Need a Closet Organizer?

closet-storage-system-basicsYou love your home and it has an amazingly huge closet, but a startling lack of places to hang stuff. Sure, you could pile all your extra clothing, shoes and accessories in the corner, or move your antique dressers into the empty space, but there’s probably a better solution. Why not try a closet storage system?

Getting Started with Custom Closet Storage Solutions

If you cruise the aisles of your favorite home improvement store, you’ll eventually come to the DIY closet storage systems. Here, you’ll find a wide range of products, from basic wire shelving to wire and metal kits and laminated wood kits. The choices are sometimes overwhelming, to be quite honest.

Do you need a double rod system? Should you get one of those fancy cubby hole pieces for your shoes? Where will your winter boots go in the closet? Abort! Abort!! You have too many questions to do any buying today.

Now that you sort of know what’s available, take a step back and do some real planning. First, the budget. Can you afford a closet system? According to, even the cheapest closet systems run $200 to $500 when you do your own install. If you’ve hung long shelves before, this won’t necessarily be too much of a stretch of your skillset.

Considerations Before You Buy Your Closet System

You know what you like, and really, you probably know what you need, even if you’re doubting yourself right now. Start with a basic sketch of your closet, preferably on graph paper or something similar on your phone. You need to know exact dimensions, after all.

Now, ask yourself these questions:

  • * How much upper rod space do I really need?
  • * Do I need lower rods for jackets, shirts and the like?
  • * How many shoes do I actually own?
  • * Would it be handy to have drawers in my closet?
  • * Is my closet big enough that an island makes sense as a way to create more useable space?
  • * Where will I put my hamper(s)?
  • * Is this a shared space? If so, how will it be divided?

Once you’ve figured all of that out, you can sketch your closet out. This is just for the storage system, for this blog we’re going to ignore any lighting or electrical issues that could be applicable. Remember that if the space you have is 2 foot 3 inches wide, a cabinet that’s 2 foot 5 inches wide won’t fit. You can’t just smash these things and there’s no room to shave a little bit off, they either fit or they don’t — plan carefully.

What’s the Right Height for My Closet Rods?

Remodelers the world over have asked this question again and again. Technically, you can hang those rods anywhere you please. That goes double for an odd-shaped closet like those that often go with upstairs bedrooms or converted attics. However, according to the Family Handyman, this is where you should place rods for best results:

Double hung rods. The bottom should be at waist height, about 42 inches above the floor. The upper should be around 84 inches, so that each level has the same amount of vertical hanging space for shirts, jackets and other shorter items.

Long hang rods. For your dusters, your long dresses, your overalls — anything that’s long enough that it’s going to reach close to the floor when you’re wearing it goes on this rod. Because of the length of the items on it, it should be set about 70 inches off the floor.

Medium hang rods. Items that are roughly knee-length may fit better in your closet on their own rod. Hang them 60 inches off the floor and free up space on your long hang rod.

Pants rods. Do you wear pants? If so, you may need some of these rods in your closet. Set them at 54 inches off the floor.

Also, when installing these systems on your own, remember that closet rods need support at least every three feet, otherwise you risk bowing or collapse. However, adding one every two feet creates a much more secure setup if you have a lot of clothing.

Not Ready to DIY Your Closet?

No worries. Just take a walk through the HomeKeepr community. You’ll find closet storage system suppliers, installers and general contractors — all people who can help you turn that closet of your dreams into a reality. Here is a list of over 200 vendors that I and my teammates have personally used and recommended. They don’t pay to be listed here, like other referral services.  Please have a look;

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Stormy Season is here

It was a dark and stormy night. The lights flickered once, twice and then BOOM! Everything went dark. As it turns out, it’s because a tree fell on your house and pulled down the weatherhead and, accordingly, the main power feed to your home.

That’s gonna hurt, right in the pocketbook. Although your insurance will almost certainly cover some of the cost, you’re still going to have to come up with the deductible and other related expenses (like meals) until it’s sorted. How’s that rainy day fund?

