SAFETY FIRST – Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act (Senate Bill – SB 183)

As of July 1, 2011, the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act (Senate Bill – SB 183) will require all single-family homes with an attached garage or a fossil fuel source to install carbon monoxide alarms within the home by July 1, 2011.

Owners of multi-family leased or rental dwellings, such as apartment buildings, have until January 1, 2013 to comply with the law. The California State Fire Marshal has created this frequently asked questions (FAQ) on carbon monoxide devices to provide the citizens of California with information on this important matter.

1. What is Senate Bill No. 183 (SB-183)? SB-183 is also known as the “Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act” This senate bill requires that a carbon monoxide (CO) detector be installed in all dwelling units intended for human occupancy.

2. What is Carbon Monoxide? Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced from heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, and many types of appliances and cooking devices. It can also be produced by vehicles that are idling.

3. What is the effective date for installing a CO device? For a single-family dwelling, the effective date is July 1, 2011. For all other dwelling units, the effective date is January 1, 2013.

4. Where can I find a list of all CSFM listed carbon monoxide devices? Click on the link titled “List of Approved Devices”. http://osfm.fire.ca.gov/strucfireengineer/strucfireengineer_bml.php

5. What is the definition of a dwelling unit? A dwelling unit is defined as a single-family dwelling, duplex, lodging house, dormitory, hotel, motel, condominium, time-share project, or dwelling unit in a multiple-unit dwelling unit building.

6. Where should CO devices be installed in homes? They should be installed outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home including the basement. The manufacturer’s installation instruction should also be followed.

7. How many types of CO devices are available? There are three types. 1) Carbon Monoxide alarms (CSFM category # 5276), 2) Carbon Monoxide detectors (CSFM category # 5278), and 3) combination smoke/Carbon Monoxide detector (CSFM category # 7256 or 7257).

8. What is the difference between a carbon monoxide alarm and a carbon monoxide detector? A carbon monoxide alarm is a standalone unit which is tested to Underwriters Laboratory (UL) Standard 2034 and has its own built-in power supply and audible device. These units are typically installed in your single family dwelling. A carbon monoxide detector is a system unit which is tested to UL Standard 2075 and is designed to be used with a fire alarm system and receives its power from the fire alarm panel.

9. Are CO devices required to be approved by the State Fire Marshal? Yes. SB-183 prohibits the marketing, distribution, or sale of devices unless it is approved and listed by the State Fire Marshal.

10. If someone has a CO device that is not listed by the State Fire Marshal prior to the law, can they maintain it or does it have to be replaced? The law required that CO devices to be approved and listed by the State Fire Marshal. It does not prohibit someone who already owns the device prior to the effective date of Senate Bill (SB) 183.

11. Where does one obtain a copy of a California State Fire Marshal (CSFM) listing of CO device? Copies of CSFM listing of CO devices can be found on the State Fire Marshal website by logging on the following: http://osfm.fire.ca.gov/licensinglistings/licenselisting_bml_searchcotest.php Under “Category”, click on the sort by “Number” button, then go to the drop down menu (right down arrow) to select “5276-CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS” or “5278-CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS”. Then Click on “Search” and it will list all CO alarms or detectors that are currently approved and listed by the OSFM.

12. Where can I go to receive further information on Carbon Monoxide? You may go the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL-FIRE) web site at http://www.fire.ca.gov and click on Carbon Monoxide under “Hot Topics”.

13. Who can we contact at CAL-FIRE/CSFM for additional information? Questions regarding carbon monoxide devices may be addressed to Deputy Mike Tanaka at (916)-445-8533 or mike.tanaka@fire.ca.gov

 

Thank you to Castle Rock Inspection for a great reminder!

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at http://thecatonteam.com/

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com/

NEWS – Changes in Conforming Loan Limits on the Horizon

There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about the conforming loan limits on mortgages being lowered.  This affects all buyers, but in particular those in high price areas like the San Francisco Bay Area, where they will face higher down payments, higher mortgage rates, and stricter loan qualification requirements if conforming loan limits on mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac are reduced beginning October 1, 2011.

