Archive for the ‘real estate’ Category

Why Selling Your Home by Owner is Tough in Today’s Market

Monday, November 26th, 2012

I recently came across a home that was for sale by owner. My client and I had been out looking at properties, and she later drove back through a neighborhood she particularly liked. She noticed a For Sale sign partially obscured on a home, which we had not noticed. I searched the internet for information about the home, but found nothing indicating it was for sale. I called the very nice owner, but when we finally connected my client had already flown back home and he did not want to cooperate with agents.

I know there are many agents out there who specifically seek out for sale by owner (or FSBO) properties, and many of them make it a priority to get those homes listed. But there are some big problems on both sides that need to be considered before hanging up a FSBO sign.

Issues Owners Must Consider

1. Exposure. As indicated in my example above, if you are going to sell your home it is extremely important to get exposure. The MLS is the number one place to showcase your listing, as thousands of property sites (where the buyers are looking) link to the MLS. Most active buyers have searches, oftentimes multiple searches, set up on agent sites and other house hunting sites like Zillow, Trulia and Redfin. If your home is not there, these buyers have NO idea it is for sale. In today’s market, where there is little inventory in most places, and where there ARE active buyers (and many multiple offer situations), it is simply silly not to have your home on the MLS.

If you still insist on trying to sell yourself, my best advice to you is to get your listing on the MLS. There are brokerages that will charge a small fee to do so, without doing any other work for you. It is well worth the expense.

2. Calls from LOTS of agents…who will want to know if you are willing too cooperate with them should they bring a buyer to your home. Most buyers DO work with agents, and if you are not willing to do so yourself you could be losing qualified buyers. An agent will not show your home if s/he will not get paid for making a sale and doing all the work involved in an escrow.

3. Unqualified buyer issues. If you do find buyers who are interested and not represented by an agent, you will be responsible for making sure they are qualified. This requires a lot of leg work, which most agents do before showing homes to their clients. You could take your home off the market for weeks assuming your buyers are qualified, only to find they are not. During that time you could have found other buyers, and then you will have to start all over.

4. Possibility of no showings, as many buyers are working with agents. This goes hand in hand with some of the above points.

5. Loads of paperwork and legal ramifications. If you are representing yourself in the sale of your home, you’d better be careful. You need to fill out a disclosure packet, and if you leave out crucial information it could come back to bite you down the road. An agent on your side is there to make sure you have filled out the disclosures correctly, and that all the paperwork is in order. Also important, if there ever is a legal problem down the road (and this is not a rare occurrence), it is nice to have the brokerage on your side to help you.

6. Other warnings. It is very important to note that if you are delinquent in your mortgage and are trying to do a FSBO, BEWARE. This is not something you should attempt on your own. You need to find a local agent who is experienced in delinquent properties so that you can discuss your options. If a short sale is an option I advise you to not even contemplate attempting one on your own. There are people who are experienced with short sales who can help you, providing a much stronger chance of approval.

Issues Buyers Must Consider When Purchasing a FSBO

1. No representation = Possible Legal issues. As discussed above, if you are a buyer purchasing a FSBO without an agent to represent you, you need to be very careful. If the owners do not fill out paperwork correctly and fail to disclose something, which later becomes an issue, you could be stuck with a legal dilemma. If you have an agent on your side to review all documentation and make sure you are legally protected, you will be in a much better position.

2. Escrow is a neutral party. It is important to know that the escrow officer can help you in some ways, telling you what paperwork you need. But keep in mind that escrow is a neutral party, and cannot give you any legal advice – they do not represent the interests of any single party to the sale.

