SHOULD YOU BUY A HOME DURING THE HOLIDAYS?

Funny – I was just writing my own blog about our local real estate market when I came across this article from San Diego.  It’s not local – but it hits home – thought I’d share and add my two cents….

SHOULD YOU BUY A HOME DURING THE HOLIDAYS?

Once Thanksgiving is over, the real estate world starts to wind down for the holidays and it typically reawakens after the Times Square ball drops and resolutions come to life.

But if you’re a potential homebuyer who’s prepared to close in today’s competitive market, you may want to keep shopping while everyone’s waiting for spring, some real estate agents suggest.

The Caton Team has found that buyers on a concrete budget find great values if they are flexible during the holidays.  We’re ready when you are.

That advice may be especially relevant this year for consumers who have repeatedly lost out on deals because of a limited and continually decreasing supply of homes, but remain persistent. Buying intensity typically cools down at the start of fall through early January, which could increase the odds for those with more patience.

Related: Report: We’re in the midst of a housing recovery

Home sales have increased from October to November only four times since 1988, when DataQuick began to track home sales and prices locally.

In the other years, transactions have fallen from anywhere between 0.2 percent and nearly 26 percent. Home listings have dropped off from 3 percent to 11 percent during those months in the past three years.

“During Christmas, people will be focused on the holidays and nothing really happens,” said Ken Pecus, co-founder of San Diego-based Ascent Real Estate and 20-plus-year real estate veteran.

“The first week of January, the new mindset kicks in, resolutions kick in, and in the second and third week, people look at their taxes, and almost overnight, by the end of January, you have almost twice the buyers in the market,” Pecus added.

Would-be buyers historically have bowed out during the winter season because they are overwhelmed by holiday spending and commitments. There’s also the aversion of moving in the middle of a school year. Consumer interest typically picks back up again in the New Year and peaks in the spring.

Related: Demand for homes stays strong during the fall

Certain buyers may be well-served to buy during the winter because of sellers who must move because of:

• A job change or transfer.

• The possible sunsetting of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, said Donna Sanfilippo, president of the San Diego Association of Realtors. The potential expiration of the law, which lets certain home sellers get tax relief on mortgage debt forgiven by lenders, has pushed home sellers scrambling to list and short sell their homes before the end of the year.

In some cases though, the rush to do that is unwarranted. Consult a tax pro to determine if short selling is right for you.

• The fact they’ve been waiting to sell their home for a long time and need to buy something quickly. If you can wait a little longer to sell your home and want to maximize your profit, then wait until the peak spring months.

Even with the expected holiday homebuying slowdown, buyers should know that the inventory level may still be a challenge.

Right now, there are more than 4,700 active listings in the county, down 11 percent from October and down more than half from the same time a year ago, based on numbers from the San Diego Association of Realtors. The current level marks at least a three-year low.

In the San Francisco Peninsula – inventory has been low all year, fueling multiple offers on homes and driving prices up due to competition outweighing supply.   There has been moments, for example in San Carlos we had 25 listings and Redwood City had 36 – for the whole city.  That’s not enough homes for the volume of demand out here.

Buyers also may deal with the challenges of bidding against cash buyers and investors, who can look more attractive than traditional buyers.

The Caton Team has witnessed Cash Buyers at all price points – under $500,000 to over 1,500,000.  Sellers have the opportunity to pick the best offer among several.  And sellers are being savvy – taking higher down payments when possible.  When The Caton Team prepares an offer, it is more than just price.

Their share of the homebuying market has remained strong. Almost 28 percent of total homes sold in October were purchased by absentee buyers, many of whom are investors. That’s up from 27 percent logged a year ago and in September.

Hovering near the peak, almost one-third of buyers bought with cash in October.

“I’m expecting 60 to 70 people at my open house,” said San Diego Realtor Miguel Contreras before a recent Wednesday showing at a property in La Mesa. “The property is a fixer, so it’s mostly investors.”

Sounds familiar in the SF Peninsula market.  Open houses visitors are strong, and often there is enough activity to warrant an offer day before the following weekend.  I’ve seen homes have one open house and take offers on Monday.  That’s a break neck pace if you ask me, and I’m a veteran.  My first time buyers can’t move that fast.  And with prices climbing, the early bird get’s the worm if he can’t process the information fast enough.

Related: Another hurdle for short sales

Contreras, who worked during Thanksgiving week, said he’ll make himself available throughout the holidays to cater to what he expects to be a continued interest from investors, cash buyers and traditional buyers.

The same goes for Cherilyn Jones, another local real estate agent. Last week, she was preparing for two new listings to come online. Her most common clients are first-time homebuyers and investors.

“The investors have not slowed down,” Jones said. “We get holiday freeze, but not for investor clients. It’s hard to find them properties because their criteria is very, very specific … and the deals are not as good as they used to be.”

