Heart of Real Estate

This afternoon as I took a listing, I had finished explaining the agreement to the seller and was showing him where to sign, when he paused, pen raised, sadly stating, “This is the first time I’ve done this alone.” He had lost his partner of 40 years to cancer last September and now needs to sell their home.

In that one moment, the enormity of his loss and the task ahead of him seemed to come into focus and he struggled as he signed the agreement. I asked him if he would like to wait, but he insisted that he needed to turn the page and move on with his life. Selling their home was the first major step.

I put the rest of the disclosures aside, and asked him about his morning. He had taken a drive earlier in the day to explore some different neighborhoods that he is considering as a good area to meet new people. He brightened-up and spent the next 15 minutes telling me about how pleased he was with what he had discovered and seemed genuinely excited. We talked about what he would be looking for in a rental, and I of course told him I would be happy to help him in his search. We chatted about the logistics of actually moving and downsizing and he asked if I could help him locate a good moving company. I smiled and told him that I would do whatever I could to make this transition as smooth as possible.

Sometimes in the flurry of our dollar-crazy real estate world, I think that it is easy to lose sight of the fact that a home for most people is not only a financial investment, but a huge emotional investment. It’s the place where babies are raised, birthdays are celebrated, and loved ones are nursed. When a house has to be sold in a short sale, or because of divorce or death, or sometimes even relocation, I think there is a process of grieving that is often overlooked. Home is our stage, the backdrop for our lives. We paint it, decorate it and instill a little, or a lot, of who we are into the house, which makes the home distinctly ours.

As we walked around and I took photos, he shared little stories about the house and their time there and seemed to relax just being able to talk. I’m sure there will be several moments in the sales and moving process when he needs to stop and take a deep breath. I can’t be his therapist or his best friend, but I’ll do my best as his Realtor to provide a smooth transaction, support him by being responsive to his questions and needs, and most importantly, honor the real significance of his moving on.

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Thus far in 2013, here are the La Mesa short sale numbers; 41 detached homes have closed escrow, and 19 other types of homes, including condos and mobile homes. This is down considerably since 2012 when for the same period; there were La Mesa short sale closings for 69 detached homes and 31 for other types of homes.

Although these numbers have decreased in the past twelve months, it is likely that short sales will continue to play a significant role in our real estate market. According to Zillow CEO, Spencer Rascoff, 44% of U.S. homeowners with a mortgage still owe more than their home is worth. For the thousands of folks that remain underwater, a short sale might be a good solution.

If a short sale is an option that you’re considering, you’ve probably heard horror stories about how long it takes, and how few sales are ever approved. That’s often because the listing agent doesn’t understand the short sale process, or lacks the necessary experience and negotiation skills. Steele Group Realty has been negotiating short sales for 5 years and has a 95% success rate for successfully selling and closing short sales throughout the county. Here’s how we take the mystery out of La Mesa short sales and improve your possibilities for a successful close:

• Before listing your home, we determine if a short sale is an appropriate option and if you qualify according to general lender guidelines.
• We research your title report to identify any potential issues and develop a strategy to overcome obstacles.
• If approved to enter our La Mesa short sale program, we aggressively market your home on over 100 high-traffic websites to quickly secure an acceptable offer.
• Our professional short sale negotiating team works with your lender to win approval. We have an unbeatable track record, successfully closing over 95% of all transactions.
• All fees and commissions are paid by your lender, not you.
• Depending on the investor for your mortgage, we may be able to negotiate a relocation allowance ranging from $2000 to upwards of $10,000.
• From start to finish, we guarantee to keep you informed of the progress on your sale with regular phone and email updates.
Click here for references

For a confidential, no-obligation consultation regarding a La Mesa short sale please contact me at 619-846-9249.

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Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen single family home prices increase by as much as 20% in some parts of the country. This is the most rapid increase since the housing bubble collapse, and largely driven by supply and demand. According to Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff, nearly 44% of homeowners with a mortgage still owe more than their home is worth, thus even if they would like to sell they are unable. This, combined with fewer foreclosures, has created a scarcity of available homes on the market and helped push up prices.

So with home prices on the rise, if you do have equity in your home and have been considering a move-up, why sell now? Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait another year or so and take advantage of even higher prices?