If it’s not awesome, you’re not alone. According to the Federal Reserve’s most recent “Report on the Economic Well-Being of US Households,” 44 percent of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency without borrowing from elsewhere. While that’s a serious problem for the economy, we’re talking about you right now. One problem at a time.

Show Me The Money! Sources to Check for Emergency Funds

You’ve exhausted your couch cushions, checked all the pay phones for quarters (what’s a pay phone? Nevermind!), done some odd jobs for the neighbors and you’re still nowhere near having the cash to fix the gaping non-electrified hole in your life. This is getting unbearable and your boss is about to send you outside to give you a garden hose shower.

Something has to be done! But what? You can’t get blood from a stone, as they say. But sometimes you can get money from, you know, people. As it turns out, there are procedures in place for loans and grants that can help you rebuild and save you from the cold, icy experience of being sprayed down like livestock.

Loans are the Most Likely Source of Funding

Look, this isn’t going to be pretty, but it will get you by. You’re probably going to have to borrow from someone, somewhere. There are several different sources that will provide you with funds to help with problems like major home repairs, these are listed below in order from overall best option to the least. But even the least among these options is better than nothing.

Home equity loans. There are two types of home equity loans available, the original home equity loan and a loan that’s more like a credit line, called a HELOC. Both have fairly good interest rates as of the writing of this blog, assuming you have decent credit, and can be secured pretty easily. The one caveat is that you generally can’t tap more than 80 percent of your home’s total equity, so if your mortgage is already taking up 75 percent of that, you may not have enough equity left to fix the weatherhead. Your home will act as security for the home equity loan, just like with your mortgage, so make sure you can cover it every month.

If you can get a home equity loan of either type, they’ll have the longest terms and thus the smallest payments. As long as yours doesn’t have a prepayment penalty, you can always pay extra, but you’ll never be in a position where you’re scrambling to find the money to make a stretch payment. Talk to your credit union or the bank where you have your checking account or mortgage to get started with one of these loans.

Personal loans. Personal loans can be difficult to qualify for because there’s not generally any security involved, but if you can get one, they’ll do in a pinch. Since there isn’t any collateral, they process much faster than a home equity loan, getting that power turned back on faster. The downside is that you’re likely going to be paying a much higher rate than you would with a secured form of credit and the term will be much shorter, but you also don’t risk losing your home if you miss a payment.

401(k) loan. Oh ye of little faith, you thought that 401(k) was never going to do anything for you, didn’t you? Today it’s going to prove you wrong. Depending on how much of your funds are vested and how your specific 401(k) is set up, you can likely either take a loan out against your retirement fund or take a tax-free withdrawal based on a hardship exemption (consult with your financial advisor first).

Now, keep in mind that doing this means that you’re literally stealing from your future in order to have cold beer in the fridge. But, sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Make it up later by increasing your contribution by a percent or two, then maybe you won’t be sitting around eating pork and beans from a can when you’re in your 70s while reminding yourself that it was really important that you caught “American Idol” the week after the big storm.

Borrowing from family. Hey, don’t skip this one. Read all the way through. It’s no fun to ask family for money, but sometimes, you’re caught between a rock and hard spot. Or your bacon pops out of the frying pan into the fire. Or something. When things are rough, sometimes you have to go back to your people and grovel. You can probably think of a long list of cons for this one, but the pros include having someone who probably won’t foreclose and also your family member gets some interest, so that’s nice for them.

If you do borrow from family or friends who are like family, make sure to draw up a formal loan agreement. You can find something pretty basic online, you just need to make sure it includes the payment amount, the payment due date, the number of payments, the interest rate and the total amount borrowed so that everyone’s covered. Even though your parents would never sue you for the amount due, that loan’s a little more real when the pen goes to paper.

What About Free Grant Money That’s Free?

There are some grant programs out there, but they are very few and far between. Primarily, they go to people who are elderly, very impoverished and live in rural areas, but if there’s a grant program in your area, apply. It can’t hurt anything.

The biggest downside to grant money for a repair like yours is that they’re rarely in any hurry to get things done. Grants can be achingly slow, even if you’re approved right away. You probably can’t afford that kind of time investment. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s not going to cost you a fortune.