Article By: Lily Leung

Last Thoughts…

In our 25+ years of local Real Estate experience, buying during the holidays can truly benefit buyers who’ve been outbid all year.  We’ve found homes for buyers over the holiday season that would have been snapped up in a hot second during the spring or summer.  As long as buyers are flexible and open minded – there is definitely some Christmas Miracles in the making this time of year.  Keep a look out for my next Cinderella Stories about Russ and Natalie and the home we found over Thanksgiving!

I read this article at:  http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/dec/01/does-it-make-sense-buy-home-during-winter/?page=2#article

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

 

New Short-Sale Program Offers Relief for Underwater Homeowners…

Please enjoy this article I found interesting….

The Fannie-Freddie program allows short sales for owners who are current on loan payments but are encountering a hardship that could force them into default.

WASHINGTON — Though there are still some snares and drawbacks for participants, one of the federal government’s most important financial relief efforts for underwater homeowners started operating Nov. 1.

It’s a new short-sale program that targets the walking wounded among borrowers emerging from the housing downturn — owners who owe far more on their mortgages than their current home value but have stuck it out for years, resisted the temptation to strategically default and never fell seriously behind on their monthly payments.

Industry estimates put the number of underwater owners across the country at just under 11 million, or 22% of all homes with a mortgage. Of these, about 4.6 million have loans that are owned or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Eighty percent of these Fannie-Freddie borrowers, in turn, are current on their mortgage payments and meet the baseline eligibility test for the new short-sale effort.

Here’s how the program works and where the potential snares are. Traditionally short sales, where the lender agrees to accept less than the full amount owed and the house is sold to a new purchaser at a discounted price, are associated with extended periods of delinquency by the original owner. The new Fannie-Freddie program — designed by the companies’ overseer, the Federal Housing Finance Agency — breaks with tradition by allowing short sales for owners who are current on their payments but are encountering a hardship that could force them into default.

Say you are deeply underwater on your mortgage and recently lost your job or had your work hours reduced. Under the new program, you can contact your mortgage servicer and ask to participate in a Fannie-Freddie short sale for non-delinquent borrowers. You’ll need to find a qualified buyer for the house, typically with the help of a real estate broker or agent knowledgeable about short sales who will list the property and obtain an offer and communicate the details and documentation to the servicer. If the proposed short-sale package is acceptable, the deal would then proceed to closing weeks — or months — later.

Eligible hardships under the new program run the gamut: job loss or reduction in income; divorce or separation; death of a borrower or another wage earner who helps pay the mortgage; serious illness or disability; employment transfer of 50 miles or greater; natural or man-made disaster; a sudden increase in housing expenses beyond the borrower’s control; a business failure; and a you-name-it category called “other,” meaning a serious financial issue that isn’t one of the above.

Borrowers who take part in the new program can expect to rid themselves of the money-devouring albatross their mortgage has become — without going through the nightmares of foreclosure or bankruptcy — and to get a chance to start anew, better equipped to deal with the financial hardship that caused them to sell their house in the first place.

What about the snares in the program? There are several that participants need to consider.

•Credit score impact. Though officials at the Federal Housing Finance Agency are working on possible solutions with the credit industry, at the moment it appears that borrowers who use the new program may be hit with significant penalties on their FICO credit scores — 150 points or more. This is because under current credit industry practices, short sales are lumped in with foreclosures. According to Laura Arce, a senior policy analyst at the agency, the government is in discussions with the credit industry to institute “a special comment code” for servicers who report the new Fannie-Freddie short sales to the national credit bureaus that would treat participants more fairly on FICO scores.

•Promissory notes and other “contributions.” In the majority of states where lenders can pursue deficiencies, Fannie and Freddie expect borrowers who have assets to either make upfront cash contributions covering some of the loan balance owed or sign a promissory note. This would be in exchange for an official waiver of the debt for credit reporting purposes, potentially producing a more favorable credit score for the sellers.

•Second lien hurdles. The program sets a $6,000 limit on what second lien holders — banks that have extended equity lines of credit or second mortgages on underwater properties — can collect out of the new short sales. Some banks, however, don’t consider this a sufficient amount and may threaten to torpedo sales if they can’t somehow extract more.

By Kenneth R. Harney Distributed by Washington Post Writers Group.

I read this article at: http://articles.latimes.com/print/2012/nov/11/business/la-fi-harney-20121111

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Home Prices Rebound According to CNN Money – enjoy this shared article…

Home prices rebound

By Chris Isidore CNNMoney

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — In another sign of a turnaround in the long-battered real estate market, average home prices rebounded in July to the same level as they were nine years ago.

According to the closely watched S&P/Case-Shiller national home price index, which covers more than 80% of the housing market in the United States, the typical home price in July rose 1.6% compared to the previous month.

It marked the third straight month that prices in all 20 major markets followed by the index improved, and it would have been the fourth straight month of improvement across the full spectrum if not for a slight decline in Detroit in April.

The index was up 1.2% compared to a year earlier, an improvement from the year-over-year change reported for June. While home prices have been showing a sequential change in recent months, it wasn’t until June that prices were higher than a year earlier.

The July reading matched levels last seen in summer 2003, when the market was marching toward its peak in 2006. The collapse of the market after that led to the financial crisis of 2008.

“The news on home prices in this report confirm recent good news about housing,” said David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Single-family housing starts are well ahead of last year’s pace, existing home sales are up, the inventory of homes for sale is down and foreclosure activity is slowing.”

Record low mortgage rates and a tighter supply of homes available for sale have helped to lift home prices. Lower unemployment also has helped with home prices, although job growth in recent months has been slower than hoped.

Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve announced it would buy $40 billion in mortgage bonds a month for the foreseeable future. This third round of asset purchases by the central bank, popularly known as QE3, is its effort to jump start the economy through even lower home loan rates.

Related: Best home deals in Best Places

Mike Larson, real estate analyst with Weiss Research, said part of the improvement in the housing market is due to investors using the low mortgage rates to buy up homes that are in foreclosure and renting them in a strong rental market.

But he said that he doesn’t think there’s much chance of housing prices forming any kind of new bubble in the foreseeable future.

“Clearly the worst is behind us for this market., but this is not a market that is going to take off again,” he said. “While you have a firming up, you still have tight lending standards and people who have been burned are reluctant or unable to get back in the market.” He predicts it will take several more years before housing prices can gain more than 1% to 2% a year.

Related: Buy or rent? 10 major cities

But that is good news for a housing market that was plagued by plunging home values and high foreclosure rates for much of the last six years. And the good news has the potential to build on itself, said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist for Deutsche Bank.

“Housing remains a rare bright spot in an economy that is otherwise muddling through,” he wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. “The price trend for housing is significant, because it provides economic stimulus via stronger household balance sheets.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that home prices had reached a 9-year high. In fact, they rebounded to the level last seen in summer 2003, before their peak several years later.

Curious about the local real estate market on the San Francisco Peninsula?  Email me! 

I read this article at: http://money.cnn.com/2012/09/25/real_estate/home-prices/index.html?source=linkedin

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

How to Write a Great Offer on Bank Owned Homes (post foreclosure)

Point Blank – Writing a good offer is writing a good offer.  Price is most important, then close of escrow, contingency terms and then buyer qualifications.  Just about in that order.  So when a buyer is faced with writing an offer on a Bank Owned home – it is just about as easy as writing an offer on a home where the buyer is working directly with the seller.

The Caton Team Realtors, will provide the buyer with comparable market information – homes of similar condition and size – and what they are selling for.  Armed with this info, the buyer can decide a fair market price to offer.  Since the home is bank owned – the bank is very aware of the homes market value and has elected to sell the property in the open market instead of an auction – most likely because the bank will get more money in a normal sale versus an auction.  So our advise to a buyer – be realistic in your offer price.  Too low and the bank will move on, there can be some back and forth counter offers – but generally it is cut and dry or the bank will hold onto an offer till a better one comes along.  (At least that is how it feels to the waiting buyer.)

Next are the terms.  A bank owned home can move MUCH faster than a short sale.  A buyer will want to keep their property and loan contingencies tight – 10 – 17 days and generally a 30 days close of escrow is acceptable – if not shorter since the home is already vacant.

The downside bank owned homes – no disclosures except for the CA State Mandatory Disclosures – but those pertain more to the area than the actually home.  Why?  The bank has NEVER lived in the home and cannot disclose if there are neighborhood nuisances, or if the downstairs bathroom floods every years.  So it is more buyer beware – however – once a buyers offer is accepted, they will have their contingency time frames (stated in the offer) to conduct any and all inspections they want and to make sure the home appraisals for their loan.

Sounds like any offer right?  Right.  Bank Owned homes are like normal sellers.  The turn around time for an offer response in a couple of days – a week max.  Meaning, when the buyer get’s the offer accepted phone call – the clock starts ticking for contingencies and in 30 days I hand them the keys 🙂

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at:

Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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

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

What does Bank Owned or REO property mean?

A REO stands for Real Estate Owned which really means the home is Bank Owned.  A Bank Owned home is a home post-foreclosure.  Meaning the bank has already foreclosed on the seller and now the bank owns the home.

The Pro’s

Buying a bank owned home is as close to a normal sale as a buyer can get when working with distressed properties.  The pro – quick response time.  When submitting an offer on a bank owned property the buyer can expect to get a response within a week – and once the offer is accepted the escrow period is like any normal transaction.  A buyer is granted their contingency periods that start the day after the offer is accepted.  It’s a breath of fresh air for a buyer since short sales are slow and painful.  Because bank owned homes are smooth transactions for the most part – we do see them move off the market much quicker than the dreaded short sale.

