an easy decision for some people!

Usually, the first consideration in any real estate decision is LOCATION. If you have a house in a prime location, it may be hard to duplicate that location.

Another factor is the people involved. When you remodel, it can put a tremendous stress on the people involved, be it a married couple or other people working together on the project. Many relationships do not survive the process.

Of course, the cost can be the deciding factor. And, we caution people that our experience shows us that the cost is always greater than anticipated, and the time involved is always longer than planned for.

Now, a new survey of 5,000 homeowners suggests that homeowners are more likely to stay and remodel, than move.

To read more: Survey - remodel or move?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

National Association of Realtors® predicts strong home sales

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) is forecasting strong home sales for the second half of 2005. Factors include housing needs as a result of Hurricane Katrina, and also buyers who want to purchase before an anticipated rise in interest rates.

For 2006, the NAR predicts that the real estate market activity may slow as interest rates rise, and also that price appreciation may also slow.

To read more about the NAR forecast: NAR home sale forecast for 2005 and 2006

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Homeowner's tax deductions threatened!

The President's tax reform panel is currently reviewing ways to amend the tax code. Up for discussion at the moment are the two tax incentives for homeowners. First is the mortgage interest deduction and second is the capital gains exclusion upon sale.

The online article quotes panel member James Michael Poterba, associate head of the economics department at MIT, with interesting statistics: (1) "The top 2.2 percent of tax returns claim 22 percent of the benefits from the mortgage-interest deduction" and (2) "In 2002, of the 130 million federal tax returns filed, only 46 million itemized. Of those, 37 million claimed the mortgage-interest deduction. (Those who don't itemize just take the standard deduction, which they would get even if they didn't own a home.)"

The panel is consider many options to change the existing tax structure with regard to home ownership, while preserving tax incentives to buying a home.

The final report is due November 1. We'll be watching for it!

To read more: tax changes - mortgage interest deduction and capital gains

Friday, October 14, 2005

Mortgage interest rates UP and UP!

In it's weekly survey, Bankrate.com reports that for the week ending October 12, the 30 year fixed interest rate is above 6% for two weeks in a row.

The 30 year fixed rate mortgage is at 6.1%. The article states that "The 30-year fixed hovered at 6 percent or above for four weeks in March and April, then dropped below that threshold for six months. ... One year ago, the mortgage index was 5.75 percent, and four weeks ago it was 5.84 percent."

Statements from the Feds, unemployment and inflation are factors citied as contributing to the current level of interest rates.


To read the online article: Bankrate.com interest rate survey.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Expensive real estate!

Forbes, Inc. reports on the ten most expensive properties on the market. The list starts at a price of $75 million for a 60 acre estate in Bridgehampton, N.Y. Many properties are on the east coast.

And, how are the prices doing on the upper-upper end properties? The article says:
"The average price of the properties on our list of the Ten Most Expensive Homes in America is up about 5% this year, to $58.1 million from $55.25 million. That's more than 216 times the average home-sale price as of August 2005, according to the National Association of Realtors."

And, property in California? Well, #3 on the list is in Malibu at a price of $65 million and #4 (tie) is in Brentwood asking $60 million.

To read the online article: Expensive homes for sale

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Real estate ... returned!

Apologies from the Author for the delay in posting as I was on the road on the east coast on a whirlwind trip!

My last stop was in New York City (hopefully you will have an opportunity to visit this vibrant city!). In my discussions with local realtors, they had plenty to say about their market. There have been many reports of a slowing of the real estate market, and even a decline in prices in NYC. The realtors state that they feel the numbers are skewed due to the fact that fewer high end properties sold in the third quarter than sold in the second quarter. This was reflected in the report of declining prices in the third quarter. The realtors agree that the market has slowed. They tell me that the market is typically slow in the summer, but that the market has remained slow since August. There are fewer buyers out there. Prices are softening in New York City, with an increase in price reductions of properties that have been on the market. However, they report strong activity in the studio and one bedroom units (entry level).

Showing property in NYC (Manhattan) is very different from our market in Southern California. They do not use lock boxes. (One realtor asked me what a lock box was!)
Access to show a property is via an appointment. This can significantly slow down the showing process as you spend time waiting and do your best as an agent to schedule appointments at timed intervals. And, you have to factor parking into the equation. Showing property in Manhattan means parking your car ... not an easy thing to do!

Plus, there is no central multiple listing service in NYC. Not all companies belong to the Real Estate Board of New York (http://www.rebny.com/). What this means is that if you are a buyer, you may not see all available units by working with just one agent. It makes a more difficult process for buyers.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Real estate on the road

In Rhode Island, finding talk about real estate everywhere I go. The market is slower here, according to a realtor I talked with. Then, someone with their home on the market was in line at the store, commenting on how few people had looked at her home.

More reports from the road when I return!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

August numbers in for new home starts

After reporting on the existing home sales for August, we can now report on the new home starts for that month. The Commerce Department is reporting that for the month of August, new home sales were down following a record month in July.

The report is not yet posted to the Department of Commerce website, but the website of the National Association of Home Builders, reports that "Despite a 9.9 percent decline from July’s record pace, the August sales rate was 6.2 percent above a year ago and actual sales-to-date were a healthy 7.4 percent higher than at this point last year."

And how did the statistics stack up around the country?
"Sales in the Northeast were down 22.0 percent, following a 13.6 jump the month before while the West dipped 17.9 percent following an almost 23 percent surge in July. Sales in the South were down 2.2 percent and Midwest dropped 10.6 percent for the month."

The article does report, however, that there is still demand for new homes.

To read more, go here.