Not necessarily. While low supply has been a factor in the recent price increase, it has been driven by demand created by historically low interest rates. However, mortgage interest rates are on the rise. Yesterday, in the fifth consecutive week of gains, the rate for a 30 year fixed mortgage rose to 3.91%. That is 18% higher than the lowest rate of 3.31% back in November 2012. According to chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, Laurence Yun, in an interview with Forbes magazine, “the rate will probably go up to 5% by the end of next year.”

The result of higher interest rates is likely to be a decrease in demand, especially in the higher priced areas of the country, such as coastal California, Boston and New York. Rascoff provided the following example in an interview yesterday on CNBC. “Imagine yourself buying a $300,000 home today, and in four years you may want to trade up to a $500,000 home,” he said. “That home is not just that much more expensive—but because mortgage rates are going to be higher—it’s significantly more expensive. So the trade-up market is going to be very troubled in a couple of years.”

So looking down the road a year from now, it is likely that interest rates will increase which will slow the demand, which in turn will put the brakes on home price increases. Thus, if you are considering selling your home, now may be the best time while demand is high and supply is low.

For more information about what this might mean for you and your San Diego County property, please give me a call.

La Mesa Short Sale Specialist

SHORT SALE BUTTON

For many, selling their home in a short sale has been a solution that immediately put an end to the harassing phone calls and sleepless nights. As your La Mesa short sale specialist, here are 3 things you might not know:

Relocation Allowance: Though a relocation allowance cannot be guaranteed, it is not uncommon for the seller to be paid $2,000 – 3,000 by the lender at the close of escrow to help with the costs of moving. It all depends on who the investor is on the loan.

No Deficiency Judgment: In California it is against the law for a bank to file a deficiency judgment against you after a short sale when the loan was a first mortgage on a property from 1-4 units.

No Cost to the Seller: In a traditional equity sale, the seller usually pays the real estate commissions to the listing and buyer’s agent, along with his/her share of the closing costs. In a short sale, the bank pays all of those costs.

I have lived and worked in the La Mesa, Fletcher Hills, and Mt. Helix area for years and have been a La Mesa short sale specialist for over 4 years. Here is what a few of my clients have said about their short sale experience:

“Marti was able to quickly secure a qualified buyer for our home and smoothly handled all of the negotiation with our bank. It was a huge relief to be out from under a mortgage we could no longer afford.” Megan M.

“Our situation with both a first and second mortgage and different lenders was very stressful, and I was leery of doing a short sale… I had heard so many horror stories. But Marti patiently walked us through the process and thoroughly explained every step along the way. Despite a reluctant 2nd lien holder, Marti was able to negotiate the sale and get it done.” Amber B.

“My only regret is that we waited so long to list our home for sale. I would highly recommend Marti to anyone faced with a mortgage they just can’t pay” Lane M.

There are more than 3 things to know about a La Mesa short sale and your options. If you can’t pay your mortgage, please don’t ignore the problem. It is okay to ask for help and advice. Just remember that time is of the essence. Acting early allows you to make the decision that is best for you. Wait too long and your choices disappear. Call me, your La Mesa short sale specialist at 619-846-9249 for your confidential consultation or click here to request your free guide book.

Can’t Pay Your Mortgage?

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If you find yourself waking up at 2 a.m., wondering how you’re going to pay your mortgage, you’re not alone.  Since the start of the Great Recession, thousands of people who never thought they’d be worried about money are struggling every month just to stay afloat.  Or, perhaps your home is now worth far less than what you owe and you wonder if it makes sense to continue to pay on negative equity.

Everyone’s situation is unique, and I certainly don’t profess to have all of the answers, but over the last four years I’ve been able to help many people find a solution to their mortgage woes.  I am not an accountant or a lawyer, so I certainly encourage you to consult the appropriate professional for answers to your specific questions.

I have written a short guide book that I would like to offer to you free of charge, with no obligation.  The guide book is designed to provide you with an overview of your different options so that you are in a better position to make the decision that’s right for you.  It begins with a one-page overview, followed by more in-depth discussion of the various options.  Click here to request your free guide, “What to Do When You Can’t Pay Your Mortgage”.

If you can’t pay your mortgage please don’t ignore the problem.   Chances are you won’t win the lottery, and your financial troubles are real.  As soon as you are 30 days late on your payment, the lender’s clock starts ticking.  There is help and you have several options.  Start by reviewing all of the information found at www.makinghomeaffordable.gov and call 888-995-HOPE (4673) to speak with a HUD approved housing counselor.  It is okay to ask for help and advice.  Just remember that time is of the essence.  Acting early allows you to make the decision that is best for you.  Wait too long and your choices disappear.