The Con’s

Buying a bank owned home means one thing – no real disclosures.  Sometimes it even means the home is in various forms of neglect.  The bank, having never lived in the home, does not provide the buyer with the disclosures a normal seller would provide.  The two most interesting reads not provided by the bank, aside from inspection reports, are the Transfer Disclosure Statement (TDS) and the Seller Supplemental Checklist (SSC).  These two standardized forms ask the seller a myriad of questions covering neighborhood nuisances and issues with the home.   The bank does however need to provide the buyer with the California State Mandatory Disclosures, one of which is the Natural Hazards Report which covers natural hazards around that particular property.

How This Affects the Buyer

Banks require an As-Is sale.  This is typical of many sales.  As-Is means as disclosed.  However, since the bank has no personal knowledge of the home – it is hard to disclose the potential issues.  Since the disclosures are weak, the burden is placed on the buyer to investigate.  As Realtors we cannot attest to the condition of the property or neighborhood – but we do encourage the buyer to seek professional opinions.  Some buyers visit the local police department and ask candid questions, I’ve even had buyers door knock the surrounding homes to speak to their potential neighbors.

As for the condition of the home – that’s the easy part.  As in any buying transaction, the buyer will have contingency periods to do all their inspections at which point we’ll get the home, pest and roof inspector out to check out the home and provide the buyer with a written report.  The buyer can do any inspections they want, from lead to asbestos, to truly anything that is of concern to them and for their plans for the property – pretty much just like any other buying transaction.  The only downfall – if issues arise – often times the bank does no repairs.

How We Go About All This

Since these transaction are so cut and dry, before we sit down to write the offer with our buyers, all parties take a good hard look at the property to determine the buyers offer price.  A buyer does not perform their inspections prior to writing the offer because a home, pest and roof inspection costs upwards of $500.  After the offer is accepted, the buyer will pay for their inspections and we proceed from there.

Generally, the buyer knows what they are getting into.  Often times these homes are in states of neglect and may be missing key fixtures or appliances.  In the end, both the buyer and their Realtor take all of this into account and write their best offer.

For more tips on writing an offer on a bank owned home – stay tuned!

Got Questions?  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/

A Quick Review on Foreclosures

With all the media coverage surrounding foreclosures, auctions and short sales we hear our clients ask for clarification every day. So here are some quick answers to these confusing questions. Please feel free to contact us to explain this further by email at Info@TheCatonTeam.com

FORECLOSURES

 How Do You Fall into Foreclosure?

When an owner can no longer afford their mortgage and stops making payments all together – they are waiting for the bank to foreclose on them. (Highly unadvisable course of action – contact your Professional Realtor for advice if you can no longer pay your mortgage immediately!) After about 3 months of non-payment, the bank will file a “notice of default” and inform the owner that unless they bring their account current immediately – they will be foreclosed upon. Meaning, the owner will be evicted, their credit ruined and the bank will take possession of the property. Now the bank owns the property and needs to sell it. They will either list the property with a Realtor and sell it as a “REO” – a bank owned property – or they will sell the property at auction to the highest bidder.

How Do You Buy a Foreclosure?

For those who are inexperienced in Real Estate – buying a foreclosure at auction is NOT the way to start investing. Generally, when the property goes to auction – the buyer must have liquid assets to purchase the property immediately. Generally one cannot acquire a loan to buy a foreclosed property at auction. Another concern is disclosures. A      property being sold in a foreclosure auction usually does not have inspections or disclosures informing the potential purchaser of the condition of the property or the condition of title. A drive by of the property is allowed and rarely there is a date to view the property where the buyer can bring their own inspectors to view the home at their own cost. This type of transaction is truly a “Buyer Beware” scenario.

However, instead of the bank auctioning off the property – they may list the home with a Realtor and sell it as a “REO”. In this case, the home is placed on the market like any other home sale and available to view with your     Realtor. Usually there are no disclosures or inspections of the property – if the buyer were concerned they would have to pay for their own inspections to determine the condition of the home. In some cases limited disclosures are available to the buyer – nonetheless, this is still a “Buyer Beware” scenario and as professional Realtors we advise all our clients to go forward and pay for their own inspections before they write an offer – or incorporate time for inspections in the offer.

Final Thoughts on Foreclosures

Though they sounds so tempting on TV, foreclosures can be a messy business and we haven’t even touched on the issues of other lien holders, tax liens, other loans remaining on the home or “investor” purchase issues. Before you get involved with a foreclosure purchase – consult a Real Estate Attorney.

For all your real estate questions – contact The Caton Team Email: Info@TheCatonTeam.com Website:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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