Monday, October 03, 2005

California Association of Realtors announces August housing numbers

The California Association of Realtors (CAR) tells us that "The median price of an existing home in California in August increased 20.1 percent and sales increased 7 percent compared with the same period a year ago." The median existing (not new) house price now stands at a record $568,890.

Where are the priciest homes? See if your town made the top ten list:
Laguna Beach, $1,550,000; Los Altos, $1,515,250; Manhattan Beach, $1,464,500; Burlingame, $1,450,000; Palos Verdes Estates, $1,415,000; Calabasas, $1,351,500; Saratoga, $1,307,500; Newport Beach, $1,296,250; Mill Valley, $1,257,500; Rancho Palos Verdes, $1,201,500.

To read more, go here.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Another prediction of a real estate slowdown

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times titled "Peak for Housing Said to Be Near" cites the UCLA Anderson Forecast as predicting a slowdown in the housing market. In it's latest quarterly outlook, the UCLA Anderson Forecast quotes senior UCLA economist Christopher Thornberg as saying:

"The forecast for California is mediocre at best; at worst we are liable to dip into another recession."

Still, Thornberg admits this does not necessarily mean housing prices will go down, but rather the upward trend will slow.

(Our note: to some, when housing prices do not escalate in double-digit fashion, they perceive this as a downward move in the real estate market.)

The Los Angeles Times article states "Although UCLA forecasters have consistently been more pessimistic about the housing boom and California's economy than many other analysts, their views are notable because they were among the first economists to predict the 2001 recession and to identify the current housing boom as a bubble. UCLA economists have said signs of housing speculation were emerging as early as 2002 — and since then the median California home price has risen 71%, from $266,000 to $456,000."

To read the online article about this quarterly forecast, please go here. The quarterly forecast is not yet posted to the UCLA Anderson Forecast website, but we assume it will be in the future. You might want to check back with their website to read the full content of their report.

And, if you would like to read the second quarter forecast report, please visit the UCLA Anderson Forecast website here.

We thank Richard Lohrey, Ruland Financial Group for bringing this information to our attention!

And, if you have any suggestions for information we can share, please email us.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Tax Consequences of "Flipping" real estate

Are you a "flipper"? Or, do you want to be one?

Someone who buys real estate to fix it up and sell it quickly is expecting this to be the road to profits. But, you must be informed! There are tax consequences of this strategy, which you need to know.

There's an article on Bankrate.com that sheds light on this real estate investment strategy here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Spend more than you expected to buy your home?

... Then join nearly one in five home buyers who also did just that. The Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Personal Finance Poll "finds that nearly one in five (19%) U.S. adults who purchased a home within the last three years for their primary residence say they spent above their suggested price range, while two-thirds (67%) stayed within their price range and 12% were below their price range."

That same Poll found that home buyers mainly used a fixed-rate mortgage to finance the purchase.

To read the entire article, go here (pdf file).

Sunday, September 25, 2005

CAR's predictions for 2006 Housing Market

The California Association of Realtors has made it's prediction for next year's housing market. As the title of the article states - "Moderate price increase, slight cooling in home sales next year".

CAR is predicting a 10% appreciation in home prices for 2006, and also predicts the interest rate on a 30 year fixed mortgage will go to 6.4%. CAR is also predicting record home sales for California.

To read more, go here.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Federal Reserve raises interest rates

For the 11th straight time, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates this week. The federal funds rate was raised one-quarter of a point, to 3.75%, representing the highest level it has been at in four years.

Some people were thinking that in light of Hurricane Katrina, the rate might not be touched. The press release from the Federal Reserve Board does acknowledge the Hurricane and it's effect.

To read the press release from the Federal Reserve Board, go here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Real estate and the internet, and real estate market conditions

The California Association of Realtors (CAR) is holding their annual convention this week. It's being held in San Diego.

Having just returned from the convention, we can tell you that the realtors in attendance are all wondering what is going to happen in the coming months with regard to the real estate market. Some feel we are already experiencing a slower-paced real estate market is what we were hearing.

The CAR released a new study at the opening session of the convention on Tuesday. The "2005 Use of Technology Survey" studies the way Realtors® use technology in their business. With more and more products offered to enhance real estate professionals and how they do business, this important survey confirms how important technology is in our business.

Some interesting statistics from the survey are:
- 46% of Realtors® use e-mail as their primary form of communication with their clients;
- 33% of Realtors®’ business is coming from the Internet.

To read more, go here.

Monday, September 19, 2005

NEW California HVAC Duct Sealing Law!

Do you own property in California? Effective October 1, 2005, a new law goes into effect regarding your HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) system. This new requirement of the California Energy Commission requires you to have your home's ductwork tested for leaks when installing or replacing your central air conditioner or furnace.

To read about it, we have put information on our website here, including a link to the California Energy Commission website.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Mortgage interest rates unchanged

Bankrate.com reports that for the week ending September 14, interest rates remain virtually unchanged.

The site reports that "The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased from 5.8 percent to 5.84 percent, and the average 15-year fixed mortgage rate increased by a similar amount, rising from 5.39 percent to 5.44 percent. The average jumbo 30-year fixed rate climbed above the 6 percent barrier to 6.02 percent from 5.97 percent last week."

It will be interesting to follow the impact that Hurricane Katrina may/will have on interest rates. Stay tuned for that analysis!

The Federal Open Market Committee meets again September 20.

To read more, and see current interest rates for different loan programs, go here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

What real estate bubble?

With all the talk about a possible real estate bubble, or a slowdown in the market, it appears that the real estate market is still alive and well! Front page articles in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, and this week's Los Angeles Business Journal (article titled "L.A.’s Housing Market Surges, Ignores Gloom", read it here) report on the continued strong levels of activity and prices.

