Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cautious, but Good News for the San Diego Housing Market in 2010

With prices up 6.6% in San Diego County, the medium priced home now $325,000, and the number of homes sold up 18% compared to one year ago, it is fair to say that San Diego County is in a stabilizing market. Just last week appraiser, Leon Crowell, confirmed, "We can no longer say we are in a declining market. "

While some are cautiously optomistic about the unemployment rate improving from 10.7% in October, the highest rate since the Great Depression, to 10.3% in November. According to Chrisopher Thornberg, who was one of the first economists to forecast a major recession, said the recession has hit it peak. "All the data shows that the U.S. economy has more or less bottomed out. We should only be surprised if unemployment wasn't peaking. The bigger issue is how fast of a recovery we're going to see," said Thornberg, who works for Beacon Economics in Los Angeles.

Coupled with the news that foreclosures rates are dropping. According to the MDA DataQuick, San Diego County Foreclosures by all lenders totaled 11,393 from January to October was down from 15,414 for the same period last year. The reduction continues, the number of foreclosures in October 2009 numbered 1,346 dropping 4.7% to 1,283 in November. Some believe under government pressure and incentives, banks are delaying or canceling foreclosures while working with home owners to modify their loans or arrange for short sales.

In the short term, the reduction in foreclosures and the reduction in unemployment could help stabilize the economy and housing market, prompting homeowners with equity, not in distress, to sell and buy another home. Some believe that many owners will still hold back because of loss in value compared to a few years ago. Since 2006, prices tumbled as a result of many homes being lost to foreclosures. But as one of my wise sellers recently said, this is the time to sell and move up because "while my home value has fallen, I will get a better deal on my new home and 10 years from now, the home I am buying will be worth much more in proportion."

So while I agree with Thornberg, the question is how quickly the recovery will occur, it does seem there is hope on the horizon.

--Virginia Hall
ABR®, CRS®, e-Pro®, GRI®
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585

Friday, December 11, 2009

Uncle Sam's Christmas Gift

While everyone is bustling around buying gifts and attending parties, there are still serious buyers out there making multiple offers on well maintained homes.

If you atticipate the need to sell your home, now is a great time to market it. The number of homes for sale are typically lower at this time of year due the holidays. With fewer serious buyers trampling through your home and the Christmas decorations adding a romantic ambience, make it the perfect time to sell.

If you need to sell, it definitely won't get sold unless you have it on the market. Worried about theft? Hiring a Realtor who uses computerized Sentri lockboxes, provides the ability to track agents and their clients entering the home.

Many sellers think waiting until spring is the best time to sell. However this year, with the Tax credit extension, buyers must have an accepted offer by April 30, 2010 and close by June 30,2010 leaving only a few more months. So if you are facing a possible foreclosure and want to sell your home before that, you need to consider that banks typically take several months to approve short pay sales.

If you are moving up, you may qualify for the $6500 tax credit. The tax credit does have income limits and the home-price cannot be above $800,000. Read more about it in Homebuyer Tax Credit Extension & Expansion . However, if you can afford to move up, this is the perfect time to sell and buy a bigger or better home.

Many move-up home buyers say they are waiting for home prices to go back up to regain the equity that they have lost in the last couple of years. For those who have lost all of their equity, there is no choice. They must wait for the equity to return. However, for those who have some equity and plan to wait until they regain what they have lost, may find themselves behind the curve.

Several years from now when home prices begin to rise again, as they historically do in San Diego County, the home equity growth will all be in proportion to the price of the home. For example, if you purchase a home of $350,000 versus a home of $700,000, in 10 years from now if the home value rises 10% then you will have gained $70,000 in the $700,000 versus $35,000 in the $350,000 home. During the downturn, if you have lost about 30% of your home equity, on your $350,000 house, then you will be down about $150,000 in equity. In comparison, the $700,000 house has lost about $300,000 in equity, twice as much. So in the long run when home prices go back up as they historically do, by moving up now, then you will be up $150,000 in equity.

Don't delay take advantage of Uncle Sam's Christmas Gift.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Homebuyer Tax Credit Extension & Expansion

If you haven't heard the news already, the First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit has been extended, as well as the new bill includes a tax incentive for existing homeowners as well. Homeowners who have owned their current homes at least five years, are now eligible for tax credits of up to $6,500 when they purchase a new home. To qualify, buyers in both groups have to sign a purchase agreement by April 30, 2010 and close by June 30.

The credit is available for the purchase of principal homes costing $800,000 or less, excluding vacation homes. Single individuals with annual incomes above $125,000 and for joint filers with incomes above $225,000 would not be eligible.

Other provisions in the bill, include taxpayers will be eligible to claim the credit on purchases made in 2010 on their 2009 income tax returns. The bill also established that home buyers do not have to repay the credit provided the home remains their primary residence for 36 months after purchase, and waives this requirement for active duty military personnel who move due to a military order.

While some may feel the tax credit may be adding to the National debt, according to the National Association of Realtors, economists estimate that the current tax credit has already contributed approximately $22 billion to the general economy, and approximately 2 million people will take advantage of the tax credit this year.

Some think that they didn't need to give such large tax credits. Or was it large enough? What do you think?

If you would like more information, please contact me.

Virginia Hall
ABR®, CRS®, e-Pro®, GRI®
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585

Monday, October 19, 2009

Buyers, Don’t Forget Your Pre-Approval Letter!

Many buyers consider shopping for a home, like a buying a car. When is the last time you checked with your lender before buying a car? However, it is a much bigger investment and by getting a preapproval letter, you can step smoothly into home ownership.

But you looked on-line at a mortgage calculator. These wonderful tools are helpful to get a rough idea of what your monthly payment might be, but a lender will use many factors to decide what type of loan you qualify for and for how much.

If you are serious about buying a home, check with your Realtor® on who they might refer. Realtors® know which lenders will deal with their clients in a professional, timely manner and will find any obstacles upfront, rather than half way through the purchase that might cause a problem.

A preapproval letter from a lender, before you begin seriously shopping for a home, will save you hours of wasted time and frustration for the following reasons:

1) A pre-approval letter is more reliable than a pre-qualification letter. Getting a pre-qualification letter is easy. You just call a mortgage broker or lender, provide some basic financial information, then wait a few minutes for the letter to come through your fax machine. Getting a “pre-qual” from a Web site is just as easy. Enter some information, click “submit” and in no time you have a letter. A pre-approval letter, on the other hand, involves verification of the information. Rather than taking your word on faith, the lender will ask for documentation to confirm your employment, the source of your down payment and other aspects of your financial circumstances. Granted, a pre-approval is more time-consuming (and possibly more stressful) than a pre-qualification The additional due diligence is exactly why the pre-approval carries more weight.

