Beyond The Headlines

NEWS FLASH

 

Call your member of congress today to protect the mortgage interest deduction
Congress, as part of negotiations on avoiding the “Fiscal Cliff,” has made direct references to “closing loopholes” and “limiting deductions” as a way to raise revenues. Clearly, the mortgage interest deduction is high on this list of revenue raisers.

 

Losing the mortgage interest deduction will disproportionately affect the middle class because a larger proportion of the middle class takes the deduction. In California 89% of those who took the mortgage interest deduction earned less than $200,000. Losing the deduction would cost the average California taxpayer over $3,900.

 

What you can do to help:

 

Call Congress. First and foremost, we are urging the public to get involved by calling Congress to ask that the mortgage interest deduction be preserved. The public may reach Congress by calling 202-224-3121.

 

The Capitol switchboard operator will help callers identify their member of Congress and connect them.

 

The public can reach Congress by calling (202) 224-3121.

 

Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Eastern Time.

 

Get the word out. Many people seem to be blissfully unaware that their mortgage interest deduction is in danger. Please do the following to make sure that the message spreads.

 

  1. Forward this message to your family, friends, and clients.
  2. Post this information on your personal and office websites and blogs.
  3. Share this information on Facebook and urge others to share it as well.
  4. Tweet about it on Twitter and urge others to retweet. Use the hashtag: #keepthemid.
  5. Link to the following web page: www.KeepTheMID.com.  This site has information about contacting Congress, more information on the MID, and links to articles.
  6. As you see new information and articles, share these on all your social networking sites.

Watch and share this video about preserving the MID.

 
Mercury News

 

How to stage your home to sell during the holidays
By properly staging a home, it is possible to sell a house during the holidays, even with the slowdown in house hunting during November and December.

 

Making sense of the story

  • Homeowners should make cleaning and decluttering the house their number one priority when looking to sell their home.  The house should show at its absolute best, which means light, bright, and extremely clean.
  • It’s okay to decorate for the holidays, which can make the home feel warm, inviting, and festive.  But the “less is more” mantra definitely holds true.  The goal is to have the house appear spacious and open, and too many decorations may do the opposite.
  • A tall Christmas tree is great for those trying to accentuate a two-story foyer or great room, but otherwise, homeowners should opt for a smaller and thinner tree.  Additionally, sellers should use a cohesive color scheme and theme for ornaments that are used for the interior holiday décor.
  • Even the gift wrap for presents under the tree should complement the color and style of the décor and tree.  Limit the gift wrap to beautiful neutral colors such as silver or gold metallic, then choose colorful ribbon that matches the rest of the scheme.  Limiting the number of gifts under the tree also may help.
  • No matter what time of year, when a house is available for sale, it’s always recommended that homeowners remove all or most family photos.  During the holidays, take this one step further by keeping the personalized stockings over the fireplace put away.
  • It’s also recommended that specific religious or cultural decorations be stowed away in order to appeal to the largest group of people and so as not to offend anyone.

Read the full story

 

 

In other news …

 

Los Angeles Times

 

Index of California consumer sentiment falls slightly in quarter
The California Composite Index of Consumer Confidence decreased to 92.7 from a revised third-quarter reading of 93.4, which was its highest level since the recession, according to a Chapman University index released Tuesday.

 

Read the full story

 
CNN Money

 

The automated home is one step closer
By remotely controlling heat, locks, even the sprinklers, one company is making the house of the future a reality.

 

Read the full story

 
Mercury News

 

“Boomerang” home buyers bounce back from foreclosure
The number of boomerang buyers – locals who lost their home to foreclosure or short sale, but are jumping back into the market just two to three years after default – are small now, but real estate agents and home builders say that while these buyers don’t currently make up a big share of their clients, there’s evidence that their ranks are set to rise noticeably, and that could have implications for local home sales and neighborhood vitality.

 

Read the full story

 

Los Angeles Times

 

Housing is adding more vigor to the recovery, report says
The U.S. housing market is becoming the leading source of strength for the long-sluggish American economic recovery, outpacing both business investment and exports.  But even with the return of that crucial linchpin, job growth is expected to remain weak next year, a new report by UCLA says.

 

Read the full story

 
The New York Times

 

Upshot of the foreclosure backlog
Foreclosures are taking significantly longer in states where lenders must go through the courts, and the delay may or may not be good for borrowers, depending on their circumstances.  But some researchers say that dragging the process out hurts society at large.

