Sacramento County Relaxes Affordable Housing Requirements.

Sacramento County relaxes affordable housing requirements




Become A Smart Seller…

3 Tips for Being a Smart Seller in 2014


For the past five years or so, millions of homeowners have been stuck in their homes, unable to refinance or sell because they were underwater. That situation began to change in 2013 when the housing market finally began to show signs of life. Buyers across the country were back in the game and home prices rose in many communities.

For many sellers this meant they could finally move out of a small house, cut down on their commute time, or simply go on with their lives. Almost 2 million homeowners came out from negative equity positions in 2013.

If you plan to sell your home in 2014, be aware that buyers have changed since the economic downturn. They’re savvier than ever, and they’re not desperate. Many of today’s buyers are Millennials (also known as Generation Y) who’ve come of age with access to endless information via the Internet. It’s in their DNA to search, and they love photographs and sharing.

Here are three bits of advice that will make you a smart seller in 2014:

Take your photo shoot seriously

Today, many buyers get their first impression of your home online. Too often, listings go online with photos of a dark room, lights off or blinds closed. Even worse? A new listing without photos or that has only one. If your real agent isn’t hiring a professional photographer to take high resolution photos, then you should invest the few hundred dollars to do so. Have them taken at the best time of day. Clean the home in advance and put away clutter. Prepare for the photo shoot just as you would for an open house. If buyers don’t like what they see online, you may never get them in the door.

Have your home inspected before listing 

Nothing is worse than waiting months or even years for an offer, only to have potential buyers discover that your HVAC system is on the fritz or that there is dry rot. When that happens, you’re forced to reduce the price or give credits.

Even worse, you may scare off the buyer and be forced to go back on the market. Often when this occurs, buyers and agents think there’s a problem with your property—which can make it tough to sell. That’s why a few hundred dollars on a pre-sales inspection is the best investment you can make. If there are issues, you can price the home accordingly. More importantly, you’re providing the buyers with more information. You’ll be in their good graces from the start.

Throw buyers a bone

Receive an offer on your home at a good price? Have you been one of the lucky ones who received more than one offer over a short period of time? Good for you; you’re in the driver’s seat. Even so, you still want to be in the buyer’s good graces during escrow and even after the sale. If you have the opportunity, throw the buyer a bone. If they ask for an early closing and you can do it, give it to them. Negotiate to buy them a one-year home warranty or give them a small credit. These little offerings will go a long way toward a speedy and hassle-free escrow.

The most important thing to remember is that to be a smart seller, you need to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Remember that today’s buyers lived through one of the biggest housing and credit crises in generations. They’re motivated but cautious, and they have a wealth of information available to them online. Don’t take anything for granted.


Why Customer Service is Important For Your Business…

Why Customer Service is So Important for your Real Estate Business


If you’ve ever seen the movie Glen Gary Glen Ross, you’d see a strong precedence of how the public thinks of real estate professionals.

Pushy, two-faced, actors who treat their customers like idiotic pawns.

As the profession has evolved, some of that imagery has stuck, and includes the investor as well. Though there’s nothing wrong with an assertive sales style, the landscape of the entire business has shifted quite mightily. Busts have bled out the bottom-feeders, and those left or coming into the business will have to continuously strive for a customer-service based agenda. The world has grown and will continue to get smaller through the availability of instant information. Embracing the change will be inevitable, possibly critical to your business. Here’s why:

1) Customers Have More Options

The information age has nearly obliterated the old-school style of networking. If someone is looking to sell, buy, wholesale, or short sale, looking for qualified professionals in their area is a point and click away. Given, those who have been marketing to (that) segment may have a shoe-in, but often times prospects will be talking to 2-3 other people they think may be able to assist their situation.

You may have taken months to develop a relationship of sorts with a prospect, but if a better option comes along for them, they can be gone in an instant. If you were able to find them, in all probability, so were other competitors. The information is so readily available that you need to have a plan in place to attract and close customers in a timely manner, softly reminding them constantly of all the benefits you offer.

It’s not about you, it’s about them.