Despite the Obama administration claiming it will support a one-year extension of the current higher loan limits, on July 1st Bank of America lowered their loan limits for all new loans and other banks will soon follow suit.

Background 

The current loan limits have been in place since February of 2008, when they were passed as part of the Emergency Stimulus Act.  Housing conditions have not improved enough to warrant letting the limits drop. Unless Congress acts, these loan limits will drop to 115% of the local area median home price.  For the San Francisco Bay Area the decline in loan limits would be more than $104,000 from the current loan limit of $729,750 to $625,500.

Housing Markets are Rebounding, but the Recovery will be Slow.

With tight underwriting constraining mortgage availability, lowering the FHA/Fannie/Freddie loan limits will only further restrict liquidity. Even with the current higher limits, borrowers are finding it more and more difficult to obtain affordable mortgage financing. Making the current limits permanent at levels appropriate in all parts of the country will provide homeowners and homebuyers with safe, affordable financing and help stabilize local housing markets.  It will allow homebuyers in higher cost areas (such as the San Francisco Bay Area) to have access to affordable mortgage financing and not find it necessary to fall into a Jumbo Loan category with even higher interest rates.

The Caton Team, as well as other REALTORS® nation-wide, have contacted Congress and communicated clearly that a housing recovery depends on keeping mortgages affordable and that Congress needs to prevent these lower loan limits from taking effect.

We’ll keep you posted on what transpires as the weeks progress.  We’ve got our fingers crossed too.

We are dedicated to our industry and making the American Dream of home ownership attainable for all.  What can we do for you?

Got Questions?  The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at http://thecatonteam.com/

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com/

Senate Bill 458 – Help for Short Sale Sellers

A new California law will further protect homeowners pursuing short sales by barring first and secondary lienholders from going after sellers for money owed after the short sales close.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 458, authored by Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro,) into law on Friday.

A short sale is a transaction in which the homeowner owes more on the loan than the property is worth. To sell the home, the lien holder or lien holders must approve the sale because the amount owed to the lien holder will be “short” of what is currently owed by the borrower.

Real estate tracker DataQuick said short sales made up 17.7 percent of Southern California home resales in June.

The new law builds on the protections offered by a previous law, SB 931, which required the first lien holder in a short sale to accept an agreed-upon payment as the full payment for the outstanding loan balance. The previous law did not address junior lien holders.

The new law, which became effective immediately, now prohibits secondary lien holders from pursuing deficiencies after a short sale closes.

“As the economic recession continues to impact Californians, SB 458 will allow homeowners forced to sell at a loss to have closure at the end of the process,” said Corbett, in a statement to the Union-Tribune. “By extending anti-deficiency protection to all loans on a home when a short sale occurs, a homeowner can use a short sale as an alternative to foreclosure or bankruptcy.”

The California Association of Realtors call the bill’s signing a “victory for California homeowners.”

“SB 458 brings closure and certainty to the short sale process and ensures that once a lender has agreed to accept a short sale payment on a property, all lien holders – those in first position and in junior positions – will consider the outstanding balance as paid in full and the homeowner will not be held responsible for any additional payments on the property,” said Beth L. Peerce, president of the Realtors group, in a statement.

For more information please visit: http://www.car.org/newsstand/newsreleases/sb458/

 

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at http://thecatonteam.com/

 

 

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A Quick Review on the Different Real Estate Markets…

Google buying a home and words like short sale, REO, bank owned, or regular sale pop up.  All these terms can be a bit confusing.

Right now, on the San Francisco Peninsula market we are experiencing three very different niche markets.

  • Regular / Normal Sale
  • Short Sale
  • Bank Owned Sale

Allow me a moment to explain what these three niche markets are and how they affect the buyer.