One Last Stab: Service Provider Credit

Contractors across the country are stepping up their games and partnering with financial institutions to be able to offer you credit programs to help pay for those big and unexpected expenses. Just like doctors and veterinarians have teamed with Care Credit, there are specific partners for roofers, electricians and their kin. Not every contractor is taking advantage of these programs, nor does every construction expert have the staff or interest to even look into them, but it’s worth asking about.

A simple, “Hey, do you have any sort of credit program available?” can help you determine if you have to start selling excess organs on the black market to get the lights turned back on (don’t actually do that #NotADoctor). You might try calling a few different providers to see if you can find someone with a lender in place if you’re kind of out of options. You will very likely pay more for the service itself, since a contractor at that level will have more staff to pay, more overhead to cover and so forth, but it’s a trade-off. You pay for the additional customer support and you get back to life as you knew it before that dark and stormy night.

Looking for a Lender or an Electrician?

Whether you need a lender or an electrician, it’s easy to find the right person to help right away in the HomeKeepr community. Just log in, search for your specific need and you’ll be served up a list of over 200 vendors who have been specifically recommended by Scott Stephens. You know they’ve got to be good if your agent was willing to stand behind them, so there’s nothing to worry about — you’ll be back to normal in no time!  Don’t wait until it’s too late.  Click here for this valuable list;

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How to get a Great Mortgage

Mortgage blogYou’re just a few hoops away from applying for a loan that’ll get you out of the apartment life forever and into a home of your own. Before you darken a lender’s doorstep, virtual or otherwise, you should really put a little effort into polishing your financial profile. After all, the better you look to your lender, the better odds you’ll have of getting a mortgage that you’re not just ok with, but pretty freaking pleased about.

We’ve put together a quick start guide for boosting your credit before buying that you can download here that’ll help you fix your credit issues. Then, you’ll be ready to read on for some insights about how the mortgage qualification process works.

Mortgage Qualification Demystified

Although every new borrower goes into a mortgage thinking that it’s a magic process full of unknown factors that appear randomly when they least expect them, the truth is that qualifying for a mortgage is fairly straightforward. It just seems like a gauntlet because you get so much new stuff thrown at you all at the same time, and you’re sort of seriously stressed worrying that you won’t be approved after jumping through so many hoops. Almost every borrower goes through this high pressure experience, unfortunately, but knowing what to expect can make it a little easier.

A mortgage qualification is a simple process, really. The property and the borrower are qualified separately, but for the purpose of this article, we’re only going to focus on you. You’re all that matters here. These are the primary items that your lender is going to look at when it comes to qualifying you:

– Credit history
– Job history
– Debts
– Current base income
– Income potential
– Cash reserves
– Assets and investments

Let’s break each of these items down and discuss what lenders are looking for in an ideal candidate and how you can inch your way toward becoming that perfect borrower. Don’t worry, no one is a perfect borrower, but the better you are, the more likely you are to get the loan you want. The world of home mortgages can be your oyster.

Credit History

This one is kind of a no-brainer. Everybody knows you need good credit to get a loan, so we won’t spend too much time lingering here (don’t forget to download our credit boosting guide!). Pay your bills on time, don’t take out more debt than you can reasonably repay, try to keep your revolving credit under about 30 percent of the limit (yes, that little, for real) and don’t close any credit lines that you happen to pay off. You’ll need them to help decrease your debt to credit limit ratio.

Oh, and be sure to track your credit score using a reputable service like Fair Isaac’s MyFico. It’s not the same as what you get free from your credit card company, this is a powerful tool made by the people who actually created the algorithm that your mortgage lender is going to use to determine your ability to get a loan. Think of it like a monthly trial run.

Job History

Kind of another given. No one will loan you anything, even a lawnmower, if they don’t think you’re stable and they can find you if you don’t bring it back. Having a track record of being at the same company for a while, or in the same field, looks really good for you. This is not to say that you can’t change jobs, but try to limit it to the bare minimum in the three year period leading up to your mortgage application.

The more stable you look to your lender, the happier they’re going to be. There are exceptions, of course. If you’ve been in school for the thing you’re doing now or if you do a thing that is, by its very nature temporary, some lenders are willing to accept that you’re probably still pretty ok. They’re still going to verify that you really did all those jobs, though, so start keeping a list.


