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, 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: 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 ( 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.