Now, there's a collaborating article online at CNN/Money titled "Slowdown? Real estate still going strong" that you can read here.

And the effect of Hurricane Katrina? Quoting the article, "According to the National Association of Realtors, with inventory of homes available for sale across the country so tight anyway, rebuilding the Gulf Coast will place additional pressure on all home prices."

Our personal experience is that the reduced level of inventory in our market has dulled the activity level in our area. And, some buyers have dropped out of the market entirely, due to many differing factors - high prices, sheer frustration over finding an affordable and suitable property, etc. We're not sure that Southern California will be a factor in the relocation of people from the Gulf Coast due to the price of real estate in Southern California.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

National Association of Realtors (NAR) sued by U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)

The DOJ has sued the NAR over NAR's policy on the sharing of listings via the internet. We previously reported on this ongoing dispute on May 23, 2005.

To read the actual complaint, go here.

To read the NAR statement on the lawsuit, go here.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

California Association of Realtors (CAR) reports on housing affordability

The CAR reports that "The percentage of households in California able to afford a median-priced home stood at 16 percent in July, a 3 percentage-point decrease compared with the same period a year ago when the Index was at 19 percent. The July Housing Affordability Index (HAI) was unchanged from June, when it also stood at 16 percent."

And, it is interesting to note the income required to buy in California:
"The minimum household income needed to purchase a median-priced home at $540,900 in California in July was $125,670, based on an average effective mortgage interest rate of 5.73 percent and assuming a 20 percent downpayment. The minimum household income needed to purchase a median-priced home was up from $109,170 in July 2004, when the median price of a home was $461,760 and the prevailing interest rate was 5.93 percent."

This is compared to stats for the U.S. in general:
"The minimum household income needed to purchase a median-priced home at $218,000 in the U.S. in July 2005 was $50,650."

To read more, go here.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Interest rates unchanged

Bankrate.com reports that the 30 year fixed rate remained steady at 5.80%.

And, fewer people are electing to get an adjustable rate loan. Bankrate.com reports that "A year ago, almost one-third of mortgage applicants sought adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs. Last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, 26.5 percent of mortgage applicants wanted ARMs."

To see the rates, go here.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Pending Homes Sales declines for month of July

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) has reports that "The Pending Home Sales Index, based on data collected for July, slipped 1.0 percent to a reading of 125.1, but is 3.5 percent higher than July 2004."

Let's see what happened to the PHSI in different parts of the country during July:
The South was up 1.2% to 139.2 (8.3% over July 2004).
The West was down 1.1% to 127.5 (4.7% over July 2004).
The Midwest was down 3.1% to 113.6 (2.5% below July 2004).
The Northeast was down 3.7% 109.0 (0.8% below July 2004).

To read more, go here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Is the housing market cooling off?

If you read some of the news, the answer is a definite "maybe".

The Associated Press reports that there are signs of a slowdown, even with strong sales and continued rising prices. The number of existing homes sold in July was down nationwide, and the demand for mortgages has also declined.

The article states "But analysts are forecasting that housing sales will begin to decline from record levels by the end of this year and into 2006. The slowing sales pace is expected to end the super-sized price gains many parts of the country have experienced."

To read more, including "advice from housing experts on what people should consider in the current environment", go here.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Remodeling remains strong

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that "Remodeling activity continued to grow in the second quarter of 2005, according to the National Association of Home Builders' Remodeling Market Index (RMI)." The NAHB attributes this to the continued price appreciation and strong real estate sales.

In our real estate market, we've seen a growth in remodeling. Many of our clients who are thinking of moving actually decide they prefer to remodel the home they have in the location they love! It's all a matter of whether or not you can "live" through the remodel! A remodeling project, big or small, can be quite stressful and disruptive.

To read more, go here.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Katrina and how to find people

We understand many are using "Craig's List" to post people they are looking for.

Link is here.
Hurricane Katrina and how to help victims

Our thoughts are with those affected by this disaster. Please support the relief efforts as you are able.

HOW TO HELP VICTIMS -

from the Federal Energy Management Agency (FEMA), go here.

from the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, go here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Housing and mortgage market study released

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) has released a study on the housing and mortgage markets. "The study discusses the current state of the housing markets, the growth of innovative mortgage products, and the impact of developments in the housing and mortgage markets on households, financial institutions, the financial markets, and the economy more broadly."

Of interest is the speculation regarding a housing bubble, and the use of non-traditional mortgage products. We've all heard about the surge in use of interest only loans!

You can download the entire study from their website here.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Real estate blogs growing

Our observation is that the number of real estate blogs is growing! A quick search of Google for the term "real estate blog" produces 137,000 entries (note which real estate blog is listed first ... a shameless plug).

We feel this is good news for all. A blog is a good way for a realtor to stay in touch with their clients, and provide information. And, of course the public gets the benefit of the information!

And, each blog takes on it's own life, and goes in it's own direction. Some realtors use their blog to promote their business, and their listings. Other realtors provide local information. There are some that chronicle items of general interest. There's a real estate blog for everyone!

What makes a good real estate blog? Well, that's subjective, of course, but our opinion is that a good real estate blog (or any blog, for that matter) is first and foremost, one that is maintained on a regular basis. Every day, every other day, once a week ... whatever the timing, it should be such that a reader can expect blog entries to be current. Too many real estate blogs are started, then abandoned. It's disappointing to us to revisit a real estate blog only to see that there has not been an entry for weeks, or months. Second, a good real estate blog will be focused on the subject and mindful of the readership. We feel it is important to remember that the people who read the blog are expecting some amount of consistency. Third, it is helpful if readers provide feedback to the blog author.

