New CA Policy Could Get Realtors Into Trouble Faster

July 23rd, 2014

Kudos to the California Bureau of Real Estate for a smart new rule that could get unethical agents into trouble more quickly. One of the biggest problems in the real estate industry in California is that agents who are accused of committing unethical acts, or those who break laws or rules, were subject to a lengthy process of administrative hearings. The agent or broker could continue to work in the industry for a long time until it was found they actually did something wrong (and many claims are not even investigated because there is not enough people-power to do so – but that is a story for another blog). images

Here are the highlights of the new rule, which was announced this month:

1. Citations issued more quickly. The new rule, referred to as “cite and fine,” will give the BRE the authority to issue citations and assess fines prior to hearings. The rules apply to both real estate professionals and those who practice real estate without licenses (those without licenses will likely be subject to higher fines).  Fines will go up to $2500.

Here is how the new rule will work. Once a complaint is filed, the administrators will conduct an investigation, audit or examination of records. Action will be taken depending on the type and degree of the violation. Most minor offenses (such as failure to include the agent’s BRE license number on first point of contact marketing materials) will be subject to fines.

2. Offender names will be available via public record. Names of those who are cited and/or fined will not appear on the BRE website or under the licensee’s record, it will appear in the public records for anyone who chooses to submit a request through the Public Records Act.

3.  Money collected from fines will go to a good cause. All the money collected by the BRE from offending licensees and non-licensees will go into a fund that helps victims of real estate fraud. Again – kudos to the BRE.

This new citation and fine system is a step in the right direction toward the prevention of rules and ethics violations in the real estate industry. Hopefully the BRE will continue to refine policies AND licensing and training requirements. I will keep my hopes up that this is the first in a succession of positive moves to make the real estate industry more professional and respected.

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5 Inexpensive Ways to Get Your Home Sale-Ready

July 18th, 2014

Whether you are going to sell your home or have a home you can’t yet afford to upgrade, there are things you can do to make it more appealing, without breaking the piggy bank. If you are selling your home it is important that the home look the best it can, especially if you want to attract qualified buyers. Here are some great ideas you can accomplish in a weekend or two.paint

1. Paint. Paint is by far the best way to update any space, and it is inexpensive. If your  home looks dull or the walls are dirty, paint is the answer. Avoid any bright or dark colors, and try to stay within a neutral realm if you are selling (buyers may have different tastes so it is safest). If your home does not get a lot of natural light you should keep the colors light. Painting is easy and can literally transform a room. Don’t forget baseboards and doors if needed. If the front of your home needs sprucing up, you can save money by just painting the trim, front door and garage (if needed), without having to spend thousands on the entire exterior.

2. Replace door and cabinet knobs. This is another inexpensive way to really change the feel of a room or entire home. I can’t tell you how many times I have shown homes that have been upgraded, but for the ugly door and cabinet knobs that are circa 1970. Knobs come in a plethora of shapes and colors, with a vast price range. If you go to a large home store like Home Depot or Lowe’s, you can find some great prices. You can also shop online. Doors that are freshly painted with new fixtures improve the entire room.

bright kitchen3. Let the light in. This is one of the biggest selling points – buyers do not like dark homes. If you have one you have to assess how best to address the issues and bring in as much light as possible. Windows should be uncovered and cleaned – no heavy drapes (because even when they are open the material hanging on the sides blocks light). Short of installing light tubes in your ceiling, you can add more lighting to your home if there are areas where the natural light does not illuminate. You don’t need to spend lots of money – if that is not an option you can simply purchase inexpensive lighting features. If the kitchen is dark, consider mounting under-cabinet lights – if you have multiple outlets you can usually install them yourself without the help of an electrician.

4. Dress up the front of your home. This is critical for sellers, because curb appeal is the first thing buyers will notice. Without having to completely re-landscape, you can make a big difference to the front of your home by doing the following: trim overgrown bushes and trees, mow the lawn, pull weeds, clean windows and doors and sweep porches, and do some planting – think colorful. You can purchase flats of flowers for cheap and line your walkway or planter boxes. If you don’t have those think of investing in a few big pots (it is easy to find cheap ones), and filling them with flowers – place these at your front door or other focal points. If you have large spaces that cannot be filled with plants, purchase a few large bags of bark to make the spaces look fresh. Make sure outdoor lighting is working and clean fixtures.