This is where the rubber meets the road. Can you actually afford to buy a house? Are you swimming in debt? Are you using debt to pay your debt? Your lender wants to know that you’re not so encumbered that one small bout of food poisoning will result in the entire house of cards falling down and your mortgage ending up in foreclosure.

Try to pay off anything you can, focusing on the biggest monthly payments first. Your future lender is mainly concerned with things that show up on your credit report, so that $100 you borrowed from your brother isn’t really on their radar unless you just can’t bear the weight of the secret and confess it. Even then, they’re not going to get too worried about it.

Current Base Income

People get kind of cranky about this particular item, so let’s just get it out in the open. When lenders look at your income, they’re looking at your base income. They’re not considering bonuses, even if they’re regular, and they don’t give two shakes about all that grueling overtime you’ve been putting in.

The reason for this is that it can’t be relied upon. They only want to use income they know will be there in a near-worst-case scenario. Obviously not having a job would be worse, but if your company needed to slash overtime and stop giving out bonuses, your bank wants to be sure you can still make the payment. Aside from demanding a raise from your boss, there’s not a ton you can do about this.

Income Potential

Mortgages are typically 15, 20 or 30 years in length. Because of this, banks want to know you’re going to be good for the long term. Makes sense. That’s why they poke into your job history and your income stuff so deeply. Your potential to continue to remain employed and to make as much, if not more, money as you do right now is a great big checkmark in your “good to go” column.

Cash Reserves

Do you have a giant vault of money that you swim around in like famed avian tycoon Scrooge McDuck? No? Well, that’s ok. If you did, it would be a lot of wasted effort to get a mortgage when you could just use those gold coins to pay for a house yourself… ahem.

Cash reserves are whatever your personal money vault currently holds. That’s going to include your savings account and whatever amount of money tends to stay put in your checking account. If you haven’t been saving, now’s as good a time as any to examine your spending and make some little changes that will add up to big cash when it comes time to apply for a mortgage.

Those cash reserves are great for so many things as a homeowner, even if you don’t end up needing them at the closing table.

Assets and Investments

The friendly neighborhood 401(k) is probably the most commonly overlooked investment that a large number of potential homeowners have available to them for this particular round of the mortgage qualification game. It’s easy to forget you’re stashing money away in one since it’s automatically deducted and, if your employer’s awesome, there’s some sort of matching that helps you save even faster.

Other investments would include things like stocks, bonds, futures, rental property, stakes in startups that are making money, that sort of thing. Whatever you have, disclose it and if the banker thinks it’ll hold water, they’ll submit it to underwriting to see how it fits into your lending program of choice’s particular rules. These are purely optional, but can help fulfill requirements like reserve funds, when needed.

When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough: Mitigating Factors

Sometimes, no matter what you do, your best isn’t good enough. Your credit’s just a little too unstable, you haven’t been on the job long enough, your bank account is consistently on “E.” When the loan officer comes back with a downturned head and a frown, don’t despair — not yet, anyway. This is when mitigating factors can come into play.

To explain mitigating factors, it’s important that you understand that most mortgages these days are automatically underwritten. Underwriting, for the uninitiated, is sort of the entire process of examining your materials and determining if you’re a good risk for the loan. Fleshy people still have to verify the information that was fed into the computer, but the computer gives the yes or the no, based on a risk-based algorithm.

Sometimes you break the algorithm and it kicks your file right up to a manual (human) underwriter. This person looks at your evidence and your argument for why you’d be a great mortgage holder and never, ever default, and they make the final call. They often do this based on the cards you’re holding in your particular hand. Those are the mitigating factors. There are a couple of examples below, but these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Example #1: Let’s say that you only want to borrow $300k. Your credit is pretty ok, not perfect, but not bad. But, you’ve switched career fields in the last three years and what you’re doing now is totally different from what you were doing, but the income is more or less the same. That’s sort of a huge scary red flag for the computer. As a mitigating factor, you have $100k between your savings and other liquidatable assets. You might very well be approved for the loan anyway because of your assets and cash reserves.

Example #2: You have a good job, a stable job, the pay is ok, but your student loan debt is such a bugaboo. Under the bank’s calculation method, the way your student loan will figure into your debt to income ratio throws your entire DTI into the red zone. You don’t even make the payment the bank figured because you have a modified payment plan, that’s the real steamer! But, you have good credit, you have that 401(k) at work you’ve been slowly contributing to and it’s up to around $50k.

Your good credit, your good job history, your stability and that 401(k) may be plenty of mitigating factors for the bank to go to a “stretch ratio,” effectively allowing you to borrow even though their own guidelines say you shouldn’t.

There are all kinds of ways to win with mitigating factors, but it’s always easier if you don’t have to invoke them. The more you have to mitigate, the more you have to document and the longer it takes to get to the closing table. Best to come with your best face forward the first time.

Find the Mortgage You’re Dreaming Of…

Of course, this is all just theory until you put pencil to paper (or stylus to tablet) and meet with a banker who will plug you into their system and give you the official word. The problem with bankers, though, is that there are lots of them, and it can be hard to know who to trust. Luckily, there are plenty of highly-recommended banking pros in the HomeKeepr community just waiting for your phone call. Check it out, they’re more than happy to help you get started and guide you through the mortgage process.

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How do I get into my first home?

Powerful tips on what needs to be done to get into your own home.

It is truly unfortunate, that these days, too many people don’t even believe in home ownership. For 95% of families, it’s the most sure way toward financial stability and a comfortable retirement.

Luckily, you’re NOT one of those people.  You know that a sure way to start building wealth (or at least stop paying someone else’s mortgage) is to buy a home. You’re now thinking about your future, and your family’s future (or future family’s future).  But how do you get started?

First, it’s going to take a plan and commitment.  You’ve probably heard this before, yet I’ll reiterate it. A written set of goals, to purchase your home, is your surefire way to make it happen sooner, rather than later. Talk to a lender, today (I have a couple who are wonderful with first time buyers). Even if you’re nowhere close to being able to buy, a lender can tell you what you’ll qualify for, when you ARE ready…How much cash you need for a down payment and closing costs, and how much your monthly payment will be.  When you have your plan complete, write the amount you need to save, every day/week/month on a sticky note and post it where you’ll see it every day.

Now comes the really tough part…How do I come up with that money every day/week/month?  CUT BACK ON ALL FRIVOLOUS SPENDING!  I am amazed that people who are still living at home or renting, think they have to drink $5 coffees, eat out 3 or more times a week, have the newest clothes/shoes/phones/computers and spend the rest of their money on a fancy car. Changing your lifestyle now, even if just enough to save a down payment, will reward you for the rest of your life (way longer than those material fads).

Other possible options (to get into your own home even quicker); Lower your current rent, by downsizing or sharing…Get a 2nd job (even $200/week adds up fast)…Sell your car (get something cheaper, take the bus or carpool).  Keep reminding yourself why you’re making these sacrifices, and how much happier you’re going to be, when in control of your own financial future.  Then make sure you put every penny of that $$$ into your “Down Payment Savings Account”.

Here is a Great interview on CNN about the subject; 





Lastly, Get financial help. You may have parents or other relatives who are willing to help you get started. Yet there are also many public down payment and first time buyer assistance programs. We can help you find those as well.

For more information on many aspects of purchasing and owning a home, please go to; 

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7 Important Tax Law Changes in 2016


As always, we publish this informations to help you. Yet we are NOT tax advisors. Please consult your tax professional for advice.

1. Three Extra Days – The tax filing deadline is delayed due to April 15 falling on a weekend and Emancipation day in Washington, DC. Returns may be filed until April 18, 2017. If you extend six months, the return will be due October 16, 2017.

2. Refund Delays – If you file early and claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Added Child Tax Credit (ACTC), the IRS must hold your refund until February 15. The first refunds for filers who claim these credits is expected to be the week of February 27.

