Friday, January 29, 2010

Those Who Wait Will Pay Thousands More This Spring

Waiting a few extra days or weeks to purchase a home this spring could cost buyers thousands of extra dollars as the office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) implements several changes for loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA).

Coming just weeks before the April 30 deadline for the Home Buyer Tax Credit and just days after the March 31 expiration of the Federal Reserve Board's mortgage backed securities purchase program (which has kept home loan rates artificially low for over a year), these FHA changes make it even more important to act now to save big.

Here are a few reasons why:

On April 5th, the cost of required up-front mortgage insurance for loans guaranteed by the FHA will increase from 1.75% to 2.25%. For a borrower purchasing a $200,000 home with a $7,000 down payment, the up-front mortgage insurance will increase by $965. Up-front mortgage insurance is typically financed in the final loan amount so the impact to a monthly payment will be minimal but overall, the increase is still borne by the borrower both upfront and monthly.

Later this spring, the amount of money that a seller can return to the buyer from their sale proceeds will be reduced from 6% to 3%. The reduction in these "seller concessions" can increase the amount of cash a buyer will be required to pay at closing by $6,000 for a home purchase of $200,000.
There is only one way to avoid being affected by all of these costly changes that lie ahead – submit all FHA mortgage applications by the last week of March.

If I can answer any questions you may have about how these changes could impact you, call me. I appreciate your business.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is it time to dump your rentals?

If you are finding that you are getting tired of toilets and tenants and not certain ths hassel is worth the rewards, this might be the best time to put it on the market.  Give me a call if you need to get out from under your rental property.  This is the latest information about Tax Withholding for Rentals in California.
Real estate withholding is a prepayment of California state income tax for out-of-state sellers of California real property. Escrow companies are required to collect 3.33% of the sale proceeds and send to the state on behalf of the sellers.

Now they are hitting the rents too:
Beginning January 1, 2010, property managers will have to withhold 7% of all income, that exceeds $1,500, on properties owned by nonresidents to be sent to the nonresident property owner, unless the owner qualifies for reduced or waived withholding.

This brief Legal Q& A and the FTB Summary Chart of the Withholding Process address the most basic questions. Additional guidance is available from the FTB and tax professionals. (For all the legal citations and FTB authority, see page 4 of FTB Publication 1017 (rev 06-09), Resident and Nonresident Withholding Guidelines.)

Q 1. Who is a California nonresident property owner subject to withholding?
A Nonresident owners include the following:
. Individuals who reside outside of California,
. Corporations, Partnerships and LLCs who do not have a permanent place of business in California or who are not qualified by the Secretary of State to do business in California, or
. Estates and trusts who are nonresidents of California.

Q 2. Who is exempt from withholding?
A Those persons or entities exempt from withholding include the following:
. California residents,
. Corporations, Partnerships and LLCs qualified to business in California or who have a permanent place of business in California,
. Estates where the deceased was a California resident at the time of death,
. Nonresidents when the payments do not exceed $1,500 in a calendar year,
. Tax exempt organizations,
. California nongrantor trusts,
. A nonresident owner who has received either a Waiver or Reduced Withholding Exemption from the FTB.
NOTE: One fairly simple method for nonresident owners to be exempt from withholding is for them to form a California Corporation, Partnership, or LLC, or to have their foreign (out-of-state) Corporation, Partnership, or LLC qualified to do business in California with the Secretary of State. Depending on the income generated by the rental property, the cost of forming and maintaining such an entity may be justified to avoid withholding.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (January 27, 2010 Edition)

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishThe Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate within its target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

In its press release, the FOMC noted that the U.S. economy “has continued to strengthen”, that the jobs markets is getting better, and that financial markets are supportive of growth.

There was no mention of the housing market's strength.  The last 3 statements from the Fed included that specific verbiage.

It’s the fifth straight statement in which the Fed spoke about the economy with optimism.  This should signal to markets that 2008-2009 recession is over and that economic growth is returning to U.S. economy.

The economy isn’t without threats, however, and the Fed identified several in its press release, including:

  1. Credit remains tight for consumers
  2. Businesses are reluctant to hire new workers
  3. Housing wealth is down

The message’s overall tone, however, remained positive and inflation appears is still within tolerance.

