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Customer Satisfaction is Key

December 10, 2014

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.


More owners tapping home equity lines of credit

December 5, 2014
Homeowners’ equity holdings nationwide are up sharply and interest rates are near historical lows, leading to more home equity borrowing. Above, homes in Mission Viejo. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Homeowners’ equity holdings nationwide are up sharply and interest rates are near historical lows, leading to more home equity borrowing. Above, homes in Mission Viejo. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)


By KENNETH R. HARNEY – LA /Distributed by Washington Post Writers Group / Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

If you’re thinking about taking out a home equity line, you’re hardly alone. Credit lines tied to home equity — popularly known as HELOCs — are one of the fastest-growing segments in the mortgage market. Volume during the first half of 2014 is up by an extraordinary 21% compared with the same period last year, according to data collected by credit bureau Equifax.

The main reasons: Owners’ equity holdings nationwide are up sharply — the Federal Reserve estimates gains at nearly $4.5 trillion since 2011 — and interest rates are near historical lows. Owners borrowed $66 billion against those fattened equity stakes during the first half of this year, a six-year high. Banks and other lenders extended 670,000 new HELOCs during the same period, also a six-year high, according to Equifax.

What are these people doing with their sudden access to ready cash, and how much are they pulling out? A new national survey, based on a representative sample of 1,364 homeowners with HELOCs, offers some important answers. The study was conducted last month by research firm Vision Critical for TD Bank.

The No. 1 finding: Most people aren’t spending their home equity line money on dumb stuff. There’s no evidence of a repeat of the wacky days of the last decade when houses morphed into ATMs and credit lines paid for groceries and nights out on the town.

Slightly more than half of current borrowers say they are using or have used their draw-downs for projects that are likely to increase the market value of their properties — updating kitchens, adding bathrooms, putting on a new roof and similar remodelings.

An additional 29% have used their HELOC money to take advantage of today’s wide gaps in interest rates among financial products. They are consolidating debts — paying off credit card balances with interest rates in the double digits using equity line funds borrowed at rates in the low single digits.

Nearly a quarter of borrowers say they’ve used some of the equity line dollars as a form of insurance against unforeseen “emergency” expenses — paying off bills for events that popped up without warning and might have been otherwise unaffordable.

Other major uses, according to the survey: Buying new autos (27% of borrowers); paying medical bills (18%); spending on kids’ and adults’ education costs (15%): travel (15%); and small-business investments (13%). Relatively few owners (13%) say they use their equity line dollars for day-to-day expenses.

Michael Kinane, TD Bank’s head of consumer and mortgage lending, says that he interprets the strong recent surges in home equity borrowing as a delayed reaction by owners who have put off home improvements and other expenditures for years because they were unsure about the economy, their jobs and where real estate values were headed.

“Now they’re stepping back in,” he told me. “They’ve got more confidence” in the economy and they’ve seen their property values increase to the point where they can responsibly pull out some cash secured by their equity.

Home equity lines as a financial product “are much safer” in 2014 — for borrowers and lenders alike — than they were a decade ago, Kinane believes. Most banks now limit the combined loan-to-value ratio — the total of the primary mortgage balance plus the maximum draw amount on the new credit line compared with the home value — to 80%. And full documentation of income, employment, credit and property values is the rule, not the exception.

In 2005 and 2006, by contrast, 100% ratios were readily available with minimal underwriting and documentation. Some lenders, including TD Bank, now allow select customers to borrow more (TD’s ceiling is 89%) but only those applicants with pristine credit reports, high FICO scores, lots of income and plentiful financial reserves.

Today’s rates and fees on HELOCs generally are as good as or better than they were at the height of the boom. A quick search of deals offered on last week turned up rates from the low 3% range to 4% and up, depending on the dollar limit on the line and applicants’ credit scores. Some credit unions and banks offer special rates — below 3% — for existing customers or members with solid credit.

Bottom line: HELOCs are hot. If you’ve got the need, the equity and the capacity to handle one, now might be a good time to check them out.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

A Thanksgiving 2014 Message

November 26, 2014


Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all we are grateful for.

William Arthur Ward says, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

I am very grateful for my wonderful clients and the referrals I receive throughout the year that keep my business strong, good health, a happy home, and loving friends and family!

I hope you take some time between the turkey and the pie to express all you are grateful for!

The Value of a Remodel

November 20, 2014

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.


Should I Sell My Home Now or Wait Until the Spring?

