Things to be aware of when buying REOs

– First-time buyers will need to be pre-approved by one or more lenders.

– Don’t be surprised if the bank that owns the home requires that you finance your purchase with them.

– Expect competition. Many buyers bid on multiple properties.

– Banks won’t accept offers that are contingent on selling your home.

– The best deals generally are those homes with the longest time on the market.

– Bank-owned homes typically sell for 10 to 20 percent less than their listing price.

– Be sure to pay for an inspection and consider the cost of repairs or damaged or missing appliances when bidding on a foreclosure.

– The bank is likely to make a counter-offer. Be sure to consider this when submitting your first offer.

– Some banks will not accept an offer unless it is submitted by a REALTOR®.

– Banks generally are looking to close quickly, within two weeks to 45 days.

Things You Should Know…

In addition to NAR’s report that home sales increased for the first time in seven months, there was a further glimmer of hope: Applications for mortgages soared nearly 50 percent last week and applications to refinance home loans jumped 82 percent as borrowers scrambled to lock-in lower rates. Economists hope this is a sign that weakened house prices may be tempting buyers back into the market.


In 1985…

Median home price – $152,720. “The golden-age of risk free run-ups in home prices is gone.” – Money Magazine

What about 1996?… more to come!

Make Safety an Open House Priority

An open house can be a great marketing tool, but it also means exposing your home and family to countless strangers. Don’t assume that every person who visits your home is an earnest, potential homebuyer. It’s important to take security seriously. Here are some common security measures that can pull double-duty, keeping you and your family safe while enhancing your home’s marketability:

* Remove personal items such as family photographs, your children’s artwork, calendars that include daily routines and other items that may reveal the names of your family members or everyday life. Removing or packing away these items will not only enhance your privacy, it will also help keep the potential homebuyer focused on your home and not your family. A house that’s been depersonalized shows better because it’s easier for the buyer to visualize living in the house.

* Identity theft is a growing problem, so be sure to remove or lock up all credit cards, bills, health insurance information and anything else that contains personal information like social security numbers and bank account numbers. Of course, this step removes clutter from your counters, maintaining visual appeal.

* Remove or lock up jewelry, cash and other valuables; firearms and other weapons; and all prescription medication.

* Make sure the house is well-lit and keep all interior and exterior walkways clear of clutter and other debris.

* After each showing, take a thorough walk-through of your house and make sure all of the doors and windows are shut and locked, and that no items or valuables are missing.

In addition to safeguarding your property and identity, there are precautions you should take to protect yourself if you are present during an open house. Ideally, your real estate professional will be representing you during the open house, so that potential home buyers feel comfortable snooping around, opening cupboards and speaking freely about the home. However, if you do find that you are in the home alone, or are selling your home on your own, consider a few tips from the pros:

* Never turn your back on a potential buyer. Instead, let the buyer lead you through the house. This allows you to watch the buyer and avoid becoming cornered or trapped.

* Employ the buddy system. If you must show the house yourself, enlist the help of family or friends. This rule is especially important if the home is located in an isolated area.

* Have a visitor roster and make sure everyone who tours your home signs it and includes their phone number and address. This will help you keep track of who is viewing your home.

* Know and have a plan for the fastest escape route for each part of your home.

The open house process is just one step toward selling your home. A real estate professional can provide you with a fresh set of eyes and will tour your home and point out safety measures you may have overlooked as well as answer other questions you may have about selling your home.

Median Sales Prices – February ’08

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

Agoura Hills – $524,000
Calabasas – $1,155,000
Camarillo – $515,000
Fillmore – $395,000
Moorpark – $565,000
Newbury Park – $610,000
Oak Park – $494,000
Oxnard – $394,000
Santa Paula – $325,000
Simi Valley – $434,000
Thousand Oaks – $537,500
Ventura – $415,000
Westlake Village – $1,100,000
Woodland Hills – $545,000

Source: Data Quick

Upcoming Events

By now, you probably don’t need the “Property Taxes Due April 10” reminder, but don’t forget they must be postmarked by 4/10 at the latest to avoid those hefty penalties.

On May 12, the price of a first-class stamp goes up to 42¢. Of course, all the other postal rates will go up as well.

Cell phones! Time to find your favorite device to make it hands-free. If you’re driving and on the phone, the new law goes into effect on July 1. So, it’s not a bad idea to buy your earpiece and get used to it sooner rather than later. Many newer cars have built-in technology for your phone, so be sure to check that out! Ryan is a wiz at bluetooth technology and would love to help.

Last but not least, we hope you’re enjoying Spring!

Avoid These Seller Mistakes

You want to get the best price for your home, plus sell it in the least amount of time. In a buyers’ market such as the one emerging now, homes will take longer to sell. Therefore, it’s important that you make the right moves at the very beginning of your homeselling process to remain competitive. Here are some common traps that many homeowners fall into and how to avoid them.

1. Over-pricing — It’s easy to think your home is worth more than the current market may support, particularly after the long run-up in home prices. Since home prices have cooled in markets around the country, home sellers must be prepared to negotiate on price and terms, and stay flexible to other stipulations benefiting the buyer. Sellers must also keep their emotions in check during the process. After all, your home is special to you and your family, and you’re proud of the improvements you’ve made over the years. But, how does your home really stand up to the others? And are those improvements important to a potential buyer?

To determine a reasonable listing price, get sales statistics on homes in the neighborhood including listing prices and actual sales prices, how long it took for the homes to sell, and government valuation comparisons. You’ll also want a market appraisal on your property. Visit homes for sale in your area and compare what you see in terms of sales appeal.

2. Negligent Housekeeping — Buyers need to be able to envision themselves living in the home. Take a good, objective look at the condition of your home. Clean, well-kept homes with an updated appearance always stand out, and a little decorating appeal can go a long way. You don’t have to buy new furniture to create charm, but you can put toys and clutter away, freshen up paint and carpet, make the most of window coverings, and add a few key accessories in order to send out welcoming signals.

3. Failing to Fix-It — Buyers, unless they are looking for a fixer-upper, would prefer to move into a home that is in perfect or near-perfect condition. If they have to fix the roof, a broken tile floor, the garage door, worn carpet or just about anything, this may give them pause about buying. At the very least, it may lower the value of the home in the prospective buyer’s mind.

4. Not Identifying Exclusions — This can be a cause of contention just at a critical point in the sale. Be sure to specify any special sales considerations or exclusions from the fixtures and furnishings list. Generally, anything permanently fixed to the house is an asset that stays with the home after the sale. So if you intend to take your grandmother’s antique chandelier that’s hanging in the dining room, clearly specify that the chandelier is not included in the sale price.

5. Not Understanding the Agent Agreement — Your sales endeavor will go smoothest when all parties have a clear understanding of what is expected. Understand the types of agency agreements when you sign with a real estate professional or company.

Be sure to check on fees, commission percentages, marketing plans and timeframes. Most importantly, get everything in writing.

Things You Should Know…

• Prospective borrowers worried about the foreclosure crisis should obtain pre-purchase homeownership counseling. A Harvard University analysis found that borrowers who received classroom and individual counseling were, respectively, 23 percent and 41 percent less likely to become 60 days delinquent than equivalent borrowers who did not undergo counseling.

• Calling the market low is a difficult task, and it’s most often spotted in the rear-view mirror, according to MSN. While prices in many markets have not yet hit their lowest point, the bottom may be near. And in other areas, only the pace of sales has been affected; prices have held firm or increased. Waiting for the absolute bottom puts consumers at risk of missing the best prices and getting caught up in a market on the upswing.

Government Announces Conforming Loan Limit Increases

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) today announced it has temporarily increased limits on conforming loans offered by government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, from $417,000 to as high as $729,750 in fourteen counties in California for loans originated between July 1, 2007 and Dec. 31, 2008. Fannie and Freddie are reported to be working out new underwriting standards and expect to begin offering the new loans soon.

Also, on Wednesday, the government raised the conforming loan limit for mortgages guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, and has begun offering the maximum limit of $729,750 for 14 California counties, up from $362,790, for loans originated between now and Dec. 31, 2008.

The Fed’s economic stimulus package approved earlier this year called for temporary increases on conforming and FHA loan limits to allow troubled borrowers to refinance out of sub-prime loans and make it easier for many new buyers to qualify for mortgages in high-cost areas, particularly in California where home prices remain among the highest in the nation.

To view a list of the new FHA Mortgage Limits by county, go to:
FHA Loan Limits by County

For a list of the proposed loan limit changes for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, go to:
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Proposed Loan Limit Changes

Benefits of Homeownership

• The first $250,000 to $500,000 in capital gains from the sale of an owner-occupied home is excluded from taxation. Owners also are able to deduct local and state property taxes. There are very few comparable tax breaks for renters, and the few that exist are mostly restricted to low-income families.

• Owners reap the costs and rewards of their own behavior. Those who maintain a house well or make improvements to it will be rewarded when it’s time to sell. That gives both owners and neighbors a strong incentive to invest in their homes, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Landlords reap the cost and rewards of tenant behavior in a rental unit.

• More and more corporations are eliminating pension funds and shifting the burden of retirement saving to employees through 401(k) plans, which carry a degree of risk. Those who own their homes outright are in a much better position to stretch a fixed income in their retirement years.