3. Renewing Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) – An ITIN is used by some taxpayers in place of a Social Security number. If it has not been used in three years or the middle digits are 78 or 79, the ITIN will expire. It may take up to 11 weeks to renew the ITIN. Taxpayers may contact the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) to obtain help in renewing their ITIN.

4. Olympic Medals – For 2016 Olympic and Paralympic winners with incomes of $1 million or less, their gold, silver or bronze medals and United States Olympic Committee (USOC) cash awards are not taxable.

5. ABLE Accounts – It is now possible to create a special account for persons who become disabled before age 26. Donors are permitted to make annual gifts with the current exclusion amount of $14,000 per year. While the gift does not qualify for an income tax deduction, the account may grow and distributions for a disabled person’s qualified expenses are tax-free.

6. Standard Mileage Rates – The IRS publishes mileage rates each year for business use, medical and moving travel and charitable travel. For 2016, the business use qualifies for $0.54 per mile, medical and moving expenses are $0.19 per mile and charitable travel is $0.14 per mile.

7. IRA Rollover Self-Certification – The normal IRA rollover limit is 60 days. Self-certification may enable you to have an extended period of time for an IRA rollover. In order to self-certify, you must fall into one of 11 specific categories. These include “a distribution check that was misplaced and never cashed, the taxpayer’s home was severely damaged, a family member died, the taxpayer or a family member was seriously ill, the taxpayer was incarcerated or restrictions were imposed by a foreign country.”

The IRS asks IRA owners to use a “trustee to trustee” transfer instead of the 60 day rollover. A trustee to trustee transfer avoids the risk of exceeding the 60 day limit.

In FS-2017-1 the IRS published a summary of seven tax changes.

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Something Good out of Sacramento

We don’t hear this very often and you probably thought you’d never hear me say it. Yet Governor Brown did approve some legislation to protect families from suffering further loses, after a loved one has passed. CA Legislature

Unfortunately, too many people pass away, without any kind of Will or agreement for the disposition of their property(s). Some pass unexpectedly way too soon. In these cases, the state and attorneys get a large chunk of the estate’s value, while trying to figure out, who should get it.

There is now a simple new form, that can be filed at anytime (see limitations below), to help curb all those unnecessary expenses ($1500-$2000 avg. trust costs) and keep the funds with the family (or other party designated), where they belong. This is thanks to California State Assembly Bill 139, passed September 21, 2015, whose provisions have been available in Hawaii and a few other states for sometime.

Beginning January 1, 2016, Assembly Bill 139 (also known as the Poor Man’s Trust), created a non-probate method for conveying interest in real property upon death. This is accomplished through a revocable transfer upon death deed (RTDD). If an RTDD has been filed, on 1-4 units, or agricultural land of less than 40 acres, from now through 1/1/2021, the deed automatically transfers to the listed recipient, and can only be revoked by a recorded document.

There are exceptions and certain provisions, for instance; if the property is owned by 2 people & 1 dies, the surviving person must file a new RTDD… If owned by Tenants in Common, it only affects the decedents portion of the property and if owned by Joint Tenancy, it is voidable. It does not require owner or lender to file a quit claim deed and it terminates upon the sale of the property (if sold to someone other than beneficiary). It also doesn’t not affect the current ownership in any way. The RTDD Must be recorded within 60 days of execution.

For more information on protecting your family, your assets, or to help explain this to loved ones, please call Scott Stephens (714) 801-6230…Before it’s too late.

For a full copy of the legislation;


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6 Years of Growth could spell Trouble

Real estate and other markets have been on s fantastic run, the last 6 years. Most markets have made a full recovery from the previous down-turns. Yet, as we’ve all heard the old saying “too much of a good thing…”                 Orange

Jonathan Lasner, took and indepth look at where we’ve come from, we are currently, and where we might be headed, in his “Big Orange Index”, in his Orange County Register article, on January 24, 2016. He noted that our 2016 economy has started strong, but that this steak “is creating challenges…beneath the surface.”  His Big Orange Index, which is a compilation of 3 dozen benchmarks, shows a new record high as 2015 ended. Yet that 4th quarter report showed the second smallest increase since the upswing began in 2010.

