Monday, December 31, 2007

Dataquick's November Sales Numbers

Santa Barbara Counties Dataquick sales information on Home and Condo sales has been available for about a little over a week now. Sorry I'm tardy at getting this information out. I guess having Santa deliver a leopard gecko and Guitar Hero 3 is a lame excuse, but I'll use it anyway. I hope eveyone had a terrific Christmas! The information is a bit hard to really get my arms around since there were so few sales in November of 2007. What Dataquick is reporting is that for Santa Barbara County there were 158 homes that closed escrow and 34 condos. The median price home went up .4% and the median price for a condo was down 7.2% from November of 2006. You can browse through the rest of the zipcodes listed for Santa Barbara and make your own determination of what is going on, but I for one am hard pressed to draw any real conclusions, since there were so few sales. Have a fantastic New Year! See You In Escrow!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

ZeeMaps Showing November Sales

I am pretty excited about a new feature of my blog. I ran across ZeeMaps trying to figure out how to publish the CORT property sales to my blog. It did exactly what I wanted it to do for free. So, every month I will be updating the map at the bottom of the blog page to show all the property sales in the Santa Barbara area. I haven't quite figured out if I want to do the same with the North County properties, but I probably will. Here is what it looks like. I will keep this map permanently posted at the bottom of the blog. I am not sure exactly as to how I may tweak this in the future, but it is usable right now. Let me know your feedback. See You In Escrow!

Zillow On The Mesa

I am going to admit right off the bat I don't know how Zillow works. But I decided to play around with it for a short while and I am going to focus my post today on the properties that they are showing for sale on The Mesa or zip 93109. I was at first intrigued to see that I could do a search for homes listed for sale in the 93109 zip code and up they popped on a very nice map. My first thought was that Zillow was getting information from the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors and so this information would pretty much mirror that information. I started clicking on the icons to see some of the details of the properties and this is where things got interesting. The first property I clicked on was a home just around the corner from where I live. It is listed with a local realtor but was showing in Zillow as a for sale by owner. So, I went to view the listing on that agents site and I found all the property information to be the same. Zillow did have an advertisement from a competing agent, interesting. The next couple of properties I clicked on were properties that I know are listed with agents, but they appeared to be entered in to Zillow by someone that wasn't associated with the property. Just someone that is a member of Zillow. So I decided to go to the agents websites and view the listing pages that are up for these listings and guess what? The prices didn't match what was listed on Zillow. I wonder what problems this may cause someone, if any. Zillow does have a little link at the bottom that allows the agent or seller to claim this listing, which I suppose let's them modify it. I clicked on a fourth listing and low and behold it looked like the agent who had it listed was also uploading the listing on Zillow. That last one made some sense to me. I then clicked on a few more and one alarming trend was I saw a few properties showing as for sale that had closed escrow. My thoughts are this, if you are an agent you should probably be keeping an eye out for any of your listings that may show up on Zillow. If you are a buyer you may want to do a more extensive investigation of a property before relying too much on anything you see on See You In Escrow!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

I have seen some pretty funny cartoons and jokes going around about the condition of the real estate market and the holidays. They have really brought me to think about how many things there are to be thankful for. We get to experience an industry filled with terrific people. If that wasn't enough we get to do it in what might just be the best place on earth to live. Now if you really want to get down and dirty about what to be thankful for, you should consider your health, your family, and all of those things that are very near and dear to your heart. I hope that as busy as we all are we can take more than a moment to know how truly blessed we are. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Santa Barbara County Loan Activity for November

The loan activity in the South County of Santa Barbara fell in November compared with October. The number of non purchase loans was down about 11% to 341. The number of purchase loans was up about 6% to 86. There are certainly some seasonal influences affecting these numbers but these numbers are pretty low compared to earlier in the year. Santa Maria saw the same trend with the number of non purchase transactions being down and the number of purchase loans being up slightly from October. Lompoc wasn't any different. In speaking with lenders there are still some good loan programs out there. The underwriting across the board is certainly more stringent than it has been in many years. This is a good thing. See You In Escrow!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Santa Barbara Foreclosure Info Nov. 2007

I wasn't sure if there would be anything interesting to post about until I gathered the numbers. I am only hazarding a guess when I say that if you look at the last few months it would appear that the foreclosures in the county are slowing down a bit. The number of Notice of Defaults that were recorded in November fell to 121 as compared to 176 and 209 in the previous 2 months. I would think that would be the leading indicator of what the foreclosure activity is. The bank owned properties that sold were 17 which is a bit more than in previous months which might indicate there will be less of these properties on the market soon. The properties the banks took back was 40 which was down slightly from last months 45. The number of loans that adjusted in November was 220 which is the highest number I currently show through June of 2008. You can draw your own conclusions, but from what I can tell the foreclosures look to be slowing down, and hopefully that isn't because of the holidays season. See You In Escrow!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Santa Maria and Lompoc November Sales Statistics