3. Pricing. Make sure, if you are purchasing a FSBO property, that you have a copy of recent sold comparables in the area, and that you understand the prices and reasons for them. You obviously do not want to overpay for a home. This is not something you have to have an agent to do, but local area agents are usually very in touch with area sales and could explain to you why a particular home sold for more or less than the comps, and in doing so figure out the “right” price for a home you are thinking of purchasing. Most FSBO owners are savvy and know the neighborhood comps, but it is still important to study them yourself, especially if you are purchasing the property with a loan – lender scrutiny is rigid, and if the home doesn’t fit in with the recent comparables your loan will be denied (unless of course you renegotiate price with the seller at that point…something you need to be prepared to do well).

4. Must-Do’s in Buying FSBOs. If you are a buyer contemplating a FSBO purchase, it is imperative you do the following: get pre-approved with a lender first, get a good comparable market analysis – CMA (which you may be able to get from a local area agent even though they are not representing you), make sure you connect with escrow to understand what paperwork is needed, and have a home inspection.

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Real Estate News REcap

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

HARP is helping more borrowers to refinance: HARP, the Home Affordable Refinance Program, has recently been restructured, and this has allowed more homeowners to be able to take advantage and refinance to lower rates. The new guidelines allow those who are underwater with their mortgages to take avail of the program – a big welcome to homeowners struggling with mortgage payments. This also effects the foreclosure and short sale rates, which are good for the housing market and economy. As of July, approximately 75,000 homeowners have refinanced under HARP, up 50,000 from before the program was extended to help underwater homeowners. This is great news and hopefully it will continue to help people. Now if only they would apply these programs to non-Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae loans!

New home sales hit two year high: It’s official: builders are back in business. New home sales have reached the highest numbers in over two years. Here in North San Diego several new communities have popped up over the last 1-2 years, and they are all selling well. This is another great sign for the housing market recovery.

Pending home sales numbers increase: Pending home sales have been increasing lately, and September numbers, although slightly up from the previous month, held steady. The increase has been in effect for 17 consecutive months, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). NAR’s chief economist believes that this upward trend should continue into 2013. This coming Spring should be a great time for sellers and buyers.

Number of low priced homes shrink in California: Although inventory is scarce everywhere and in most price ranges, properties around $300,000 and under are suffering worse. According to Zillow, there has been a 40% reduction in inventory under $313,000 in California in the last year. This explains the multiple offer situation in these categories – there simply is not enough supply to meet the demand. Hopefully after the holidays we will see more properties on the market.

Big banks being sued:Wells Fargo is being sued over alleged fraud in a mortgage lending program administered by the Federal Housing Administration. Bank of America is also being sued, by the Justice Department, for mortgage fraud to the tune of over $1 billion. The B of A cases involve loans created through Countrywide, before Countrywide was acquired by B of A in 2008…gee, maybe borrowers will see some of the fruits of the penalties if B of A is found liable – but of course that it doubtful (one can hope). Many of the claims involved in both suits go back over the course of 10 years. Well, I would wish these banks good luck in their suits, but as I have no sympathy I hope they get what they deserve.


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Will the Short Sale Tax Break Be Extended?

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

It is almost here: the dreaded end of the federal short sale tax breaks, also known as the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act. Come December 31, sellers who have not yet closed escrow on their short sales will no longer escape the capital gains tax on the difference between the sales price (of their home via a short sale) and the amount owed on their mortgage…UNLESS the tax breaks are extended. Will this  happen, and if not, what will happen to short sales?

First of all, I have to say that I think the tax will be extended. It simply does not make sense at this critical economic time to not extend the tax break. Doing so wreaks all kind of havoc, including surges in foreclosures and bankruptcy filings, which neither the government nor the banks want to see.

Failure to extend the act would undermine everything that is improving in the real estate market and cause us to jump many steps backwards. The fact that an extension has not yet been announced makes people nervous, but due to the Presidential election and other important issues on the proverbial table, I think it has been put on the backburner for a short time.

