1/19/2015

Cash Buyers Slowing, Home Price Gains and Low Inventory In Southern California

Looking toward downtown Long Beach from Bluff Park
For quite a while the price increases have been pretty noticeable, but on closer look it's not the same for all segments of the Southern California real estate market.  According to Dataquick,
"In December, the lowest-cost third of the region's housing stock experienced a 12.9 percent year-over-year increase in the median price paid per square foot for resale single-family detached houses. The annual gain was 6.3 percent for the middle third of the market and 2.3 percent for the top, most-expensive third."

And the Southern California six-county median price for a single family home is still 17% lower than the median peak price in 2007.  While all cash transactions are decreasing in some states and regions because prices have increased enough to make returns unattractive to real estate investors, low inventory is still prominent.  Overall, the number of home sales in Southern California was more than 8% less in 2014 when compared to 2013.  This need for more homes to sell is evident in just about every local city and zip code, especially in the market below $500,000.  In Long Beach in December, 2014, there were 371 houses for sale, which put the "months supply of inventory"  at 2.1 months, a decrease of 12.5% from December 2013.   Townhouses and condos were only slightly better at 2.2 months of inventory in Long Beach.  Normal inventory levels are for a 6 months supply.  The average home sale price in Long Beach was $535,000, while the median was $464,000 for December.

At the moment, there is a demand for houses in the more affordable $400,000-$500,000 range in the Long Beach area.  For a comparable sales analysis, always a good way to get a current market education, please contact me via phone or e-mail.  Even if you don't plan on selling right now, there are good reasons why you should get a good estimate of value from an experienced professional. (Remember, sites such as Zillow offer information based on tax records, which do not tell the whole story of your home's value.) In an economy where appraisals and mortgages are still quite stringent, a professional REALTOR is the best source for finding out about market value.




12/30/2014

New California Real Estate Laws for 2015

The following are some of the new real estate laws taking effect in the future in California.


California brokers are required to keep transaction records for at least 3 years. These records used to include text messages, instant messages and tweets, but per AB 2136, as of January 1, 2015, such electronic "ephemeral" records are not now required to be kept.  If you wish to maintain a good permanent record of communication with your agent, faxed documents and/or e-mail messages are a better way to go.

Many HOA associations use the services of a property manager who commonly carries out the forwarding of HOA documents to the buyer during escrow.  The fees charged by them for the gathering, production and delivery of such documents has been the subject of controversy and regulation in the past, all the more so since electronic documents do not incur the expense of actual copying and messengering to an escrow office that once was common.  To eliminate the practice engaged in by some companies where non-requested documents were included with requested documents--and charged for--document bundling is now prohibited. It is the now the responsibility for the seller to pay HOA document fees, and the fees must be itemized for mandated disclosures, i.e., CCRs, Minutes, By-laws, special assessments, financial/budget statements, rental reports, operating rules, etc.  The HOA must estimate the cost of such mandated documents prior to production, and if the seller possesses them electronically, they must be provided free of charge.  It is the responsibility of the seller to pay the HOA for any charges which the HOA is allowed to incur. The California purchase agreements have been revised to reflect this change in the law. So if you own a condominium and you are selling it, be aware that you are now legally required to pay for the mandated documents which are to be sent to the buyer, and that these documents can no longer be ordered by escrow using the buyer's deposit funds (a common practice until now).  These and other requirements are detailed in  AB 2430.

There are several other new HOA-related laws concerning exclusive use maintenance, use of recycled water, use of low water-using plants, judicially enforceable dispute resolutions, allowance of personal agriculture in a back yard.  For specific information on these, please contact me.
Image result for smiley faces
If you see one in your front or back yard, the California red frog is now the state amphibian.

On July 15, the California state water board adopted emergency regulations restricting water use for outdoor landscapes. The regulations prohibit using potable water outdoors, such as watering your lawn, that results in runoff water on sidewalks, driveways, roadways and your neighbor’s property; washing a car with a hose unless the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle; watering down your driveway and sidewalk; and using water in a decorative fountain unless it recirculates. Violation of the regulations is an infraction and may result in a fine of up to $500 for each day the violation occurs.  Various cities, such as Long Beach and Los Angeles, also have water regulations, i.e., watering on certain days and times. Try checking with their web sites.