2) You’ll know how much money you can qualify to borrow. Most home buyers have a rough idea of how much they would feel comfortable paying every month on their mortgage. However, there’s no quick-and-dirty way to translate that monthly payment into a specific maximum mortgage amount because other factors — down payment percentage, mortgage insurance, property taxes, adjustable interest rates and so on — are part of the calculation. And, you might not be qualified to borrow as much as you think you should be able to borrow, depending on your income, your debts and your credit history.

3) You’ll have more leverage in negotiations with the seller. Sellers often prefer to negotiate with pre-approved buyers because the sellers know such buyers are financially qualified to obtain the financing they need to close the transaction. A pre-approval letter is an especially favorable point in a close multiple offer situation. And, you might feel more confident about making an offer with a pre-approval letter in hand and the knowledge that you’ll be able to obtain a mortgage.

4) Your Realtor® will work harder on your behalf. A pre-approval letter signals to your real estate agent that you’re a well-qualified buyer who is serious about purchasing a home. The increased likelihood of a closed sale — and a commission — will naturally motivate your agent to devote more time and energy to you. In fact, some agents won’t even show property to buyers who don’t have a pre-approval letter.

5) A few caveats: Pre-approval letters are not binding on the lender, are subject to an appraisal of the home you want to purchase and are time-sensitive. If your financial situation changes (e.g., you lose your job, apply for credit or run up credit-card bills), interest rates rise or a specified expiration date passes, the lender will review your situation and recalculate your maximum mortgage amount accordingly.

--Virginia Hall
ABR®, CRS®, e-Pro®, GRI®
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Clear Choice: Upgrading Windows

If you feel a draft every time you walk by your windows, it’s probably time to replace them. Likewise, windows that stick, glass that is cold to the touch, and costly energy bills despite new insulation and other home repairs are all signs that you’ve put off replacing them for too long.

Whether you intend to buy and install the windows yourself or have a pro do it for you, do the research first. Know your window type: double-hung windows that slide up and down, casement windows that swing out, awning windows, etc. Then pick your preferred framing material, such as wood, vinyl or fiberglass. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, from style to price to longevity.

You must also consider where you live; energy needs in the Northwest differ from those in the Deep South. Ratings for energy efficiency, light visibility, air leakage and other factors are available from government programs such as Energy Star, publications such as Consumer Reports and industry sources such as the National Fenestration Rating Council.

Armed with the right information, you can shop smarter. Have a target price in mind, get estimates and have the patience to wait for the best possible price.


Handy tip: The sun’s rays cause window streaking, so save that part of spring cleaning for a cloudy day. Source:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

3 Low Cost Tips for a Sure Sale: Preparing Your Home to Sell

As home prices begin to slowly rise, homeowners think about preparing their homes to sell. The goal of taking some time to prepare your home is to sell in the shortest time for the most money. A good place to start is contacting an experienced Realtor®, a few months in advance, for advice on how to prepare your home.

Where do you begin?

1. Clean and De-clutter. The least expensive, yet the most important task, that people underestimate is a thorough scrubbing of the home. When you are selling your home, you need to cleans every corner, bleach out spots or replace grouts in kitchen and bathrooms. Aluminum, mirrors and windows must shine. Clean walls, or touch up paint, and lastly clean carpets.

If you have been squeezing by furniture, you need to remove a piece furniture to open up the room. Clear out as much as possible to make the home look bigger. Clear off counters and table tops. Visit a few open houses to see what works. Remove all personal photos or items. Think Model Home, impersonal. Preparing a home to live in and sell, are two very different things.

2. Curb Appeal. Mow and edge the lawn or weeds. With the water regulations, you may need to add some Ammonia Sulfate to your lawn and water a bit more to green it up. Check with your local nursery for more information. Right before listing the home, add some colorful plants out front.

3. Repair or Replace. Some homeowners begin with a home inspection by a qualified home inspector, before putting it on the market, to correct any issues that may be used to negotiate the price down. A few hundred dollars in an inspection and repairs, may save the homeowner thousands of dollars in the price.

While quite often homeowners know where the problems are, but may not have the money needed to deal with them. To save money, they may try to do the repairs themselves. Simple repairs may be okay, but often you need an expert to fix the problem. Otherwise, you may fix it so no one else can fix it. Then it may end up costing more in the long run. Anyone who has ever looked under a kitchen sink and thought replacing a garbage disposal would just be a easy fix, a matter of unscrewing a few screws and screwing on a new one, can attest to this.

If you do not have the money to make the repairs, the price may need to be adjusted or credits may be given to the buyer. So knowing up front what you need to do will save time and money.

Another issue that impacts many homes in San Diego County due our expansive soil includes cracked foundations. Signs that may turn buyers away such as cracks in walls and flooring should be investigated before trying to repair or cover them up. The expert's report may say it is nothing, putting the buyer at ease, or it may say it will cost thousands of dollars to repair. Either way, the law requires that you disclose material facts like this to the buyers. While you may not have the money to make the repairs, this has to be disclosed. The buyer has a right to know what they are buying. This may impact the price, but save you a visit to court.

Other issues that need to be disclosed, if you have knowledge of it, include unpermitted rooms. If you are uncertain, it is up the buyers to investigate. However, knowing up front, could save time with FHA or VA buyers who may not qualify for their loans as a result of unpermitted rooms. See my blog FHA & VA Buyers Be on Look Out--10 Most Common Home Problems .

Using these 3 simple tips will help you sell your home faster and for top dollar. For other home selling tips see my blog Price Wars and Beauty Contests--8 Simple Tips to Win.

--Virginia Hall
ABR, CRS, e-Pro, GRI
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Monday, August 31, 2009

The San Diego Appraisal Nightmare

The buzz among Realtors today is the appraisals are coming in low, gumming up the sale of homes. While the inventory of homes decreases in San Diego County, the law of supply and demand pushes prices upwards. However, how far above the last comparable home sale can they go?

Sellers can ask a ten-million dollars for their home, but will the comparable home prices in the area support the price? This is a fair and honest question that Sellers need to seriously consider when choosing a price to list their home at.

The pendulum seems to have swung the opposite direction. A few years ago, appraisers chosen by lenders, seemed to search for properties that supported the rising prices. When prices began to turn, declining, and people began to walk away from homes that were no longer worth what they payed for them, the appraisers were often blamed for over-inflating the home prices. Some were even held accountable for their inaccurate appraisals.

Now appraisers are faced with a several challenges and producing conservative prices that are seeming to error on the low side, rather than risk over-valuing a home. Some believe that due to new regulations, appraisers are now chosen from a pool rather than the individual lenders in hopes of a more impartial appraisal, has led to appraisers sometimes working out of unfamiliar territories. They may not know be familiar with the local area and only have the multiple listing information about properties versus first hand knowledge. The second issue they face is there is still a supply of lower priced foreclosures and short sale homes that may be the only comparable homes available.