Santa Maria and Lompoc saw a very small increase in the number of closings in November. There were 95 combined closings in October and 99 in November. Lompoc did 3 more closings in November. There total was 25 as compared to the 22 that closed in October. Santa Maria had 1 more closing. They had 74 as compared to 73 the month before. Both of these areas have seen what you would probably consider a seasonal slow down starting in September. It will be interesting to see if the closings pick up in December like the charts show they have in the last few years. See You In Escrow

Monday, December 10, 2007

Santa Barbara South County Sales For November

I went back and looked at what CORT numbers I could find. The numbers I found went back to 1997. We almost did it, we almost hit double digits in the number of sales in the South County of Santa Barbara in November. I couldn't believe that the number we hit in October was ever going to be beaten, but it was and it didn't take long. Maybe December or January will be the winner and the number of sales will fall in to the double digits. I just can't seem to get a grip on what the bottom is going to be when it comes to the number of sales. We are certainly in our seasonal downturn and when you add the uncertainty the credit issues have thrown at every one's mental state of mind it goes to figure we are seeing historic lows in terms of the number of transactions. Lawyers Title had the pleasure of opening escrows today on 9 properties that were auctioned off by a builder over the weekend. If you ask me the buyers made good deals. The properties are brand new and have some very nice features and amenities. I think sellers are doing what it takes to draw buyers in to their properties. The number one thing is being realistic on a listing price. Now back to the CORT numbers, I couldn't find any months where there had been less than a 100 sales close. I looked all the way back to Jan of 1997. There were a handful of months below the 150 number, but there were many more months where there were over 300 closings. We are living in historic times. The next few months could be record breakers, but after that I think we are going to see things start picking up. See You In Escrow!

Santa Barbara Association of Realtors Awards Dinner

Thursday night at the Doubletree was a very well attended event. I tried to get around to see everyone but there just wasn't enough time. This event was particularly special because The Association of Realtors was celebrating their 100th anniversary in Santa Barbara. Chris Agnoli did an excellent job of having fun and recapping his terrific year as president of the association. Of course Laurie Dorris was the hostess with the mostest as she always says. She did a terrific job of making the evening fun. The event wouldn't be what is is without the award winners. This years winners were Carol Kruckenberg for The Presidents Award, Ed & Harry Heron received a Special Recognition Award, Karen Chackel for Affiliate of the Year, Lois Capps won the Community Service Award, Don Katich won the Good Neighbor Award, Zena Drewisch won the Distinguished Service Award, Ruscha Robbins won the Howard Gates Award, and The Realtor Of The Year went to Matt Vaughan. Congratulations to all the winners and to the Association for pulling off their 100th anniversary celebration. See You In Escrow!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Santa Barbara MLS Statistics

Gary Woods does a great job of compiling statistics on a monthly basis using the Santa Barbara Multiple Listing information and then sending them out to all the agents. He was also kind enough to do some comparisons of the last 4 years. I took some time to check them out and a few things jumped out at me. The number of sales is down 27% from 2004 in the Estate-PUD category year to date. The cancellation rate in the same category has more than doubled from 2004 but it is just up slightly from last year at 13.3%. All the while the median price is up for the last 4 years. As far as the condo market is concerned the number of sold properties is up 12% from last year. In both the Estate and Condo categories the number of listings is down from last year. I can remember a famous Santa Barbara Real Estate Professional by the name of Ed Heron saying "We have our best years when inventory is down". Well if the trend of less inventory continues we will be able to put Ed's thoughts to the test. See You In Escrow!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Subprime Loans, Where Are They?

The New York Times published an interesting map showing what counties have the highest percentage of subprime loans. I noticed Santa Barbara County was on the low side compared to many. I think that should help us see a quicker recovery from where we are now. It is interesting to note that Texas and many states in the south are the ones with the highest percentage of subprime loans. See You In Escrow!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

National Housing News

I read an article in Inman News today that seemed to say we are in an interesting time nationally regarding the housing market. The median prices across the country continue to slip, while housing affordability is rising a bit if you compare the 3rd quarters for the last 2 years. I had not been paying attention to the affordability index recently and it will be interesting to see how that is affected as the prices adjust. I am curious what others might think that will do to consumer confidence. It would make sense to me that if the affordability of homes increases, so then would consumer confidence. My only thoughts are how soon will the consumer confidence rise after the affordability index rises. A huge jolt of confidence is precisely what I think this market needs. The stock market has had a couple of good rallies recently. I know the White House adjusted it's growth numbers slightly for next year, but growth is good and being on the plus side of that is always good. The other piece of confidence I think is another group that needs a big jolt of confidence is the investors who have purchased mortgage backed securities. Once they start feeling good and the home buyers are confident things will get back on track. It can't be too far away. Let me know what you think. See You In Escrow!

