Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Get Legal/Tax Advice

When a seller comes to me and asks me if they should short-sale (SS) their home, my first answer is to talk with an attorney, accountant, or trusted financial planner. I am not allowed to give tax or legal advice. I can only guide them in the sale of their home, SS or not.

I will tell them what is going on in the market for buyers and sellers of SS's. Which banks seem to be doing what. Who may have to bring some cash to the table. Which may just be a lost cause. What my experiences have been.

And, I will tell them....it changes daily.

I can tell them which banks have been easiest to work with. Which ones have been taking the longest. Which loans may be investor owned, which may be recourse loans. But, I can't make the decision for them.

As any good Realtor knows, we can only present the information. Tell clients what they can do, how the process works.

And, guide them in making the correct determination for their personal circumstances.

There is no sure-fire way to get SS's done. There are certain guidelines, definitely, but it still feels like two steps forward, one step back.

My favorite Lauren line these days? 'Onward and Forward !' Whether it is buying or selling, I tell my clients no matter how frustrating, we just keep moving onward and forward.

We'll get it done. Promise.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thankful Market Stats

Happy Sunday of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend! Not too many of you thinking about Real Estate during the last few days. You'd think the last few weeks you haven't been thinking about it either....based upon the stats of this morning....and my perusal of what's happening in the Santa Clarita Valley and beyond.

But, be thankful that we are still selling homes, that buyers are still buying and that sellers are still selling. As long as homes are transferring ownership, we still survive.

It spite of everything, it remains the American Dream....to own your home.....even now. Albeit that it is more difficult than you would have hoped for, Real Estate long term is still a viable investment.

Today's stats in 'Awesome Town' show that we have 1160 homes, condos and townhouses available for sale.  240 homes were sold in the month of October, only 184 sold so far this month of November. That's okay in my book. Sheesh, it is the 'holiday season'. And, it traditionally slows down this time of year. We are holding to approximately a 5 month supply. The number of homes available and the number of homes closing escrow has been the same for a while now and that's good news! Really, it is!

So, while you are probably getting tired of turkey leftovers, I'm not tired of selling homes. I'm not tired of checking the stats. Not tired of the house selling difficulties. And, I'm very thankful that my buyers and sellers aren't tired of it either.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Womens' Intuition - Is it for Real?

As a Real Estate agent I have to work for my clients best interest at all times. Every once in a while my gut tells me something is amiss. And, that's when you wonder if you're 2nd guessing yourself or if you should follow the infamous 'Women's Intuition". The thing men hate that we say we have, but that most women know we do!

In the world of Short Sales (SS's) and REO's there is quite a bit that can be in the world of unknown. With REO's it's the realization that the seller doesn't know anything about the property and therefore can't disclose to you why there is a drywall patch on the wall, or if that spot on the ceiling was before or after what appears to be a copper plumbing re-pipe patch.

With SS's, it's the wondering if there is any fraud going on, is the SS lender being informed of all the details of the sale?

I'm in another SS contract now, we're this close to complete approval, and the listing agent seems to be a little sketchy about the terms of the approval. And, I'm trying politely to determine if there is something amiss about an addendum that I don't see uploaded on the SS site.

So, I talk with my broker and concur that the listing agent is responsible for submitting all documents pertaining to the sale, that the SS lender will see the final HUD1, and that I need to disclose (remember in RE, it's disclose, disclose, disclose!) to my client my thoughts and concerns and allow her to decide if she wishes to proceed with the purchase.

Had several conversations with buyer, e-mailed agent, spoke with SS processor and am awaiting a call today to tell me if my 'Women's Intuition' was on overdrive or....if it was for real.

Crossing my fingers that my intuition was off for the day!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Toxic Clients? I Must Be Lucky...

In my almost decade of working with buyers and sellers, true, I've run across some more difficult than others. Some may need a little stern talking too. Another needs a little extra hand-holding. One may have needed more explanation than the last. And, one maybe was a bit of a yeller. Another even, a bit of a cryer.