AB 2310 allows the city attorney in certain California cities, including Long Beach, to demand that a landlord evict a tenant, after following certain procedures, for unlawful possession of weapons or ammunition or for other illegal conduct with controlled substances, or this action may be carried out by the City.

Seniors or disabled citizens may file for a postponement of their property taxes if household income does not exceed $35,500. This program does not include mobile homes, and takes effect July 1, 2016.  Claims are filed with the State Controller and any sums approved and paid by the state will become a lien on the property.

Please contact me for more detailed summary on some of these laws, I am happy to be of assistance.
www.juliahuntsman.com



12/17/2014

The Technicalities of Reverse Mortgages: Are You a Non-Borrower Spouse?

Could the lady in this photo be someone in your family?

 Per a HUD (the overseer for reverse mortgages) statement dated September 4, 2013, reverse mortgage borrowers are advised that the both the borrower and his/her spouse should be counseled:  "One main concern for the non-borrower spouse is when the borrowing spouse passes away and the loan becomes due and payable. More often than not, the surviving nonborrower spouse, who is not on the deed, may not be able to pay the balance due or meet the criteria to qualify for a HECM of their own on the property in order to remain in the property. During counseling, all parties must be made aware that the HECM cannot be assumed by the non-borrower spouse." 

A non-borrower spouse may not have protection, and may be forced into a foreclosure situation if he or she is not able to buy out the reverse mortgage.  In a situation involving a 92-year-old widow in Arizona, this article outlines the action ultimately taken because of intervention by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) when appealed to by the woman's son, where Bank of America bought the reverse mortgage after the widow claimed she was unaware that her name was not put on the loan, and the Bank stopped its foreclosure action and allowed her to continue living in her home. 

This Arizona story is not an everyday scenario, however, so the counseling described above is designed to make the parties aware of the position a non-borrower surviving spouse could be put in after a spouse's death or permanent placement in a facility, because, according to the HUD guidelines, the loan is then due and payable.  And how soon is "due and payable"?  Per All Reverse Mortgage Company's site: if a borrower passes away or
"if a borrower is forced to go to a hospital for more than 12 consecutive months and there is not still one original borrower remaining in the home (not a family member, but a borrower who is on the loan), then the loan shall become Due and Payable and must be paid in full at that time," also, a borrower is urged to contact the servicer if he/she plans to be away for an "extended vacation".  This is important because a reverse mortgage requires the borrower(s) to reside in the property as their principal residence, however, that doesn't mean people don't take trips, so communication is important. 

For borrowers interested in future application for a reverse mortgage, as of March 2, 2015, lenders will be required to review their:

• Credit reports.
• Payment histories on property taxes, homeowners association fees and hazard insurance premiums.
• Income from full-time and part-time employment, Social Security, pension funds, regular draws on IRAs and 401(k) accounts, plus any earnings on investments.
• Recurring household debt obligations.

FHA wants lenders to come up with a cash flow and residual income analysis.
 For further help on this topic, please contact me directly and I will be happy to refer you to a qualified reverse mortgage lender. 
One technicality tucked away in FHA’s regulations can snag owners whose spouse dies after taking out the reverse mortgage. If the surviving spouse’s name does not appear on the mortgage documents, the outstanding debt balance becomes due and payable. If the surviving spouse can’t afford to buy the house to make the payoff, the property may be put up for foreclosure sale. - See more at: http://therealdeal.com/blog/2013/03/01/232102/#sthash.Oty7WfpJ.dpuf

11/26/2014

11/24/2014

Landlords and Property Owners, Don't Risk Your Property With Illegal Activity

In spite of the laws being passed in many states allowing legal consumption of marijuana, federal law says it's illegal. So in spite of the growing public "approval" towards this drug, if you are a landlord with tenants, you may be at risk if you are allowing tenants to smoke marijuana on your property.

A landlord may be at risk, according to National Association of Realtors Senior Policy Representative Megan Booth, of having his/her property taken because the federal government, which takes precedence over state laws, may seize finances and property connected to illegal activity.  So while public opinion shifts more towards acceptance and pro-legalization, the federal government is also being pressured to act in accordance with the current federal laws. “The U.S. has signed on to global treaties classifying marijuana as one of the heaviest controlled substances,” Booth said. “So there’s some outrage that the U.S. isn’t prosecuting marijuana users here as fiercely.”