Monday, November 26, 2007

2008, What Is Your Plan?

I know you have barely digested your Thanksgiving Turkey and are still feasting on the leftovers. I know that agents that want to hit the ground running next year are busy doing 2 things. The first thing is they haven't given up on this year. There are many agents putting escrows together right now. The second thing they are doing is putting a plan together for next year. Things like budgets and marketing plans as well as putting new programs together to enable you to hit your goals for 2008 are very important. I have never put together a business plan for a real estate agent but I would assume it would consist of many of the same things that my business plan consists of. Goals for revenue, by month broken down in to the number of escrows opened and closed. That would also include an activity plan focused on how many customer referrals you are going to achieve as well as new customers you are going to acquire. One good local resource is the SCORE organization. This is the Service Corp of Retired Executives. Santa Barbara They give free business planning tips. A quick search on the Internet gave me quite a few options. Here are a couple that might help get your juices flowing. has a pretty simple list of helpful ideas as well as a link to a book that the author is trying to sell. I also ran across this blog that looked pretty interesting and easy to follow, The blog actually had a couple contributors who posted business planning advice. Good Luck and See You In Escrow!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

There are sooooo many things to give thanks for that I couldn't possibly even begin to start and have time to finish. We are very blessed to live where we do and be in the real estate business. I wanted to take a moment and just publicize some of the ways you can help those in this county that aren't as fortunate. The foodbank needs about another 3,000 turkeys. UCSB is organizing it's own food drive. The Unity Shoppe is also in need of food. There are many other organizations organizing food drives for the needy here in our communities. I hope you are able to join in and give back to a community that has blessed all of us very much. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Santa Barbara Foreclosure Info

I started keeping track of the Notice of Default recordings as well as the Trustees Deeds and REO deeds. I have added a new item to the chart this month showing the number of mortgages in the County that are going to reset in that month. The number of Trustees Deeds jumped up a bit which you would probably expect because of the increase in the Notice of Defaults that were recorded the previous months. The REO's stayed about the same and the number of loans that are adjusting is obviously not showing us anything until we get a few months on the chart. I think the fact that the Notice of Defaults has gone down the last couple of months is good news and should reflect in fewer Trustees Deeds and REO's on the market. The one thing I am a bit naive about is whether or not the NOD's are going down because of a seasonal influence or not. Stay tuned, and See You In Escrow!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Loan Activity for October

The charts for October are giving me something to feel good about. In each of the areas we chart the refinance business took a move upward for the first time in the last few months. You may be saying, It didn't have anywhere else to go! I on the other hand certainly was hearing that it could have gotten a lot worse. I think that this move upward is showing us that the lenders are figuring out how to handle what hit them. The underwriting requirements and the sources of funds are getting ironed out. That is all very good news. I think we will start seeing an increase in sales in the not to distant future as well. The fact that lenders are getting things moving again will certainly give some much needed confidence to the buyers that are out there. The next people to jump on board will be the investors from Wall Street who will then begin creating even more sources for loans. This will be particularly important for many jumbo loan customers. I would love to hear any comments you might have. See You In Escrow!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Santa Barbara North County October Home Sales

October's home sales numbers are certainly no surprise. Santa Maria and Lompoc have been experiencing foreclosures and REO sales that have been inhibiting the number of real estate

sales in these areas. There were 95 sales recorded this year compared to 133 sales in October of 2006. That is over a 28% decrease in home sales. Lompoc was hit the hardest with only 22 sales this year compared to 53 in October of 2006. Santa Maria was pretty close to last years number of 80, there were 73 for October 2007. In looking at the November and December numbers the last few years there appears to be a larger number of closings in December while November remains pretty close to October except for last year. I will still argue that now is a good time to buy in these areas if you are wanting a home to live in. If you are an investor, well you know better than I do what you should do. See You In Escrow!

