Friday, March 31, 2006

April is Earthquake Preparedness Month

April 18 is the 100th anniversary of the "The Great San Francisco Earthquake", which was "estimated at 8.25 on the Richter scale and lasted about one minute. Conservative estimates have put the quake’s death toll at more than 3,000 — with some estimates as high as 6,000 — mostly in the city of San Francisco. Between 225,000 and 300,000 people were left homeless with property damage estimated then at $400 million (about $8.2 billion in today’s dollars)." *

And, April is designated as National Earthquake Preparedness Month. We have gathered information and tips about Earthquake Preparedness for you.

*source: U.S. Census Bureau


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Feds raise Funds Rate

As expected, the Federal Reserve Board raised the funds rate one-quarter percent, to 4.75%. Constituting the 15th consecutive increase, most analysists feel that the Feds also hinted that another rate hike is possible.

To read more: Federal Reserve Board March 28, 2006 press release
Realty Blogging

Thank you to Chris Bubny of Realty Blogging for the kind words about our Blog! The feature article will be available on our homepage, on the right side under "Press on The Real Estate Blog".

Monday, March 27, 2006

Pricing strategies

Today's comments come straight from the files in our office.

Are you trying to determine a price for your property? If you are a seller, pricing your home in today's changing real estate climate can be a challenge. Do you price it above the last sold comparable property? Maybe a little over? A lot over? Or, maybe your strategy is to offer it at such an attractive price as to hope for multiple offers, thinking that perhaps a "bidding war" will push the price higher.

We are asked all the time about pricing. There are so many factors that go into pricing a property. Time is one important factor. Do you want a fast sale? Or are you willing to wait? Of course, comparable sales of similar properties is key. Remember ... the buyers will be looking at comparable sales when they are formulating their offer.

One thing is certain. If you price your home too high, you/your realtor can spend a good deal of time, energy and money promoting it at the wrong price.

We recommend a pricing strategy meeting with your realtor. Discuss the different scenarios, and take a close, objective look at your competition. What other properties will be the buyers be looking at and considering at the same time that they are looking at your property? You want your property to compare favorably in the buyer's eyes.

And while your property is on the market and unsold, continue to monitor your position in the marketplace. Make sure your property is priced competitively.

What's the right price? In our opinion, it's that price that allows you to accomplish your goals.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mortgage rates down, delinquencies rise reports that as of their March 22 survey, "The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 4 basis points to 6.39 percent . . . One year ago, the mortgage index was 6.15 percent; four weeks ago, it was 6.34 percent."

However, along with the indicators of a changing real estate market, it is also reported that "Every three months, the Mortgage Bankers Association calculates the seasonally adjusted delinquency rate -- the percentage of home loans in which the payments are at least 30 days past due. In the final quarter of 2005, 4.7 percent of mortgages were delinquent, compared to a 4.38 percent delinquency rate a year before. That's a 7.3 percent increase in late payments in a year . . . But when the MBA performs statistical magic to remove the effects of Hurricane Katrina on mortgages in Louisiana and Mississippi, the national delinquency rate is 4.55 percent in the fourth quarter of 2005, not 4.7 percent. Still, it means delinquencies went up 3.9 percent in a year, and they'll continue to climb."

To read more: March 22, 2006 report

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Some housing stats up, some down

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development report that for February 2006, the number of privately-owned housing starts declined 4.8% percent from one year ago (using seasonally adjusted numbers). "Privately-owned housing completions in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of ... 5.2 percent above the February 2005 rate." Further, the number of building permits issued was up a little last month.

To read the press release to here: New Residential Construction in February 2006 (note: this is a pdf document)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Mortgage Rates Down Slightly reports that for the week ending March 15 "The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 2 basis points to 6.43 percent ... One year ago, the mortgage index was 6 percent; four weeks ago, it was 6.37 percent."

You can read more about interest rates, including theory behind the market, here: interest rate survey March 15, 2006

Remember that the Federal Reserve meeting is March 26/27. You can view a calendar of the meetings here: Federal Reserve meeting calendar

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Mortgage Delinquencies UP!

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports that "The delinquency rate for mortgage loans on one-to-four-unit residential properties was 4.70 percent at the end of the fourth quarter, up from 4.38 percent in the fourth quarter of 2004 and 4.44 percent in the third quarter of 2005."

The MBA's chief economist said that this upswing was expected.

To read more: MBA mortgage delinquency report

Friday, March 17, 2006

Does your (Los Angeles) kitchen make the grade?

If you live or dine in Los Angeles County, you are aware that our "retail food establishments" (most notably, restaurants) are given a letter "grade" by the Health Department (read about it here: inspection of retail food establishments).

And for those of us who dine out, believe me ... we notice the grades that are usualloy posted in the front window!