In that light, we would love to receive your thoughts and comments. Feel free to use our email link on the top right corner of this blog to give us your feedback. What is important to you, our most important audience? And, let us know if you would like more information on certain topics!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Long Term Mortgage rates down for second week in a row

As reported on Bankrate.com, for the week ending August 24, 2005 "The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 2 basis points to 5.86 percent ...Mortgage rates had risen six weeks in a row, from the beginning of July into mid-August. Now they have gone down for two weeks.".

For more info and more interest rates, go here here.



Greenspan sending up another caution flag

Did you read/hear the comments by Alan Greenspan today? Once again, his words are urging caution in the housing boom, in our opinion.

Read more about it on Reuters.com

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

"Not for Sale" signs

Parts of the country are reporting that residents are putting "not for sale" signs in the windows of their homes, as they are tired of being approached to sell their homes.

The New York Sun, for example, has an article (with a photo of one of the signs) here.


Home sales down, prices up!

The National Association of Realtors reports that for the month of July "Existing-home sales declined in July from a record in June, but home prices continue to rise at double-digit rates". Home sales for July 2005 were the third highest on record, still very strong even in light of the reported decline. Home sales were down a reported 2.6%. In addition, "existing condominium and cooperative housing sales declined 5.0 percent".

We will wait to see what happens over the next few months.

To read more, go here.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Real estate ... and a vacation

The Author has returned from summer vacation in the northwest ... Washington, Alaska and Canada. Naturally, we had to check out housing and real estate in each location!

The Seattle area is booming! The local paper reported the growth, and expansion into the areas out of the city. In Alaska, where "remote" was the operative word, you have the "populated" tourist areas, and then the "out-of-the-way" locations. We encountered many retired people, who live there during the summer months and spend the winter months elsewhere. A seasonal living, like much of the retail sales and tourist industry in Alaska. In Canada, we found a lot of construction and growth. Plus, reports that many Americans are buying property in Canada due to the affordability of real estate.

We found local real estate magazines in Washington and Canada, but not in Alaska.

All locations offered beautiful scenery and friendly people.

Friday, August 12, 2005

August slowdown?

We're noting that there are fewer realtors attending our weekly caravan meetings, the weekly office meeting has fewer attendees and there are fewer showings on our listings. There are fewer cars on the main boulevard, fewer people in the grocery store. It appears the end of summer is upon us. It's the last push for vacation before school starts.

Yet, we are still experiencing multiple offers on properties. Well-priced properties are having, say, two or three offers rather than the ten or twelve of several months ago.

Yes, it's true ... it is this author's opinion that our market is slower. Will prices remain the same, increase ... or, maybe even go down? There's really no way to know. We're asked that on a daily basis. One thing is for sure, though, Southern California real estate has appreciated beyond our expectations.

Author's note: the Blog author will also be taking time to enjoy the summer. The author will return on August 21, complete with real estate tales from beyond Southern California.




The Mortgage Bankers Association reports that mortgage applications dropped for the third straight week. As interest rates climb, this is probably a trend we will see over and over again.





http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/provider/providerarticle.asp?Feed=OBR&Date=20050810&ID=5032644

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Least Affordable Housing Markets in the US

The Center for Housing Policy (CHP) has released a study about the least affordable cities in the US. EVERY ONE of the TOP 10 cities is in CALIFORNIA!! Wow! LA is #13. The top 10 looks like this:

1) San Francisco, CA
2) Orange County, CA
3) Santa Cruz, CA
4) San Jose, CA
5) Salinas, CA
6) Santa Barbara, CA
7) Oakland, CA
8) Santa Rosa, CA
9) San Luis Obispo, CA
10) San Diego, CA

Out of the top 20, there are 14 California cities listed! You can see the article and list of cities here.

If you go to the CHP website, there is an interesting interactive database called Paycheck to Paycheck that allows you to "See how workers in your metropolitan area are faring in the housing market; View the big picture for housing affordability for working families in various occupations across the country; and Use these analyses as a template to examine wages and housing costs in neighborhoods in your community."

Basically, you select the area you want to know about, then you can view the income for an occupation (say, school teacher, nurse, etc) and see how that income fares in comparison with the annual income needed for median-priced housing in that metropolitan area.

It's really interesting! Try it!


Oh yes ... the Feds raised interest rates yesterday
To the surprise of no one, the Feds raised interest rates for the tenth consecutive time to 3.5%. You can read the press release from the Federal Reserve Board here.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Risky Business, real estate style

According to a study by PMI Mortgage Insurance Corporation predicts the markets most at risk to have prices decline over the next two years. Topping the list is Boston, MA. Several Southern California areas are on the list including San Diego, Riverside, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Glendale, and Santa Ana.

To read more, including charts for each US region, go here.

And ... we're watching!
The Feds meet tomorrow, with speculation that interest rates will be raised again.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Second Home Buyers

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has issued it's "2005 Profile of Second-Home Buyers" (it can be ordered online here).

According to the report, 36% of the sales in 2004 were for second homes. That's an impressive share of the market.

Who is fueling this sector of the market? The study shows "The typical vacation-home buyer is 55 years old with a total household income of $71,000. Investment-property homebuyers have a median age of 47 years with a typical household income of $85,700."

Baby boomers play an important role in the second home market, as they are over 40% of the buyers. And, from our experience, baby boomers with college-age children are considering the purchase of a condo/townhouse/home for their children to live in while attending college. In this way, the parents can take advantage of the appreciation in a rising market.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Most Californias don't make enough to afford housing

The California Association of Realtors (CAR) reports that "California households, with a median household income of $53,840, are $70,480 short of the $124,320 qualifying income needed to purchase a median-priced home at $530,430 in California..."