My real estate practice is in San Diego County.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me at 619-846-9249 if I can be of service to you.

What to Do When You Can’t Pay Your Mortgage

Okay, I admit to being a total wimp when it comes to cold weather. Waking-up to frost on the roofs and going out for a walk with gloves and a hat is not my favorite part of living in San Diego in January. But I have to tell you that my heart is warmed as soon as I turn on my computer, look at my emails, my transactions, and the MLS and realize that the San Diego real estate market is hot, hot, hot!

This is due to 4 primary factors:

1) Employment in the County in October was up by 1.9% over October 2011*
2) Consumer confidence (Pacific West) is up by 36%*
3) Interest rates remain at record lows
4) Inventory is approximately 50% of what it was a year ago*

The lack of homes to sell in San Diego County is clearly illustrated in these two graphs, which show unsold inventory at lowest point since 2005, and that homes in the $750 – $1000K range are the most scarce. However, as there are fewer people able to buy in that range the impact is less dramatic. The price range where we are feeling the greatest impact is the $300 – $500K range. If you’re a seller, you love it as you will likely have multiple offers within days of listing. If you’re a buyer, not so much, as it’s likely you’ll be in a bidding war with several cash buyers.

unsold inventory 10.12 sm

unsold inventory 2 10.12 sm

This of course has driven down the length of time homes stay on the market from approximately 60 days in January of last year to just 40 days in October.

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The net result of all these factors is that prices in the San Diego real estate market are increasing at a steady rate, up 10.7% this October, over October 2011.

Median price 12

So is it a good time to buy or sell in San Diego? Absolutely! Barring any economic catastrophe I believe we’ll continue to see a strengthening real estate market throughout 2013. So if you’ve been considering a real estate investment, best to get in the game now as I predict prices will continue to rise. Please give me a call to discuss the opportunities available in America’s Finest City!

* Graphs and statistics courtesy of the California Association of Realtors®. All statistics reflect sales activity for detached homes.

For any real estate professional negotiating a short sale, the moment you receive that magical approval letter there is usually a sense of celebration and relief. Not so on Monday when I received an approval letter for a standard short sale I am negotiating for another agent in my brokerage.

All of the terms looked fine, EXCEPT there was no allowance for relocation assistance. This is a Freddie Mac loan serviced by Bank of America that I am managing through the Equator platform, so I messaged back immediately. Money for relocation assistance has been an expectation since day one of the short sale process as the homeowner is a single mom with four children under the age of eleven who is currently off the job and receives disability as her only source of income. If anyone ever needed help with the expenses of moving, it is this poor woman!

The reply back from B of A was that the “borrower did not meet the investor guidelines for relocation assistance.” Are you kidding me? She is penniless! So I requested further clarification regarding the specific guidelines. I was told that “any borrower with a loan with MI (mortgage insurance) is automatically disqualified from receiving relocation assistance.”

Does that make ANY sense? I scoured the Internet and contacted a couple of fellow brokers who are short sale experts and no one could find anything to support this “rule”. In fact, everything I discovered supports that fact that as of 11/1/12 Freddie Mac would pay up to $3000 for relocation assistance, with no mention of an MI exception.

So yesterday morning I called Freddie Mac directly. They were incredibly responsive and helpful. The gentleman I spoke with put me on hold for quite a while as he researched the question, finally coming back on the line to tell me that he needed some additional time to investigate and would get back to me before 5:00 pm. At 4:45 he called to report that in all of his inquiries, no one he spoke with at Freddie Mac could find any reason why MI would disqualify a borrower from receiving relocation assistance. So Freddie Mac has opened an internal investigation to determine if the ruling by Bank of America is within guidelines or if they have overstepped the limits of their authority by denying relocation assistance. Ha!

I was told it might take up to a month to receive results of the investigation, but I feel better knowing that we are doing everything we can to help get our client the money she so desperately needs. And I have to admit it felt pretty good to have my hunch regarding this rule, somewhat vindicated by a giant like Freddie Mac. I’ll be letting Bank of America know about the investigation this morning 🙂

I guess that if it just seems wrong, it never hurts to question.