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