Lets take a look at the main arguments for not extending the tax break:

1.  Too costly. There are some who believe that the law will not be extended, as they feel the alleged $2.7 billion it will cost to do so is not justified due to the deficit. To this I would say it will be a lot more costly if millions of homes go into foreclosure again, as people find they have no other solution and cannot afford to stay in their homes. The lenders will be stuck with tons of inventory that they have to sell, many that will be trashed, and the market will drop again, creating another real estate nightmare. Just when we are coming out of the bad market is not a good time to cause it to dive again.

2.  Easy escape for homeowners – ? Another argument in favor of not renewing the tax savings is that doing so encourages people to default on their loans. In other words, if people know they can short sale their homes and walk away without financial ramifications, it makes it easier than staying in a home they cannot afford and trying to make it work. I do not agree with this argument, as I think the stress would just lead to more bankruptcy filings and foreclosures, which in the end is even worse for the lending institutions (not to mention for millions of families).

It remains to be seen what will happen come the end of the year. The bottom line is this: if you are contemplating a short sale and your house is not yet listed on the market, or if your home is listed but you have not yet sent any offers over to your short sale lender, it is a good time to discuss your options with both your agent and a financial adviser, CPA and/or attorney. You must understand your options and what could happen if the law is not extended, because it could effect your decision whether to close your short sale.

If you are in the middle of a short sale and you have obtained or are soon to obtain lender approval, you need to make sure that the lender(s) release you in writing from any financial liability once escrow closes, if it is to close after December 31.

[Note that regardless of when your short sale is closing, you should ALWAYS make sure the lender approval letter has language to this effect…most lenders automatically state such in the approval letters, but if not you need to have your agent or negotiator ask that it be included]. You also need to check your state laws to determine state tax liability with short sales, as laws do vary. For more information about short sales you can visit my website.

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5 Reasons Why Now is the Best Time to Buy a Home

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Many real estate agents, mortgage professionals and economists have been saying it: “now is a great time to buy.” In fact, those cries have been echoed for the last year or so. Interestingly, there ARE many ready buyers out there, but inventory is so low and it is very difficult to be the lucky one whose offer is chosen, as many homes that are listed on the market obtain multiple offers, often in the first day or two.

So what makes now such a great time to buy real estate? There are 3 main reasons:

1.  (Still) historically low interest rates. The interest rates are still at unprecedented lows. Part of this reason is because there is little inventory in most markets. As prices climb, inventory will rise (because sellers will see a good reason to finally sell again) and in turn interest rates will likely rise. It’s a Catch-22, but if you want the best rates, the end of a long downturn is a great time to take advantage.

2.  Prices are rising in many markets. Many buyers have been waiting, some for a long time, until the market “bottomed out.” Well folks, we have reached that point and are now on the upswing. Prices in north county have risen, homes are receiving multiple offers, and the condo market is officially a seller’s market. Single family homes are soon to reach that level as well. If you are a buyer who has been “on the fence,” now is definitely the time to climb off and start looking, lest you find yourself facing higher prices and more competition as we head toward the Spring/Summer selling season.

3. Distressed inventory is down. Foreclosures have slackened off since the start of the summer, mostly in part to lenders embracing short sales and other programs, like loan modifications or sales to third party investors that help people stay in their homes. With less distressed inventory prices can continue to rise at a steady, “normal” pace. Note that even if you live in an area where there are still a lot of short sales, the jump in averages prices in those neighborhoods will cause lenders who hold paper on the distressed properties to seek prices that are more in line with the comparable sold properties, and since many lenders are trying to close short sales quicker and are being stricter with prices they will accept, it is likely such sales will not have a substantial effect on comparable properties.

4.  Rents continue to rise and rentals are harder to find – great for investors, not so great for those seeking to rent. Rents have risen over the past year and are at a 10 year high, according to research reported in the Wall Street Journal. One study by Trulia even found that it is cheaper to own rather than rent in many markets. Not to mention the rental market is so hot, that it requires much luck to even find a rental and be chosen as a renter, since there is so much competition. I have had renters call on all my listings over the past year, asking if the sellers were willing to rent instead of sell – people are desperate. One of my investors just leased out a newly purchased property – the same floorplan I sold last year to a different investor – and he was able to obtain a monthly rent almost $100 higher per month than the first investor.