So what is a seller to do when their home appraisal comes in under the offer price? You can appeal the appraisal, which involves reviewing it to find factual errors, detailing why the comparable homes were not good comparisons, and coming up with better comparable homes. Or there is always back to the drawing board and renegotiate the price.

As the number of offers multiplies on well maintained or even average homes with good bones, sellers will be looking for the buyers prepared to bring in extra cash to pull the appraisal and offer price together should it come in low. So buyers need to be prepared with extra cash to back up their offers.

--Virginia Hall
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Friday, July 31, 2009

What are FHA Buyers to do? The New FHA 203K Loan Option

First time home buyers are growing frustrated as the number of available homes for sale in San Diego County declines. They can't seem to find a home that will qualify for their FHA loan or they can't seem to beat out the all cash and conventional loan buyers.

FHA loans have strict guidelines on what and won't qualify. Homes that will not qualify include those that are missing kitchen cabinets, heaters, toilets, worn roofs, unpermited garage conversion, or perhaps the seller won't pay for the required termite work.

What are FHA buyers to do? Don't give up. Looking through all those foreclosures and homes with deferred maintenance may now be the way to go. A new loan called the FHA 203K has recently emerged onto the scene. It will give buyers the opportunity to buy a home that may be in need of up to $35,000 in repairs. The repairs can include termite work, a new roof, a new kitchen or bathroom updates, converting back an unpermited garage. Often the seller or the bank won't pay for these improvement. Yet without many of these repairs being addressed the home would be uninhabitable. So there is usually less competition for these homes.

How does the FHA 203K loan work? Buyers still need to meet the FHA loan guidelines and bring in their 3 1/2% down . However, the big difference is the cost of needed renovation or upgrades will be added to the loan. The contractors have to be approved and the repairs must be completed within 6 months following the close of escrow. The added inspections and paper work can extend out the escrow a couple of weeks. While the interest rate may be higher than the traditional FHA loan, some sellers may be willing to help with closing costs to pay down interest rates to keep the loan affordable for the buyer and get the home sold.

So FHA buyers don't despair. There is still time to find that first home and collect the $8,000 tax credit. For more information on the tax credit, see my blog Uncle Sam Giving Money Away to First-Time Homebuyers .

--Virginia Hall, ABR, CRS, e-Pro, GRI
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Raze the Roof

From painting and HVAC to organizing and yard upkeep, there’s so much to think about when it comes to home care that it’s easy to overlook the one thing that protects it all — until it starts to leak.

Your roof is one of the most important parts of your house, and it also happens to take the biggest beating, thanks to the elements and general wear and tear.

A new roof is a hefty investment — it can cost $6,000 to $20,000 or more — so how do you know when to replace it or just repair it? Here are some tips for knowing when to patch and when to overhaul:
• As a general rule, roofs usually last 12 to 20 years, depending on the climate. If your roof is approaching the 20-year mark, shingles are more likely to be worn out, and flashing around chimneys, eaves and skylights might have decayed, leaving your roof prone to leaks.
• If there are a lot of missing or torn shingles, as opposed to just a few, then it’s best to replace the roof. Shingles also curl up and crack as they age, making them unable to resist water and exposing your home to leaks and interior damage.
• Inspect the interior walls that touch the roof. If paint is missing, they are moist to the touch or there are water stains in the house, it’s clear that water has seeped in, and the roof will most likely need to be replaced. But finding one or two leaks in a specific location could mean that a roof patch will be enough to stall any potential damage.
• Extreme weather can wreak havoc on your roof. If prolonged conditions such as rain, hail and direct sunlight have exposed parts of the house from the top, a minor patch will not be enough to protect the interior, and the roof will need to be replaced.
Keeping your roof clean and in good repair should prevent costly replacements for years to come. But before attempting any patch or replacement, talk to an experienced roofer.


Friday, July 10, 2009

FHA & VA Buyers Be on the Look Out--10 Most Common Home Problems

With no more 100% conventional financing available, many first time home buyers are turning to the FHA and VA lending. While the FHA loans require 3.5% down and, if you qualify, the VA loans requires zero down, these loans do have their challenges.

With the interest rates still reasonable, many investors and conservative borrowers are out making their moves on lower end properties that can make the offers from FHA and VA borrowers less appealing because of the stringent property condition requirements and financial volatility of the buyer and their qualifications.

The number of well maintained homes grows limited in San Diego County, increasing the number multiple offers. While it is possible to find a clean home that qualifies for FHA or VA lending and still have the seller pay your closing costs, it is more challenging. When competing with multiple offers, being able to pay some of all of your closing costs will definitely help your position.

However, if you have limited funds and need the seller to help pay for your closing costs, then you should plan to look at homes in a slightly lower price bracket and plan to offer above the asking price, or be prepared to settle for a home that is slightly dated but functional.

While the home condition guidelines for the FHA and VA loans are very similar, they are not always clear cut. The home will be inspected by a specially trained appraiser who will note any safety or health issues that may pose a risk for the buyer and require they be fixed before close of escrow. Below is a list of some of the most common list of repairs that will require attention before having an appraisal for a FHA and VA loan:

1. Any useful components (appliances if present, floor covering, etc.) of the home, especially the roof, should have 2 years of useful life remaining. A roof should not be leaking and have no more than 3 layers of shingles.
2. If the homes was built prior to 1978 , exterior and interior paint that is peeling must be scraped and painted.
3. Must have a functioning heater. Wall heaters must be designed to heat the entire home.
4. Health and Safety Hazards (ie. electric garage door opener won't reverse with resistance; burglar bars, etc. )
5. Broken windows and doors should be replaced.
6. Safety handrails should be installed in open stairwells of three or more stairs.
7. Termite inspections required, as well as any infestations of any kind should be exterminated (ie., insects, mice, bats, etc.)
8. Damaged or inoperable plumbing has to be repaired.
9. Structural or foundation problems must be repaired. Crawl spaces must be accessible for inspection.
10. Electrical box/system should have no frayed or exposed wires.

VA and FHA requires that Condo complexes be approved. Since very few FHA and VA loans were being used when many of the newer developments were being built and some of the developers did not want to pay the extra fees required to get that approval, you may want to check these websites for complexes that are approved . For FHA see and for VA

Sometimes, the buyer can negotiate in the purchase agreement that certain obvious conditions be fixed. However, quite often the sellers may not be able to or won't repair these items. So it may be in your best interest to avoid the problem homes all together.