 

Read the full story

 
Los Angeles Times

 

House flipping gets an expensive twist
Luxury-home flipping is heating up in affluent neighborhoods as well-heeled builders and investors seek better returns than they get on other investments.

 

Read the full story

 

 

 *Talking Points

  • During the holidays there are several organizations requesting donations for various causes – many of them legitimate.  However, consumers should take precautions and adhere to certain guidelines to stay safe and avoid being scammed.
  • Consumers should be cautious of individuals representing themselves as victims or officials asking for donations via email, in person, or social networking sites.
  • Also, never respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming emails, including clicking links contained within those messages, because they may contain computer viruses.
  • Additionally, beware of organizations with copycat names similar to, but not exactly the same as, those of reputable charities.

 

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C.A.R. open letter on short sales

March 10, 2011

An important message from the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®:

I write on behalf of the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, whose 170,000 members continue to witness the devastating consequences the home foreclosure crisis is having on California’s families, neighborhoods, and communities on a daily basis. 

The number of families affected by foreclosure is staggering.  During the past three years, more than 640,000 Californians have lost their homes.  With the number of homeowners who owe more than their home is worth hovering at 30 percent, experts predict there will be many more foreclosures in 2011 and 2012.  Unless we take immediate, aggressive action to assist these homeowners, any meaningful recovery in the housing market and overall economy will continue to be delayed.

Tragically, only a fraction of those who face foreclosure will remain in their homes when all is said and done.  Those whose incomes and financial circumstances meet strict guidelines may qualify for a loan modification that will reduce their monthly payment to more affordable levels.   Yet the federal Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) is expected to prevent only 700,000 to 800,000 foreclosures nationwide before it expires at the end of 2012, and the program does little to help those homeowners who are unemployed or otherwise no longer able to meet their financial commitments.  Their last hope is to sell their home, which often means convincing their lender or the investor who “owns” the loan (and, in many cases, the holder of a second mortgage lien and the mortgage insurer) to accept a “short sale.”

With a short sale, homeowners with a proven hardship negotiate an agreement to sell their home for less than the balance owed.  Although not every homeowner or mortgage is eligible, those who are able to finalize a short sale avoid a foreclosure on their credit record and can move on with their lives.  Last year, 20 percent of home sales in our state involved short sales.

Short sales can play an important role in our state’s economic recovery by accelerating the pace of home sales and reducing the inventory of bank-owned homes on the market.  There are other benefits as well.  Homebuyers who can qualify for a mortgage at today’s low interest rates also are able to purchase a home at below-market prices.  Banks get a nonperforming asset off their books and avoid the headaches associated with disposing of assets they don’t want to own in the first place.  Neighborhoods have fewer abandoned homes, and local businesses have more customers with money to spend. 

Unfortunately, many homeowners are unable to successfully negotiate a short sale.  According to a recent survey of 2,150 California REALTORS® who have assisted clients with a short sale, only three out of five transactions closed – even when there was an interested and qualified buyer. 

What’s the problem?  For one, no two mortgage agreements are the same, so it can be difficult to standardize short sale processes and procedures.  Many homeowners have second mortgages, which further complicate matters.  Then there’s the challenge of convincing multiple parties to take a financial loss or, in the case of loan servicers, to forego fees they otherwise might earn during the course of the foreclosure process.  Poor and slow service by many banks and servicers has only exacerbated the problem.  Horror stories abound from potential homebuyers and REALTORS® forced to wait 90 or more days for a response to a purchase offer or being required to fax short sale applications or other paperwork as many as 50 times.   These delays discourage potential homebuyers from considering a short sale purchase and undermine the process for those who short sales are intended to benefit – the hundreds of thousands of families facing foreclosure.   
 
Increasing the number of closed short sales by speeding up and streamlining the short sale process is one important way we can help California families avoid foreclosure and move our economy closer to recovery. That’s why the California Association of REALTORS® is taking steps to enable more families to arrange a short sale.  Recently, we advocated for improvements to short sale guidelines established under the federal Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative (HAFA) program.  We’re meeting with major banks, U.S. Treasury officials, government-sponsored entities (including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), and others to urge them to standardize processes, comply with federal guidelines, improve communication with other stakeholders and increase staffing with the goal of eliminating service issues.  We’ve also offered our members training in every aspect of the short sale process so they can assist their clients.