Monday, November 12, 2007

October Sales Activity For Santa Barbara's South County

CORT and Dataquick got to the numbers out to us quickly this month. That can only mean 1 thing, there weren't many sale transactions in Santa Barbara County. There were 109 transactions from Goleta to Carp. That compares to 151 transactions in 2006. That is almost a 28% drop in transactions for the month. The areas that were most affected were Santa Barbara and Goleta. Goleta's number dropped 56% from 48 transactions in 2006 to 21 transactions in 2007. Santa Barbara's number of sales wasn't off as significantly but it was down 17% going from 76 in 2006 to 63 in 2007. Carpinteria remained unchanged while Montecito was down 2 transactions from 16 to 14. What does it all mean? My CORT records go back to 1997 and there hasn't been 2 back to back months like September and October of 2007 during that time span. We are living in historic times! I am not expecting November and December to really change things with respects to how many transactions are closing here on the South Coast, but I am feeling pretty darn confident that 2008 will be a better year for closed escrows. Tomorrow I will post the North County charts. See You In Escrow!

First American Has Changed Their Rates

I was a bit concerned when I saw that First American came out with a new rate for their owners policy. I was told that they had significantly lowered it. Then I saw the flier they had emailed and or passed out. If you look further really the only thing they have done is eliminated their rate for a transaction that doesn't qualify for a short term rate. In essence they are giving the short term price on every transaction. As a competitor I was a bit relieved because 80 to 90 percent of our transactions qualify for short term rate already. That means that on almost every transaction we are still very competitively priced. I started to look a little closer at the rate filing they made with the Department of Insurance and I saw they have quietly changed their escrow rate for Santa Barbara County. In fact they have raised their rate in Santa Barbara. I actually think that is a good thing because Escrow in Santa Barbara has been on sale for years. Santa Barbara could be the least expensive county in the State for escrow. I should cover that topic at another time. So be careful to make sure if you have a price conscious seller that you don't just use the flier to determine their savings. See You In Escrow!

Friday, November 9, 2007

How Will The California Fires Affect Real Estate?

The wildfires that have hit California recently have truly devastated many families and communities. There are many humanitarian efforts under way to help the folks who have lost their homes and possessions. The insurance companies and FEMA have been on the scene to give guidance and financial help to folks who need it. I can remember the Painted Cave Fire that hit Santa Barbara in 1990. Our entire community was affected. Hotel rooms and rentals were all taken, contractors were busier than ever. In many ways after we got past all the sadness that the fire created there was a silver lining. The neighborhoods that were all rebuilt are thriving again and the homes are better than ever. Many jobs and careers were launched in an effort to help and rebuild what the fire took away. I am wondering if that is the type of thing that will happen all over again with our most recent wildfires. I know that the cost of remodeling a home has become very expensive and finding contractors who aren't over booked is a very difficult thing. Will the rebuilding efforts raise the costs of remodeling just through competition for contractors and supplies. Of course supplying this industry with jobs and consumers purchasing items to replace what they have lost could help our economy. I'm just not sure what the effects will be. I am thinking it could end up creating some positive economic information. I hope this post doesn't come off as morbid in the midst of what has happened and is still happening for many. I truly feel for the people who have lost their irreplaceble memories and would certainly recommend that if you haven't already donated to a fund you may want to click on the Red Cross website and do it now. See You In Escrow!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Santa Barbara Real Estate, Buy Now or Wait?

That is the $64,000 question! I was at the Prudential California office meeting yesterday and Patti Brotherton had an interesting flier she was giving to her agents. It was entitled "They Were Wrong:". It then had some comments that different periodicals had made in the past, Newsweek, Money Magazine..... The flier credited Gary Watts for the information. He obviously specializes in Orange County property as you can see when you read the 2007 forecast on his website, but I would suggest reading it. There are many similarities with the Santa Barbara Real Estate market. He makes a ton of sense and backs it up with just as many facts. I think many buyers will wait too long to make a purchase. The way I see the market right now is that a buyer has very little competition and plenty to choose from with some very favorable rates. If that is economics 101 I don't know what is. Patti also made the comment that sellers are negotiating right now as well. One of the comments Mr. Watts made on his site is that the average downturn lasts about 27 months and as of October we had been in this cycle for about 25 months. If you are a serious buyer all the signs seem to be pointing in the direction of Buy Now! If you have any thoughts feel free to share them. See You In Escrow!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Appraisal Process Under Fire!

