Posts Tagged ‘RachelLaMar’

Celebrate Carlsbad and Have a Blast in May

Monday, April 25th, 2011

This is one of my favorite times of the year here in Carlsbad, our beautiful Village by the Sea. Our city offers events for the whole family, a time to get out and enjoy why it is so wonderful to live here. Here are a few of my favorite things that will be going on in May, so grab the entire family and enjoy being outside.

Celebrate Carlsbad Day at Legoland, May 14: Legoland carries on the tradition of Celebrate Carlsbad by discounting tickets to $15 for the day. This is a huge discount off the regular price–which is more than 4x that.. The catch is that tickets must be purchased in advance, so if you would like to spend a day at Legoland and enjoy the great prices, you need to call the Carlsbad Educational Foundation at 760-929-1555, or email info@carlsbad.org. You can also purchase tickets at some of our local schools, like Aviara Oaks Middle School.

The best part of Celebrate is that it is hosted by the Carlsbad Educational Foundation (CEF), which benefits local schools, so come on out and support our schools! For more information on CEF and how you can help, visit their website at http://www.carlsbaded.org/events.aspx.

Carlsbad Vilage Street Faire, May 1: the famous and fabulous street faire will once again be open for business. If you have never been I highly suggest it–great food, entertainment for all ages, rides for the kids, shopping, crafts…the list is long. Come on down to the Village and mingle with fellow Carlsbadians and enjoy the sunshine. For a list of road closures and to figure out where to parke visit the City’s website at http://news.carlsbadca.gov/pr/ca/carlsbad-village-faire-road-closures-202169.aspx.

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Oh So Many Number Ones in Real Estate

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Claiming to be number one in some fields is very prestigious–say if you are the number one tennis player or golfer, the number one company that donates to charity, the number one cancer research hospital. Being the best at a sport, discovering a cure…these things are all something to be proud of and are important to consider in marketing. But when it comes to businesses that provide a service, such as real estate, do we really want to hear that the service provider is “Number 1?”

The real estate industry has changed drastically in the last decade. The housing market crash, economic issues and the explosion of technology and social media have changed the way Realtors do their job. It has also changed the way potential customers feel about our industry. The home buyers and sellers have so much available today at their fingertips, and many feel that a Realtor is not necessary. Realtors need to change the way they run their businesses to make them more client-centric instead of agent-centric.

I read a great blog by Matthew Ferrara, a Realtor in the Boston area, comparing the real estate business to that of Starbucks. Starbucks has had to reinvent the way it does business as well, he says, because people just were not buying the “it’s all about the atmosphere and the feeling” anymore–when it comes down to it, they are still paying for a $4 cup of coffee. He says Realtors are the same–it’s not about the agent, it’s about what the agent can do for the client, and that has to be the focus.

When an agent advertises his services he needs to focus on the client: how would a potential client see that advertisement? I huge billboard with “I’m the number one Realtor in___” will not likely cause the person to want to pick up the phone and call you. The customer wants to feel that s/he will be well cared for, that you will hold their hands and guide them, answer their questions, provide valuable information and be there when they need you.

Recently I was at the movies with my husband. A Realtor in the area advertises on screen. Two middle-aged ladies behind me started to laugh when the advertisement came up proclaiming the agent was “Number 1.” One asked the other, “What makes him number one? How can he say that?” This was interesting to me, because it was an unsolicited response and it proved my point–do people really want to hear/see this? How valuable is it? Surely a customer wants to know their agent has experience, but realistically if you are “number 1” in sales can you truly provide the best service?

We can try to change the requirements for marketing in ways that do nothing more than espouse puffery, but the change has to come from the individual.

No matter what business you are in you should consider how you market yourself and your company. Look at things from a different perspective–what would YOU want to see and get when hiring a service provider? Then project that in your marketing. It’s really a grass roots approach, back to basics. People have choices when they choose a service provider, so tell them what you will do for them. You will probably be pleasantly surprised at the results.

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Could Elimination of Housing Counseling Programs Hurt YOU?

Monday, April 18th, 2011

In what I personally think is a big mistake, Congress announced that it is eliminating $88 million in funds for housing counseling programs. These are the programs that allow struggling homeowners and others with questions to call in and get counseling advice. It is often the first step in pre-foreclosure, or even in avoiding foreclosure altogether.

One of my favorite counseling hotlines, HopeNow, stated that it is not being shut down, but will be effected by the cuts. I have referred people to HopeNow for years. It is approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the people who work the phone lines actually know what they are talking about. The biggest complaint I have heard is that sometimes one has to hold for help for some time, but the advice is real and they really do go over specific situations and crunch numbers with callers.

Why would the government want to cut these programs? Well, I think that the government is busy trying to come up with ways to prevent foreclosures and help the housing mess by implementing new programs (of course, we have not seen these as of yet, but the most promising seem to be on the way, stemming from the robo-signing lender punishment saga). At the same time they are trying to trim our exorbitant budget, so these goals may conflict.

Many states are creating their own programs to cover the slack the federal programs have left behind after being canceled, but there are only a handful that have such programs in operation already.

So what is a troubled homeowner to do now? Some federal programs have been eliminated, not all states have yet implemented programs to help, and the mandated lender reforms (currently in the works as punishment for the robo-signing scandal) are not yet finalized. People need to know their options.

Basically there are three options, and some of them have multiple sub-options:

1. Stay in your home. To do so you may need to look into a loan modification, change of job, or a complete reevaluation of your finances so that you can eliminate or lower other expenses. You may need to get creative, consider getting a second job, renting a room or putting your young children to work (just a hint of black humor/sarcasm–of course I don’t recommend this).

2. Sell your home. If you cannot make number one work and you need to sell it will either be a traditional sale or a short sale. Either way, make sure to work with a Realtor who is experienced in your area, and if you are doing a short sale make sure that person is experienced in this regard. You also should look into the HAFA program if you are considering a short sale–at least you can get money to help with moving expenses (up to $3000–see previous posts. To find them go to the categories list to the right of my blog and click on short sales).

3. Foreclosure. This is the last resort, or course. But many times there may be no other option if you are in over your head financially, have a job loss, illness, changed circumstances, divorce, etc. Just make sure you speak with your financial planner, attorney or accountant (or all 3, in my opinion) before doing so. You need to understand all options so you can make the right choice.

As we continue to see cuts to vital programs options may dwindle, at least for a while. I have discussed multiple times how I feel states will start to jump in to help residents with their own programs, much like California has done with Keep Your Home California. If you do not yet have a program in your state I would still advise contacting HopeNow or La Raza. Your lender may have counselors available to help you as well. But do not wait until it is too late. If you are not yet delinquent on your payments you need to start researching now. Best of luck.

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Fannie Mae Will Pay Buyer Closing Costs

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Fannie Mae just announced that it will help buyers purchase REO (lender owned) properties by providing up to 3.5% in closing costs through the HomePath program. In order to qualify buyers must submit their initial offer on or before April 11, 2011, with a mandatory closing date before June 30, 2011.

The main restriction for this new program is that the home being purchased must be the buyer’s primary residence, so no lenders can get in on this deal. A few states are even offering small bonuses to buyer’s agents if they close escrow on one of these properties by June 30.

By offering this incentive Fannie Mae is recognizing that we need to stimulate the housing market in order to bring it back to a normal stabilization. It also helps to get the amount of lender-owned inventory off the market. Typically these properties are priced well, usually lower than the comparables; and in most situations the lender has gone in and spruced up the home, oftentimes with new paint, carpet or appliances. This really is a good deal for buyers to get a home at a good price with financial assistance in closing costs.

To see which properties are Fannie Mae properties in your area visit HomePath.com for a complete list. Many of these properties also qualify for special mortgages through HomePath Mortgage and HomePath Mortgage Renovation financing–these could provide an opportunity to complete your purchase with as little as 3% down.

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CA Foreclosure Relief Programs Expand Eligibility

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

If you are a home owner in California and are having difficulty with making your mortgage payments, you may be in luck. California recently announced an expansion to three of its four Keep Your Home California programs.

Originally the Keep Your Home California programs did not apply to home equity accounts, but that is no longer the case. Those with equity lines of credit or who took equity out from a refinance can now qualify for the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program, Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance and Transition Assistance Programs. Mortgages originated after January 1, 2009 will now qualify under these programs.

The Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program helps unemployed homeowners who are in imminent danger of defaulting by offering up to $3000 a month to cover the mortgage.

The Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program assists homeowners who have a documented financial hardship by giving up to $15,000 to help with mortgage payments.

The Transition Assistance Program offers funds to help homeowners with relocation where they cannot pay their mortgage and are in the process of a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure.

So far the California programs are in the process of helping over 2,000 homeowners, and these new program expansions will undoubtedly help many more people seek assistance under the Keep Your Home California general plan. Many servicers are participating in these programs, either completely or in part. To learn the requirements and find out if you are eligible please visit the website at http://www.keepyourhomecalifornia.org/ or call 888-954-KEEP (5337).

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Feeling Down? Keep on Living

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

It is hard lately to not feel depressed. After what happened in Japan last week, with tens of thousands presumed dead and many homeless, with the now confirmed statement that there is a threat of death from radiation exposure to citizens, to the violence in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, and the ongoing problems in other parts of the middle east and our own economic problems here at home. There seems to be so much going on that it is hard to not feel sad. Many people question whether they should go on with their lives and have fun, do happy things, in the face of such sadness.

Moving forward and looking at things from different perspectives can help us all to recover. I know that my beautiful sister-in-law, my birth father, and many others who died too young would want me and my loved ones to carry on, to make a difference and help others. They are not here at all, and I am sure they would have given anything to live longer. In honoring their memory, and the many loved ones who have passed, I feel better and can move ahead.

I am talking with my children about all the problems that are occurring in this world right now, but I am also teaching them to go forward and live, to make each moment count. I teach them not to forget that others are suffering, and to give whatever they can to help those in need, to think of things they can do to ease the pain of others. It is a great discussion to have. We cannot be strong for others if we do not take care of ourselves. So find ways to give, to help, to make a difference. But don’t forget to live.

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Are We Going Backwards With Race & Religion?

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

[I want to warn you that what I am about to discuss is a sensitive subject, and I will do my best to present it in a way that hopefully will stir some dialogue. I welcome your feedback.]

There are times when I think this country has come so far in regards to racial and religious relations. Look at the Civil Rights Movement and what it did for slavery, at the horrors of the holocaust and what lessons we learned from that. We are lucky to live in a society where we are supposed to be able to be free to practice our own religions and be equal no matter our race or skin color.

But there are also times when I truly question whether we are really all equal and free. Look at the issue just this week that happened on a U.S. airline with praying Muslims–they were assumed to be terrorists. There are still country clubs in our very own nation that, while they may not state so in their membership documents, African-Americans or Jews or other races are simply not allowed. There are places in this country where discrimination still occurs. There are active chapters of hate groups.

This week something happened in my own community, in a school nonetheless, that again makes me question whether we have truly learned anything from the past. A middle school-aged child asked me why African-American kids in his school call each other the “N” word when addressing each other in a friendly manner. We got into a big discussion about Hip-Hop and Rap music and how many of the entertainers in this field also do so. Personally I think it is a terrible word, one that was born in times of slavery, one that conjures up inequality, one that formed the very pillars of that famous “I have a dream” speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. I simply do not understand why this should be ok and I could not explain to the child why this occurs.

In speaking with a friend of mine who is a PhD candidate and has looked at this issue, I was told that it is a cultural phenomenon. Apparently there are very educated African-Americans who speak this way to their close friends, and they obviously choose to do so. He pointed out that when they say it the word has to end in “a” instead of in “er,” and that if you listen to the music you will hear this.

Needless to say in light of all this I still do not understand. More importantly, what effect does this have on younger generations? Are we not showing them a lack of respect and compassion should they hear these things? After all, children cannot truly process this dichotomy and will not be able to do so until they are adults and their frontal lobes have fully matured.

On the religious front, there are school-aged children who salute each other with the “Heil Hitler” salute and draw swastikas. This is an extreme sign of disrespect toward Jews and all those who perished in the Holocaust, but to most of these kids it is just “cool.” Aside from the fact that some of the above actions could be considered human rights violations, the immediate effect is that it desensitizes those who speak/do them and those who hear them or see them acted out.

The fact of the matter is that we all need to sit down with our children and discuss these things. We need to remember to confirm the compassion that we have instilled in and taught to our children. These behaviors are signs of disrespect and if we allow them to continue in our communities and our homes I am afraid we will all slip backwards. Let’s try and raise our children to believe that we are all truly equal, no matter the color of our skin, our religious practices or sexual identities.