At the very least, new disclosures may be required (as if there aren't enough already) in leases and real estate sales transactions, covering marijuana policies on rented premises, and selling houses and condos where nearby marijuana use is allowed.   All is not rosy in this new "industry": there has been an increase in reports of explosions on properties where tenants have been growing pot using special equipment, mold could  be an issue because the plants require high humidity, to say nothing of smoke and odors from nearby users. Such issues could exponentially deadly if this involves apartments or attached multi-unit condominium buildings where an explosion could immediately cause damage across several units, or moisture and water leakage issues spread to a lower unit causing expensive mold removal and interior replacements, and subsequent legal issues for the owners, possibly the Board of Directors, and substantial insurance and replacement costs.  (Such a story was once told to me about non-English speaking tenants who rented a unit advertised as "garden apartment" in Orange County.  Being new to the U.S., and possessing very little English, this was interpreted to mean that a tenant could start their own garden inside the unit.  So a crop of marijuana plants was ultimately found growing over the carpeting and causing extensive water damage to the unit below.)






11/05/2014

The New Changes in the 2014 California Residential Purchase Contract

As of November 24th, new changes and additions to our real estate contract will be taking place.  This is one of the most significant series of changes, and the largest amount, in many years.  So if you're a buyer or a seller of a condo, house, duplex, three- or four-unit residential property and you open escrow on November 24th or later, you will be using the new form associated with the California Association of REALTORS.  You don't want to be like the little koala and caught unaware of the changes.

Without going into specific detail that would be reviewed completely if you were actively engaged in an offer or a transaction, here is a general summary of some items that would be encountered:

The contract has expanded by two more pages, making a total of 10 pages.

If you're a condo owner, you will automatically be required to pay up front and deposit funds into escrow for the legally required homeowner association documents given to to the buyer.

The parties can no longer spend the entire escrow period submitting their instructions to escrow, but now must submit within 5 days of opening escrow.

The buyer deposit default language now addresses an electronic fund transfer when submitting funds to escrow.  Checks are still acceptable, but the EFTs are now much more common and direct.

Credits given back to the buyer from the seller must now be disclosed to the buyer's lender and cannot exceed the amount allowed by the buyer's lender.

Termite repairs are now considered just that -- a repair to be requested and negotiated between the buyer and seller when other buyer repairs are requested during the buyer investigation period.

The buyer loan contingency default period has been extended from 17 to 21 days.

There are additional forms added to the transaction not previously used, i.e., if the seller stays even just 3 days past the close of escrow, there is now a separate seller leaseback form used to cover that time period.

If you are contemplating buying or selling a property, you should know that the Residential Purchase Contract should be reviewed with consideration.  The ease of digital signatures and emailing of documents has allowed for less face-to-face time with an agent, while the transactional requirements have grown more explicit and careful.  So while convenience is wonderful, not being aware of what you're signing is undesirable. Unless the transaction must be conducted at a great distance between client and agent, personal contact during escrow probably ensures a clearer explanation of documents.










11/03/2014

Just Sold in Long Beach

Just Sold in Bluff Park:
2601 E Ocean Blvd., #305 -- a 2 bedroom/2 bath + dining room end unit with ocean and neighborhood views. Lots of character and space in this 1970's condominium. Third floor unit in an upgraded homeowner association.

Just Sold in Carson Park:
7027 E Keynote St -- Large 4 bedroom home (expanded many years ago from original one-story model), with two bathrooms and very large family room with a corner brick fireplace, upgraded kitchen and original dining area.  In interior tract location near schools, ideal for family.

Just Sold in Lakewood:
4323 Woodruff Ave. -- in ideal residential location near local shopping, this home has a dining room, family room, unpermitted bonus room ideal for office space, upgraded kitchen and 3 bedrooms/2 baths. 

Call for more information, or visit my website at http://www.juliahuntsman.com.

Serving buyers and sellers since 1994.

10/27/2014

Single Family Home Prices in Long Beach 90803 and the City of Long Beach

Single family home prices in the 90803 zip code (including Bluff Park, Belmont Shore, Naples, Belmont Heights) have, on average, ranged between $554,000 and $970,000 over the last three years. November 2011 and September 2014 are so far the two highest points on the scale. The majority of houses selling over $900,000 during 2014 in this zip code are mostly in Belmont Shore, next is The Peninsula, Bluff Park and the lower part of Belmont Heights.
MLS: RS1406706
A home in the price range may have 3 bedrooms, 2+ baths, about 2100 sq.ft. on the interior, was about 70-80 years old, and was typically on the market for about 80 days. The property at the right at 177 Glendora was actually on the market 203 days per CRMLS, and closed escrow on October 20, 2014 selling at $969,000.