Last week New York's attorney general filed a lawsuit against a larger appraisal management firm for allegedly giving in to pressure from a major lender to manipulate their appraisals for the benefit of the lender. The attorney general wasn't able to file suit against the lender because they fall under federal law. It will be interesting to see if the lender will finds itself in hot water. This brings up an issue that a survey released earlier this year highlighted. The survey done by October Research Corporation and Forsythe Appraisals, LLC had responses from 1200 appraisers nationwide. 90% of the respondents indicated they felt "uncomfortable pressure" to adjust appraisal values. In 2003 the survey indicated that 55% of the respondents felt that way. That is a very substantial increase and has certainly added insult to injury with respects to the foreclosure and distressed sale market. This lawsuit in New York will be interesting to watch and see if other lenders or appraisal firms are hit with similar suits. In Santa Barbara I would like to think that we have been honest in our dealings here in Santa Barbara, but I would like to hear from anyone that might have some insight in to this. See You In Escrow!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

September Appreciation Rates

I have just completed the appreciation rates for the South Santa Barbara County. This is a comparison of the median prices for homes and condos in the south county compared to the median price last year. Overall the south county saw a 6% increase in median prices in September of 2007 from September 2006. Santa Barbara was down 3% to $905,000 and Goleta was up 4% to $861,000. Montecito was up a whopping 31%. In Sept. 2006 the median price in Montecito was 2,247,500 and in Sept. 2007 it climbed to 2,950,000. Carpinteria did not see any change. It's median price stayed at $650,000. Hope Ranch only had 4 sales in Sept. 07 and saw a 169% increase in it's median price. Summerland saw a huge increase as well, but there was only 1 sale in Sept 07. It's increase was 142%. The entire South County had 110 sales in 2007 and 129 in 2006. It would appear that Santa Barbara is still a very desirable place to invest your real estate dollar. See You In Escrow!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Santa Barbara Counties Foreclosure Information

I took a few minutes today to see what the picture looks like for properties in various stages of the foreclosure process in Santa Barbara County. I used an online Dataquick account I have. I first wanted to look at the number of Notice of Defaults that have been filed. This is the first step in the foreclosure process where a trustee on behalf of a lender records a Notice of Default on a property. Borrowers sometimes pay the lender what is owed and then these Notices are rescinded. So a property can be in default more than once. I noticed that there have been a steady increase in the numbers over the last year. The numbers really jumped in July, which would coincide with the Credit problems everyone has heard about. The most recent months show the number of defaults around the 200 number for the county. I then looked at the number of Trustees Deeds that have been recorded. This document is recorded at the end of the foreclosure process and is when the bank takes back the property or an investor buys it. This number seems to have sputtered along until about June where it hit 36 and was followed by 40 in July. The next couple months show a small drop off. The final piece of the foreclosure puzzle is how many properties are banks selling after they have taken them back. That is represented by the number of REO deeds that are being recorded. Those numbers coincided with the number of Trustees Deeds. There were a few more of them from June to September. I am going to start comparing these numbers with the number of loans that are adjusting every month. That will begin in October and we'll see what direction that points this market in. I can tell you I have those numbers starting in October 2007 and ending in July 2008 and October and November are the biggest months during that time frame with loans adjusting. Hopefully that means we have peaked when it comes to these troubled properties. Let me hear your comments. See You In Escrow!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Why Does Get So Much Attention?

I have to admit when Zillow first caught every one's attention I was one of those people. I immediately logged on and looked up my house and had Zillow tell me what it was worth. Zillow didn't do a very good job! It still showed my home being a 3 bed 2 bath home with 1316 square feet. We remodeled about 5 years ago and my home is closer to 2300 square feet now and it is a 4 bed 4 bath. Right off the bat this website struck me as something that needed a lot of work. I have been reading recently and Zillow keeps coming up along with another site name Trulia I have not spent any time on Trulia, so I'll do that later. So, I thought I would check back in with Zillow. It has probably been over a year and nothing on my house has changed and there are many sales in my area that aren't represented. I'm still not impressed. I did start poking around and saw that I could go in and change the information they had on my home. O.K. that's a start, but if other people don't do it then how is the pricing piece of the site going to be accurate? I then poked around a little further to see what homes are for sale and landed on a small Goleta Tract home priced at $799,000. The Zillow estimate of it's value was between $1,060,000 and $1,500,000. This amount of inaccuracy drives me nuts and I decided to say good bye again to Zillow, even though there seemed to be many other cool features to check out. I just can't see how a website that got all this attention for being a site where someone could determine the valuation of their home is still getting a bunch of attention. I guess I'll check back in again in another 6 months or so to see what is happening. In the mean time if you want to know the value of your home I would call a trusted real estate agent, of which there are many. See You In Escrow!