5. Declutter. I have written numerous blogs about the importance of decluttering. If you are selling your home, keep in mind that buyers want to see the useable space in every room. Take out excess furniture, stacks of books or magazines. Remove photographs from walls (a few well-placed pieces of art are fine, but you do not want walls covered with photos or art). Leave counters empty (except for very little, like a vase of fresh flowers). If you have furniture that is very bulky, get rid of it if you are sprucing up for sale. If you really need  help you can consider staging (which really is not overly expensive and will likely bring  you offers sooner than without staging, so do the math). If you are not selling but living in your home, decluttering still is advantageous and will highlight the space in your home. Decluttering should include the garage and outdoor living spaces.

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Possible New Restrictions on Realtor Website Data

July 16th, 2014

Once again the powers that be are trying to restrict the content that real estate agents and brokers can post on their websites, and it is creating a lot of controversy in the industry.images

The National Fair Housing Alliance stated this week that is investigating complaints that could lead to forbidding real estate websites from sharing neighborhood racial and ethnic data – information that is available to anyone willing to search online via other types of sites, like the Census Bureau. Granted this information is much easier to acquire from a real estate website, but regardless it is still out there for anyone searching.

The Fair Housing Act forbids real estate agents and brokers from steering clients into or out of certain neighborhoods due to racial or ethnic makeup.  They are not allowed to discuss or provide any information if such questions or concerns are posed. Agents and brokers are further governed by the code of ethics of the National Association of Realtors, which prohibits disseminating “information regarding the racial, religious or ethnic composition of any neighborhood.”

For as long as there have been real estate websites, agents and brokers have provided information about the housing market and real estate practices. This information benefits consumers and has created a culture of uber-informed buyers and sellers. The knowledge one can acquire from both large and small real estate websites can really educate and assist those looking to purchase or sell a home.

Most websites link to services that provide neighborhood and community information, myself included. Potential buyers can gather a plethora of information about any neighborhood, including statistics on education levels, jobs, languages, and other categories including racial and ethnic data. If estate websites are required to remove such information, there will still be places where anyone can obtain it.

So what do you think – should real estate websites be allowed to continue to provide such neighborhood information? Do you think it violates Fair Housing laws or real estate ethics? How much can we as a society control the information that the consumer desires to obtain, and at what point are we infringing on freedom and democracy? Please share your views!

 

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Buying After a Past Short Sale? You May Soon be Out of Luck

July 11th, 2014

If you are thinking of buying a home  with a conventional loan, and you had a short sale, deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or mortgage loan write-off less than 4 years ago, you better be aware of some changes that will take effect in August (yes, next month). What this may mean is that you have to get into contract within the next few weeks or may risk having to possibly wait another year or two to make a home purchase.house_question

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the largest financers for the majority of loans in the U.S., announced earlier this week that they are extending guidelines for purchases after short sales, deeds-in-lieu or mortgage write offs. Starting August 16, 2014, a buyer with a past short sale (or the others) must have closed escrow on that sale 4 years before the date of purchase of a new home. The current rule is two years if the borrower is putting 20% down – see below). If there are extenuating circumstances (a death in the family or accident that affected the ability to pay the mortgage – divorce or job loss do not count as extenuating circumstances, and each lender may have different rules as to what does qualify so make sure to check), then the time period could be lessened to three years upon approval.

This rule, which has surprised many mortgage and real estate professionals, could create problems for those currently looking for homes in a market with low inventory. Note that the new purchase does not have to close by August 16, but the must be fully approved by that time. So long as you get into contract with a few weeks to spare for approval you should be fine.

Here is how the current seasoning requirements look:

  • 7 years with less than 10% down
  • 4 years with 10% – 19.99% down
  • 2 Years with 20%+ down

Here is how the new requirements will look:

  • 7 years with less than 10% down (no extenuating circumstances allowed for this program)
  • 4 years with 10% down or more (2 year seasoning requirement is allowed if we can document extenuating circumstances that caused the short sale. Taking advantage of a declining market is an unacceptable hardship. I’ve written more about this subject below.)

Personally I have clients who will be affected by this new change if they do not find a home very soon. I am surprised that such a rule would be instituted in the middle of the housing recovery, when there is little inventory and the market is turning from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. I feel this is a very bad call and that it will have negative effects on the housing market.

If you are in the process of looking for a new home and had a short sale within the last 4 years, you need to discuss this with your mortgage professional and your real estate agent.

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Where Can You Buy a House in North San Diego for Under $500,000?

July 7th, 2014

The North San Diego housing market is pricey, and for that reason many people move outside of the county in order to find affordable homes. Of course they have to deal with long commutes to work in San Diego, not to mention being away from our ideal weather, but it makes sense for many.

