Things You Should Know…

• Interest rates on long-term, fixed, and adjustable mortgages are at historically low levels. The Fed started cutting interest rates to bolster the economy in September, and recently has turned much more aggressive. In eight days in January, the Fed slashed rates by 1.25 percentage points — the biggest single-month reduction in a quarter-century. Since September, the Fed has cut its federal funds rate – what banks charge each other on overnight loans – by 2.25 percentage points to 3 percent. It also cut its discount rate on direct loans it makes to banks by 1.75 points to 3.5 percent. Rates are expected to move lower at the Fed’s next meeting on March 18. Despite all this, mortgage rates are starting to creep up. Consumers should lock in low rates now, before they go higher.

• With more homes on the market for longer periods of time, buyers have more choices when it comes to selecting a home today.

• The foreclosure crisis has motivated the government to create more consumer protections against predatory lenders than previously existed.

• A temporary increase in the conforming loan limit means consumers should soon be able to borrow at lower interest rates for higher-priced homes. Prior to the increase, the conforming loan limit was $417,000. The spread between jumbo, or non-conforming mortgage loans and conforming mortgages is about 1.2 percentage points.

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Median Sales Prices – January ’08

Here are the median sales prices recorded in January for single family homes, condos and new construction in the following communities:

Agoura Hills – $650,000
Calabasas – $1,350,000
Camarillo – $490,000
Fillmore – $450,000
Moorpark – $600,000
Newbury Park – $597,500
Oak Park – $612,500
Oxnard – $407,000
Santa Paula – $314,500
Simi Valley – $455,000
Thousand Oaks – $652,500
Ventura – $480,000
Westlake Village – $808,250
Woodland Hills – $500,000

Source: Data Quick

It Pays to Prequalify!!!

A powerful edge for a buyer beginning the buying process is to find the right lender. Why at the beginning? To obtain prequalification for a loan. The ideal time to have a lender prequalify you is BEFORE you get into our car to look at property. Then, you know that you can afford the homes you are looking at. We will assist you in selecting a top-quality lender who will then process all of your financial information and help you establish your budget.

When you are “pre-qualled,” not only do you know exactly what you can afford, you will have a signed document from a legitimate, bona fide lender letting a seller know that you are absolutely serious about getting the best price. Pre-qualled buyers also have a definite edge over others who might be submitting competing offers.

The last six months have brought about a great deal of change in the lending industry. It has been estimated that as many as 40% of the borrowers who could obtain financing 6 months ago, could not obtain the same or similar financing today. That fact alone makes the prequalifying process more important than ever.

Strategies for Selling a Vacant Home

As the real estate market continues to stabilize, sellers may find that their property remains on the market significantly longer than the days of “list today, sold tomorrow.” There is also more competition for buyers. So, it can be frustrating to put your home on the market, expecting a fast sale, only to find that after six months you’re still waiting for an offer. This is especially true if you need to move quickly and leave your unsold home vacant.

Besides creating a marketing challenge, a vacant home can also be a target for vandalism. Here are strategies you can use to hasten a sale and protect your property during the process:

  • Instead of producing a spacious appearance, an empty room tends to look smaller than a furnished room. So, leave behind a few select pieces of furniture and keep the window treatments in place. A chair or lamp on a small table will confer a sense of scale and help potential buyers gauge whether their furniture will fit the space.
  • If you decide to remove the furniture, have the house cleaned and painted. Furniture, rugs and decorations tend to hide or minimize imperfections. When furniture and artwork have been removed, every blemish and bruise becomes accentuated, faded paint and wallpaper become more noticeable and scratches and nicks stand out.
  • Repaint brightly and boldly colored rooms to a neutral tone. What was an eye-popping room when fully-furnished may appear stark and small when empty.
  • To thwart unwelcome visits, give the house a lived-in look. Set a couple of lamps on timers, and ask a neighbor or friend check on the house daily to collect mail, park a car in the driveway, and close and open drapes and windows. Continue using a gardening service or hire someone to cut the grass regularly. During the winter months, arrange to have snow shoveled from the walks and driveway.
  • If available, consider employing a home manager or house sitter. At little or no cost to homeowners, the house is furnished and decorated for show-to-sell condition. Most companies require home managers to mow the lawn, shovel snow, even pay pool maintenance and utilities. Having someone living on site discourages vandalism, protects against deterioration and weather hazards and may even reduce insurance costs. (Check with your insurance carrier.)
  • Leave the utilities connected. Depending on the season, make sure the thermostat in the house is set at a comfortable level. You don’t want a potential buyer to run through the home because it is too hot or cold.
  • Review your homeowner’s insurance policy with your insurance agent to find out what the stipulations and coverage pertain to your vacant home.
  • Find a real estate professional with experience selling vacant houses. Often, these sales professionals specialize in relocation. You want to make sure that you are comfortable with your lines of communication. If you will be residing in another town, come up with an agreement on how often your representative will check on the home and what should be done if a problem develops.

Although a vacant house presents certain challenges, it does not need to be difficult to sell.

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Conejo Valley Market Trend – January ’08

Here are the stats for the number of homes sold in the Conejo Valley since 2003. Notice that for January the number is higher than the last two years.

Click on image to enlarge

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Group says more Californians can afford to buy their first home

Some 33 percent of households in the state were able to afford their first home in the last three months of the year, according to the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. That’s up from 25 percent in the same three months of 2006. The trade group for real estate agents calculates affordability based on the minimum household income required to make a 10 percent down payment and secure an adjustable interest rate loan at 6.21 percent.

MAKING SENSE OF THE STORY FOR CONSUMERS

• As the median home price declines, many potential home buyers who had previously believed an entry-level home was out of reach may now find themselves in a position to buy.

• The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California during December 2007 was $475,460, a 16.5 percent decrease from the revised $569,350 median for December 2006.

• Prospective buyers for the most part need not worry about the bidding wars that drove up home prices during the housing boom.

• First-time home buyers needed to earn an annual income of $82,200 to buy an entry-level home in California in the fourth quarter of 2007, down 15 percent from the $96,600 annual income needed to buy during the last three months of 2006.

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Things You Should Know…

• Equity—the value of a property after all debts have been paid—is an important component of wealth building because it can be a safety net for emergencies or hard times. It also can be used to launch a business or pay for college tuition, both of which have the potential to create future earnings.

• Teenage students raised by home-owning parents are less likely to drop out of school than teens raised by renters, according to the “Journal of Urban Economics.”

• Homeowners are less likely to be crime victims than renters because neighborhoods where owners have a stake in the community are more stable, according to “Social Forces.”

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