Friday, October 19, 2007

September Loan Activity In Santa Barbara

The loan activity for September was down significantly everywhere in the county. It didn't matter if you were looking at residential refinance or the purchase market the numbers were down in every area over 23% from August. I feel very confident that the credit crisis which hit us a few months back is one of the major reasons for this drastic decline in the market. The lenders have certainly tightened their belts and the property owners are feeling the pain. Santa Barbara's South Coast saw declines of 32% for residential refinances and 28.9% on purchase loans. In looking at the chart, you can see that the number of transactions hit a low for the year without any problem. Santa Maria's numbers were very similar with the residential refinance market dropping 35.8% and the purchase market dropping 23% and both setting a new low for the year. Lompoc wasn't any different, but it's drops were a little more significant on the purchase loans. They dropped 62% from the month before and the refinance market dropped 31% and again they set new lows for the year. I have been saying this for a while now and I am going to sound like a broken record, but if you are a buyer out there and you are sitting on the fence I think jumping in right now wouldn't be a bad idea. You certainly have plenty to choose from and not much competition. The rates are pretty darn good as well. If you are a homeowner and your getting pinched by your mortgage please call a mortgage professional to see what your options are. I have spoken to many myself and they can help. See You In Escrow!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Title Wizard? Not Yet!

I have to admit it took me a week or so to figure out how to approach this topic. If you didn't hear last week the Dept of Insurance in California in conjunction with The California Land Title Association launched a website aimed at consumers called TitleWizard. The site is in response to the DOI asserting that there is no competition in our industry and the way we do market our products is through an elaborate number of kick backs to builders, brokers and lenders. More on that topic on a future post. The new website will allow the general public to get a quick quote on a transaction they are doing. Essentially the site is pretty user friendly and lets a seller or agent or even a lender get a quick quote on title insurance. There are a few challenges that I think the site is going to face. First off, the information the quotes are being generated from needs to be accurate. My understanding is that each title ins. co. is responsible for putting in their own rates. Believe me, there is going to be a learning curve. I have noticed with my own company that some of the rates are not currently quoted correctly. Secondly if you are doing business in a county like Santa Barbara where the title co. not only produces the title insurance but the escrow service is done as well, a quote on escrow fees would be very important. The escrow fees are not posted on the site yet and that will probably take a bit of time. The last and probably not least of all these challenges is that if someone picks a company specifically because of the lower price and that company does not provide the services they were asked to provide I think the consumer is going to be faced with time, effort and possibly money to correct issues caused by a company that was chosen specifically because they were the low cost provider. I will continue to argue that the competition in my industry is based on service. This service by the professionals involved in my industry shouldn't be overlooked because of a few dollars. With respects to the protection someone is getting for our service the one time fee they are having to pay is a bargain. It will be interesting to see what complaints the Department of Insurance may get because they essentially recommended the low cost provider to someone that used the site to choose their Title Co. See You In Escrow!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Santa Barbara Vacancy Rates

The following is a summary of Vacancy Rates from the second to third quarter of 2007 provided by The Tuler/Gamberdella Team. Please contact them for any questions or for additional information regarding their statistics. They do a terrific job of providing and compiling them. Thanks Gentlemen!

Santa Barbara
Office Vacancy remained constant at 2.6% in the third quarter of 2007.
Industrial Vacancy increased from 0.4% to 0.6%.
Retail Vacancy increased from 1.3% to 1.5%.

Office Vacancy decreased from 4.8% to 4.2% over the last 3 months.
Industrial Vacancy decreased from 6.0% to 5.5%

Office Vacancy decreased from 12.4% to 6.2% in the third quarter of 2007.
Industrial Vacancy decreased from 2.8% to 2.6%.

North Santa Barbara County Sales For September 2007

The Santa Maria and Lompoc areas have been hit pretty hard this year by the amount of foreclosures and bank owned properties that are on the market. The prices have declined, the inventory has grown and the number of sales has continued to drop. September was no exception. There were 102 transactions in that area which isn't the lowest number for the year. January had that with only 100 sales. I am going to sound like a broken record, but I think that if you are waiting for the market to hit bottom you may be missing the boat. There are homes to choose from, sellers are negotiating and rates are low. This sounds like the perfect time to buy. I think if the agents can get that word out and the press starts picking up on that the tide will turn. See You In Escrow!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Santa Barbara September Real Estate Sales

The numbers have been tallied, can I get a drum roll please, there were a total of 110 sales in the South County in September. Can you say I'm glad that is over. That is the slowest month of sales I can remember in the 20 plus years I have been here. I guess it shouldn't come as much of a surprise with everything that has been going on with the credit crunch and the negative news that has been spreading about real estate. The other bit of news that sort of softens the blow is that October of last year wasn't much better. I still am of the opinion that buyers should be getting serious NOW! There is plenty of inventory, prices have declined, rates are good, and sellers are willing to negotiate. If people are waiting to see what happens, I think they may be missing some good opportunities and may be part of the pack that comes out of the gate early next year competing for the most desirable properties on the market. There really weren't any areas of the South County that performed any better than others. Santa Barbara, Montecito, Carpinteria and Goleta were all down from last years number of sales. I will put up the North County numbers tomorrow so check back for those. While you are here you may want to check out my post about Active Rain. There is a ton of agent networking going on you may be interested in. See You In Escrow!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Is Worth The Money?