Regular / Normal Sale

These may feel like transactions of the past – but a normal sale is when the seller owns their property and the mortgage on the home is below the current home value.  In other words – the seller has equity in their home.  Equity is the profit for the seller.  The best part of a normal sale is working with living breathing humans who will respond to a buyers offer within a normal period of time and provides the buyer with disclosures upfront that sometimes include a recent home or pest inspection.  A quick glance at Redwood City last week (July 2011) showed 73% of the homes on the market are normal sales!  Wow – not what you expect if you listen to the news!

Short Sale

These transactions are trickier than the rest.  A short sale means, the seller owes MORE on their mortgage than the home is currently worth.  They have negative equity.  If circumstances change in the sellers life and they now need to sell their home – the home is placed on the market like a normal sale, however, when an offer comes in and the seller accepts it – it is their bank (where the mortgage is held) that needs to agree to take a shortage on their loan – thus the term Short Sale.  Doing a short sale hurts a seller’s credit less than allowing the bank to foreclose.  For a buyer it means patience since the response time for a bank to review their offer is anywhere between 3-6 months. Generally the seller still resides in the home and can provide disclosures upfront, though money is tight and the seller may opt to have the buyer pay for their own inspections.  In Redwood City last week 17% of the homes on the market were known short sales.

REO (Real Estate Owned) or Bank Owned Sale

The REO or Bank Owned property is a post foreclosure property.  That means the bank has foreclosed on the seller and now the bank owns the home and is selling it themselves.  The good news – a bank can respond to a buyer’s offer within a week – instead of the 3-6 months on a short sale.  The bad news, there are NO additional disclosures on the property aside from the CA mandatory disclosures.  The buyer holds the burden of conducting their own home and pest inspections (plus any other investigating they desire) during their contingencies.   Since the bank has never lived on the property they do not complete a Transfer Disclosure Statement that covers – along with many other items – neighborhood nuisances that a seller would have to disclose.  Have no fear – as the buyer you are protected and will have time to inspect the home to ensure it is in satisfactory condition.  Last week in Redwood City – 8% of homes for sale were bank owned.

(The remaining properties were 1% Auctions, 1% Court Confirmation /Probate Sales)

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at http://thecatonteam.com/

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com/

Ready to Get Pre-Approved? Here is your checklist…

The first step in becoming a home owner is getting pre-approved for a home loan.

These days, a  minimum of 3.5% is required  for FHA loans up to $417,000.

Otherwise you’ll needed between 10% and 20% for a down payment for purchases above $417,000.  Depending on your financial picture.   Note you will also need about 3% of your purchase price for closing costs.  We’ll review what closings costs are when we sit down together.

Before you contact a lender, gather the following items:

  • 3 months worth of pay stubs per person or other proof of income
  • 3 consecutive & most recent months of Bank Statements:  Checking, Savings, IRA’s, 401k, Retirement & Investment Accounts
  • Most recent Tax Return
  • Social Security numbers

To prepare for your appointment, take time to calculate your monthly/yearly household budget and determine you comfort level.  This will help you decide whether or not purchasing a home is right for you and your family.  Prepare a:

  • Household Budget
  • Bills & Expenses Budget
  • Future Budget factoring in your new home expenses.

We are here to help you each step of the way.

Got Questions – we’re here to help.  Email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at http://thecatonteam.com/

 

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To read my personal journey through homeownership – visit http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com/  Enjoy!

All That Real Estate Jargon

When considering the purchase of a home many factors come into play. Budget, Goals, Needs and Wants are all key players when deciding your next step.

Here are a few things to remember and consider:

Determine your Budget. Lenders will allow up to 30% of your monthly income to go to all debt. That includes your car loan, student loans, credit card debt and the mortgage.