If you just can’t fathom not living the San Diego lifestyle and don’t want to live outside the county, there are some areas where you can afford a detached home for under $500,000. Let’s focus on three areas in North County that will allow you to afford San Diego real estate on a budget under $500,000.SanMarcos

San Marcos. San Marcos is a great area that has changed dramatically in the last decade. Located only 8-10 miles from the ocean and right off the 78 freeway (close to the 15 and  less than 10 miles from the 5), this community offers several different neighborhoods where your dollar can stretch a lot farther than in coastal neighborhoods. There are many restaurants, shopping and entertainment throughout the community, as well as Cal State University San Marcos.

There are currently 45 active homes under $500,000 in San Marcos, in neighborhoods like Discovery Hills, Twin Oaks and Santa Fe Hills. Each neighborhoods offers different amenities – some are gated communities. There are also retirement communities in the Lake San Marcos area that will fit into this budget. If you have a townhome or condo in mind you will have even more choices, such as the well-known walkable community of San Elijo Hills.

VistaVista. Vista has been touted as one of the best weather cities in North San Diego. With constant ocean breezes (Vista is located 7 miles from the ocean) and a central location to all of north county, Vista has a lot to offer, whether you are looking to live in the middle of or away from it all. According to Wikipedia “Vista was listed as the seventh-best place in the United States for family life, based on factors such as jobs and business opportunities, education, climate, and cost-of-living in a 2008 review.

Right now there are 86 active detached homes under $500,000 in Vista. These properties lie in different areas of the city, from the popular Shadowridge area (which sits right next to Carlsbad and has a nice golf course and close proximity to the ocean), to rural and city neighborhoods.

Oceanside. If you want to live closer to the beach Oceanside, San Diego’s northernmost community, is a great option. Formerly known as solely a military town, Oceansideit has developed and changed substantially in the last decade, with a variety of neighborhoods along and off the 76 corridor. Many homes here can be purchased for under $500,000 – whether you are looking for older or newer homes, tract neighborhoods or custom homes. There really is something for everyone in Oceanside.

Currently there are 171 detached homes on the market in Oceanside, including many different neighborhood types and locations. Oceanside is known for its wonderful weather, nice beaches and the pier, its many bike and hiking trails, and Mission San Luis Rey.

There are coastal finds for under $500,000 in other cities as well. For more information, detailed market reports and/or home listings in any of these or other north San Diego areas, please feel free to contact me at Rachel@LaMarRealEstate.org, or visit my website.

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San Diego Calendar of Events for July 2014

June 30th, 2014

Happy July everyone!

 

July 3, Dash & Dine Gaslamp 5K
This is a night 5K run through the Gaslamp Quarter with nightclub music and wafting smells of fine dining. After the run, participating bars and restaurants will offer the runners delicious local fare. Refer to website for registration and admission.
Time: 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Location: Gaslamp Quarter,
5th Avenue (between L St & K St), San Diego
For more information visit www.sandyfeetevents.com
July 4, Scripps Ranch Old Pros 10K, 
2-Mile Runs & Bike Rides
This event offers several running and cycling opportunities to choose from: a 10K road race, 2-mile fun run, 12-mile cycle, 28-mile cycle, or a 50-mile cycle. See website for entry fees.
Time: 6:00 am – 1:00 pm
Location: Scripps Ranch – Miramar Ranch School parking lot
For more information visit www.srop.org
July 12, Descanso Parade & Fair
This fair includes a parade, games and rides, food, vendor booths, arts, crafts, dancing and live entertainment. The parade route starts on Viejas Grade Road and ends at the elementary school. The fair helps raise funds for the preservation of the historic town hall.
Time: Parade: 10:00 am, Fair: 11:30 – 6:00 pm
Location: Descanso Town Hall,
24536 Viejas Grade Rd., Descanso
July 12, American Cancer Society’s Vista Relay for Life
At Relay for Life, cancer survivors are honored for their courage and strength. Caregivers are recognized for their encouragement and support. Teams of people camp out around a track and members of each team take turns walking around the track throughout the 24 hours. Because it’s a team event, individual participants are not required to be there the entire time. Food, games and activities provide entertainment and build camaraderie.
Time: 9:00 am
Location: Rancho Minerva Middle School, 2245 Foothill Dr., Vista
For more information visit www.relayforlife.org/vistaca
July 12 – 13, San Diego Night Market
Designed as a traditional Asian night market where vendors line the streets with their wares, there will be dozens of Asian food and merchandise booths, live musical entertainment, and a craft beer garden, as well as delicious food tastings and a special movie screening. This is a free event.
Time: 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Location: Raytheon Rd.
(between Convoy St & Ruffner St.,San Diego)
For more information visit www.sdnightmarket.com
July 12 – 13 and 19 – 20, Annual World Championship
Over-The-Line Tournament
This event is a form of rugged sand softball play, with over 1,300 teams of three persons each, played on 50-mini courts over two consecutive weekends. Crowds of people gather to watch the games amid music and beer.
Time: 7:00 am – 7:00 pm
Location: Fiesta Island, San Diego
For more information visit www.ombac.org
July 17, Del Mar Racing Season 
Opening day at the Del Mar Race Track. Put on your best hat and head down to the racetrack!
Time: Refer to website for specific times.
Location: Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd.
For more information visit www.delmarracing.com
July 18, Wine & A Bite Art Walk
Enjoy several destination venues in Historic Downtown Fallbrook where you can stroll along and taste great food, wine, desserts and have an art experience. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Fallbrook Chamber office.
Time: 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Location: Historic Downtown Fallbrook,
Village Square Main and Alvarado
For more information visit www.fallbrookchamberofcommerce.org
July 18, Pride Block Party & Stonewall Rally
This is a prelude to the upcoming LGBT Pride Parade and Festival events. This is an evening block party rally that consists mostly of speeches, and then the event continues and becomes a street fair with live entertainment, food, cocktails, dancing, and merchandise. Refer to website for admission information.
Time: 5:00 pm – 11:30 pm
Location: University Ave., Hillcrest
For more information visit www.fabuloushillcrest.com
July 19 – 20, San Diego Annual LGBT Pride Parade, Rally,
and Festival
Multiple events take place in Balboa Park and Hillcrest areas. There will be a music festival, block party, rally, parade and so much more! See website for all events, dates, times, and prices.
Time: Refer to website for specific times
Location: Balboa Park and Hillcrest
For more information visit www.sdpride.org
July 20, Kaiser Permanente Bolt to the Q 
5K & Kids 5K Fun Run
Join this 5K event that begins at Qualcomm Stadium, goes outside, and then back into the Stadium to the 50-yard line inside the bowl. The Chargers Kids Fun Run is also held at the stadium with the same finish line on the field. This event is presented by Kaiser Permanente. Refer to website for registration information.
Time: 7:30 am – 11:00 am
Location: Qualcomm Stadium, 9449 Friars Rd., San Diego
For more information visit www.nflrunseries.com
July 24 – 27, Comic Con International 2014
Comic Con International features special guests, exhibitors, panels, seminars, previews and more on the world of comics, movies, television, animation, and art. This is the largest comic book and pop culture event in the United States. Refer to website for admission information.
Time: Thurs to Sat: 9:30 am – 7:00 pm, Sun: 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Location: San Diego Convention Center,
111 W Harbor Dr., San Diego
For more information visit www.comic-con.org
July 25, Movie in the Park
Free Family Fun in La Mesa with this summer’s Movie in the Park “Mary Poppins.”
Time: 7:30 pm
Location: La Mesita Park, 8855 Dallas St., La Mesa
For more information visit www.cityoflamesa.com
July 26, Joggin’ For Frogmen 5K
Joggin’ for Frogmen is a 5k chip timed run/walk to jog in honor of the Navy Seals (Frogmen) and all military Heroes who have sacrificed their lives while protecting our country. All proceeds benefit the Navy Seal Foundation, The 31Heroes Project, and Travis Manion Foundation through their One Team One Fight partnership. Following the 5k is a “Tadpole Trot” for the kids.
Time: 8:15 am – 3:00 pm
Location: Naval Training Center Park, 2455 Cushing Rd., San Diego
For more information visit www.jogginforfrogmen.com
July 27, July Jubilee
This event will address the needs of homeless persons in downtown San Diego. Volunteers will provide basic hygienic services, food, clothing, housing and legal resources, prayer and fellowship. There will be musical entertainment. Service opportunities are listed in the sign up form.
Time: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Location: Downtown San Diego, 1625 Newton St.
For more information visit www.julyjubilee.org
July 31 – August 3, Annual Ramona Country Fair 
At Ramona’s Annual Country Fair there will crafts, carnival rides, vendors, live entertainment, a great amusement ride section, food contests, the annual Ramona Idol competition, great food, and lots of animals. Admission is free.
Time: Thurs to Fri: 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm,
Sat: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm, Sun: 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Location: Ramona Outdoor Community Center,
421 Aqua Ln., Ramona
For more information visit www.ramonafair.com
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The Problem with Stereotyping Professions

June 27th, 2014

I was engaged the other day on Twitter with someone who had made an interesting comment on a post I made. In response to my comment that I am an optimist, seek out positive aspects and make things happen, the person answered, “when did a lawyer become an optimist?”stereotype

I thought about that comment most of the day. A few things about it were disheartening. First of all, it confirms the notion that many people form opinions about entire groups of people or a profession in general. Usually this is born from a bad experience the person had with someone in that profession. When they share their bad experience it may be confirmed by another person who also had bad experiences with people in that profession. It is human nature but it is unfortunate.

When I first started working as a real estate agent many years ago, a close friend of mine laughed and said “now you represent 2 of the professions people hate the most – lawyers and Realtors. All you need to do next is sell cars!” I laughed at the time, but the comment is sad. I made a promise to myself that no one who ever worked with me would have a bad experience. That is a promise I have kept for 11 years in this business, because it is important to me and because it makes me feel good to know I made someone happy.

It doesn’t matter if you are badmouthing attorneys, car salespeople, wall street brokers, teachers, doctors or anyone else (personally I can name some bad people in each of those categories, and I am sure you can too).  Anyone who has a negative experience with a professional is obviously not working with the right person.

People will continue to stereotype professions until the end of time, but the fact is that there are good, ethical, professional and dedicated people in every industry. If you take the time to find one – and yes, that may involve paying more money so you have to decide which is more important – then you will have a great experience.

I continue to work in the real estate industry because I know I am in it for the right reasons – to give my clients a wonderful experience…because buying or selling a home, a legal transaction that involves one of the biggest decisions in life, should be a positive experience. Certainly there are things that are beyond my control, but I do my best to keep it positive. I hope that my professionalism and dedication will inspire others in the industry, and that one by one others who are like-minded will help turn the industry around into one with a great reputation.

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Real Estate Bubble News is Abuzz

June 24th, 2014

The latest home price data was released this morning, and there were a plethora of articles today about the “housing bubble” and whether we have or are facing one. Personally I do not think we are in a “bubble,” nor do I see one coming any time soon, but there are some who share the opposite view. The news today sheds some light on what is going on in the market, and whether or not to take the perspective that we are heading toward a bubble. bubbles

One post I read stated that the way to mention whether a bubble market exists is to compare housing prices to rental prices. In doing so the study found that home prices are not a big bargain compared to prices in March of 2012 (when the home price to rent ratio was roughly 50%), but on the same token the ratio is not as high now as the roughly 87% peak in May of 2006.

With so many mixed housing numbers it is hard to take a perspective. Zillow, taking the view that housing is getting back to “normal,” stated that “The reality is that the market is moving from one defined by distortions including high negative equity and constricted inventory, to one defined by fundamentals like household formation rates, jobs and income growth.” This view is true in the raw sense, but it also holds some implications for future buyers. For example, home sales will surge in areas where there is job growth. But in many of those areas housing is very expensive (think technology in Northern California or biotech industries in Southern California), so buyers may have to purchase outside of these immediate markets and commute. 

The truth of the matter is that housing will grow or fail depending on several factors. Let’s start with economic and job factors. A big percentage of home sales in 2013 (about 1/3 according to data) and so far in 2014 have been cash sales, indicating that loans are still hard to come by and/or that those with money can and will purchase homes, and may not want to deal with the nuisance of obtaining a loan.

Obtaining a loan will also of course continue to play a role in home sales. Loan rates continue to remain low, and many lenders appear to be loosening the standards for lending, with some controversial products like adjustable rate mortgages (and I have heard rumors of stated income and personal loans) gaining in popularity once again.

Add to the future home sales growth predictions the fact that many young Americans are buried in student debt and will not likely have the ability to purchase a home for a long time. This affects household composition ratios as well, since many 20-somethings are now living or are moving back into homes with their parents in order to save money to pay off debt.

It will be interesting to see where housing goes from here. Here in North San Diego there are buyers waiting to purchase, but low inventory. It is a frustrating process, but it seems better than having homes sitting on the market with no buyers. So, like all housing periods I think we need to look on the positive side. Real estate has always been seen by many as a sound investment over time, and there will always be buyers and sellers. Right now is a great time to be a seller, and as long as there are willing and able buyers out there the market will continue to stay afloat.

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July 4 San Diego Fireworks Schedule 2014

June 20th, 2014

It is almost that time of year again, and there are wonderful venues in San Diego to see fireworks, so pick your favorite and enjoy! There are several venues throughout the county where you can park yourself and enjoy multiple firework displays! Find a high place that faces toward the coast in north county and you will be sure to see several different displays at once, from the Del Mar Fairgrounds to Legoland and Oceanside, even…any west facing hillside with a view will work! Here is the firework schedule: http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-fireworks-new-year-celebration-image36365618

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fireworks3                                           fireworks4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fireworks5    fireworks1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fireworks2

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Top Real Estate Attributes for Women and Men

June 19th, 2014

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