Jonathan noted the following areas where there appears to be a new lack of confidence; CEOs (last 3 quarters), shoppers, property owners. Another economist (unknown) noted that 41% of Americans are also nervous about rising interest rates, this year.

Governor Jerry Brown, in his infenant wisdom, has declared a state of emergency on housing rentals. This could limit rent increases to 10% in the very near future. Real estate investor purchases have been helping to keep prices appreciating. While this may not create a huge sell of, it could slow appreciation significantly. Lasner also noted that do to the limited supply of properties (for both owner occupied & non-owner occupied), which has driven prices to record levels and stretchered buyers’ abilities, has lead to falling Property Owner indexes.

The Asian economy is also something we must watch closely. As you can read in my previous blogs, Asians make up a HUGE portion of the buyers in many US areas, including LA/Orange County. Earlier this month China had to close it’s stock markets 30 minutes after opening, due to a huge sell off, which prompted even more selling and then flattening. This prompted their government to dump $18 Billion into their markets.  If this massive sector of buyers were to pull out of US markets, appreciations would slow, and if they started selling many of their holding, in any or all of their areas of influence (residential, retail & commercial), this could have a devastating effect on home values.

Lasner also mentioned that this upswing has run for one year longer than in the last decade. He suggested that if the current “…skittishness remains so widespread…how will Orange County react”, and questions whether it will “…turn into stagnation or worse?”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT predicting a doomsday scenario. Yet, we have to ask ourselves, How much riskier do does the real estate market have to get, before we decide, its time to move?

Isn’t it Time to Hire the Right Agent? My team and I keep our fingers on the pulse of the market, by looking at over 200 homes a month. If you want a Specialist, someone who KNOWS this Market, working for you, Please call us (714) 801-6230.

For more information, search for homes, check demographics and more;

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Mortgage Closings are now Taking Longer

Some of you may have already heard about the new consumer protections called “TRID”, which stands for this mouth-full; “TILA (for Truth In Lending Act), RESPA (for Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act), Integrated, Disclosures. Yup, congress, through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has once again taken consumer concerns (or acted on their own to look good), and came up with new laws to turn your world upside down.

Effective today, Big changes take effect in all residential real estate transactions involving mortgages (purchase and refinances).  Commercial, cash and other transactions types are not affected (evidently they are smarter & can protect themselves). This could extend the current 30 day escrow, to 60 days (although, after everyone gets grasp on all the new disclosures & timelines, could settle in around 45 days). These new government mandates, although designed to protect buyers/borrowers, will effect Sellers & almost every other entity in real estate transactions from now on.

The current “Good Faith Estimate” will be replaced by a “Loan Estimate”, which will be received within 3 days of applying for a loan. The “Closing Disclosure” must be received by the borrower 3 business days before the closing. If this disclosure is mailed, couriered or emailed, they must add another 3 business days. This is a huge change, because today, some necessary information is still being gathered (changing signing documents) 1-2 days before closings. To accomplish these new mandates buyers & agents will need to get lenders EVERYTHING they need 10 days before the closing…Rush or Last-Minute Closings will No Longer be Possible. Realistically, buyers & sellers may need to add 3-4 weeks to closings, to accomplish everything needed.woman pulling hair

Trying to close by the end of the month (to save on interest)? You must get all documents to your lender by early to mid-month, especially if you want to ask questions.  In February that means immediately after the Super Bowl.

Real Estate Purchase contracts have also been changed. So make sure you agents knows them, and knows how to still get your transaction closed in a timely matter.  Scott Stephens is a Real Estate Trainer, keeping not only himself, but also his fellow agents up-to-date on all new changes. Additionally, he uses a lender, “United American Mortgage Company” who GUARANTEES they can still close purchases in 30 days*. Whether you are a Buyer or Seller you’ll want to Call Scott, Keller Williams Realty, for advise (714) 801-6230 or Phil Andrews, of UAMC (714) 287-6148 (sellers can require buyers to apply with Phil, although they can’t require that they use him, providing confidence they can close on time). No Hablo Ingles…Jessica McClure (714) 713-0172.