Also in its statement, the Fed confirmed its plan to hold the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent “for an extended period” and to wind down its $1.25 trillion commitment to the mortgage market by March 31, 2010.  This is noteworthy because Fed insiders estimate that the bond-buying program suppressed mortgage rates by 1 percent through 2009.

Mortgage market reaction to the Fed press release is, in general, negative. Mortgage rates are rising this afternoon.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is March 16, 2010.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Right Way To Make Your Bed When Your Home Is Listed For Sale

Well-made beds aren't just for comfort -- they're for presentation, too. Especially when you're selling your home.  A pristine bed conveys an image of cleanliness and order to potential home buyers and that can help you get more of your asking price at the point of negotiation.

When homeowners don't take the time to make a bed, buyers wonder what else around the home is getting neglected.

And there's a proper way to make a bed, too.

In this 15-step video from Howcast, you'll learn how to start with a stripped down mattress, add bedding, pillows and a blanket, and end with the hotel-quality look that today's home buyers expect.  The alternative is to leave a bed sloppy, reducing your home's overall appeal.

To make a bed the right way takes less than 2 minutes. When your home is listed for sale, make making the bed a part of your daily routine.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Storm Watch San Diego County

This is 1 of the wettest storms we have had in years.. we need rain but is causing havoc everywhere.  We have had unbelievable winds, non-stop rain.
Date: Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 2:40 PM
Subject: Storm Watch 2010

The picture below is not for the faint hearted!

With all the news on TV lately about the sub zero weather and snow that the mid-west and east coast areas are experiencing, we shouldn't forget that Southern California has its share of crazy weather also.
I've attached a photo illustrating the damage caused to a home from a west coast storm that passed through the San Diego area a couple of hours ago. It really makes you cherish what you have, and reminds us not to take life for granted!!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

There's 100 Days Left To Claim The Homebuyer Tax Credit

100 days remain for the Home Buyer Tax Credit ExpirationNovember 6, 2009, Congress voted to extend and expand the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit program.  There's 100 days left to claim it.

The expiration date of the up-to-$8,000 tax credit has been pushed forward to spring, requiring homebuyers to be under contract for a home no later than April 30, 2010, and to be closed no later than June 30, 2010.

In addition, "move-up" buyers were also added to the program's eligibility list meaning you don't have to be a first-time home buyer to be eligible for the tax credit.  If you've lived in your home for 5 of the last 8 years, you meet the IRS requirements.

Move-up buyers are capped at a total tax credit of $6,500.

The tax credit's basic eligibility requirements remain the same:

  • You can't purchase the home from a parent, spouse, or child
  • You can't purchase the home from an entity in which they're a majority owner
  • You can't acquire the home by gift or inheritance
  • All parties to the purchase must meet eligibility requirements
The new law includes some notable updates, however.
First, the subject property's sales price may not exceed $800,000. Homes sold for more than $800,000 are ineligible.  And, also, household income thresholds have been raised to $125,000 for single-filers and $225,500 for joint-filers.

And lastly, don't forget that the program is a true tax credit -- not a deduction.  This means that a tax filer who's eligible for the full $8,00 credit and whose "normal" tax liability totals $5,000 would receive a $3,000 refund from the U.S. Treasury at tax time.

The complete list of qualifying criteria is posted on the IRS website.  Review it with a tax professional to determine your eligibility.  Then mark your calendar for April 30, 2010.

There's just 100 days to go.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Great Deals At Sea World.

Now is the time to order your tickets for Sea World.  Sea World is offering a great special incentive at this time.  It is  "Pay for a Day, Get the Year Free" Fun Card - $69 ages 10+ or "Pay for a Year, Get the 2nd Year Free" Silver Annual Pass- $109 ages 3+, includes free parking.

If you are planning on going to Sea World this year, now is the time to buy the tickets.  For more ino

Friday, January 15, 2010

Retail Sales Dropped In December And Now So Are Mortgage Rates

Retail Sales December 2009

Mortgage rates are dropping this morning on weaker-than-expected Retail Sales data from December. Lower rates means more bang for your home-buying buck.

Excluding motor vehicles and parts, December's "ex-auto" sales receipts were down roughly $500 million from November. Analysts had expected receipts to grow.