5. Low inventory. Low inventory in most markets means much greater competition amongst buyers. How, you say, is this a reason to buy now? Well, since competition is so high and prices are rising, if you are lucky to be the chosen buyer on a property you will likely end up paying less than when there is more inventory. There is only less than a three month supply of inventory on the market now in San Diego. If the many buyers out there looking cannot find a home to purchase now, and hold off until there is more inventory (usually after the holidays), there will also be more competition, as you will also get the buyers at that time of year who want to make a move after school gets out for the summer. Also, you will likely get a lower interest rate if you buy now rather than down the road, as many economists predict interest rate increases as inventory rises.

Do you need a few more reasons? How about this: housing statistics have been and continue to be on the rise. Building statistics are up in many areas, and many markets are becoming seller’s markets. So remember that “now is truly a great time to buy” may sound like an old cliche, but truly makes sense right now. If you are serious about buying now, make sure you understand the importance of writing a strong offer – click here for some great tips. Happy house hunting!

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B of A to Eradicate Second Lien Debt

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Bank of America announced this week it’s plan to eliminate debt accrued on second lien mortgages for some lucky borrowers – approximately 150,000 lienholders across the country. This is big news for those who are underwater and would like to be able to stay in their homes. The lender says the goal behind the program is to help homeowners stay in their homes and build equity.

If you have a second mortgage that is serviced by B of A, you may soon receive a letter in the mail telling you your second lien can be extinguished. But don’t get too excited – the 150,000 letters are being sent out only to pre-qualified borrowers, and you cannot elect to be in the program. Apparently if you receive a letter your debt will be released within 30 days if you do not opt out of the program.

There is no data on which specific parts of the country may benefit the most, although one article mentioned the inland empire may see quite a few of these releases, as there were many second mortgages in that area and a substantial number of those loans that were issued by Countrywide (which was acquired by Bank of America). There is also no word on how credit may be effected, but if the bank is agreeing to release the debt in full there is a chance there may not be a credit ding…that remains to be seen.

While this is not a solution to preventing foreclosure, it could be a very powerful tool in it’s prevention, and those who are included in the program could really be receiving a life preserver. It is a new start and the chance to stay in a home that otherwise may not have been possible for much longer.

If you are the lucky recipient of one of these letters from B of A, please let me know. I would love to read the letter and understand the terms. You can email it to me at


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Be Careful What You List For

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

Although many local housing markets are experiencing increased sales prices, it is still very important to be careful in listing your home at the right price. I have always adhered to the notion that a listing has the strongest potential to attract qualified home buyers the first two weeks on the market (many agents say it is the first 30 days, but I think the first two weeks are the most crucial). With a great listing agent, a strong marketing plan, and quality photos of your home, the right list price will provide the opportunity to attract many buyers, possibly leading to multiple offers.

Here are some of the issues sellers can face if their home is not priced right from the start:

1.  Lack of interest. It used to be that buyers would come and see properties even if they were not priced well. In the last few years, it seems like that is no longer the case. Many buyers now prefer to to wait on price reductions, with the philosophy that lengthy market time means sellers are breaking down their barriers and might be willing to sell for UNDER market value, just to finally get rid of their homes. Those homes that are priced well garner more interest from both agents and buyers, and have a higher chance of selling. In fact, in many areas, such as here in North San Diego, homes that are priced well end up getting multiple offers and even selling above list price.

2.  Extended market time. This really goes hand in hand with number one, above. If you do not have your home priced right you will not generate interest amongst qualified buyers; no interest = longer market times. Lots of buyers tend to want to wait until prices come down, rather than trying to negotiate with sellers whom they feel are unreasonable in the expectations. Price reductions down the road do not seem to stimulate interest like a new listing hitting the market.