I just went to a presentation done by which promoted their enhanced marketing programs. I was a littel surprised at the turnout. There were probably about 60 agents in the room at the Doubltree. I will say that they certainly are a well run group that puts on a good presentation that is professional and informational. Being a person who works for a title company I had not been exposed to their programs in quite some time. It was very good to hear that their listings are featured on sites like MSN, and the Wall Street Journal. I would think it was also very good to know that they received 5.7 unique users per month. I would think it was also very useful to know that listings with multiple photos are viewed more often than ones without photos. The one thing that I really would think makes an agents decision difficult is there aren't any real guarantees that any of their plans will do anything but get you some exposure. It seemed like the same old sales pitch I can remember from Newspaper advertisers or Radio stations. The pitch was basically we put you in front of more potential customers than anyone else. If you spend more money (and in some cases it seemed like a lot of money) you can increase your exposure which will give you a better chance of capturing customers. The other approach they took was to give an agent some tools to impress potential listing customers with, which in turn should generate more listings. I would love to hear real world experiences that anyone is having to hear whether signing up for the Featured Homes, or Featured Communities Marketing Systems is worth the pretty price tag they are asking for. See You In Escrow!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Have You Checked Out Active Rain?

I have been holding off getting involved with this Real Estate Community. I'm not sure why, but maybe I was intimidated. There are a ton of members, and many of them are very active. I'm just getting my feet wet, but I see it as a place where agents can discuss many different topics. It would appear that information flows pretty freely between them as well. One agent helping another with marketing ideas or how to generate more referrals. I do see the occasional affiliate of which I am one. Many of them are using this community to network and educate the members on ideas or services that they run across. It is well organized and as a new member they even have a new members group. There is an active rain guide to help you with almost anything you might be interested in doing with your membership. The main focus of this community is blogging. There are over 51,000 members and at any given time usually thousands are online. Check it out and if you do decide to sign up you can use me as someone who referred you by clicking on the following link I will receive some points that increase my ranking in their system if you do sign up using that link. Thanks!

See You In Escrow!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Searching For Real Estate In Santa Barbara County

I was having a hard time coming up with a blog topic today. Then I thought maybe some people are interested in a quick review of what comes up when you search for real estate in Santa Barbara County. So I decided to use google and typed in "Santa Barbara Real Estate", next "Montecito Real Estate", "Goleta Real Estate", "Carpinteria Real Estate", "Lompoc Real Estate", and finally "Santa Maria Real Estate". If you just look at the non sponsored links that come up you have to give credit to Gary and Laury Woods for being listed in the top 10 in all the South County areas. Other observations were that Homes and Land Magazine shows up pretty frequently. shows up as well as Trulia on a number of pages. Yahoo was probably one of the more recognizable sites that showed up in most of the searches. Other than that there are a number of agents doing a good job of getting in the top 10. One thing I did notice was that there are not any Association Websites showing up. Now on to the sponsored links. I'm sure I'm going to leave someone out. That is why I put in the links above so you can see for yourself who is making the top 10. Many of the sponsored links are real estate sites like home gain, or home finder. There are also a number of larger real estate companies like, Coldwell Banker, Village Properties, Sotheby's, and It was surprising to find some agents like Suzanne Perkins, Kevin Schmidtchen, and Dana O'Neill spending money to be a sponsored link. One local office that was certainly noticeable was Distinctive Real Estate.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

California Association of Realtors Legal Blog

I just read about this on the Inman News blog. What a great service Neil Kalin has started. He has begun a legal blog giving examples of legal issues and then asking agents to comment on them. He has begun this under the premise that he can learn what is truly going on in the market today. I spent about 15 minutes this morning reviewing some of the issues and I found it very informative. If I'm not mistaken he started his blog during September and has posted about 6 topics for discussion. They range from foreclosure vs. short sale, to firpta and how withholding is handled. It was very interesting reading some of the comments and follow up questions that real estate agents had. One issue this brings up for me is do I go to his website every day and look to see if he has posted anything new? I don't have to, because I have recently discovered a new tool called a reader. I'm a bit late to this game I know, so forgive me if you already knew about this tool. Google has provided me with an online reader that scans my favorite blogs to let me know if anything new has been posted. So I just have one place to look for my news. Here is a link to that handy tool. All you need is a Google Account. See You In Escrow!