The relevance of Retail Sales to home affordability isn't obvious, but it's definitely logical.

Retail Sales is directly related to consumer spending and consumer spending accounts for the majority of the U.S. economy. When consumer spending slows, the economy often does, too. It leads investors to seek out "safe" investments.

It's the reason why stock markets often drop on weak economic data -- stocks are among the riskiest investment classes available.

Conversely, the best place to find safety is in the market of government-backed bonds.  This world includes products like U.S. Treasuries and many of the mortgage-backed bonds that help set mortgage rates.  Weak economic data puts mortgage bonds in demand.

For rate shopper, this is good news.  More demand for mortgage bonds causes mortgage rates to fall.  Mortgage rates are lower this morning because Wall Street is shedding some risk.

December's Retail Sales report closes out a year of generally-weak data.  2009 marks just the second time that Retail Sales fell year-over-year since the government started tracking it 40 years ago.  The other year was 2008.

For home buyers around the country, though, today may represent an opportune time to lock a mortgage rate.  Housing data is still improving and other economic indicators are showing strength.  Soon, Wall Street will shift from a "safe" mentality and move toward risk.

When it does, mortgage rates will rise.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Take Advantage of all San Diego Has To Offer

 January is a great month for activities in San Diego.  It is the best month for whale watching.  You can often see them from Cabrillo Monument Park or take a boat out for an hour or two for an upclose encounter.  Click on the sidebar of January events for the phone numbers and emails for more information.  You will also find the entire calendar of activities for the month of January. Also January is the month for big waves.  The biggest waves will be found south of Del Mar.  Check the tide calendar for high tide.  One hour before high tide is the best time to see big waves.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Throw Out Your "Chip Clips". Get The Banana Seal.

Banana Seal in actionIf you've ever used a plastic Chip Clip and been miffed that your chips went stale anyway, you have to see the Banana Seal.  Its beauty is its simplicity.

Similar to the tongue-in-groove seal created by zip-top bags, the Banana Seal creates an airtight seal on bags of all sizes.  Chips stay crunchy, vegetables stay fresh, and freezer-burned food becomes a problem of the past.

The people of Banana Seal made a promotional video that shows the product in action. It's a little bit over-the-top in "sales mode", but gives some good ideas on how the Banana Seal works.  Aside from the obvious refrigerator, freezer and pantry uses, the video shows how Banana Seal can be used outside of the kitchen, too.

Buy an 18-pack of Banana Seal for less than $20 from

Monday, January 11, 2010

2010 FHA Loan Limits Released

2010 FHA Loan LimitsFHA home loans are federal assistance mortgages made by lenders, and backed by the government. The FHA doesn't make loans to homeowners -- it insures loans made to homeowners by federally-qualified lenders.

By all accounts, FHA home loans are surging in popularity.

  • 2006, FHA insured 3.3% of all mortgages made
  • Q2 2009, FHA insured 19.2% of all mortgages made

A major reason for the increase can be tied to guidelines.

As compared to its conforming mortgage cousins Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, FHA home loans have lower downpayment requirements and looser credit standards. The FHA allows downpayments of 3.5 percent and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not, as an example.

Another reason is that FHA home loans aren't subject to credit score fees the way that conforming mortgages are. Through Fannie or Freddie, a home buyer with a 650 FICO and 20% down is subject to 3% in risk fees.  Via the FHA, the fee is zero, making FHA the better "deal".

The FHA published its 2010 loan limits. There's no change from 2009.

The base 2010 FHA loan limits are:

  • 1-unit : $271,050
  • 2-unit : $347,000
  • 3-unit : $419,400
  • 4-unit : $521,250

We say "base" because these loan limits don't apply to all areas equally.  Higher-cost regions get higher loan limits, based on typical home values. Homes in Los Angeles County, for example, can be FHA-insured up to $729,750 in 2010, and there are special exceptions made for Alaska and Hawaii.

The official FHA announcement included a complete, county-by-county FHA loan limit list. The first spreadsheet shows each county at or above the $729,750 maximum; the second list is everyone else.

If your home's county is on neither list, use the "base" numbers above.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Home Buyers Get A Green Light : Pending Home Sales Plunge In November

Pending Home Sales November 2009

Just one month after touching a 3-year high, the National Association of Realtors® Pending Home Sales index plunged in November.  A "pending" home sale is a home that is under contract to sell, but has yet to close.

The 16 percent drop marks the first retreat in Pending Home Sales since January of last year.

The weak Pending Home Sales data is an indication that Existing Home Sales data will be soft this month. This is because, historically, 80 percent of Pending Home Sales convert to "closed sales" within 60 days, and most of the rest close within 120.

With Pending Home Sales down, the housing market should lose some of its momentum.  For today's home buyers, this kind of slack can represent a terrific opportunity.

Home prices are a function of supply and demand; of buyers and sellers. When buyers outnumber sellers, competition leads to bidding wars, ultimately, and higher home prices overall.  The imbalance can also create a sense of urgency that results in over-paying for a home.

When buyers are sparse, on the other hand, the psychology of real estate shifts. 

Home sellers are keenly aware of foot traffic and requests for second and third showings. Without buyers, their homes can't sell.  They also note a lack of general feedback from the market.

It's at this point that seller fear can creep in and it becomes a buyer's best time to buy.

Based on November's Pending Home Sales data, it's clear that home sellers are in abundance right now.  Home buyers have leverage.

It may not last.

With mortgage rates easing lower this week, the federal home buyer tax credit still in effect, and the Holiday Season officially over, buyers are getting back to business everywhere. 

Plus, with the tax credit deadline of April 30, 2010 fast approaching, buyer activity should increase over the next 4-6 weeks.

The market looks ripe for a buy but don't rush it.  Take your time and bid right. But when you're ready, be ready -- once the market momentum shifts back to sellers, you might lose all that leverage you built up through the winter.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Home Cooking

Shrimp and Avocado Salad
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. honey
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 shallot, chopped
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix together first four ingredients. Slowly blend in oil until well blended.

1 lb. cooked shrimp
1 lb. jicama, peeled, julienned
1 pkg. frozen corn, thaw and drain well, slightly brown in skillet with small amount of oil.
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
3 Hass avocadoes, peeled, and diced
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Mix together, lightly coat with dressing. Best served at room temperature (about 30 minutes). Dressing can be stored in refrigerator. Low Cal and Healthy!

Hearty Bacon Potato Chowder
8 slices bacon, cut into 1" pieces
2 cups (6 med) potatoes
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cup milk
10 3/4 oz. can cream of chicken soup
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp thyme (optional)

In 3 qt. saucepan cook bacon and onions over med. heat for 5 minutes; add potatoes. Continue cooking stirring occasionally until potatoes are tender. ( can pre-cook potatoes for less time). Add remaining ingredients. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until heated through. (10 to 12 minutes)
Serves 6


A favorite old family favorite that brings back childhood memories.

1 giant size Hershey Chocolate Bar
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts
2 cups sugar,
1 lb. butter plus additional butter for pan
2 TBSP water.
Grate Chocolate Bar. Using a cookie sheet with a rim, generously butter pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the nuts, layer 1/2 of the chocolate over the nuts. Set aside pan.

Combine water, sugar, butter, bring to a fast boil. Boil until the color changes to a a medium carmel color and it is foamy. Stir constantly. You do not want it too light in color or it won't set up, too dark and it will be too hard. Try for a light golden brown.

Pour over chocolate, top with remaining chocolate and then the remaining nuts. Cool completely. Break into pieces.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Get Your Home Ready For Listing : How To Eliminate Home Odors Completely

Difficult home odors plague homeowners.  Ground into rugs, absorbed into walls, and clinging to furniture, some smells are slow to fade, leaving lasting impressions on both guests and potential buyers. Often, that impression is unfavorable.

Do something about it. 

In this 4-minute piece from NBC's The Today Show, you'll learn how to eliminate bad smells and prevent them from returning.  It's all basic direction, too:

  • How to use the porous nature of wood to your advantage
  • How to remove get "smoke smell" out of a wall
  • How to improve a home's air quality by cleaning carpets

For more serious offenses, the video covers in-home air purifiers, too.

"Smelly homes" are undesirable and can make your home less attractive to buyers.  Watch the video, follow the instruction, and declare your home an Odor-Free Zone.