--Virginia Hall
DRE License 01409760
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

19 Helpful Water Saving Tips

As of June 1, 2009, mandatory water restrictions started for most of San Diego County. A three year drought has reduced the supply from the state water project in Northern California. We are already using reserves for everyday water. For more information about the restrictions, you can visit

Here are 19 tips for conserving water on your own:

In The Bathroom
1. While waiting for hot water to come through the pipes, catch the cool, clean, water in a bucket or a watering can. You can use it later to water plants, run your garbage disposer, or pour into the toilet bowl to flush. (Can save up to 50 gallons a week per person.)
2. Replace your regular showerheads with low-flow showerheads. (Can save up to 230 gallons a week.)
3. Keep your showers down to five minutes or less using a low-flow showerhead. (Can save up to 75 gallons a week per person.)
4. Turn the water off while lathering-up in the shower. Then turn the water back on to quickly rinse. (Can save up to 75 gallons a week per person.
5. Take shallow baths, no more than 3 inches of water. (Can save up to 100 gallons a week per person.)
6. Replace your older model toilets with new ultra-low-flush models. (Can save up to 350 gallons a week.)
7. Check your toilets for leaks. Drop a dye tablet or a teaspoon of food coloring (avoid red) in the tank. If color appears in the bowl after 15 minutes, you probably need to replace the "flapper" valve. (Can save up to 100 gallons a week for each toilet repaired.)
8. Flush the toilet only when necessary. Never use the toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket. (Can save up to 50 gallons a week.)
9. Never let the water run while brushing your teeth or shaving. (Can save up to 35 gallons a week per person.)

In The Kitchen
10. Hand wash dishes just once a day using the least amount of detergent possible. This will cut down on rinsing. Use a sprayer or short blasts of water to rinse. (Can save up to 100 gallons a week.)
11. If you have a dishwasher, run it only when you have a full load. (Can save up to 30 gallons a week.)
12. Scrape food scraps off dishes in the garbage can or rinse them off with very short blasts of water. (Can save up to 60 gallons a week.)
13. Never use hot, running water to defrost frozen foods. Plan ahead and place frozen items in the refrigerator overnight or use the microwave oven. (Can save up to 50 gallons a week.)
14. Rinse vegetables and fruits in a sink or a pan filled with water instead of under running water. (Can save up to 30 gallons a week.)
15. Run your garbage disposer only on alternate days. (Can save up to 25 gallons a week.)

Around The House
16. Repair all leaky faucets, fixtures and pipes both inside and outside your home. (Can save more than 150 gallons for each leak.)
17. When doing the laundry, never wash less than a full load. (Can save up to 100 gallons a week.)

18. Set lawn mower blades one notch higher since longer grass reduces evaporation. Leave grass clippings on your grass, this cools the ground and holds in moisture.
19. Mulch, compost and wood chips are available at the Miramar Greenery.

From the City of San Diego's Water Conservation program.

Join your neighbors and community in conserving water.

---Virginia Hall

Thursday, June 18, 2009

San Diego County Median Home Prices Slowly Climb

Good news for the over-all San Diego market. The countywide medium home price increased again in May. According to the DataQuick the Median Home Price hit $295,000in May, a $15,000 rise since January and $5000 in May.

Since January, three out of five areas of San Diego County continue a modest recovery. While overall prices are still down 22.6% from a year ago, Buyer activity remains steady.

While the number of "All Homes and Condos" sold countywide decreased by 133 in May compared to April, the number of "New Homes and Condos" increased by 19. Most of May’s increases were seen in higher valued condo sales, which increased from $182,000in April to $199,000 last month.

For example, while Santee showed a 4% decrease in resale house prices from April, the New Home and Condo sale showed increases from April--resale condo prices rose 4% along with new home sales 28%.

While the number of foreclosures decreased from 43.1 percent of all resales in May compared to 51.1 percent in March, some believe the 90 day foreclosure moratorium that went into effect on 6/15/09 along with banks attempting to modify loans may be producing a temporary reduction in the number of foreclosures.

"DataQuick analysts suggested that home prices may have bottomed out, but caution that price depreciation may be hitting more affluent neighborhoods because of mortgage defaults and impatient owners of higher-end homes who need to sell in the current market," according to Ned Randolph, San Diego Business Journal.

The number of homes sold at prices greater than $500,000 has gradually increased from 18.8 percent in March to 20.5 percent in April to 23.1 percent in May.

However, with the reduction in the number of homes available down to about two months supply, demand should continue to push prices slowly upwards.

--Virginia Hall
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bad News Good News--Santee Housing Market

The bad news always seems to be first, when the media talks about the housing market. While bad news may sell more, a lot depends on how you are looking at it--half full or half empty.

The statistics for April emerged yesterday. While the job layoffs and economy is definitely slowing the housing market return, some areas of San Diego are still sputtering along showing signs of revival. From January until April home prices have slowly climbed in the East County.

While year over year home values have shown a 26.5% decline from April 2008 to April 2009; although, since January the medium home prices in the East County have actually increased 4% from $240,000 in January 2009 to $250,000 in April 2009. Other signs of recover include the number of home sales increased 51% year over year from 323 in April 2008 to 488 in April 2009.

Like several areas of San Diego, Santee home prices have also risen since January the medium home prices have risen from $270,000 to $285,000 in April, over 5% increase. However, again looking at it year over year, from April 2008 to April 2009, it has declined 20.2%. The number of homes in Santee remained steady, from 58 in April 2008 to 59 in April 2009.

As I mentioned in What Happened to All the Houses on the MLS?, with the declining inventory we should continue to see the housing prices slowly recover. If you have been waiting for the bottom to hit, we may have already seen it. So with the interest rates low and all of the buyer incentives mentioned in Uncle Sam Giving Money Away to First-Time Homebuyers and Buy Today with Recession Proof Plans now is the opportune time to buy.

--Virginia Hall

As I mentioned in What Happened to All the Houses on the MLS?, with the declining inventory we should continue to see the housing prices slowly recover. If you have been waiting for the bottom to hit, we may have already seen it. So with the interest rates low and all of the buyer incentives mentioned in Uncle Sam Giving Money Away to First-Time Homebuyers and Buy Today with Recession Proof Plans now is the opportune time to buy.

--Virginia Hall

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What Happened to All the Houses on the MLS?

Frustrated agents and buyers cheer the new change at Sandicor, the San Diego County area multiple listing service (MLS). As a result of a change that occurred on 5/20/09 , about a third to one-half of the homes that were listed as "Active" moved to a new category titled "Contingent" overnight. This will eliminate the frustration of many buyers who find the perfect home only to find out it has multiple offers on it.

Before Wednesday, these homes showed actively listed, while indeed they were not available for offers. However, listing agents were unable to move them to "Pending" until the bank officially approved the offers. Agents seemed to be at odds with each other due to the added work to find truly available properties.