Monday, October 1, 2007

August Dataquick Single Family Residence Statistics

Dataquick has released it's sales statistics for Southern California, and I have to tell you the price changes were surprising to me. Los Angeles County showed 9.1% increase in the Single Family Residence median price for August 2007 vs. 2006. The condominium median price also showed an increase of 4.3%. I really expected a county like Los Angeles to be getting regular price decreases. The Counties that are having a hard time maintaining their median prices are Ventura, Santa Bernadino, Riverside, while San Diego and Orange were pretty flat. Santa Barbara showed no change in the single family home price while the condo market was down 2.44%. I am including the chart for Santa Barbara that Dataquick has. I would really suggest clicking on the chart to see all the variations in the different markets within our county. They are pretty large in some cases. For the entire Southern California market click here.

Friday, September 28, 2007

How Are The Adjusting Loans Affecting Us?

I was having a conversation the other day with an agent and the topic of loans adjusting came up. I told him I had some information on loans and the month they are adjusting and he made the comment that when we start to see a decrease in the number of loans coming up for adjustment that could be one of the first signs the market is improving. I think the logic is that the properties that these loans on are future foreclosures and bank owned properties. If the number of these properties that have loans that are being recast decreases then so will the number of foreclosures and properties going back to the bank. These are the types of properties that are dragging the market down. The Chart above was sent to me by a company called CoreLogic that has been keying data on these adjustable rate loans for years now. As you can see from the chart that the number of loans in the county that are adjusting is beginning to decrease. This would appear to be one more sign that we are getting closer to seeing the market pick back up. A few months of data might not be enough to really get excited about, but I do think the direction of the numbers is certainly down. I would love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tune Up Your Website.

So you are trying to tune up your website? Well here is a nifty little tool that I will be happy to see get to Santa Barbara. It is called Altos Research. It is a tool where you can request real estate sales information on most of the major western metropolitan areas. Since that doesn't include Santa Barbara County, I chose to look at Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles County. You'll notice I was able to include a chart that they generated. One ofPrices for MANHATTAN BEACH the free services is you get an html code to paste in to your website to show the chart that has been created for your area. Here is some more information on Manhattan Beach. It is a fun little tool to play with and I'm sure they are in the process of expanding to Santa Barbara. I think the tech folks refer to this as a widget. Maybe not. One other piece of future wear is a website called Terabitz. This site is going to allow you to customize a Google map with things like schools or listed properties etc. It is easy to play with and try out. See You In Escrow!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why Would Buyers Wait?

I have been soaking in the statistical information that I heard last week at the economic forecast. I just read an article regarding the National Association of Realtors August numbers. I have had a number of conversations with local loan agents and the only conclusions I can draw is it is a good time to buy. Both the forecast and the article above are showing that the median home price is staying pretty steady. In fact the national number reported by the Association of Realtors is saying the median price actually rose a bit from August of 2006. As far as interest rates go, Joan Gibson from Chase pointed me in the direction of the Freddie Mac interest rate charts. If you look at some of the busiest markets Santa Barbara has seen for home sales like 1997 to 2000, those rates were in the low to mid 7% range and you had to pay over 1 point for those loans. We had many months in the South County during those times when the number of transactions was over 300. Rates are better now. My conclusion is this, prices are staying pretty steady (maybe they will dip a little) rates are good and there are plenty of properties to choose from. It sounds like a good time to buy. Did I mention that some sellers seem willing to negotiate. I think buyers are sitting on the sidelines not wanting to be the first one to jump in and I'm not sure that is the right strategy. Any Comments?

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Daily Sound Got It Wrong

I was at the same forecast that the reporter from the Daily Sound was at and came away with a completely different opinion. The article that was written had a title "Real Estate Outlook Grim" that wasn't my interpretation. I would have entitled the article "Santa Barbara Real Estate Rebounding in 2008". The information relayed by the article regarding foreclosures and defaults is very misleading. That article stated "During the first part of this month there have been 578 home foreclosures and defaults in the county. On the south coast, 91 foreclosures were recorded, while there were 14 in the Santa Ynez Valley, 121 in the Lompoc Valley and 352 in the Santa Maria Valley, the booklet says." