Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Real Estate in 2010 - Review

157 banks were closed/taken over by the FDIC in 2010 (as of early December).

• 30-year fixed mortgage rates hit a 50+ year low of 4.17 percent

• Robo-signing scandal hit the big box banks in the Fall. The “fall-out” from these investigations is still developing.

• Average day until final foreclosure teeters near 500 days (it was half that in January 2008).

• The real estate market remained fragile throughout the year.

• An estimated 1 in 4 homes in America is under water in value.

• Americans are actually making strides in reducing their debt as well as increase their savings.

• It is estimated that as many as 1 in 4 property sales in 2010 were distressed properties.

• HAMP program and other permanent loan modifications provided by mortgage servicers will total nearly 1.5 million for 2010.

• Short sales were up 128% for Fannie Mae loans and 115% for Freddie Mac-backed notes. (through first nine months of 2010, which is the latest data released to date).

• REO property totals—at the end of the third quarter 2010 Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s number of combined REOs totaled nearly 300,000. The big box banks are far more tight-lipped about their REO totals but, with the number of foreclosures they have been performing in the last two years, it would be easy to see where each of the top six biggies like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase each have at least that number on the books. That would make REO holdings into the millions.

• Shadow inventory is estimated to be at least 2.1 million properties (based on data released by CoreLogic in November, citing August 2010 totals).

• Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stocks end the year valued at under $1 each and are delisted by the New York Stock Exchange.

• National unemployment rate teeters in the 9.5 to 10 percent range throughout the year.

• The Realtor herd continues to thin, with NAR reporting 2010 membership totals (as of Nov. 30, 2010) of 1,079,687 million—down nearly 300,000 from NAR’s peak membership year of 2006.

Source: Short Sale Daily News
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Real Estate Outlook: Builders Regain Optimism

Housing starts rose in December, indicating that builders may be starting to feel more optimistic about the market.

Starts rose 3.9 percent last month, this being the first rise in new-home production since August. According to data from the U.S. Commerce Department, this rise was thanks to a 7 percent gain in single-family home building.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, "Regionally, starts activity showed gains in all but one part of the country in November. The Midwest, South and West each posted gains, of 15.8 percent, 2.3 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively, while the Northeast posted a 2.5 percent decline."

NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe says, "The modest increase in single-family starts and permits in November is consistent with a very low inventory of unsold new homes and our member surveys that have shown a degree of optimism among builders with regard to sales expectations in the next six months. However, builders continue to find it extremely difficult to obtain credit for acquisition, development and construction activities, and this is weighing on their ability to initiate viable new projects that could generate much-needed job growth."

Credit has been difficult topic for many consumers, as well. Tightening of lending by banks has meant fewer buyers have been able to attain the goal of homeownership. Many lenders were wary of extending credit for good reason. Defaults were rampant.

Now, after a three-year slowdown, The New York Times is reporting that credit card offers are again on the rise. Lenders are “tiptoeing their way back into the higher-risk pool of customers,” says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at

According to the Times, the industry is using new terminology to define borrowers -- all based on credit scores. This should be even more incentive to buyers to get a handle on their credit.

These terms include: “strategic defaulters,” meaning those (many times investors) that walked away from a mortgage; “first-time defaulters” who may have lost their home after losing a job in the recession; “sloppy payers,” who don't always pay all of their bills on time; “abusers,” who just don't pay; and “distressed borrowers,” who are unable to pay.

The bottom line is credit is still tight, but there is hope on the horizon. Potential buyers should make their best efforts to repair damaged credit in order to move forward in the real estate market.

Source: Realty Times
By: Carla Hill

For additional information, please contact Susan Allen, Agent at Susan Allen & Associates 310.704.0815 or
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays From Susan Allen & Associates!

At the Holiday Season, my thoughts turn gratefully to those who have made my progress possible. THANK YOU & BEST WISHES FOR THE HOLIDAYS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Rising Rates, First-Time Homebuyers Drive Market in November

  Rising mortgage rates helped push first-time homebuyers to buy properties in November, while investors lost some of their enthusiasm for distressed properties last month. These are two of the major findings of the latest HousingPulse Tracking Survey released by the market research firm Campbell Surveys Monday.

The company found that first-time buyers’ share of home purchases jumped from 34.4 percent in October to 37.2 percent last month as long-term mortgage rates started to climb from the record lows set in early November.

Meanwhile, investor activity continued a two-month decline, falling from 21.4 percent of home purchase transactions in October to 19.9 percent in November, according to the survey results. During September, investor participation peaked at 22.3 percent, a 15-month high. 

Separately, the share of home purchases made by existing homeowners also fell in November, going from 44.2 percent in October to 42.9 percent last month, Campbell Surveys reported.

“The recent surge in interest rates has made potential homebuyers nervous,” explained Thomas Popik, director of the HousingPulse survey. “If rates go up much more, then a good percentage of them will no longer qualify for the properties they want. As a result, they’re making bids on homes and quickly closing before their rate locks expire.”

Real estate agents responding to the latest survey commented on the rate-induced surge of homebuyer interest. “First-time buyers are back looking at homes,” reported an agent in Oregon. 

“Interest rates have helped spur recent activity,” added an agent in Colorado. 

Current homeowners, many of whom must sell their current residence to purchase another, are often precluded from quickly closing on properties, Popik noted, in explaining their reduced share of home purchase transactions in November.

Campbell Surveys found that not all types of property sales were impacted by the recent rise in mortgages rates – namely short sales, which require many months to obtain mortgage-servicer approval. 

“Homebuyer concern for locking in interest rates while rates are low caused them to bypass short sale listings,” commented an agent in Hawaii. 

“Most people are not prepared to wait for a short sale to settle…Buyers are concerned that interest rates are rising and don’t want to take a chance by agreeing to settle 5 or 6 months in the future,” wrote an agent in Virginia.

The large inventory of distressed properties is making investors nervous that prices will decline in 2011, Popik reported, adding that many investors see their previous business model – buy, rehab, and immediately sell – becoming increasingly difficult to execute and are now being forced to rent their properties.

“Investors are starting to get a little flaky and aren’t closing after getting short sale approval as they feel prices will drop further,” stated an agent in Arizona. 

“Investors interested in buy and hold have become more numerous in recent months,” according to an agent in Virginia.

Campbell’s HousingPulse Tracking Survey polls more than 3,000 real estate agents nationwide each month to provide up-to-date market data on home sales and mortgage usage patterns.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

10 Smart Money Moves for 2011

Consumer money resource offers the following money moves to help families improve their finances and save even more in 2011.

1. Revisit your monthly budget

A new year means a new budget. Calculate your monthly income, required monthly expenses, and then whittle down your discretionary spending. Allow for some flexibility and a few small luxuries to make it realistic, but be aggressive in cutting out extras. Be disciplined in your spending and saving—don’t let extra savings one month increase your entertainment spending in the next.

2. Commit to reducing your debt or building your nest egg

If you still have credit card debt or a high interest secured loan, use the savings from your new, aggressive budget to begin paying it down. If you are debt free or are only paying down a low interest mortgage or auto loan, then be sure to build a nest egg equal to at least six months spending.

3. Ratchet up long-terms savings for retirement and college expenses

If you are fortunate enough to have paid off your debt and stashed away a sizable nest egg, then it’s time to increase your retirement or college contributions. Be sure to max out retirement savings first because you can find loans for college if necessary. If your employer offers a 401(k) match, it’s free money—take it.

4. Open a Health Savings Account (HSA)

If you are considering a high-deductible insurance plan, be sure to open an HSA to cover out of pocket medical expenses, including co-pays, health-related purchases, and more. Contributing to an HSA can lower your taxable income and allows your money to grow tax-deferred through retirement.

5. Budget for the loss of the childcare credit

The child tax credit and dependent care tax credit will both decrease in 2011. The child tax credit will drop from $1,000 to $500 while the tax credit for day care expenses will fall from $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two children, to $2,400 and $4,800 respectively.

6. Re-bid your insurance provider

Insurance companies have also been hit hard by the recession. This means many will be even more aggressive to win your business. Comparison shop for cheaper home or auto insurance alternatives, but be sure to pay attention to differences in coverage so you remain adequately insured. You may find that your current provider is not the most affordable, or that they are willing to drop their rates to retain your business.

7. Research mortgage refinance rates on your home

Even if you refinanced your home in 2010, it makes sense to research rates again. For many homeowners, record low rates means you can save money and interest over the life of your loan with another home refinance.

8. Re-evaluate your monthly utilities

You can save hundreds of dollars a year by comparison shopping or reducing monthly utility bills such as television, Internet, and cell phone. More and more Americans are cutting the cord of traditional cable or satellite and finding basic or premium television content online in order to save money. Similarly, streaming movies offer a cheaper alternative to the Cineplex. Shop high speed Internet and cell phone providers for better rates, or consider reducing your Internet speed or cell phone minutes to save on monthly usage. Basic utilities such as garbage, home security, and recycling can also be bid out.

9. Assess healthcare and health insurance changes

Many health insurance providers are changing their plan limits and fees in response to national healthcare legislation. Pay attention to mailings from your provider and ask questions of your employer if you subscribe to a workplace plan. Carefully weigh changes in premium versus co-pays and preventative healthcare coverage when evaluating plan options. Review past medical and prescription needs and usage as a guide to how you will likely use the plan during 2011.

10. Update your monthly budget with savings included. Check against actual spend

With your new utility, insurance, and healthcare savings offsetting increases in retirement and college tuition contributions, rebalance your monthly budget. Tuck away additional extra income into your HSA or rainy day fund. As you approach the end of January, check your actual spending amounts against your expected budget to ensure accuracy.


For additional information, please contact Susan Allen, Agent at Susan Allen & Associates 310.704.0815 or
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Monday, December 13, 2010

4 Key Strategies to Help You Find Your Dream Home

Searching for a new home can be fun, but can also be stressful. For those new to the experience  here are 4 key factors to consider when searching for your dream home. 

1. Location, location, location. A house needs to be near what’s important to you and your lifestyle. How important is it to you that your home is close to your office? Is it more important to be close to a good medical center or a convenient grocery store?
Everyone has their priorities, and you have to consider your family’s when thinking about location.

2. The house. Does the floor plan meet your needs? Does it have enough room for your family to grow if future growth is in your plans? Think of buying for the long term and consider whether the house meets your needs, not just now, but any future needs you can anticipate. And don’t discount your gut feeling. If a particular house doesn’t feel like home to you, then move on.

3. Affordability. Getting pre-qualified for a mortgage before you begin visiting homes is the best way to know what you can afford. People often fall into the trap of looking first, and falling in love with a home that’s well out of their price range. Only look in whatever price range you can pre-qualify for.

4. Resale. As much as you like the idea of seeing you and your family growing old and gray in your new home, chances are you won’t. Most people do not live in their house even for the full term of their mortgage. When home shopping, keep in mind that at some point you will probably want to put your home on the market, so don’t compromise. If you decide a house has some aspect that you can overlook, you need to be aware that someone else may not feel the same way. When home shopping, choose a house that is not only appealing to you, but is also likely going to appeal to others down the road.

Copyright© 2010 RISMedia

For additional information, please contact Susan Allen, Agent at Susan Allen & Associates 310.704.0815 or
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Consumers Don't Expect Housing Recovery Until 2013, Experts Agree

Americans continue to grapple with uncertainty about the housing market, with 58 percent of U.S. adults expecting recovery to be at least another two years away, according to the results of a new survey conducted by Trulia and RealtyTrac, which tracks homebuyers’ attitudes toward foreclosed homes. One in five consumers believe it will be 2015 or later before we see a housing recovery.

As a result of the recent robo-signing debacle, nearly half of U.S. adults surveyed said they now have less faith in mortgage lenders and banks. Another 35 percent believe the robo-signing issue will delay the housing market’s recovery, and 24 percent of those surveyed say they have lost faith in the government because of the way the robo-signing mess has been handled. 

Pete Flint, co-founder and CEO of Trulia, stressed in a conference call with reporters announcing the survey results that consumer confidence is key to a healthy housing market.

“Government incentives have come and gone and historic lows in interest rates have done little to spur recovery,” Flint said. “Then, as if prospective buyers and sellers needed more to be concerned about, the robo-signing issue caused a ‘what’s next?’ fear to surface in the minds of consumers who, frankly, have lost faith in banks and their government to make good decisions.”

Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac SVP, told reporters that the best thing the government can do right now to support housing is to create more jobs to ensure people can continue making mortgage payments and keep their homes and to get more buyers into the market. 
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Friday, December 3, 2010

48th Annual Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade

If you are looking for a way to celebrate the holidays with you family this year, check out the 48th annual Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade.
Time-honored traditions of the holidays do not always apply here on the west coast. Snowball fights, snowmen and sleigh rides are hard to find with the ever-warm climate of California. The community of Marina del Rey doesn’t let that stop the holiday cheer. With their annual boat parade, participants put a Pacific spin on the traditions of Christmas.

The annual Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade will be held on Saturday evening, December 11th.

Saturday, December 11th

The theme for this year's boat parade is:

A Rock and Roll Christmas

Here are some photos from last years parade

For viewing and parking locations visit the parades site at:

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Southern California housing market weakens

Here is a article from the LA Times about the October real estate market:

Figures show prices barely rising and sales falling to near-record lows for the month. The median price for new and previously owned homes was $283,000, up 1.1% from October 2009 and a 4.2% drop from September.

Southern California's median home price stumbled last month and sales fell to near-record lows for an October — a weak performance with little promise for improvement as the traditionally slow season for housing begins.

The October median price for all houses and condominiums in October was $283,000, a slight increase of 1.1% from the same month one year earlier. That made for the weakest year-over-year increase since prices began their ascent last year, San Diego real estate research firm MDA DataQuick said Tuesday. Prices fell 4.2% compared with September as measured by the median price, which is the point at which half the homes sell for more and half for less.

Beverage distributor Jenia Kokotuha said he had struggled to sell a property in Malibu over the last 10 months and recently dropped the price $400,000 to $5.5 million. Kokotuha said he was able to rent the property over the summer to an "up and coming" Hollywood couple, but he had not seen much interest otherwise.

"The market in Malibu has definitely decreased due to the economic woes," said Kokotuha, the 33-year-old chief executive of BevMarketing Group, which markets sparkling wine and other drinks. "Most of the interest has been from people who would like to lease it, with an option to buy."
Kokotuha said he didn't want to drop his price further and felt he could afford to wait out the market. His real estate agent, Brian Stevens, who works in Rodeo Realty's Studio City office, said pricier listings such as the Malibu home were taking the longest to sell.

San Diego real estate agent Jim Klinge, who maintains the popular blog, said the key behind the sales slowdown last month was simple: Prices are just too high.

"Sellers are too optimistic on price. They think the market is better than it is, and they think they deserve more money," Klinge said. "The buyers are smart. The Internet has leveled the playing field, and buyers are paying attention — they are checking the comps closer than ever, and they are not going to overpay for a house."

Klinge credited those cautious, well-informed consumers as partially to blame for the October sales slowdown. Escrow closed on only 16,744 properties last month, down 24.3% from the same month last year, for the second-worst October since 1988, when DataQuick began its tracking. Sales of newly built homes posted their worst month on record.

Patrick Duffy, principal for research firm MetroIntelligence Real Estate Advisors, which closely tracks the market for new homes, said builders overestimated the demand for new homes and were likely to retrench in the months to come. The markets for both new homes and previously owned dwellings were driven by tax credits that expired earlier this year.

Those credits gave the market an artificial bump, pulling sales that would have occurred in the latter part of 2010 into the earlier part, Duffy said.

"We are continue to pay a price for the incentives," he said. "You have to pay a price for those — we are having to pay it in the slowest time of year."

The slowdown comes despite record-low and near-record-low interest rates since April. Home loan rates again hit new lows last week after the Federal Reserve introduced its controversial program to buy $600 billion in Treasury bonds.

Mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac said in its weekly report on rates last week that the lenders it surveyed were offering 30-year fixed-rate loans at an average of 4.17% with 0.8% in upfront fees, down from 4.24% the week before and lower than the survey's previous record of 4.19% set Oct. 14.
Esmael Adibi, director of Chapman University's Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research, said a housing recovery in Southern California would depend more on the ability to get the jobs engine churning again and less on low interest rates.

"We need to have household formation, and for that to happen we need job creation," Adibi said. "It is not really interest rates that are drivers of home prices and purchases."

It is not clear what effect, if any, the foreclosure freezes declared by some major lenders had on October's sales figures. Bank of America is the only major lender that has declared a moratorium on foreclosures in California.

Foreclosures as a percentage of the resale market have dropped since hitting a peak of 56.7% in February 2009 but have fluctuated in recent months. Foreclosures made up 34.7% of the resale market in October, up from a revised 33.6% in September but down from 40.4% in October 2009.,0,3358467.story

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