But, a toxic client? Can't say that I've had one that I felt was truly toxic. Maybe I'm too nice, too accepting. I don't know. I've had 3 in my career that I almost wished I'd never met....almost. I suppose they were the closest thing to being called toxic. But, of course, they were an educational experience. Taught me to look for the signs earlier. Well, 2 out of 3 did. One, blew me away completely at the end !!

And, definitely they were in my earlier years. When I didn't have so much experience, not enough composure maybe.

One was a seller. I let them list too high....Ugh! Then, worked my tush off with what I had to get it sold. Brought every piece of info to the table to help them understand, even as a newbie, what I knew we needed to do to sell their house. It's the only listing I have ever had expire. They re-listed with another agent, dropped the price, did what I had told them to do....and, gee, of course it sold!

Another seller, tough listing. Seller smoked like a chimney and the yet the home was beautiful. As always, worked my rear off to get it sold. Made nice with the neighbors to position the for sale sign. Then, after the sellers praised me all the way through....Mrs. Seller went a little crazy at the end, something about her relationship with the neighbors, and smoke came out of her ears.
But, we did close escrow....and I don't live with her....poor guy, he does.

The last one was a buyer. I suspected right from the start that it was going to be challenging working with a spoiled, foot-stomping, princess. But, I bit my tongue and worked to find them the perfect home. Kept my professionalism top notch. At the end, she didn't get what she wanted and the biggest hissy fit was thrown. I didn't acquiesce to her behavior, closed the escrow and have happily never heard from them again.

Read the article, are you?

Monday, November 15, 2010

What Are Your Thoughts?

I talk with clients, lenders, and other agents regularly about the situation of the housing market. About how many foreclosures are still out there. The difficulty of Short-Sales. The pricing of traditional listings. The current slow-down. How there seem to be so many avenues to help underwater home-owners...that aren't working very well. About the low, low interest rates. About where they market seems to be going.

And, today, I'd love to hear other opinions. What you think might work, what isn't working. Just to have some interaction. Just to get everyone that wants to speak and be heard to do just that today.

So, what are your thoughts?

Lot's of thought bubbles in here to fill!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mello-Roos or No Mello-Roos, That is the Question

In the Santa Clarita Valley, we have a lot of homes that have a supplemental property tax above and beyond the normal rate of approximately 1.25%.

Called a Mello-Roos (MR), a Community Facilities District Act, and sometimes a School Bond.

What is it? :

A Mello-Roos District is an area where a special property tax on real estate, in addition to the normal property tax, is imposed on those real property owners within a Community Facilities District. These districts seek public financing through the sale of bonds for the purpose of financing public improvements and services. These services may include streets, water, sewage and drainage, electricity, infrastructure, schools, parks and police protection to newly developing areas. The tax paid is used to make the payments of principal and interest on the bonds.

And, should we buy a home that has one? Yes, that is the question today.

In newer construction, newer neighborhoods, that is where you frequently find them. And, remember, Santa Clarita is the 'town of new' so we find that supplemental tax here in several neighborhoods.

What if the house we find and fall in love with has a mello-roos tax? Well, it has to be included in the monthly PITI (Principal-Interest-Taxes-Insurance) to determine if you can handle that expense. And, you have to decide if that additional expense is worth it to you to have the home of your dreams.

Keep in mind, sometimes the MR is tax deductible, sometimes not....

Ask your agent to determine what the monthly or yearly expense is and how long it is in effect for. Ask if it may change amount at any time.

My experience tells me that most clients don't like the idea of paying any extra property taxes. They want to buy their home and know that the majority of their monthly payment is going to the mortgage holder, not the tax man.

But, again, if your dream home has the MR, and it is affordable? Investigate, determine, decide and hopefully....enjoy your new home.....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Room For Improvement

Adjusted the schedule today. Completed some great prospecting early in the day, went on a lovely walk with a friend to clear the mind and exercise the body. Had lunch with the husband to fuel those same two important parts of me.

