Monday, February 13, 2012

For those of us East Bay residents not travelling this Presidents’ Day weekend it’s the perfect time to go local, seriously. The Bay Bridge will be closed from 8pm Friday to 5am Tuesday. Take the opportunity to find a new local delight, or revisit old favorites in our East Bay communities. Here are a few suggestions: * Soak up some culture, soak up some sake, or soak up some luxurious pampering. * Take a walk, perhaps on the wild side, the mild side, or by your child’s side. * Take a plunge in the water, walk out on water, walk around water, restore the shore, or watch the water fall. * Take a romantic cruise, or sail across the water. * Board a tall ship, an aircraft carrier, or a presidential yacht. * Eat something exotic and exciting, dark & delicious, or light & organic. * Play a round, see a play, see the pro’s play, play make believe, or make your own play. * Take a guided tour of a home of learning, an historic home, or find your own next home with our search tools, and we will provide your guide: one of our seriously local Realtors.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

FHA Anti-Flipping Rule Waiver Extended Through 2012

In an effort to continue stabilizing home values and improve conditions in communities experiencing high foreclosure activity, Acting Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Commissioner Carol J. Galante announced an extension is now in effect through December 31, 2012. With certain exceptions, FHA regulations prohibit insuring a mortgage on a home owned by the seller for less than 90 days. In 2010, FHA temporarily waived and then extended this regulation through January 31, 2011. The new extension through 2012 will continue to allow buyers to use FHA-insured financing to purchase HUD-owned properties, bank-owned properties, or properties resold through private sales. FHA's motivation is to allow properties to resell as quickly as possible, helping to stabilize real estate prices and to revitalize communities. The extension is effective through December 31, 2012, unless otherwise extended or withdrawn by FHA. The Waiver still consumer protections to prevent the predatory practice of property flipping, in which properties are quickly resold at inflated prices to unsuspecting borrowers. Sales must meet the meeting the following conditions to take advantage of the Waiver. • All transactions must be arms-length, with no identity of interest between the buyer and seller or other parties participating in the sales transaction. • If the sales price of the property is 20 percent or more above the seller’s acquisition cost, the lender is required to document the conditions creating the increase in value. For more details see the December 28th press release from the FHA.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

HARP 2.0 a heavenly sound, or another sour note?

Last week we heard the good news that President Obama would order changes to the HARP program now popularly referred to as HARP 2.0. The basics are that any borrower with an LTV ratio above 80 percent is eligible for a HARP refinance, as long as the loan was sold to Fannie or Freddie prior to May 31, 2009, and the borrower is not delinquent on their payments. That Fannie/Freddie requirement tempered the joy of the announcement as many homeowners checked to find that their loans are not eligible.

But there was another provision of HARP 2.0 that did not make the top of the headlines. There are incentives for private lenders to adopt the program as well. It seems to be having a positive effect. The four largest banks (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, and Citigroup) are planning to voluntarily offer HARP 2.0 financing.

Details of the private financing options are expected to be published by early December. Could this be an unexpected holiday bonus that will make for a happy new year for those who have kept up our mortgage payments in hope of some kind of redemptive change? Well, we have seen rosy roll-outs before that turned out to nothing more long series of brake lights in a tunnel. This time, however, it genuinely looks like millions of homeowners are on the verge of getting substantial relief. Stay tuned or check in with me to find out how to see if you are eligible under the current changes, or might be in the future.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Haunted Real Estate

The archetype for a "haunted house" - an ornate Victorian home with a tower and Mansard roof - is a central icon in our celebration of Halloween. In reality such a house, if priced right, would likely draw multiple offers as the dream of restoring a "fixer" to former glory is also a well-established cultural tradition.

Before we get too much off the subject of real estate, let's note the legalities of buying or selling a haunted house. In our diverse community there are those who hold beliefs about the spirits of the deceased. It's something to be recognized and respected.

You have probably heard that a seller must disclose any death on the property within the past three years because of this. The law (Cal. Civ. Code Sec. 1710.2) actually says that a buyer cannot successfully sue a seller for failing to disclose such an event that is more than three years old. But lawyers opine that there might be exceptions if the events were notorious in a "Nightmare on Elm Street" kind of way.

The East Bay has its share noted haunts. Journalist Teresa Chin mentions several, but particularly investigates Mills College, in her article "Haunted Oakland". Ghost hunting is no longer occult; it has become a recreational sport. A web site called Ghosts of America lists ghosts by location and type. California ranks with 2,269 reports, and over 80 of them are in our two East Bay counties. San Leandro tops the list with an unlucky count of 13. Berkeley has no reports on that site, but a similar site, California's Haunted Hot Spots, reports a seriously local ghost confined to room 219 of the U.C. Berkeley Faculty Club.

Turning again to the local real estate market, the public remains spooked by foreclosures, short sales and economic uncertainty. Yet we still have high attendance at open houses, and the best properties still provoke competitive overbidding. Some markets are down, others appear to be improving. Real knowledge is the best antidote for fear, so please call me if you feel haunted by real estate worries. Let me be your personal ghost-buster.

On the lighter side, staged haunted houses are offered as holiday entertainment. Some are commercial, others are sponsored by non-profit organizations. One promoted by Fear Venue is located at the Bayfair Mall in San Leandro. A more varied list and an event map is offered at Haunted Bay. This also includes pumpkin patches and other Halloween entertainment.

Whether this season is a time for remembrance of departed loved ones, an occasion for family entertainment, or just a nuisance, I hope that you stay safe and warm as the days shorten and the seasonal rains return. As always, please call me if you have any real estate or home maintenance issues still haunting you, and I always have a spirited welcome for your referrals

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Oakland Condo Prices Hitting Bottom?

There continues to be a lot of confusion and disappointment in the buying public in the bay area as we hear of record lows in values across the country but competing offers for properties here. Asking prices sometimes seem random, but closed sales, even though they might be over asking, tell the real story. Those closed prices continue to trend down when compared to similar closed sales last year. It is the wide variation in asking prices that is frustrating buyers. It's like the difference between settlement demands and jury verdicts. Both provide sets of numbers, but only one provides real guidance about the value of a case.
I just generated two charts for some of my buyer clients. They track closed sales prices, meaning real value, only; not the asking prices which are really only marketing ideas. The charts show the trend of median prices for condos in zip codes 94610, 94611, and 94612 (basically the areas Piedmont Ave., Grand Ave., Adams Point, Lake Merritt, and down town). The point of these charts is not the values because it includes all condos, but the change over time. On the two year trend we see an 18% decline, but the one year trend is basically flat with no decline between April 2008 and April 2009.
I can't predict what will happen next month or next year, but these charts might be the first pictures of the bottom of this market. E mail me and I will be happy to share these charts, or create others that pinpoint your particular interests.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

$8,000 Federal Tax Credit

Some Additional Protection for Abandoned Animals

A new law went in to effect on the first of this year requiring that abandoned animals discovered at a property that has been taken back by way of foreclosure, eviction, or termination of a lease, be turned over to the local animal care and control agency. People aren't the only ones left homeless by this crisis.

This actually happened to me a few years ago in Maxwell Park. My clients finally had to evict the non-paying tenants from their elderly parents home. They needed to sell it in order to pay for expenses of the assisted living facility where the parents were living. They gave me a set of keys so that I could enter and assess the situation as soon as the tenants were out. The place was a mess, as expected, but the worst of it was the frightened pit bull I encountered when I walked down in to the basement laundry room. The dog, as it turned out, had been there for a few days without food or water. Although it growled at us, a neighbor assisted me with putting out some kibble and water for it while we waited for animal care & control to take the dog to the shelter. I hope the dog eventually found a home better than his last situation.