Did you know that your home kitchen can get graded also? It's true! Take the test and see what grade you earn. Then, you can request they send the grade to you to display for your family and guests!

To take the test: Los Angeles home kitchen self-inspection

Thursday, March 16, 2006

New Credit Scoring System

The three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian jointly unveiled a new credit score - the VantageScore system.

According to their press release, it is "designed to simplify and enhance the credit process for both consumers and credit grantors...Under the new scoring system, credit score variance between credit reporting companies will be attributed to data differences within each of the three consumer credit files and not to the structure of the scoring model or data interpretation."

Using a rating ranging from 501 to 900, VantageScore claims that it "will provide consumers and businesses with a highly predictive, consistent score that is easy to understand and apply."

Expect to hear more about this in the coming weeks!

To read more: VantageScore.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

February Southland homes reach record prices, but fewer homes sell

DataQuick Information Systems reports that "The median price paid for a home in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties was $480,000 last month. That was up 2.3 percent from $469,000 in January and up 12.9 percent from $425,000 for February a year ago."

But, then it goes on to report that "The number of homes sold was the lowest in five years."

So what's the story with the real estate market? From our vantage point, it's still a little early to tell. Historically it's slower in January and February. We are looking to the spring market to be a better indicator.

To read more: March 14, 2006 Southern California home prices

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Best and the Worst Neighborhoods - by price appreciation

Forbes Magazine has listed the U.S. cities with the greatest and least amount of appreciation by zip code in the 20 largest metro areas.

At the top of the list? Chicago zip code 60602 with total price appreciation from 2003 to 2005 of 206.7%, followed by Miami and Dallas.

At the bottom? St. Louis, Missouri, followed by Phoenix and Chicago zip code 60611.

To read more: Best and Worst Neighborhoods

Friday, March 10, 2006

Mortgage rates jump!

Mortgage interest rates have made their biggest jump in 22 months. reports that as of March 8, "The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose 18 basis points to 6.45 percent. It was the biggest one-week rise since May 2004. It is also the highest rate since Sept. 3, 2003, when the 30-year fixed rate was 6.47 percent." cites anticipation that the the Feds will raise short-term interest rates when the Federal Reserve meets at the end of the month, plus other factors in Japan and the European Central Bank, headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany.

To read more: March 8 mortgage interest rate report

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Study Examines Tax Burden in US

Runzheimer International has released a study showing the tax burden around the United States. Residents of Philadelphia have the highest tax burden as "a family of four with an annual income of $75,000 can expect to bequeath an average of $19,992, or 26.7% of total income, annually toward taxes after all personal exemptions and allowable deductions have been considered." Following Philadelphia are: Cleveland with taxes amounting to 26.1% of income; New York with 25.1%; and Chicago close behind at 25%.

And where was the lowest tax burden found? Honolulu, Hawaii with a tax burden of 16%; followed by Casper, Wyoming with 17.4%; and Anchorage, Alaska taxed at a rate of 17.9% of total income. (The study notes that both Wyoming and Alaska have no state income tax.)

To read more, including a chart listing 50 cities, go here: Runzheimer tax burden analysis

Monday, March 06, 2006

National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Pending Home Sales Index

The NAR reports that "A slide in pending home sales is beginning to level out, an indication of a more sustainable level of home sales in the months ahead."

The NAR uses their "Pending Home Sales Index" to measure homes that are pending sales, typically due to transfer title within 30 to 60 days. The Index was 4.8% lower than January 2005. The Index reached a record high in August of 2005.

To read more: January Pending Home Sales Index


New York Times Real Estate Issue

Some interesting articles in the New York Times Real Estate Issue. You'll have to register to get access to this special edition, that appeared on Sunday.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Mortgage rates fall - condo market cools

Our weekly tap on mortgage rates gives us further indication of a slowing real estate market. reports that "The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 7 basis points to 6.27 percent ... One year ago, the mortgage index was 5.87 percent; four weeks ago, it was 6.28 percent."

And, while sales numbers are off, prices are not going down. But, rather, they are holding steady or increasing slightly. As house prices and interest rates continue to rise, the number of people able to afford to buy will decrease. Hence a slowing of the market.

To read more: March 2 mortgage rate report

Thursday, March 02, 2006

California Luxury Home Sales up!

As further evidence of the 2005 real estate market in California, First Republic Bank reports that "Luxury home values rose to all-time highs in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco in 2005 on the strength of double-digit gains, but appreciation slowed significantly in the fourth quarter." First Republic has tracked luxury home sales for 20 years with their Prestige Home Index™, used to measure changes in homes valued over $1 million in key market areas. The homes in the Index are generally 3,000 to 6,000 square feet, have three to six bedrooms, and boast three to six bathrooms.

For additional information, including an analysis region by region: California 2005 luxury home sales