But we can’t do it alone.  That’s why we’re focusing the spotlight on short sales and calling on regulators, elected officials, nonprofits, business organizations, companies, and individuals with a stake in California’s economic future to resolve this issue and others that get in the way of a recovery.   It won’t be easy, and some compromises will be required.  The important thing is that we need to act today.  Our families and our communities can’t wait any longer.

Sincerely,
 
Beth L. Peerce
President
CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

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California home sales post second consecutive monthly gain in September;median price down from August

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September 2010 Regional Sales and Price Activity*
Regional and Condo Sales Data Not Seasonally Adjusted

   

 

 

Median Price

 

 

 

Percent Change in Price from Prior Month

 

 

 

Percent Change in Price from Prior Year

 

 

  

Percent Change in Sales from Prior Month

 

 

 

Percent Change in Sales from Prior Year

   

Sept. 2010

 

Aug. 2010

   

Sept. 2009

   

Aug. 2010

 

Sept. 2009

Statewide              
Calif. (sf) $309,900 -2.7%   4.5%   3.8% -12.2%
Calif. (condo) $252,880 -2.0%   -6.4%   -7.4% -14.8%
               
C.A.R. Region              
               
High Desert $124,960 -2.3%   6.1%   -7.7% -33.1%
Los Angeles $349,040 -0.2%   -0.8%   1.2% -10.0%
Monterey Region $343,000 -2.6%   11.7%   -3.7% -12.3%
Monterey County $250,000 -3.8%   8.7%   -1.8% -15.0%
Santa Cruz County $532,500 3.6%   -0.3%   -7.2% -6.6%
Northern California $245,190 -1.3%   -7.0%   1.2% 1.0%
Northern Wine Country $358,040 -5.1%   4.5%   -2.5% -3.2%
Orange County $510,530 2.2%   2.8%   1.6% -10.4%
Palm Springs/Lower Desert $169,320 -3.3%   6.0%   5.2% -7.0%
Riverside/San Bernardino $191,080 1.3%   10.8%   -3.1% -24.8%
Sacramento $181,780 -2.7%   -1.3%   -4.2% -12.3%
San Diego $388,850 1.1%   0.7%   -4.4% -10.9%
San Francisco Bay $563,480 -4.8%   5.1%   -4.3% -17.4%
San Luis Obispo $354,880 -1.1%   -8.9%   -3.6% -9.0%
Santa Barbara County $487,500 -3.3%   15.2%   -1.3% -18.8%
Santa BarbaraSouth Coast $879,750 13.5%   17.3%   -8.6% -12.9%
NorthSanta Barbara County $233,000 -6.8%   -5.6%   4.3% -24.7%
Santa Clara $620,000 -2.1%   12.1%   -3.7% -22.2%
Ventura $453,290 4.3%   2.6%   -3.9% 5.6%

 
* Based on closed escrow sales of single‑family, detached homes only (no condos).  Movements in sales prices should not be interpreted as measuring changes in the cost of a standard home.  Prices are influenced by changes in cost and changes in the characteristics and size of homes actually sold.

 sf = single‑family, detached home

Source:  CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS ® 

Median Price By Region – Current Month vs. Year Ago

  Sept. 2010 Aug. 2010   Sept. 2009
Statewide        
Calif. (sf) $309,900 $318,660   $296,610
Calif. (condo) $252,880 $257,930   $270,170
         
C.A.R. Region        
         
High Desert $124,960 $127,860   $117,820
Los Angeles $349,040 $349,600   $351,680
Monterey Region $343,000 $352,270   $307,140
  Monterey County $250,000 $260,000   $230,000
  Santa Cruz County $532,500 $514,000   $534,000
Northern California $245,190 $248,490   $263,620
Northern Wine Country $358,040 $377,110   $342,620
Orange County $510,530 $499,580   $496,790
Palm Springs/Lower Desert $169,320 $175,140   $159,810
Riverside/San Bernardino $191,080 $188,570   $172,420
Sacramento $181,780 $186,750   $184,200
San Diego $388,850 $384,700   $386,050
San Francisco Bay $563,480 $591,990   $536,080
San Luis Obispo $354,880 $358,890   $389,530
Santa Barbara County $487,500 $504,310   $423,330
     Santa BarbaraSouth Coast $879,750 $775,000 r $750,000
     NorthSanta Barbara County $233,000 $250,000   $246,870
Santa Clara $620,000 $633,250   $553,000
Ventura $453,290 $434,480   $441,670

 

r – revised

Source: CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

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