Now, I've just finished up with some follow-up, e-mailing and snail mail, and I am reading some articles, one that caught my eye.

This blog post is for all my associate Realtors, and clients too.

This last couple of years have been strangling our economy and have been testing Realtors nationwide.

Our economy is trying to work through it. And, we have to keep moving forward no matter what, don't we? As people alive today, we know that we can't just stick our heads in the sand and make it go away. We have to be tenacious. Be extremely careful, and watch every penny. 

And, my fellow Realtors will attest to this, we, as Realtors, have to not let the current Real Estate market take us down.

Because although it is harder than it's been in a really long time, we are Realtors to help people. We may all have come into this for different reasons, but we all have to serve the ultimate goal. To get our clients into a home, or get them out of one. And, to protect them.

We all have room for improvement. Take this period to learn something about yourself. Learn that you have what it takes to continue. What it takes to pass this test. Learn new ways to complete old tasks. And, of course, learn all the new ones too.

And, honestly, enjoy that it certainly isn't the same old thing every day. Being a Realtor is still one of the most rewarding careers, financially, mentally, and emotionally.

Keep on keeping on, my friends. Flourish in the knowledge that you have learned something great in this market. Hopefully something we will not have to use again in our lifetime, but definitely, we have learned some significant things.

And, keep helping the people that need our help. There are many, and we are becoming few......

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ain't That The Truth?

Reading articles this morning. I got up extra early so I could spend some catch-up time today reading and perusing my favorite housing sites.

L.A.Times was the same old, same old. Housing Wire too. Didn't get to Realtor.org yet, but found an article in our Inman news that confirmed what we all know about the stats of recent home purchases in relationship to first time buyers. You can read the entire article below, if you want:

Any licensed Realtor that's been actually working these last couple years knows that. And, a lot of us are thrilled that these buyers are able to afford to purchase a home now.

A few years ago, it would have been impossible. Prices were too high for the first time buyers' income bracket.

As much as this market is still in such turmoil, still such a trial to help people get in and out of homes, ain't it the truth that this is such a bright spot during these dark Real Estate times?

Look for something good, try to find the positive. Do that smile therapy and remember that first time buyers sure did need this break!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

When it Rains it Pours

Blogging is a great way to give out thoughts of the day on Real Estate. It tells you what I've been thinking, changes, stats, etc.

Have you noticed there hasn't been a post since Monday? I have and it has challenged me every day!

However, my current clients are always of the utmost importance to me, so I beg your apologies if you have been waiting for another Lauren opinionated blog post!

And, the title of this quickie post?? When I am busy, it comes in Tsunami's. When it's not, it's like a light little drizzle.

This week has been like a storm of Tsunami's !!! And, as you all know, I like it! I thrive on tension and stress. Keeps me amped. But, keeps me away from blogging.

Again, accept my apology and let me get back to work!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Times Are A Changin'

We've been busting our humps to get buyers into properties this year....busting hard! Now, in the last few weeks.....hmmm.....things have gotten a little....quiet...and it's kind of nice!

2009 and 2010 was such a nightmare of multiple offers. Trying to get my buyers into properties, before another agents', particularly when we were looking at the under 400 range.

The tax credit was extended, and then extended again. Buyers wanted to buy because home prices were more reasonable than they had been in a very long time. Interest rates were being called an 'all-time' low.

But, now, as interest rates are even lower, the tax credits have gone 'bye-bye', and the typical slow-down holiday season is upon us.....guess what? We are seeing price reductions. We are seeing properties sit on the MLS longer again. We are seeing some aggressive strategies to get homes sold.

And, my buyers are happy!

And, that makes me happier too...

Because, getting people in and out of homes is what we do.

So, if you've been wondering if now is a time to buy? Yes It Is !!!! But, plan on staying in it for a while. Don't consider flipping right now. Just a great time to buy a home. With a little Short-Sale magic, and some patience on your part, and a Traditional or REO seller that doesn't want to hold the property to 2011? Now is when real buyers come out. Now is when the real sellers sell.

What are you?