When talking about your monthly mortgage payment – we uses the term PITI:

PRINCIPLE: How much of your monthly payment that goes towards your loan principle

INTEREST: How much of your monthly payment goes towards your interest rate

TAXES: Property Tax is 1.25% of your purchase price (and rises yearly), we divided it by 12 and add it to the monthly cost of homeownership. (It is actually paid in two installments, Feb & Nov)

INSURANCE: A home or condo needs homeowners insurance, we estimate the yearly premium and add the monthly cost to the total.
This gives the borrower and accurate picture of the monthly cost of the home, even though many of the payments are annual or semi-annual.

DOWN PAYMENT: These days a borrower needs a minimum of 3.5% for their down payment to qualify for an FHA loan. FHA loans do have strings attached and Private Mortgage Insurance is an expensive cost of putting less than 20% down. It’s best to sit down with a lender to discuss your loan options. We have several trusted lenders you can work with.

CLOSING COSTS: Many borrowers expect the need for a down payment but do not understand what “closing costs” are. Closing Costs are the fees associated with purchasing a home. Closing costs run about 3-4% of your purchase price and must be liquid and available. Closing Cost Fee’s included:

Lender Fees: Costs for your loan, including but not limited to, appraisal fees, credit report fee, points (1% of loan amount to pay down your interest rate up front), doc prep, underwriting, administration fees, and wire transfers to name a few.

Title & Escrow Fees: When purchasing property you will also purchase two Title Insurance Policies to ensure the property is yours and no one can stake a claim to your property. The Title & Escrow companies also charges Escrow Fees for handing the monies, loan docs, and recording the property with the county.

Inspections Fees: There are also fees that are paid outside of escrow, such as Inspections on the property that are often given a discount if paid at time of the inspection.

Gift Funds: When a borrower is receiving monies for the home as a gift, the lender will require a paper trail, including a Gift Letter signed by the person giving the gift expressing the money is not a loan and will not expect the money to be paid back. Also, it is best to get that Gift Money upfront to “season” the money in the borrowers bank account. Banks like to see 3-6 months of “seasoning”.

Got Questions – we’re here to help.  Email us @  Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

To read my personal journey through homeownership – visit http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com/  Enjoy!

A Candid Moment with Short Sales

Who knew – two 5-letter words could be so dirty?

SHORT SALES

Those two words can send buyers, sellers, Realtors and Escrow Officers into a tissy.

Why you ask?  The dreaded long process and seemingly endless wait.

Allow me a moment to break down how these two words work.

To a seller, the words Short Sale mean one thing – their home is no longer worth as much as they owe.  Then – say they should need to sell it – now they need to ask the bank to agree and take less than the loan is worth.  Banks don’t like doing this.  They know real estate is cyclical, they can’t go back and redo everyone’s loan just because the value went down.  I digress.  The sad truth, the seller has to jump through many, many, many hoops – in the form of paperwork and documentation etc etc to successfully sell their home.  And that’s if the buyer doesn’t tire of waiting and walk!!!  And should a buyer walk – because sometimes they need to move on – the seller has to start at square one again – and oh what a fun square that is.

To a buyer, the words Short Sale means “sit down and wait”.  Why?  The seller generally can’t start their short sale request until AFTER they accept an offer.  And once the bank receives the offer, it can take months just to get that paperwork in front of a real decision maker, negotiator to be exact.  Since this wait time is long and sometimes a better opportunity presents itself – buyers sometimes tire of the wait and rescind, cancel, their offer.  It happens.  However, because Short Sales can be difficult, their are opportunities for buyers to purchase a property under market value.  Which creates instant equity!  In our experience, the offer you write in November is low compared to the values of comparbale properties by the time you close escrow and own that home in May.  (For more specific market info please email us info@TheCatonTeam.com)

For those in the real estate industry – the words Short Sale mean being on top of your game, having a team of professionals behind you and being diligent.  Which, in essence is what Realtors should do in the first place.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns – we’d love to hear from you – email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at http://thecatonteam.com/

To read my personal journey through homeownership – visit http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com/  Enjoy!

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Next Stop – Bank Owned Properties – aka: The REO