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Missed it by that much

missed by thatZillow, Trulia and other online real estate systems are great entertainment. For anyone who is just starting the process of purchasing or selling a home, and like to gather as much information as possible, they provide a loose idea, of home values and of possible homes for sale. Yet I have found, in speaking with my clients, as well as some of my colleagues, they miss the mark Big Time, there are MANY mistakes, and a lot of misinformation.

Everyone of my clients, who have used an online search system prior to contacting me to help them find the perfect home, stated that Many of the homes were already SOLD, there is a lot of misrepresentation of amenities, and some are even made up (they don’t exist anywhere in the system, and no one has any record of them being for sale). Here’s what one of them posted on my website (; “Your website has been a great help in trying to find the right home. The search options available are great and the feature to save searches is very helpful and time saving. One big advantage over websites like Zillow and Trulia is that the listings are always up to date. Prior to my knowledge of your website, I found many properties on Zillow and Trulia that weren’t available anymore or had errors in listing. This lead to false perceptions and were a waste of time. Thank you for showing me your website. I really appreciate it.”  Ritesh Meta 9/30/13

When it comes to putting a value on your home, the results are likely just as far off. Sites have been as much as $100,000 in difference, on the same home. Zestimates (by Zillow) rank their accuracy, for Los Angeles & Orange County, 4 stars (their highest ranking) as of the date of this article.   Missed by that much

Here’s what they published for the OC (LA stats are within 2% pints in each level); “…our estimates are with __% of the sold price, __% of the time. Within 5% – 40% of the time, within 10% – 67% of the time and within 20% – 85% of the time.” Note; All rounded to nearest whole.

So, if we use the current OC median price, of $680,000, they may have only been off by $34,000, 60% of the time. You may be ok to eat that, if you don’t want to talk to a professional. Yet it could be a $68,000 loss in 33% of the cases, which would make it a little more difficult to swallow. It gets better…They would only be off 15% of the time, by $136,000. Is that bad?

If I were one in 7 people, who could stand to lose $136,000, I would CERTAINLY ask a professional.

Your local Realtor (if they have over 20 years experience, like I do) can Save you money, by finding the perfect house, in the quickest time and negotiating the best offer, and/or Make you the most Money, through correct pricing, marketing and negotiating your current home’s sale. All while making sure everyone is protected through the most up-to-date disclosures.

Go ahead and satisfy your curiosity and be entertained with an online site, but use a Realtor, when you get serious about buying, selling or investing in real estate.  And don’t be surprised if they come up with some very different information.

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Surprise…I’m not going to tell you “It’s Time to Sell”

I’m going to let you make that decision, based on the facts of our current real estate market.

The trend – Median sales prices in California have been appreciating for going on 5 years now. More the most part, all loses have been recouped from the 2007 debacle. In 2012 the median rose about 12 percent, in 2013 it was 27 percent, last year we saw about a 10 percent appreciation and this year we’re at about 5. What direction do you think it will take from here?

Supply – The 2015 spring market saw an average appreciation, which was surprising, because the inventory was very low. The supply this spring was only about 1.5 months (meaning if nothing changed and no more came on the market that inventory would be gone). Currently we have about nearly a 2.5 month supply.  Listing inventory has nearly doubled. This isn’t all do to fewer buyers (because the spring market is over), there are also many more sellers listing their homes, and buyers are more cautious, taking their time to find the right home. More sellers believe we are near a peak again. The OC Register reported 8/6/2015, that consumer confidence in long-term appreciation had dropped by 10%.

Demand- The obvious fact that I mentioned above “the spring market is over”, is only part of the demand issue.  Here in Southern California housing affordability has dropped to one of its lowest points in history, 21%. Plus, the age of our average home buyer has moved up again, from 38 two years ago to 48 today. Condos are the new affordability frontier again. Existing condos sale in The O.C. are up 17.9% from a year ago, compared to the 5% home sales.

The proverbial Straw – Chinese government devaluing the Yuan. This monetary imbalance may affect many aspects of our life, most of all real estate values. You see 19% of Southern California homes sales have been to Chinese buyers. This may change drastically.

Where do you think the real estate market is going?

Check your neighborhood stats against those of any other area across the country;

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