The reduction in the number of available homes will certainly seal the changing tide of the Housing Market, that many agents and buyers have been feeling already. The inventory of homes for sale has gone from about 3 1/2 months in San Diego County to about 2 months. While it is uncertain because of the economy, the law of supply and demand should cause the 2009 Housing Prices to slowly climb.

Although interests rates are still low and first time home buyers have lots of great incentives to take advantage of, including the items in the Economic Stimulus Package that can be found in my blogs Grab That Golden Housing Ring! and the Mortgage Protection Program outlined in
Buy Today with Recession Proof Plans.

--Virginia Hall

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Help for Military Being Forced to Sell Their Homes

"I am being transferred," said my client, a navy captain . I hated to break the news to him that his home value in San Diego had fallen $100,000 since he had bought it in 2005. I discussed his options which included a short sale. However, since he owned another home in Florida this might not have been the best option for him. The banks could potentially attach a lien to the small amount of equity that he had in that property. I encouraged him to talk to a Military lawyer and to talk to his commander. Fortunately, he was able to delay his transfer. However, not all military personnel are so fortunate.

It didn't seem fair. The military serving our country and risking their lives, and as a result of being transferred, at no fault of their own, they could lose everything and face financial ruin. Finally, help is on the way.

Recently, as the result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, The Department of Defense(DOD) Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP) was expanded to include military members affected by the housing market, who face financial hardships as a result of being permanently reassigned during the mortgage crisis.

Below are the eligibility requirements:

1. Permanent reassignment requiring move of more than 50 miles.

2. Reassignment ordered between 1 February 2006 and 30 September 2012 (or earlier date designated by SECDEF (Secretary of Defense).

3. Property purchased (or contract to purchase signed) before 1 July 2006.

4. Property sold by owner between 1 July 2006 and 30 September 2012, or earlier date designated by SECDEF.

5. Property was the primary residence of the owner.

6. Owner has not previously received these benefit payments.The process is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, however each base should have a focal point (MPF or housing office) for this program to provide local guidance/oversight and to validate eligibility based on PCS (permanent change of station) orders.

According to the Homeowners' Assistance Program--Department of Defense website the funding policy process is still being worked out, and according to some sources may be available as soon as May 15, 2009.

The instructions and application can be downloaded from the website above. The link provides all the information about the program and specifically on PCS eligibility when you click on "Service Members Homeowners on PCS".

While the application processing will commence as soon as possible after the DOD guidance is posted, they encouraged potential service members to submit an application. The application is found under "How to Apply". They will process the applications based on the implementation guidance.

Having two sons who are veterans and one that is still in the reserves, it is good to know our country is offering the military help during a difficult time.

Virginia Hall, ABR®, GRI® , e-Pro
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Friday, May 1, 2009

Uncle Sam Giving Money Away to First-Time Homebuyers

What a great opportunity for the first time homebuyer! If you have been considering buying a home, but have been waiting for the opportune time...well it has arrived. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Federal government has enacted the Homebuyer Tax Credit providing an $8,000 tax credit to first-time home buyers (or buyers who have not owned a private residence in the past three years) who purchase a home that they will live in on or after January 1, 2009 and on or before November 30, 2009. Unlike the previous 2008 tax credit, this credit does not require repayment and will be used to reduce the purchaser’s income taxes. If any of the credit remains unused, it will be refunded.

The National Association of REALTORS recently came out with the details:

How does it works?
• The Tax credit has been raised from $7,500 to $8,000 or 10% of purchase price (whichever is less).
• The credit does not require repayment.
• First time home buyers or buyers who have not owned a home in the last 3 years.
• To qualify, a single person must make less than $75,000 a year in income.
• Joint ownership must make less than $150,000 a year in income to qualify.
• Qualified buyers must purchase home on or after January 1, 2009 and no later than November 30, 2009.
• The property must be the primary residence.
• Purchaser must remain in home for 3 years or the credit will be recaptured at the sale of home.

Are there restrictions for the home I want to purchase?
• The primary residence can be a condo, single family detached, co-op, townhouse or something similar
• The home must be located in the United States.
• Vacation homes and rental properties are not eligible.
• For new construction, the “purchase date” is the date you occupy the home. So the move in date must be before December 1, 2009.

Who is not eligible for the credit?
• If your income exceeds the phase-out range. This means joint filers with Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) of $170,000 and above and other taxpayers with MAGI of $95,000 and above.
• You may not buy your home from a close relative. This includes your spouse, parent, grandparent, child or grandchild.
• Vacation homes and rental properties are not eligible
• If you stop using your home as your main home.
• If you sell your home before the end of three years.
• If you are a nonresident alien you are not eligible

Recapture-3 Year Residency
• If the home is sold prior to three years of ownership, the tax credit must be repaid at closing.
• This provision is designed to prevent flipping homes in order to get the credit.

Other Provisions
• Purchasers who utilize state/local revenue bond financing can now use the credit.
• Purchasers who bought before January 1, 2009 and received the previous $7,500 tax credit are still subject to the terms of that repayable credit.

When Can I Claim the Credit?
• It can be claimed on your 2008 Tax Return (to be filed by April 15, 2009), an amended 2008 Tax Return, or your 2009 Tax Return.

So don't let this great opportunity pass you by...Buy!

Virginia Hall

Saturday, April 18, 2009

8 Tips to Maintain Beautiful Wood Flooring

Houses with wood flooring sell faster and for more. Wood flooring continues to be the popular choice among many homeowners. Hardwood...Pergo...Bamboo...There are a multitude of options. Before investing into a wood flooring, homeowners need to investigate which one will work best with their families and lifestyle. You will want to visit the National Wood Flooring Association website for more information on styles and types of flooring.

While there is a variety of Wood floors styles and types, with the advances in stains and finishes, most require little more than sweeping with a soft-bristle broom and an occasional cleaning with a reputable wood floor cleaner.

According to the National Wood Flooring Association, the following tips will help protect and maintain your hardwood floors:

1. Use a cleaner that is specially made for wood floors. Avoid using sheet vinyl and tile floor care products. Self-polishing acrylic waxes can cause the wood to become slippery and appear dull quickly.
2. Use throw rugs both inside and outside of doorways to prevent scratches and keep dirt and grit from being tracked onto the floor.
3. When cleaning, do not use a wet mop. Standing water can dull the finish, damage the wood and leave a discoloring residue.
4. Wipe up spills immediately with a slightly dampened towel.
5. Avoid walking on wood floors with cleats, high heels and sport shoes, which can dent the floors.
6. When moving heavy furniture, pick it up instead of sliding it. Place guides under furniture legs to prevent scuffing and scratching.
7. For wood floors in the kitchen, place an area rug in front of the kitchen sink.
8. Use a humidifier throughout the winter months to keep wood movement and shrinkage to a minimum.

Using these tips, will help to maintain the luster and beauty of your wood flooring.

For more tips on preparing your home to sell, see my blog Price Wars and Beauty Contests--8 Simple Tips to Win!

--Virginia Hall

Friday, April 10, 2009

Buy Today with Recession Proof Plans

Afraid to buy a home during this Economic Recession? Afraid of losing your job? Then how will you make your house payments? Even in good times and even if you are renting, this is a concern. But not quite as much as now when the news is filled with layoffs and people you know in San Diego are losing their jobs.

Normally, I would say you need to have some reserves and then you just have to find another job. However, in these uncertain times it may take longer than usual. Well the California Association of Realtors® has the come up with a safety net that you can rely on to make that leap of faith into home ownership with a secure feeling.

On April 2, James Lipsak, the 2009 C.A.R. President, announced, "Through the C.A.R. Housing Affordability Fund Mortgage Protection Program (C.A.R.H.A.F. MPP), first-time home buyers who lose their jobs due to layoffs may be eligible to receive up to $1,500 per month for up to six months to help make their mortgage payments. A qualified co-buyer also can participate in the program, for a reduced monthly benefit of $750 per month for up to six months in the event of a job loss. Program benefits also include coverage for accidental disability and a $10,000 death benefit. C.A.R.’s Housing Affordability Fund is dedicating $1 million to the program this year, and estimates that as many as 3,000 families will benefit from the program throughout 2009."

"To qualify for the Mortgage Protection Program, applicants must:
. Be a first-time home buyer – someone who has not owned a home in the last three years
. Open escrow April 2, 2009, or later, and close on or before Dec. 31, 2009
. Use a California REALTOR® in the transaction
. Purchase the property in California
. Be a W-2 employee (cannot be self-employed or military personnel)
First-time home buyers must request an application for the H.A.F. Mortgage Protection Program from their REALTOR®."

"The Mortgage Protection Program is a proactive approach by C.A.R. to address consumers’ concerns about the real estate market and their ability to make their mortgage payments should they loose their jobs. I encourage you to take full advantage of this new program by sharing information about the C.A.R.H.A.F. Mortgage Protection Program with your clients. There is no cost to either you or your clients to participate."

So don't let the uncertain times keep you from making your move. Know that this plan is there if you should need it.

--Virginia Hall

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Negotiating--Powerful Representation To Get What You Need

"I want what I want, and when I want it!" This is an unrealistic attitude to have when buying and selling homes. Buyers and Sellers need to remain open to winning some battles and losing others.

Negotiating is defined as “the art of influencing or persuading others.” It is a essential skill for a Realtor® who is representing Buyers and Sellers. However, it is important to point out that negotiating is not about taking unfair advantage of someone and should never involve dishonest or unethical behavior. In persuading or influencing others, our goal is to create genuine win-win outcomes by helping people see where they do, in fact, share common ground and can benefit from a give-and-take arrangement that advances their mutual interests.

A suave Realtor®, who understands your needs and is skilled at negotiating, acts as a buffer between you and the other party. They know where you stand and look out for your needs. While there is give, there is also take. They understand how to negotiate and work to get the majority of your needs met. By the end of the transaction, both parties should feel somewhat satisfied not angry and bitter.

Although, quite often the market has a bearing on the outcome of the negotiations. For example, if you are a buyer competing with multiple offers you may have to pay a bit more than you wanted to for the property and accept more imperfections than you hoped for. On the other hand, if you are a seller and haven't had an offer in 2 months, you may take less for the property than you expected. A Realtor® who understands your position will educate you on what is reasonable and unreasonable in the negotiations. However, they won't be afraid to ask for the unreasonable if it is in your best interest.

While, the buyer or seller may be adamant about their stand and they seem to be winning all the battles. If the market is leaning in their favor, you could stand firm and lose the transaction all together or reluctantly compromise one more time.
Sometimes, understanding that by getting over these bumps ultimately leads to your goal, the sale. Don't judge the method, but judge the results.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Price Wars and Beauty Contests--8 Simple Tips to Win!

Buying a home is an emotional decision. Buyers are making multiple offers on homes that may need new plumbing or furnaces; but the floors are swept, the bathrooms shine, the fragrance of muffins linger in the kitchen, the beds are wrinkle free made with simple but stylish bed spreads, light flows through clean windows, and the counters are clutter free with a few designer touches.

While lower prices and good photos on the internet are getting people into the home, the Sellers who stage their home with a few simple moves will appeal to all the Buyer's senses and will get multiple offers. Buyers driven by their desire to have that particular home are getting into bidding wars. The sellers are ending up with thousands of dollars above where they started.

8 Simple Tips:

1. Clean up the yard. Weed and cut the grass. At the last minute, add a few plants that are in bloom for color.
2. Remove Clutter. Removing clutter makes the rooms feel bigger.
3. Deep cleaning is a must. Floorings must be cleaned. Kitchens and bathrooms must sparkle. Kitchen counters tops must be cleared. Trashcans must be emptied. Remove litter boxes to the garage or clean everyday to reduce any odors.
4. Simple Stylish Decorating. Open up the room by reducing excessive furniture. Freshen up the home with neutral colored paint. Remove all personal items and photos. Set a beautiful inviting table. Play soft music for atmosphere. More decorating ideas can be found on Better Homes and Gardens (
5. Let the Sun Shine in. Open window blinds and drapes or turn on lights for a bright cheery home.
6. Simple Repairs Can Make a Huge Difference. Loose knobs, dripping faucets, burned out light bulbs, sticking doors and windows, warped cabinet drawers and other minor flaws detract from the home value. Have them fixed.
7. Safety. Keep stairways clear. Remove throw rugs on slippery surfaces. Tack down any loose carpets or protruding boards. Dogs must be kenneled or restrained.
8. Clear Out Closets. Neat, well-organized closets make them look bigger and show that space is ample.

With the advice of an experienced Realtor®, who can give you more staging tips, will make all the difference in how easily and quickly you sell your home--to win the beauty contest!

--Virginia Hall

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Go Green, Save Green

You don’t have to build from scratch to have a greener home. These quick and easy home fixes will shrink your consumption and your monthly bills.

  • Rate it. Look for Energy Star-rated products. This government program helps people make energy-efficient choices, which can lead to savings of up to a third of energy costs.

  • Switch the lights. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use up to 75 percent less energy than traditional bulbs. Replace them in highly used fixtures such as porch lights, bathroom vanities and office lamps.

  • Go with the flow. Use low-flow showerheads and consider installing low-flow toilets to reduce water usage and save on water-heating costs.

  • Plug in, turn off. Use a power strip for your home office or home entertainment center. Even in standby mode, consumer electronics — which account for 15 percent of household electricity — use a little juice, so turn the power strip off when you can.

  • Cool it. Turn the water temperature for your washing machine or dishwasher down to 120ยบ F to cut water-heating energy consumption.

  • Seal it. Search for hidden air leaks in your attic, basement or crawl space, and seal them with caulk, spray foam or weather stripping. Home sealing can be an inexpensive way to cut energy consumption by up to 10 percent.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

If Houses Could Scream!

"What happened here?" my buyer gasped.

I was in shock. What had happened since making an offer on the home?

It had been 6 weeks since he had made the offer on this home, that was being sold as a short sale. The sellers had to sell the home as the result of a divorce, and owed more on the home than it would be sold for. The home was older and needed some cleaning, a kitchen and bathroom update, but over all the 3 bedroom house had potential.

As we walked into the house, the seller passed us leaving for work muttering something about trouble with his child who had done some damage.

However, after examining the home, it was evident that the seller had done the dastardly deed. He had removed the dishwasher, the oven, the front bathroom newer bathtub doors. In addition, two bedroom doors, some kitchen cabinet doors were missing. As we walked down the hall I noticed the matching painted wood paneling on the walls was missing and now there was exposed damaged drywall with a layer of black tar down the middle. The original hardwood floors had a long scrapes and gouges where the oven had been drug through the living room to the backyard.

While we had a contract that the seller had violated, what is the point of suing someone who is in the process of losing everything. I could have renegotiated the price down for my Buyer, but where would the angry seller stop before the end of escrow. With the damage he did in 24 hours since the offer had been accepted, would the house still be standing in the next 45 days? Unfortunately, the Seller's actions, spoke loud and clear, "That if I couldn't have it, no one would.

Since we were expecting the home inspector, any minute, my buyer had to make a decision. While I hated to see him lose the house that he had hunted months for and waited patiently for the bank to approve the offer, but there was nothing else he could do. I knew he couldn't afford to rebuild the nice little home he had bought. Not to mention, would he be able to get lending on it. While we had a contract, you can't sue someone who has nothing to lose. Much to his despair, the Buyer was forced to cancel his contract.

While I have seen foreclosed homes damaged, toilets and sinks missing, entire kitchens barren, this was the first short sale where someone had sabotaged his chances of selling a home. While I knew this seller was in the middle of a divorce and angry, I tried to make sense of the destruction.

While some may see the destruction as an expression of anger towards the banks, a silent revolution, I feel we are seeing an epidemic of angry home owners, grieving over the loss of their homes--the center of their family's universe.

While buyers have an opportunity to pick up homes at a reduced price right now, there are a lot of homes out there that have been damaged by Angry Sellers or have deferred maintenance. A big problem with these homes for buyers, is lenders often won't lend on them. So right now, patience is the name of the Buyer Game and being the first to find the diamond.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Any Ghosts in the Closets? The Neighbors Will Talk

”Do you think I will get top dollar for my home,” my seller paused before adding, “ even after what happened here?”
From the tone of her voice, my instinct told me that this wasn’t good. “What happened here?”

My seller shared the story of how after they had moved into their beautiful home that the neighborhood children began to tease their children “that they lived in a haunted house”. There was much more to a last minute disclosure of a “death” in the house than had been told. Unfortunately, they had not met the neighbors before the close of escrow to share the tale of the house. While they bought the house at a reduced price, moved in and lived there happily for many years without any problems, knowing the history may have affected their decision to buy the house and should have been disclosed more thoroughly since it will live on with the house.

I have had numerous encounters with neighbors before helping buyers purchase a home and while some neighbors may have a vendetta again the seller, most often the information is helpful.

For example, while looking at a piece of land with a buyer, the neighbor stepped over to share that she wondered why anyone would buy a piece of land you couldn’t build on, because it was in a flood plain. While this wouldn’t necessarily stop me, if I loved the land, just because a neighbor says something doesn’t make it fact. However, I would definitely heed the warning and check it out with the government agency that issues building permits.

In this day of foreclosures, neighbors can be a great source of information since the banks are exempt from certain disclosures, since they have no knowledge of the house. Recently, I approached a neighbor with a potential buyer for the house next door. With a friendly introduction, we asked the neighbor about the sewer that was noted “available” in the listing information. The kind neighbor shared with us about the home being on septic, as well as, the questionable addition had been there since the house was built. While again, I would still recommend checking out the building plans at the government agency, the neighbor’s information gave my buyers the information they needed to feel comfortable enough to proceed with an offer.

So the moral of the story is, it is a good idea to meet your new neighbors before you make an offer or as soon after, while doing your inspections…to find out if there are any ghosts in the closets.

--Virginia Hall

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Grab That Golden Housing Ring!

The NEWS is out! While the Economic Stimulus Package waits for President Obama to sign the bill, the Senate has passed the Economic Stimulus Bill, which included some good news for Home Buyers.

The President of the National Association of Realtors announced this morning, "So here's what we have achieved: 1) the loan limits will be raised to $727,000 in high cost areas, 2) the tax credit will be raised to $8,000 with NO payback [a true credit], 3) interest rates have come down 125-150 basis points, and 4) the bill has over $50 billion in it for foreclosure mitigation, with Geitners Treasury plan signaling that the second half of TARP and TALF will be used to mitigate foreclosures through a government guarantee, drive down interest rates by buying another $200-300 billion of mortgage paper from the GSES's thereby freeing them up to do the same with new mortgages, and Fannie has just agreed to lift the cap of 4 investment properties eligible for loans and raise it to 10."

While most people have ambivalent feelings about the costly Economic Stimulus Bill, it is almost here and you or someone you know might as well take advantage of it. There are certain qualifications first time homebuyers need to meet, but what an opportunity for new as well as move up buyers. Grasp that golden housing ring and run with it!

--Virginia Hall

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Unleashing the Economic Stimulus Package on the Housing Market

Last week, Buyers asked me excited about the $15,000 Home Buyers' tax credit. Wouldn't that give the housing market a shot in the arm?

However in regards to the Economic Stimulus Package and the Home Buyer Tax Credit, the New York Times reported vaguely, "In driving down the total cost — from $838 billion for the Senate stimulus bill and $820 billion for the House-passed measure — lawmakers also reduced the Senate’s proposed tax incentives for buyers of homes and cars, which hold big public appeal." So it appears it will be a bit before we find out the rest of the story, the exact amount of the credit.

So while we wait for the details on how much Buyers will get, the government has already previously passed a nice incentive for qualified first time home buyers--at least $7500 in tax credits if you buy before July 1st. So while Interest rates are down, what are you waiting for? If you plan to stay in San Diego, now is the time. Time to get a hold of a qualified Realtor®, such as myself, to start a search.

Homes in good condition are already getting multiple offers in San Diego County. Once they unleash the full details of the Economic Stimulus Bill and expose the exact amount of the credit, the smart people who have been sitting on their money waiting for the housing market to bottom out will act, investing their money and getting back a tax credit, to boot. Don't get left behind. Why not join them?

--Virginia Hall

Thursday, February 5, 2009

4 Basic Tips Guaranteed to Sell Your Home Faster

What do I need to do to get my home ready to sell? I am asked this all the time when owners are preparing to sell their homes. Selling a home is not an easy task. You may need to start preparing months in advance. Visit a model home in a new development, or even other homes that are selling to see what works and what doesn't. Notice how the model homes makes you feel. The sparse, non-personal decoration generally appeals to everyone and is easy on the eye. Keep in mind, you are preparing the house to sell not to live in.

1. Remodeling. While remodeling definitely adds value and helps a home sell quicker, exactly how much money do you get back in return? According to Realtor Magazine, while the Kitchen and Bathrooms are the rooms most recommended to remodel, you can expect 94.1% of the money you spent on an average kitchen remodel and 87.5% on a bathroom remodel back in the sales price. So if you plan to do any remodeling it is important that you use a budget, and stick to it, in order for the remodel make sense. This is not the time to use the top of the line accents or features unless you plan to enjoy the remodel for a year or two before selling. Be practical.

2. Paint. At the same time, some very low cost affordable things can be done to help sell your home more quickly. Touch up the paint or if it beyond this, then paint the home a nice neutral color. "Realtor®" Beige is good. Right now there are multiple offers going out on homes that may be dated, but are clean and well maintained.

3. Clean…Clean…Clean… The most important cost effective task to make your home more sellable is to deep clean and de-clutter the home. While one person's clean is another person's dirty, is important to ask for feedback from friends and your Realtor®. An objective by-stander can see when your love-worn chair has to go. If you refuse to put it out of its misery, then at least put it into storage. Look at your furniture, see if you can remove any of it and then rearrange to open up the room. Nothing yells out "small room" quicker than too much furniture. Pack up all those personal photos and other knick knacks. Oil scent diffusers or other types of light air freshers add a nice touch, filling the room with a safe, pleasant fragrance.

4. Landscaping. Another important item is the yard. Curb appeal is what will often get someone in the door. Even though we have heard "don't judge a book by its cover" a million times, it is our nature. Landscaping accounts for 15%of the price. A ragged, weed ridden yard with junk thrown about warns the buyer of what’s to come inside. Clean up the yard, keep the weeds mowed, edge the lawn, trim those over-grown bushes, and plant a few bright color flowers in the entrance to lure them in. If your grass is brown, sprinkle some ammonia sulfate and water well for a quick green. Also the yard should be free of old cars, engine blocks, empty plant pots, and trash.

With a glut of ghastly foreclosures on the market, these simple, yet vital steps, are guaranteed to help you sell your house quickly and at a higher price.

--Virginia Hall

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Safe Neighborhood…or Not?

When people on the news say in surprise, "This kind of thing never happens in our neighborhood" it may be true....Or is it?

One of the number one concerns of buyers is moving into a safe neighborhood. San Diego has many wonderful neighborhoods and others that aren't so great. While there are no guarantees in any community, with a little bit of research, you may be able to decrease your chances of moving into a troubled neighborhood.

The internet is a great source of information! On my website under "About San Diego", I have set up links to some of the most useful websites with local information including "Local Government". Under this tab, you will find many local agency links.

Under “Local Government”, you will find a "Sheriff’s Dept” website link, where you can find lots of law enforcement information. At the top of the Sheriff’s website home page, you will find a link to "Resources". This will lead you to a link "Crime Analysis and Statistics" where you can search by address the crime in the area.

If you have children, you may want to click on Megan's Law. This website shows where sex offenders might be in your neighborhood.

A little bit of research can save a lot of headaches down the road.

--Virginia Hall  

Thursday, January 15, 2009

San Diego Home Prices Turn the Corner or Just a Blip?

According to the San Diego Business Journal, the San Diego Association of Realtors reports the Medium housing prices may have actually turned the corner. Data gathered from Sandicor, the multiple listing services, show housing sales up 60 percent from a year ago, along with a rise in prices from November to December 2008. Resale house prices rose 2.6 percent to $349,450 and a 2.6 percent in condos to $200,000. This does not take away from the fact that housing prices overall dropped 30% from year to year and condos dropped 36%. So we still have a long ways to go.

However, Sellers with homes in good conditions are getting multiple offers starting to drive prices upwards. So I am hopeful, yet wary, the housing prices has hit the bottom. While I think that the housing market is stabilizing, the unemployment rate is still affecting the economy. According to San Diego Metropolitan UpTown Examiner and Daily Business Report the unemployment rate has risen from 4.9 percent in October 2007 to 6.9 percent in November 2008. With the economy still trying to recover, we may still have another year before our home prices actually begin to rise again due to short sales and foreclosures.

So if you missed the opportunity to buy a house in the last few years because the housing prices were too high, now is your chance. The housing prices have rolled back to 2003 prices. How long will this last? Or will the prices drop further? Only those who can foretell the future will know. Why risk missing the boat again? It is time to buy. There are signs that the economy may improve this coming year and you may miss the boat.

--Virginia Hall

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

2009 Brings New Hope!

While no one can predict the future, as President Obama sets up new legislation to turn around the economy, there is a new attitude emerging. One of hope.

Many attribute the recession to cycles and some see it as a self fulfilling prophecy. A year ago when the experts predicted a bad year, we all tightened our belts and trimmed the fat from our budgets. When you multiply this by the millions, you naturally have a recession.

But now a different climate is developing. Many see the Bailout money coming. We are ready to recover. “The economy, including the real estate market, may have finally arrived at, or is just before or just past the bottom,” according to Gary London in the San Diego Business Journal.

The recession has brought hope to many renters. The Housing prices have now rolled back to an affordable level, where renting costs as much as to own.

While First Time Home Buyers must have more money to put down than two years ago, there are still great benefits to buying a home. You have to have a place to live and in the long run, home prices continue to climb. Even with the recession, home prices are still triple what they were twenty years ago. Why pay someone else’s mortgage? The average home owner saves approximately $8000 a year in taxes. Not to mention the $7500 tax First-Time Home Buyer Credit incentive if you buy before July1st 2009. See for more detail.

When I look back at when I was in my mid-twenties, at that time you couldn’t buy a house without having 20 percent down and the interest rates were in the teens. Unlike today when you can get into a home with as little as 3% down and the interest rates still continue to be in the 5 and 6’s.

While price reductions may continue during 2009, until the majority of foreclosures and short sales have been bought up, I agree with London “While it is very unlikely to be a banner year, 2009 will be a new beginning." Looking forward to a Better New Year.

--Virginia Hall