No matter how many degrees you have, houses you’ve closed, funds you’ve issued, etc, the customer only cares what’s in it for them. Treat them like you KNOW they have options, you’re grateful for the opportunity to earn their business, and if they choose you they’d have a wonderful experience with you and your company. Reflect that in your marketing, conversation, and closing pitch.

2) You’re Easier to Research

On the tail of the last point comes the fact, you’re easier to find out about these days.

If there’s not much to see about you online, or otherwise, that may be a turn-off for customers, as well. Even if it’s a Facebook Business Page, it’s important you have something.

If you haven’t already, for God’s sake, put up a web page. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it is the bare minimum online store front for your business. Brandon Turner wrote a wonderful article on this very subject, if you’re still intimidated by the idea.

Secondly, Google yourself and see what comes up. Most likely, your LinkedIn profile, various social network profiles, and any articles that contained your name will come up. Check for reviews, feedback, customer service complaints, and things of these nature. A buzz, for better or worse, may have started about you online, and it’s important you monitor what’s being said. It will and can attract and detract future customers.

Don’t have a buzz, yet? Ask previous customers to write reviews on Yelp, Google Places, or even a simple email so you can post the testimonial online. You may promise the world to prospects, and be able to deliver, but people flock to the internet to check you out and read reviews about you to make their purchasing decision. Give them something to latch on to. Even if there’s negative feedback, address it in a professional manner and leave it up. All business’ face criticism or unpleasant customers, and it can be a wonderful example of how you handle conflict. recently shut down an experimental algorithm-based tool that would ideally match up a customer with the perfect real estate agent for them, based on amount of sales, listing days on market, and other public data. This performance-based tool, AgentMatch, excludes information that can’t be found online, like off-market deals, or interpret between the lines of numerics. It has agents in an uproar, but, there is a gap missing for customers to get a full overview of their real estate professionals’ performance and capabilities. Point being, big data may be forming an opinion of you in the near future, so beat them to the punch to showcase your talents, satisfied customer base, and volume.

Got the time and customer base? Take a small camera and record 30-60 second testimonials from prior and current customers and post them on your website, social networks, etc. Videos go a long way for making an impression, so make it a goal in 2014 to at least post a handful of video testimonials to vouch for your company.


If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, or similar customer-based environment, it’s much easier to understand the idea of a “customer-first” mentality. Practicing and perfecting a confident sales style, backed with a top-notch customer service from you and your staff, will go a long way as the internet continues to sandwich your efforts with reviews, feedback, and exposure. What do you think?

Sacramento County Home Prices Remain Steady…

Sacramento County's median home price remains steady



Approaching Real Estate in 2014…

How to Approach Real Estate in 2014 & Beyond



The current real estate recovery is like a marathon. Last year, buyers and sellers sprinted out of the gates at full speed, fueled by lowinterest rates and affordable home prices. The press and social media were full of stories about limited housing inventories, bidding wars and multiple offers. In 2013, real estate was sexy and headline-worthy.

As we move into 2014, it’s clear we’ve only run the first few miles of this marathon. Last year’s excitement will surely wear off, and there will be a lot less flashy magazine covers, posts, tweets or evening news stories about real estate. Most experts predict a slower, steadier, more even “pace” this year in most of the country, even as interest rates and home values inch up.

This doesn’t mean 2014 won’t be as good a time to buy real estate. It helps to look at the bigger picture and not get caught up in the micro stats or the latest headlines. Sure, we likely won’t see interest rates as low in 2014 as we did in 2013. But to put that into perspective, interest rates were as high as 18 percent in the 1980s, yet people still bought homes.

As you approach buying a home this year, it helps to focus on the long term by keeping the following five best practices in mind. These were best practices for home buying a generation ago. And they’ll most likely still be practical when the next generation of home buyers sprints out of the gate.

Buy when you’re ready

Just because you didn’t buy last year when the market was super hot doesn’t mean you’ve missed out. Could you have gotten in when the rates were at their lowest and values near the bottom? Sure. But were you ready to buy then? Probably not. The main thing to remember is that you should buy a home when you can afford it, you have your financing and you’ve found a home that meets your needs. That will always be the best time to buy.