November 14, 2014
Photo: iStock from RISMedia

Photo: iStock from RISMedia

By: Kyle Hiscock – RISMedia

There are many questions homeowners ask themselves during the selling process. “How much will my home sell for?” “How much should I list my home for?” “Who should I select as a real estate agent to sell my home?” “What if the real estate agent overprices my home?” Last but not least, “Is this a good time to be selling a home?” is also a very common question that real estate agents are asked.

As with every decision in life, there are pros and cons, and choosing when to sell a home is no different. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration before deciding when to sell a home. Many homeowners believe selling a home during the fall or winter months is not a good idea and that the spring is the only time a house should be sold. This is the furthest from the truth. Certainly most real estate markets across the United States experience a “spring market rush” every year. There is no doubt that the “spring market” is a great time to be selling and buying real estate, however, the fall and winter seasons may be the best fit for you for many reasons.

Here are several reasons why choosing to sell your home now may be a better decision than waiting until the spring:

Less Competition
One way that you can tell the spring real estate market has arrived is by driving down a street in your local community. In all likelihood there will be For Sale signs up all over the neighborhood! One great reason to sell your home now and not wait until the spring market is there is sure to be less competition. The fewer number of comparable homes for sale, the greater the probability that a buyer will look at your home.

Simply put, it’s the supply and demand theory. If there are less homes for sale, there are less homes that a potential buyer can choose from, therefore increasing the demand for your home. Not only will less competition increase the probability for showings, but it will also increase the probability that an offer will be received and you will get the maximum amount of money for your home.

Serious Buyers Are Out There
Homes are sold and bought 365 days a year, period! Many homeowners believe that buyers aren’t out there during the fall and winter months. This simply is not the case. Serious buyers are always out there! Some buyers may stop their home search because it is the fall or winter, but serious buyers will continue to look at homes, no matter what time of year it is.

The fall and winter months are also a great time for a potential buyer to see what a specific neighborhood is like. Do your neighbors have pumpkins on their front step? Are there lots of Trick-or-Treaters wandering the neighborhood on Halloween? Do any of your neighbors have any light displays for the holidays? There are buyers out there who will look at these types of things when determining whether your home is in the right neighborhood for them or not.

The Best Agents Are Always Up To The Challenge
Any real estate agent who tells you that the fall or winter months are a bad time to sell is not someone you want selling your home! A great real estate agent will know how to adapt to the current season and market their listings to reflect that. A great real estate agent can make suggestions and give some of their tips on how to sell a home during the fall or winter seasons. If a real estate agent doesn’t have any suggestions on making your home more desirable for the current season, you should be concerned about the creativity they are going to use when marketing your home.

Staging For The Holiday Season
Many sellers believe staging a home is the main reason a home sells. While staging certainly helps sell homes, some buyers have a difficult time envisioning themselves in a home no matter what you do. However, there are some buyers who can easily be “sold” on a home because it is staged. Simple “seasonal” staging such as adjusting the color of the decor or having an aroma in the air that is relative to the time of year can go a long way with some potential buyers and possibly be the difference between a home selling or not.

Mortgage Rates Are Low
If you’ve read about real estate in the past year, it’s likely you’ve read that the mortgage rates are very low. You also probably read that there is an expectation that the rates will increase very soon. Since mortgage rates are so low right now, buyers are able to afford more expensive homes. If mortgage rates increase over the fall and winter months while you’re waiting for the spring market, it could cost you thousands of dollars as it could eliminate many buyers from the real estate marketplace! Less demand for your home will mean less money. Bottom line: take advantage of selling your home while the rates are this low.

Quicker Transactions
Right now, there are fewer real estate transactions than there will be in the spring. The fewer number of transactions means the mortgage lenders have less loans to process, attorneys have less closings to do, and home inspectors have fewer inspections to do. All of these factors should lead to a quicker transaction and closing for all the parties involved. One of the most frustrating things for a seller to deal with while selling their home is not getting answers in a reasonable amount of time. A quicker transaction is going to be less stress for you.

By considering all of the reasons above, you will be able to determine whether now is a good time to sell or if you should wait until the spring.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

Understanding Your Contractor

November 6, 2014
By: ClientDirect

On average, a homeowner in the U.S. spends $5,000 annually on home improvement projects. That’s a lot of contractors and conversations that could go the wrong way if you don’t understand “contractor lingo.” Here are tips to help you be successful with your next renovation project.