This recent study, covering the second quarter of 2005 (through June), is an accumulation of the results we have been reporting on our Blog. We recently reported the data thru May 2005 on July 21.

With this trend, we wonder if it will lead to an exodus out of California for areas of less expensive housing? Will less populated areas be targets for growth? Will additional affordable housing be constructed? We will continue to watch trends as our 2005 housing market evolves.

To read more, go here.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

UP! UP! UP! California Association of Realtors reports prices and sale up!

Low interest rates and increased inventory has contributed to more sales than last year, with prices increasing over the same period last year.

"The median price of an existing home in California in June increased 16 percent and sales increased 3.6 percent compared with the same period a year ago, the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.)"

Where are the high prices? C.A.R. reports "...the 10 cities and communities with the highest median home prices in California during June 2005 were: Manhattan Beach, $1,570,000; Malibu, $1,550,000; Laguna Beach, $1,537,500; Los Altos, $1,424,000; La Canada Flintridge, $1,395,000; Palos Verdes Estates, $1,360,000; Saratoga, $1,350,000; Newport Beach, $1,300,000; Coronado, $1,275,000; Hermosa Beach, $1,249,500."



To read more, go here.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Interest rates up for the fourth straight week

That's right! The 30 year fixed rate loan is up to 5.84%. A sign of the times? Should you panic?

Hold on here. Bankrate.com reports that "Still, rates on 30-year mortgages are about three-eighths of a percentage point lower now than they were a year ago."

And, they are still below 6%!

To read more, go here.

Friday, July 29, 2005

More talk about a "Housing Bubble"

We are noting more talk about a possible "housing bubble." And, we are seeing more about it in the media. There is an article that appeared in Kiplinger's, listing the 13 most likely markets to feel the effect of a housing bubble.

Is your city listed? Read here.

How do you feel about a possible "housing bubble"? Are you seeing any indication of a bubble in your market? Let us know! We'd be happy to report comments from around the country, and the world, here!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Trend is towards Three Car Garages

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that the trend across the country is toward three car garages. And, if there aren't enough cars to fill the garages, they are being used for storage! Citing ease of access (rather than storing something in a basement or attic), this extra space is highly desirable.

More customization of garages is happening as well:
"Additionally, builders are finding that consumers increasingly prefer 8-foot by 10-foot garage doors compared to the more standard 7-foot by 9-foot doors so that their larger garages can more readily accommodate SUVs and the other bigger vehicles that are growing in popularity.", the article states.

Plus, another interesting feature can be added by the builders - a bonus room:
"Another very appealing feature about a three-car garage is that it allow builders to offer a second floor "bonus room" that can be used for a multitude of purposes."

The article also cites the need for a larger lot to accomodate the three car garage, and the design challenge so that the garage is not the most prominent feature (which we see quite a bit...).

To read more, go here.

Monday, July 25, 2005

What does $500,000 buy in the housing market around the country?

Well, if you live in our area ... not much! MSNBC has an interesting article available online that shows what your $500,000 will buy in various U.S. cities. It shows the wide range of home sizes that your $500,000 will buy.

To read this article, go here.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Mortgage rates climb ... again

"Is this a trend?" We are being asked that question more and more these days. We believe people are looking for an answer in this real estate market. Are rising interest rates going to cool this hot Southern California real estate market? Are interest rates going to go up and up ... to double digit rates? What does your crystal ball say??

Well, once again we are reporting to you that the average 30 year fixed mortgage rate has risen for the week ending July 20, as reported by Bankrate.com. The rate now stands at 5.78% (compared with 5.76% last week).

Please remember that this is still less than 6%!

To read more, go here.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Fewer people can afford California homes

The California Association of Realtors reports that fewer people can afford a median-priced home in California as of May on this year (compared to last year). Of course, this is no surprise to us as we are experiencing buyers who are being priced out of the market. What this means is that the buyers are able to afford less than they expected, or that they are buying in an area where they originally did not want to consider (perhaps it's farther away from their workplace, etc. than they planned to be).

C.A.R.'s May Housing Affordability Index (HAI) was at 16% in May, down 1% from April.

Where are the affordable areas? The most affordable area in California is the High Desert region, then comes the Sacramento and Riverside/San Bernardino regions. The least affordable area? The Santa Barbara region.

To read more, go here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Home remodeling hits record pace

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that "Americans spent $198.6 billion on remodeling projects last year according to the U.S. Census Bureau, up from $176.9 in 2003 and the largest increase in more than a decade."

Rising home prices have contributed to this record pace, as home owners elect to remain in their current residence and remodel, rather than move to more expensive housing. And, favorable interest rates combined with increased equity in their homes have allowed home owners to be able to finance the improvements.

To read more, go here.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Mortgage rates up ... again!

Yes, mortgage rates went up again (the second week in a row we've reported this). Attributed to investors moving money from bonds to stocks, the rate on the 30 year fixed mortgage is now at 5.76%, up from the 5.7% we reported last week.

These increases in interest rates affect both home buyers and home sellers. As interest rates rise, buyers are able to afford less, and sellers ... this means they may not be able to afford your home!

To read Bankrate.com's 7/14/05 report on interest rates, go here.

Friday, July 15, 2005

More real estate notes from a trip ...

During a layover in the Phoenix airport, the headline of The Arizona Republic of July 14 caught my eye. Of course it had to do with real estate.

The article was about the record setting resale housing market in metro Phoenix. Another milestone average price was reached in June at $249,000, up 43% from $175,000 last year.