Home buying is a journey

Despite how quickly the world works today, you can’t force a home purchase. It’s not like buying a television or a laptop. A home is a much more expensive and complicated purchase. It’s where you can feel safe and calm from the outside world, a place you can customize to your needs, and where you will make lasting memories. Because of this, buying a home comes with emotional and practical implications on top of the financial ones. Remember that a home is your place to live first and an investment second. Take the time you need to find the right home.

Don’t be driven by data

If you watch the nightly news or read news online, you’ll hear real estate market predictions and numbers on a national level. And at any given time, you’ll likely get conflicting real estate forecasts. A lot of information and data will come at you from many different angles — including social media. Don’t take anything to be an absolute. Keep your own goals and needs top of mind at all times.

Real estate is local

The national real estate news headlines may be about multiple offers and bidding wars. But that situation may only be relevant to one part of the country or even to just a handful of cities. Meanwhile, the neighborhood where you want to buy a home still has distressed sales and is more of a buyers’ market.

All that really matters in real estate is what’s happening in your own community. If you’re interested in getting into the market, follow the local economy and housing markets. Go to open houses and learn. Get connected to a real estate agent who has “feet on the street.”

Go with your gut

You know your financial situation better than anyone. You know your down payment amount, credit score, amount of savings and the upper limits of what you can afford to put toward homeownership every month. Apply what you know about your finances to your local real estate market. You know the neighborhoods, the commercial districts and the types of homes for sale. By merging these two, your gut will inform you on what’s a good buy, when it’s the right time to buy and how to approach a purchase.

In 2014, stay focused on what you know, stay local, take your time and don’t let outside forces sway your decision to buy a home. People have bought and sold homes for years, at higher prices and with higher interest rates. If you’re in it for the long haul, consider yourself at mile 3 of a 26-mile marathon.



2014 Top Real Estate Trends…

Top trends in real estate for 2014


Published: Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 – 5:12 am

Gabe Cole bought and sold 15 homes last year as part of his sideline as a house flipper.

This year, however, the Newport Beach, Calif., real estate broker anticipates his side business will slow down because foreclosures and short sales are drying up.

While 2013 was the year of get-in, get-out quick house flips, he expects to do more in-depth remodeling work on higher-priced properties in 2014. "Since there are fewer short sales and fewer foreclosures out there," Cole said, "there's less business to go around."

Many economists agree. They predict 2014 will see more investors retrenching and more buyers putting roofs over their own heads. That's not the only big change ahead. Home prices are expected to stabilize this year, while homebuilding will be more frenetic.

"The housing market has staged a spectacular recovery over the past year," Cal State Fullerton economists Anil Puri and Mira Farka wrote in their 2014 economic forecast. "More recent data, however, point to a softening of these trends."

Here are the top real estate trends we're likely to see in 2014.


MORE INVENTORY: You can expect to see more people putting their homes up for sale this year, as rising prices bring new equity to underwater homeowners.

Other property owners also may take the opportunity to get their lives off hold and take advantage of higher home prices.

Donald and Stacy McCray are among them. Because of last year's price gains, they believe now is the time to list their two-story Orange County, Calif., house so Donald McCray, a railroad conductor, can move closer to work in Los Angeles. They plan to put their home up for sale later this month.

"I'm hoping that, since interest rates are still low, it's a better opportunity not only to sell, but to rebuy," Donald McCray said.

Another factor: New home construction is expected to increase further this year, further boosting options for home shoppers.


NEW HOME SALES TO RISE: Nationwide, forecasters expect the number of housing starts to range from 1.19 million to 1.25 million, up from 975,500 in 2013.

Builders are compensating for years of sub-par construction levels, said Robert Denk, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders. "There's a huge construction deficit," he said.

An increase in homebuilding means that new home sales should go up, too.

When construction levels fell, "buyers were forced into resale homes," said Irvine, Calif., housing consultant Mark Boud. Many buyers prefer newer homes, which have the latest designs and are more energy-efficient.

"The reason (new home) sales will increase is we are supplying more product," Boud said.


MORTGAGE RATES TO RISE: Interest rates for 30-year, fixed mortgages likely will rise this year, averaging somewhere in the 4.9 percent to 5.3 percent range, forecasters say.

That's still low historically, but well above rates for the past 2 1/2 years.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage had been solidly below 4 percent since late 2011. Last summer, it spiked to 4.5 percent.