If you would like more information about the value of your home in this area, or any other area, please contact me for an in-person or online valuation.  Online valuations are considered more general, but a reasonable estimate of value may be obtained by looking at similar sales within a certain range and size.   

10/16/2014

There are California Programs to Help Buyers Buy

e Down Payment Resource automated down payment assistance program finder does the research for you and quickly matches you with specific homebuyer assistance programs for which you may be eligible.
With Down Payment Resource, you’ll learn:
  • The total number of homebuyer programs available to you
  • The name of each program
  • The amount of down payment assistance available
  • How to use this information when shopping for a home
  • Your next steps to learn more and apply for the program
- See more at: http://downpaymentresource.com/homebuyers/#sthash.HId2n8o2.dpuf
The Down Payment Resource automated down payment assistance program finder does the research for you and quickly matches you with specific homebuyer assistance programs for which you may be eligible.
With Down Payment Resource, you’ll learn:
  • The total number of homebuyer programs available to you
  • The name of each program
  • The amount of down payment assistance available
  • How to use this information when shopping for a home
  • Your next steps to learn more and apply for the program
- See more at: http://downpaymentresource.com/homebuyers/#sthash.HId2n8o2.dpuf
e Down Payment Resource automated down payment assistance program finder does the research for you and quickly matches you with specific homebuyer assistance programs for which you may be eligible.
With Down Payment Resource, you’ll learn:
  • The total number of homebuyer programs available to you
  • The name of each program
  • The amount of down payment assistance available
  • How to use this information when shopping for a home
  • Your next steps to learn more and apply for the program
- See more at: http://downpaymentresource.com/homebuyers/#sthash.HId2n8o2.dpuf
The Down Payment Resource automated down payment assistance program finder does the research for you and quickly matches you with specific homebuyer assistance programs for which you may be eligible.
With Down Payment Resource, you’ll learn:
  • The total number of homebuyer programs available to you
  • The name of each program
  • The amount of down payment assistance available
  • How to use this information when shopping for a home
  • Your next steps to learn more and apply for the program
Click Here to find out if you are eligible for first time home buyer down payment assistance.
- See more at: http://downpaymentresource.com/homebuyers/#sthash.HId2n8o2.dpuf

Wave of Singles to Make Big Impact on Housing.

Half of all American adults now live in one-person households, a rapidly growing number, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The singles demographic is likely to reshape multifamily communities and single-family home designs going forward, according to Builder Online.

In 1976, only 37 percent of adults were single. As of August 2014, that percentage has bloomed to 50.2 percent, or about 124.6 million singles. It marks the first time that single Americans make up the majority of the adult population since the government began tracking such data.

This growing segment also will impact floor plans, which will go from static to flexible affordability will be a key factor due to the reduced income of a single homeowner compared with that of dual-earner couples.
as living arrangements change more frequently. Analysts also project that this group will job hop more often and bring new types of living arrangements into the housing market – such as friends buying homes together. Additionally,

At the recent California Association of Realtors 2014 Expo and Conference last week, the obstacles for first time buyers--an important force in the real estate market--were characterized as having:         
  Lots of competition for existing housing stock.
• Affordability constraints.
• Lack of a down‐payment.
• Lack of information about the home‐buying
   process.
• Fear of financing: “I can’t qualify”.
• Job prospects/security still dim for many.
• Many who have jobs are under‐employed.
To help all types of buyers with potential programs, there is a resource to help sift through the wide array of programs that could be available in a given area.
 
Down Payment Assistance for Buyers.
Did you know, according to California Association of Realtors' Down Payment Resource™ Homeownership Program Index that there are…
-Over 300 programs in California
-59% provide direct down payment & closing cost assistance
-10% provide mortgage credit up to $2,000 for the life of the loan
-26% are available to repeat buyers.

The Down Payment Resource automated down payment assistance program finder  is a FREE program and does the research for you.  It quickly matches you with specific homebuyer assistance programs for which you may be eligible.  With Down Payment Resource, you’ll learn:
  • The total number of homebuyer programs available to you
  • The name of each program
  • The amount of down payment assistance available
  • How to use this information when shopping for a home.

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