Concern was expressed as to whether or not people would be able to afford the housing.

I guess the story is the same ... here as in Phoenix ... and in many other real estate markets nationwide. Front page news. Record prices. Fears that potential buyers are being priced out of the market.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Californians affect the rest of the U.S. housing market

I'm on a trip to North Carolina right now. I had an interesting talk with a native resident today. Once he found out that I am a real estate agent in California, well... let's just say he had plenty to say.

First of all, he said Californians are moving here and raising the property taxes. Why? Well, there's no Prop 13 taxes here. Property taxes are raised to pay for what is needed. He said there is a need to build many more schools now, due to the influx of people.

There is SO much construction around what was once open land. He said if you are in construction, you are now "filthy rich" from working here.

A sign of the times ... I went to a car dealer in what is going to be an autopark mall with seven dealers. He said what's happening now is that literally, they are selling the family farm. By that, he used the autopark as an example. It was owned by a family, the parents died, and the children sold the land that is now being developed for the autopark mall. The sadness set in when we drove by a little grove area in the middle of the autopark mall, and he pointed to an area that had gravestones that were the family's graveyard. The graveyard is all that remains of the family's history with the land, and it soon will be covered by the lush greenery. Not to be seen by anyone driving by.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Going on vacation? Prepare for "Home Alone".

Are you leaving on a summer vacation? Making plans to get away should include preparations for leaving your home. There are steps you can take to minimize your chance of coming home to a rude awakening such as a plumbing leak.

Some ideas are common sense ... making your home look lived in, for example. To help you prepare for periods where you may not be living in your home (including a vacant rental), the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) offers information and tips.

To read more helpful hints, go here. And, they have an online guide called "Is Your Home Alone?" that is available through their website.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Interest rates rise

Bankrate.com reports that mortgage interest rates went up for the week ending 7/7. "The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose 9 basis points to 5.7 percent..."

This comes on the heels of the short-term interest rate hike by the Fed. Is this the start of the up-swing in interest rates? We will see!

To read more about interest rates, go here.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Another record in the California housing market (ho, hum)

The California Association of Realtors (CAR) released data indicating that "The median price of an existing home in California in May increased 12.8 percent and sales decreased 2.1 percent compared with the same period a year ago." The median price for May was $522,590. This is a record high number!

But, sales of resale homes (not new homes) decreased 2.1% this May as compared to May 2004 - from 632,380 to 618,920 (seasonally adjusted annualized rate).

To read more, go here.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Practice making those house payments!

Home buyers ... we suggest you "practice" making house payments. That’s right. Pretend you already own the property and see how it feels on your pocketbook. If you already have a monthly housing cost, then put into your savings account the difference between the housing cost you currently pay and the increased cost you will be paying if you make that comtemplated purchase.

After a few months, you'll be able to find out if that proposed housing cost is something you can live with, or if it's just too much.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

U.S. Census identifies fastest growing cities ... which means housing is growing too!

The U.S. Census Bureau announced the fastest growing large cities (100,000 or more) between 7-1-03 and 7-1-04 (we guess it takes them a year to compile the data).

Port St. Lucie, Florida was #1. However, many California cities made the TOP TEN list! Elk Grove (#2), Moreno Valley (#6), Rancho Cucamonga (#9) and Roseville (#10).

And, in the top 10 large cities, San Jose has replaced Detroit as #10.

With record growth, does this translate to a housing shortage in these cities?

To read more, go here.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Homeownership for All

The U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released videos for home buyers and home sellers.

The topics are:
ABC's of Homebuying (18 minutes)
Elevate Your Credit (13 minutes)
Where to Find the Homeownership Money You Need (10 minutes)
Ten Homeownership Facts That Will Save You Thousands (12 minutes)
Easy to Understand Mortgage Programs (14 minutes)

This video series is available FREE, online at:
http://www.hud.gov/webcasts/archives/homeforall.cfm.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

EMINENT DOMAIN

Last week the Supreme Court ruled that local governments can seize people’s homes and businesses --- even against their will --- to make way for private economic development. On the losing side of the case were homeowners in New London, Connecticut whose homes may be taken and replaced by for an office complex.

The Fifth Amendment allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use." Under the ruling, residents still will be entitled to "just compensation" for their homes as provided under the Fifth Amendment.

This controversial ruling has property owners nationwide are worried about how this new Supreme Court position will affect them … and you want to know too!

So property owners beware. There may be a new Target, Wal Mart or Home Depot coming soon to your neighborhood … in fact, it may be coming to the exact location where your property is now!

Monday, June 27, 2005

HUD releases home buyer information

HUD has released five 20-minute "modules" for homebuyers. This information is available online to increase homebuyer education. HUD states "The modules were unveiled at HUD's "Owning Your Future", a nationwide outreach effort to showcase the tools and resources families need to gain self-sufficiency and homeownership."

"The modules, which allow a self-paced learning experience, are as follow: The ABCs of Homebuying, Elevate Your Credit, Easy to Understand Mortgage Programs, Where to Find the Homeownership Money You Need, and Ten Homeownership Facts That Will Save You Thousands."

The modules are online here.

To read more, go here.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Mortgage Rates ... down again!

Once again, for the 11th time in the past 13 weeks, Bankrate.com reports that mortgage rates are lower.

The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is down .07% to 5.66%, as of June 22.

Why? The article speculates that it is because "Bill Gross, chief investment officer for PIMCO, predicted at a conference that the Fed will raise short-term rates another half-point this summer, then reduce rates late in the year." While this is the minority view, the market still reacted to these remarks.