The Federal Reserve's decision last month to start reducing purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed bonds likely will push up mortgage rates. But not wildly.

"Rates are not going to soar because we're still in a pretty weak economic recovery," Denk said. "When the dust settles, (rates) are still a bargain."


CREDIT MAY GET EASIER: After years of tight lending standards, homeowners definitely will have an easier time getting mortgages, said Svenja Gudell, director of economic research for housing website Zillow.

After last summer's 1-percentage-point increase in mortgage rates, the refinancing business dried up for lenders.

"They want to fill that void with purchase money loans," Gudell said. That may mean lenders may approve loans to borrowers with lower credit scores or higher debt.

"So we'll see a lot of people who couldn't get a mortgage in 2013 able to get a mortgage in 2014," she said.

Others, however, aren't so sure.

For one thing, new federal lending standards take effect on Jan. 10, meaning that some borrowers will get more scrutiny and less money. The new rules will have little effect in most cases, Gudell said, since most loans already meet the new standards.

But Chapman University economist Esmael Adibi said lenders will have more leeway with the loans they plan to hold in their portfolios. Tougher standards still will apply for loans that financial institutions plan to sell to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or elsewhere on the "secondary" mortgage market.

"Banks are eager to boost their lending," Adibi said. "However, rates and requirements depend on the type of financial institution (offering the mortgage)."


COMMERCIAL RECOVERY REMAINS SLOW: Forecasters say vacancies will drop and rents will rise this year in office buildings, shopping centers, factories and warehouses. More deals will get done and sale prices for buildings likely will go up.

Nonetheless, the rate of recovery is expected to remain at moderate levels for commercial real estate.

Commercial real estate recovery "tends to lag broader economic growth," said Deloitte & Touche's 2014 outlook.

Nationally, commercial rent increases are projected in the 2.2 percent to 2.5 percent range this year, according to the National Association of Realtors.



Non QM Lending…

Wells and Others Gear up For Non-QM LendingJan 8 2014, 11:02AM

With new rules defining Qualified Mortgages (QM) slated to kick in on Friday at least two lenders have indicated they will make room for loans that don't quite fit the government mandated mold.  The two, Wells Fargo and Bank of the West, plan to write at least some of the loans, retaining them for their own portfolios. 

Bank of the West, headquartered in Omaha says it will continue to offer interest only loans to its customers even though the loans fall outside the guidelines established by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Paul Wible, Senior Executive Vice President and Head of the bank's National Finance Group said in a statement this week, "We extensively reviewed the CFPB's rules and found them broadly consistent with how Bank of the West has always done business. At the same time, we know that interest-only loans can fulfill the mortgage needs of many of our customers. Therefore, even though they do not fit the CFPB's definition of a QM, we will continue to offer them as before."

Wible said that the bank's analysis confirmed its belief that a well-underwritten, interest only loan could be good for its customers and safe for the bank to hold on its balance sheet.  These loans, he said, meet the needs of certain customers such as the self-employed and that the bank will continue to require that such borrowers meet its prudent underwriting criteria.

Bank of the West, a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, has assets of $65 billion and operates 600 retail and commercial banking locations in 19 states.

On a much larger scale, Wells Fargo, the country's largest home lender is reported to be readying a group to handle nothing but portfolio loans.  Bloomberg says the bank has created "a swat team" of about 400 underwriters who will originate mortgages for the bank to hold.  As many as 40 percent of the loans are expected to be outside of new government guidelines. 

Bloomberg said they were told by Brad Blackwell, head of portfolio lending at the bank that the group will review loans that do not qualify for the safe harbor protections of new CFPB rules as a way to increase lending without losing control of quality.   

'"We have separated the underwriting group into a separate team that only underwrites loans" for the bank's own balance sheet,' Blackwell told Bloomberg.  '"We found it impossible to achieve our objectives" with the two groups together, he said.'

The bank's portfolio held $72.4 billion in non-conforming mortgages at the end of the third quarter, 14.5 billion of which Wells Fargo added in the second and third quarters of 2013.


Household Sharing and its affect on the Market.