Until we raise the next generation to believe this, we will never truly be equal.

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Agents Unhappy With Lender Hurdles & Short Sales

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Yesterday the California Association of Realtors posted results from an agent poll on short sales in California. They found that three of five short sales do not make it to closing in California. Three quarters of those polled said that closing their most recent short sale transaction was challenging.

Agent dissatisfaction with the short sale process is apparent, and frustrated agents are trying to do their job and sell the home to help the distressed home owner. Short sales are not only time consuming, but they require much extra work in dealing with the lenders–a job that can be taxing for many reasons. Difficulty in reaching the right person, multiple answers to the same questions, lost paperwork, and sudden changes in terms or time frames are just some of the things agents must deal with when listing a short sale property. Ironically, everyone–the lender, the home owner, the buyer and the Realtors–have the same goal: to sell the home.

The C.A.R. survey found that the most common issues hampering short sales are lender failure to respond, long approval processes and processing delays, and cumbersome procedures. Seventy percent of those surveyed said closing their most recent short sale was either “difficult” or “extremely difficult.”

The bottom line here is that we need to standardize short sale procedures. It is the only way we are ever going to see true recovery in the housing market, which of course plays a big part in economic recovery as well. Many state and local associations are working toward this goal.

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Why Are We So Fascinated With Charlie Sheen?

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Over the last few weeks we have all watched actor Charlie Sheen do and say some pretty outrageous things on television, radio, and the internet. A talented actor with a popular sitcom, beautiful children and a life many people dream of has been falling from his pedestal, so why is this front-page news? Why am I even blogging about it? Because I think we can learn some important lessons from the situation.

People are interested in the problems of others. In a way it may make us feel a bit better about our own problems, and when the person having issues is a public person it sparks our interest. Why? Maybe it’s because we look up to people in possession of fame, wealth, or power. We tend to admire them and when they stumble or fall it humanizes them. At the same time we feel sorry for them and we feel shocked–why would someone like that throw it all away? What is he doing?

The fact of the matter is that Charlie Sheen needs two things– 1. help. 2. a good PR person to get him to stop dragging others though the mud and possibly ruining his career. You can see the signs of illness just watching him talk. His eyes are shifty, he is defensive, he says things that just don’t make sense. He is using social media to rant and rave, which while a good medium to make known your thoughts (especially when you are famous and have many followers), can also end up having the opposite effect. Will Sheen ever work again? Will he regret some of the things he has said?

Charlie Sheen is a talented entertainer. I for one hope that he gets some help and finds his way back to making good television and movies. It would be a shame if what we are seeing is his last hurrah, but I am sure that the fascination with what he is going through will continue until he does, or until there is a resolution.

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Do You Take Time to Smell the Roses?

Monday, March 7th, 2011

This past weekend was a whirlwind of excitement in my family, and it made me appreciate the importance of family time, time away from work and routine. Both my children accomplished incredible goals this weekend–my daughter’s Odyssey of the Mind (academic competition) team advanced from regionals to the state competition, and my son won two trophies in his motocross races (including 2nd place overall). Needless to say I sent them both off to school this morning feeling pretty great about themselves (my daughter wearing her medal around her neck). I am sure that confidence will carry them through the day and more. Although I am exhausted and need a weekend to recover from my weekend, I feel happy and proud.

We all know that there are those things in life that can sometimes pinch us and make us realize what is truly most important. Sadly, many of us tend to put things on the back burner and keep trudging along, usually until something happens that makes us realize how important it is to spend time with family, take a day to yourself, have a leisurely lunch with a dear friend, or visit loved ones. In this fast-paced world, with things going faster by the minute, it is so easy to forget these life lessons.

If you haven’t taken some time to really enjoy the company of those you love, watch a sunset, read a good book, hike a beautiful trail, smell the roses or just laugh with a friend…do it. Schedule time to do a little of this every week, every day if possible. Not only will it lift your spirits, but it will make you feel fulfilled and energized. Life has to be lived, and the more living we do, the more we can contribute to not only our own success and happiness, but the success and happiness of others. Make it a fantastic week!

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