3.  Appraisal issues. We are seeing many more appraisal issues now, mostly because the banks have been so stubborn with lending. They want to prevent the free-for-all lending environment that caused the housing crash. In my opinion, they are really being too strict in lots of cases. Where there are strong sold comparables, and home prices can justifiably be increased (due to location, condition and upgrades), it is important for the lenders to understand that such properties should sell for more. But of course, there are limits.

4.  Distressed property comparisons. Many sold comparables might contain a few or lots of distressed sales. Some agents still believe that appraisers appraise properties with two different sets of criteria: distressed and non-distressed. That is no longer the case, in my opinion. Just because a  home is distressed most lenders still expect the home to sell according to comparable market prices. There IS an advantage to the waiting periods for non-distressed properties, but all things being equal your home should not sell for $100,000 more simply because it is not a short sale or bank-owned property. Of course, many other factors need to be considered in appraisals, including condition, location and upgrades.

So, how do you come up with the right price for your property? The first thing to do is to hire an experienced area agent. He or she can provide you with an extensive comparable market analysis, and then you can consider any upgrades, superior location, views, etc. It is alright to add on a reasonable amount for any of these “extras,” so discuss with your agent as to what is considered reasonable. If you  have a home that is difficult to compare, you may want to consider paying for an appraisal before listing. Even if your market has become a sellers’ market, as have many attached homes in San Diego cities, you still need to be reasonable in pricing your listing. In retrospect, once you have sold your home, I think you will be happy that you did everything right at the beginning.



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Home Price Index Sees Biggest Increase in Years

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

The latest news from the CoreLogic, a national provider of real estate statistics, is that the home price index has increased 3.8% on a national level – the largest increase since 2006. The figures include distressed properties. What does this mean?

A home price increase is good for the housing industry, as it means that housing is on the road to recovery. This is great news for the economy. What will be interesting to see is how the news affects home sellers. Either we will begin to see more inventory on the market, which is desperately needed to meet demand, or we will continue to see low inventory as sellers wait for the market to climb.

Unfortunately there will not be any drastic increases in price – it will be gradual. Hopefully those sellers who are sitting on the proverbial fence waiting to sell will realize this shortly, and then list their homes anyway. Lack of inventory is one of our biggest challenges right now in real estate, but undoubtedly is one of the reasons for the price increase.

The future index measures by CoreLogic indicate that sales will rise, moving forward, 4.6% on a year to year basis from August of 2011, and at least 0.6% on a month over month basis from July of 2012. These predictions are derived from measuring multiple listing service (MLS) data that measure price changes in prior months.

The 5 states with the highest levels of appreciation, including distressed properties, were Arizona, Idaho, Utah, South Dakota and Colorado.

In North San Diego county we have seen a slight price decrease (for attached and detached homes)  in median price, from $403,500 to $395,000, for the month of July, compared to July of last year. San Diego county a as whole enjoyed a price increase of 1.28% from June to July of 2012, with a year to year increase of 5.33% from July of 2011.

As always, it is imperative to focus on your specific neighborhood if you are interested in specific sales data, as information varies depending on where you are located. The good news is that most areas across the nation are experiencing price increases, which is a great sign for the housing market and the economy.

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Top 10 Legal Mistakes Homebuyers Make

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

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Short Sale Changes Coming November 1

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Beginning November 1 there will be some significant changes to how short sales are handled, and the new guidelines could be a big benefit to those sellers who otherwise may not have been able to short sell their homes. A short sale is when a home is sold for less than the amount owed on the mortgage(s), allowing the borrower to escape some of the harsher ramifications from a foreclosure.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is changing the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac short sale guidelines, which will allow borrowers to be qualified by their servicers for short sales in a more timely manner, and will apparently streamline the short sale process, making it smoother and, dare I hope, quicker. How are they planning to do this? Here are the changes that are anticipated:

• A single short sale process will be created for Fannie and Freddie short sale programs. This will allow for smoother and streamlined processing time, which will enable agents and homeowners to determine timeframes for approval and closing. Servicers must respond to short sales within 30 days, with a final decision for the borrower by 60 days after submission.

• Borrowers who are current on their mortgages will be able to qualify for short sales (subject to showing they have a hardship), without waiting for short sale approval from Fannie and Freddie, and instead of waiting until payments are missed, thus eliminating further damage to credit scores and helping to clear short sale inventory much quicker. Most importantly, the guidelines for proving hardship will be loosened.

•Provides special treatment for military personnel who have received permanent change of station (PCS) orders. Personnel who are being relocated will automatically be eligible for short sales, even if they are current on their mortgages.

• May provide up to $3000 in relocation assistance to those borrowers who qualify.

• Allows and standardizes foreclosure suspensions on approved short sale properties. This one is big – it will prevent servicers from foreclosing on your property if your short sale has been approved, so no more worrying during the short sale process that the home will be sold at auction during that time.

• Payment to secondary lien holders by Fannie and Freddie of $6,000. Although this happens frequently already, it will be nice to have a guarantee that Fannie and Freddie will offer these subordinate lien holders money, which makes getting their approval on short sales a bit easier.

The potential downside of these changes is that there may be large supplies of short sale inventory in some areas, which could have a negative effect on area home sale prices, at least until the supply is sold.

The upside to this new process is that it will clear the market of distressed property, which will allow a return to “normal” growth cycles in the future, and instill higher levels of consumer confidence in the markets. It will also be positive news for those home sellers who would have headed toward foreclosure, providing an easier way out from under a mortgage that was literally sinking them.

These new guidelines are a step in the right direction, as we need to clear out this inventory and make the process easier and not so mysterious. The proof will be in the pudding, however, so I am definitely looking forward to November 1, and streamlined short sales. If you have questions about short selling your home, please feel free to contact me.

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REO Bulk Sales Initiative is a BAD Idea

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s bulk sales plan, whereby certain banks will allow third party institutional investors to purchase multitudes of bank owned (REO) loans in bulk, is moving ahead at full speed, and is doing so quietly.

Against pleas from members of Congress, the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) and others involved in the real estate industry, this program does not offer much for the market nor for individual communities and neighborhoods. In allowing institutional lenders (the identity of which is not being disclosed) to purchase this lender “shadow inventory” (that inventory that is owned by the lenders but not yet on the market), there are several threats to the housing market that are concerning:

• It could bring comparable prices down. Just at the time when home prices are starting to come up, and when demand is high with low inventory, selling large numbers of bank owned homes at discount prices could have significant effects on neighborhoods.

Also alarming, current market data may not have been used. According to C.A.R., old market data may have been used to value the homes that are being sold. With a market that is moving upwards this could create a big problem in some areas, establishing lower sales prices for homes, which in turn bring down the values in those neighborhoods. I know that if it were my neighborhood, and all of a sudden 10 homes sold in the area for way under current comparative market value, I would certainly not be happy. This could be a big problem in areas such as the Inland Empire (Riverside County).

• Increased losses to taxpayers. If these bank owned properties are sold in bulk at discount prices, the burden will fall upon us, the taxpayers, via increased losses on the sale of these homes.

The solution is to put these homes on the market as traditional lender-owned sales. With the market prices trending upwards and the lack of inventory, this is a perfect time to do so. It seems asinine to not consider such an option, as it will save taxpayers, keep the market moving, and keep prices moving up instead of down. And we can’t forget that if these properties sell at higher prices, the lenders also benefit as well!

If you agree that bulk REO sales should not be allowed in California, please contact FHFA:

Federal Housing Finance Agency

400 7th Street SW

Washington D.C. 20024

Email: FHFAinfo@FHFAgov


Graphic courtesy of Dreamstime



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