CHART OF THE DAY: There's A Massive Source Of Pent-Up Demand In The US Housing Market


The financial crisis and housing bust came with kids moving back in with their parents and parent moving back in with their kids.  In many cases, kids just never moved out.

UBS's top economist Maury Harris has argued for a while that the rise in shared households represented pent-up demand, which could eventually acted as a bullish force in the housing market.

"Households' further venting of delayed, pent-up demand has been a key theme underlying our 50 basis points above-consensus forecast of 3% calendar average 2014 real GDP growth," wrote Harris in a research note to clients. "In 2013 a lower personal saving rate, renewed household borrowing, accelerating consumer durable goods spending growth and improved home sales were consistent with pent-up demand venting."

He noted that the latest data from the Census Bureau showed a deceleration in household formation in Q3.

But longer-term, he's confident that shared households will continue to fall as a percentage of total households.

"Looking ahead, the extent of "doubling up" usually remains critical for household formation," wrote Harris. "In 2014 and 2015 we expect further declines in the still relatively percent of households that are shared residences as unemployment rates for young adults continue to decrease."

"We see the unemployment rate, which stood at 7.3% in Q313, declining to 6.4% by Q414, with downside risks."


cotd shared households


Read more:


Low Inventories….

Low Inventories Threaten a Repeat of 2013

Written by: Steve Cook

Even though the new year began with list prices 11.1 percent higher than they were a year ago and at least 4.9 million homeowners have been freed from negative equity since 2012, inventories of listings are only 2.7 percent higher on December 30 than they were a year ago.

Record low inventories last January set the stage for a selling season featuring soaring prices, bidding wars and the outbreak of price bubbles in several California markets. The improved conditions for sellers prompted many to list their homes, but not enough to measurable improve the inventory picture as real estate markets go into hibernation to prepare for the 2014 season.

The national housing inventory of listings from the 54 cities tracked by HousingTracker’s weekly metro survey on December 30 was 676,170 single family homes and condos, only 4.1 percent higher than 648,938 listings in January 2013, the lowest housing inventory level ever recorded in the Department of Numbers database. also reported inventory numbers close to last year’s levels. The total U.S. for-sale inventory of single family homes, condos, townhomes and co-ops declined in November from 1,905,064 to 1,846,155 units in its database of MLS listings from 146 markets. November listings were only 0.18 percent above levels of November 2012, when inventories in the database had already begun the dramatic decline that culminated in the spring, 2013 shortages.

The geography of the current inventory declines changed in November. California markets dominated the list earlier in the year, but with the exception of Santa Barbara and Orange County, California markets have been replaced in the top ten declining markets by two Florida markets-which appear to be reentering a second stage of their recovery process–as well as Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon NJ, Boulder and Denver CO, Honolulu HI, Detroit MI and, most recently, St. Louis. Santa Barbara reported a 21.24 percent annualized decline listings; the balance all reported year-over-year inventory declines in double digits.

Despite the remarkable price gains in 2013-exceeding 13 percent through the third quarter in the latest Case-Shiller numbers and the freeing of millions of owners from negative equity sellers seem to be pulling back. Recent consumer surveys have tracked a significant decline in consumer confidence in home price expectations. In the November Fannie Mae survey, consumers who said prices are going to increase within the next 12 months fell to 45 percent and the average home price change expectation dipped to 2.5 percent from 2.9 percent. In addition, the share of those who expect mortgage rates to climb in the next 12 months remained at an elevated level since it spiked in June. (See Consumers Remain Negative on Housing).

With inventory levels enter the winter at virtually the same level last year, should seller remain leery of the market, inventories may not restock sufficiently to meet buyer demand next spring, setting the stage for a repeat of last year’s wild spring and summer conditions.

For-Sale Inventory: November 2013

10 MSAs with the Greatest Year-Over-Year Inventory Reductions

November 2013 vs. November 2012

Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Lompoc, CA



Naples, FL



Boulder-Longmont, CO



Honolulu, HI



West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL



Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ



Orange County, CA



Denver, CO



Detroit, MI



St. Louis, MO-IL(MO)





How “2014 Changes” pushed transactions to close…

Buyers wrap up surprising number of new home sales from Thanksgiving to New Year’s