When He Says Nothing At All

Like the old adage goes, if he doesn’t call you back, he’s just not that into you. If a contractor is too busy to return your call, then he’s probably not the one for you. Unless, you’ve already paid him, if he doesn’t call you back, then move on to the next contractor.

Estimated Start/Stop Times

Chances are that your job isn’t the only one your contractor – and his tradesmen (plumbers, electricians, etc.) – is handling. Therefore, he may run into emergencies or changes in plans at other jobs that can impact yours, so you should expect your contractor only to come close to his start and completion estimates.

The Price is Right

While prices vary because of differences in approaching the project or overhead costs, generally, a contractor won’t expect to negotiate a lump sum price quote. If you think the price is too high, get another quote for comparison.

I’ll Do My Best

There is a good chance your contract will fall short of your expectations. If you hear this, listen to your gut. Are you asking for too much? Have you added work to the scope, but asked for the project to be completed by the same date? Are you expecting a brand new look from a remodel with existing elements?

There are three elements to any project: The level of quality, the price and the time it takes to complete the project. Pick two of these that are most important to you. If you need everything perfect by a certain date, be prepared to pay more. If you have a fixed budget but want a certain look, give the contractor time to be creative and make it work.

Making a Recommendation

Most contractors prefer that you work through them. If you ask your general contractor for their plumber’s name and number and he gives it to you, thank them. By allowing you to work directly with a subcontractor your contractor risks giving up control of the situation. He also gives up the ability to mark up the cost of the work the plumber does, which is one of the ways contractors get paid.

Tweaking the Design

If your contractor says that the design “needs some tweaking,” often, this means the plans were unbuildable. Sometimes what’s drawn on paper just can’t be built. A staircase you’d need to crawl on your knees to use, “existing” spaces that don’t exist, or a pocket door that would slide through a switch box and the shower valve, for example.

Finding the Right Fit

A contractor may decline to quote a project for a lot of reasons. It could be that he has concerns about the budget, or maybe he just didn’t think the two of you “clicked.” It could also be that he’s too busy, and he won’t be able to devote enough time to your project to do it right.

Value Engineering

Value engineering is when the team thinks creatively about how to rework the project to do the same or similar scope for less money, like by changing material selections.

Take Me at My Word

Agree to everything up front. A detailed contract should be signed with all the specifics spelled out with a price range, a timeline when the project should be completed, and what upgrades are going to be done with the brands of the items being installed. If the extra touches aren’t in the contract you may have live without them or pay more money for them.

You Don’t Need a Permit

Proper building and remodeling permits are required for most types of home repair and improvement projects. Having a permit gives the homeowners an extra set of eyes on the project. Building officials are allowed to pop in and make sure all safety standards are being met.

I’m in Charge

Oftentimes, contractors have retired the ol’ tool belt and subcontract the work out. Make sure you find out who will be running the day-to-day work. If there is going to be a foreman onsite instead of the contractor, meet him ahead of time while working on a current site to get a feel of how he runs a project.

Pay Upfront

Don’t let a contractor fool you. You should only pay $1,000 or 10 percent of the cost, whichever is less. In some states, that’s the legal maximum. Check with your home state to find what the legal maximum is.

Selling extra materials for a bargain

Driveway paving companies are notorious for doing this. Typically they have extra materials left over from another job site that can’t be returned and offer you a deal that’s too good to be true. Accepting the offer is a dicey move since you weren’t able to check references or know who to contact if something goes wrong.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

Real Estate @ a Glance: October 2014 Edition

October 27, 2014

Better RE glance

Here is the most recent information on the San Diego housing market. For specific information on your neighborhood or a market analysis on your home, please send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

Reportable Period :: September 2014 :: SAN DIEGO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Markets across the nation seem to be back on the recovery track after a brief pause. One of the more encouraging aspects of this renewed recovery is that new construction of single-family homes reached six-year highs in August, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Consumers are also finding more listings in their search results than they have in years. Inventory is rising in many neighborhoods as higher prices have motivated more sellers to list. The departure of investors from the scene should benefit first-time homebuyers, but student debt and sluggish wage growth have slowed that transition. The economy is growing, but it’s growing at a slower pace than desired. Thankfully, inflation remains tame, partly enabling the Federal Reserve to keep rates low for longer, contrary to the forecasts of most economists.

Median Sales Price: $455,000
Days on the Market Until Sale: 43
Housing Affordability Index: 30%
Months Supply: 3.3marketoverview9-2014


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