To read more, go here.

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And ... House prices up again!

The California Association of Realtors® (CAR) reports that "The median price of an existing home in California in May increased 12.8 percent and sales decreased 2.1 percent compared with the same period a year ago."

CAR sites continuing low inventory as a contributing factor to the increase.

To read more, go here.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Waiting for foreclosures? It might be a while!

The Mortgage Bankers Association reports that "The first-quarter 2005 National Delinquency Survey (NDS), released today [June 21] by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), shows that the seasonally adjusted (SA) delinquency rate for mortgage loans on one-to-four-unit residential properties stood at 4.31 percent at the end of the first quarter, down 15 basis points from the first quarter of 2004 and down 7 basis points from the fourth quarter of 2004."

Several buyers have told us that their strategy for buying real estate is to wait for the foreclosure properties. Well, in Southern California at least, the forcelosure market has not materialized.

The Chief Economist for the MBA states "The U.S. economy grew at almost 3.5 percent in annualized real terms during the first quarter of 2005, adding 180,000 payroll jobs per month. Combined with the low interest rate environment, consumers improved their household finances and the percentage of homeowners making their mortgage payments on time increased to nearly 96 percent."

To read more, go here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

"Readers Digest" studies America's Cleanist Cities

"Reader's Digest compared data on our 50 most populous metropolitan areas to come up with a ranking of America's cleanest cities."

The top five are: #5 San Francisco; #4 Columbus, Ohio; #3 Buffalo, New York; #2 San Jose, California; and #1 Portland, Oregon.

The study says that it is because of California's strict air-quality regulations that two California cities are in the top five.

Rankings of the 50 Cleanist (and Dirtiest) Cities are here

To read more, about the study, go here.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Mortgage rates remain low

Bankrate.com reports that as of June 8, mortgage rates went down. This is attributed to a weaker employment report than expected. For a 30 year fixed rate, you can expect 5.61 percent (a 4 basis point decline - "A basis point is one-hundredth of 1 percentage point"). This is compared to a rate of 6.36% one year ago.

To read more and see more sample interest rates, go here.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Driving costs - will they affect your real estate decisions?

Interesting study ... of the most and least expensive cities to drive. How are gas prices affecting your decision about buying or selling a home?

Sperling's Best Places reports that "We not only looked at the cost of a gallon of regular-grade gasoline in 84 major cities, but also factored in the number of miles driven by daily commuters, plus the effect of rush-hour congestion. What we found was that Atlanta, GA commuters can spend nearly $4,600 annually on gas for a family which includes two daily drivers, earning it the title of the most expensive city for driving."

Congrats Atlanta! How did California cities rate? Well, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana area came in at #10, with an annual expense of $4,091.

To read more, go here. And, the complete list of cities surveyed is here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

June is Homeownership Month

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has designated June as "National Homeownership Month."

To read more about it, go here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Appreciation!

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) just released data from a study that shows average U.S. home prices increased 12.5% from the first quarter of 2004 to the first quarter of 2005. In California, the average appreciation for this same period was 25.4%.

And, we’re constantly being asked … is this a housing bubble? Well, if you heard Allan Greenspan this week he stated his view that he doesn't believe there is a national housing bubble.

Is the market slowing? Well, in our area the lack of inventory means fewer homes have sold.

The same study by the OFHEO shows that California's appreciation rate during the first quarter of 2005 was 3.8%. If you annualize that number (3.8 x 4) you can project an annual appreciation rate of 15.2% for the year 2005.

So, if you owned a house in California during this past year … congratulations to you!

And, if you want to read more about the government study, it is available online at: http://www.ofheo.gov

Sunday, June 12, 2005

California Building Industry Association Announces Strong Numbers in New Construction

Even though it was a rainy first quarter in 2005, the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) reports that California housing starts are expected to reach the record levels recorded in 2004.

The article goes on to say that with the increase in California population, new construction is needed.

To read more about it, please go here.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Pending Home Sales Index Hits New Record

It seems that just about every indicator related to real estate is hitting new highs!

Now, the National Association of Realtors® reports that as of April, "The Pending Home Sales Index, a leading indicator for the housing market, has risen to the highest level on record".

Just what is the Pending Home Sales Index? Well, read here:
"The Pending Home Sales Index*, based on data collected for April, stands at 128.2, which is 3.6 percent higher than March and 9.2 percent above April 2004. The previous record was 128.1 in October 2004. The index is based on pending sales of existing homes, including single-family and condo; a sale is pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed. Pending home sales typically close within one or two months of signing."

[note: the asterick refers to this:
"* The Pending Home Sales Index is based on a large national sample, representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity from 2001 through 2004 closely parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months."

If you want to read more, go here.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Who chooses the escrow and title companies?

If you are a buyer or seller, do you know who chooses the escrow and title company? YOU DO! That's right. The buyer and seller agree on what company is to handle the escrow and what company is to handle the title insurance. In reality, the real estate agents take on this task.

Just as you would want to work with a professional real estate agent of your choice, you would also want to work with an escrow and title company of your choice. We suggest you ask your realtor for three referrals, and you check them out.

So, whether you are a home buyer or home seller, be informed! And, request that you are able to use the "services" of your choice!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Real Estate Radio Show

Our weekly real estate radio show has given us a great opportunity to share our experiences and information with you!

Have you listened? We're on Sunday's at 11 am on KRLA 870 am. If you're out of our area, you can still listen in over the internet!

This past week we had a geologist on the show. What an interesting interview! And, we all learned something from him.

This coming Sunday we will have a termite inspector on the program. Among the topics will be how the heavy rains affect the termite population.

We hope you will listen! You can read more about the show here:
Fran and Rowena Talk Real Estate.

You can also go to the Archives and listen to any or all of the past shows. There's a description of what was covered on each show, as well as contact information for each week's guest. To check out the Archives, go here:
Archives of Fran and Rowena Talk Real Estate.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

California home owners "stuck"?

We're noticing a phenonemum right now in our Southern California housing market. Some sellers are "stuck" in their homes!

As a home seller, they are able to reap the benefits of the high prices in this record-setting real estate market.

Then, one or both of the following factors come into play:
(1) The amount capital gains tax that would be due on the sale; and/or
(2) Trying to find a home to buy - and having to pay the high price of whatever home they would want to buy.

The California home sellers who are able to benefit in this market seem to be those who can move to a less expensive area ... say, out of state! We've observed that those sellers are able to buy a property out of state, and actually "bank" money from the sale of their California home.

Demand in the less expensive states is rising, partly due to people who are selling their California home and looking for less expensive housing and a nice community to live in.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Mortgage rates drop

Bankrate.com reports that "The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 7 basis points to 5.65 percent ... One year ago, the mortgage index was 6.34 percent." Nearing a record low, Bankrate.com states "The last time the benchmark 30-year rate was this low was the week of Feb. 16, when it was 5.62 percent."

An executive from Washington Mutual is interviewed in the online article, and strongly suggests that people with variable rate mortgages may want to refinance to a fixed rate loan at this time.

To read more, go here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Another real estate record broken in California in April!

The California Association of Realtors (CAR) reports that for the first time, the average price of a home in California exceeds $500,000.

CAR states "The median price of an existing home in California in April increased 12.5 percent and sales increased 2.7 percent compared with the same period a year ago."

Once again, the economic law of supply and demand has pushed prices to new highs!

To read more, go here.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Remembering on Memorial Day

Remembering those who have served our nation.

Encyclopedia information on Memorial Day here.

Read about the History of Memorial Day here.

With Gratitude.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

California Luxury Homes pass new mark!

Luxury home prices set all time highs in the first quarter of 2005, compared to one year ago. According to the First Republic Prestige Home Index™ these record prices were set in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. The Index tracks homes over one million dollars.

Low inventory and strong demand has pressed prices to new limits. The article sites the entertainment industry as one of the driving economic forces.

"In Los Angeles, average luxury home values topped $2 million for the first time. The 23.1% gain from the first quarter of 2004 to the first quarter of 2005 was the ninth consecutive quarter of double-digit gains on a year-over-year basis."

To read more, go here.

Friday, May 27, 2005

National Association of Realtors® (NAR) says April record home sales month

Continuing to set new records, sales of existing homes in April climbed to new heights. The NAR states "Single-family home sales rose 4.5 percent in April to a record seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.28 million from a level of 6.01 million in March."

Why? The article says continued low mortgage rates and low inventory are contributing to this growth.

To read more, go here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Brick house?

The Brick Industry Association has a website - http://www.bia.org/ - with a special section for homeowners and homebuyers here. There is a wealth of information on this website!

And, are you a recycler?

The Environmental Protection Agency gives lots of helpful tips on their website here. And, there is information about the three R's: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Monday, May 23, 2005

National Association of Realtors® (NAR) agrees to continue discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)

In an effort to resolve a dispute with the DOJ that has gone on for over a year and a half, the NAR will look into developing a single policy regarding the way property listings are displayed on the internet. Among the antitrust issues from the DOJ's standpoing has been whether or not agents could withhold their listings from some online websites.

The NAR will try to develop a policy that is acceptable to both the NAR and the DOJ. The NAR has long held that "...real estate professionals should retain the right to control whether and how their own listings may be used or displayed by other real estate professionals." [source]

The implelmentation of the NAR's Virtual Office Web site (VOW) policy has been postponed to January 1, 2006, in hopes that the two sides could reach an agreement on this issue.

To read more, go here.

We thank our friends at "The Week Magazine" for their contribution to this blog post.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Home buyers prefer high-quality features over space

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has done a study about what home buyers want in their new homes. Among the desired features are:
- a preference for quality in features and construction over house size
- kitchen preferences include a walk-in pantry, island work area, built-in microwave
- desired bathroom features are a linen closet, exhaust fan and separate shower enclosure

The average home size now stands at 2,340 square feet.

To read more, go here.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

National Association of Realtors® (N.A.R.) releases 2005 housing forecast

The N.A.R. is predicting home sales will benefit from a slower than anticipated rise in mortgage interest rates. The chief economist for the N.A.R. projects that 30 year fixed interest rates will go up this year to 6.4%, and continue to rise in 2006. In our opinion, that's still a great rate!

Other predictions are:
* "The national median existing-home price for all housing types is forecast to rise 7.1 percent this year to $198,400"
* "The median new-home price is expected to increase 5.1 percent in 2005 to $232,300."
* "Sales of existing-homes, including single-family and condo, will be close to last year’s record, slipping only 1.2 percent to a total of 6.70 million in 2005."
* New home sales - "...a decline of 2.5 percent to 1.17 million this year."

To read more online, go here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Housing Affordability Down

The California Association of Realtors® reports that the Housing Affordability Index was down in March. The report states that "The percentage of households in California able to afford a median-priced home stood at 18 percent in March, a 3 percentage-point decrease compared with the same period a year ago when the Index was at 21 percent."

As we have seen in prior reports, the least affordable areas in the state of California are Northern Wine Country and Santa Barbara regions. The most affordable area are the High desert and Sacramento regions.

To read more, including a list of California regions and housing affordability factors and median prices, go here.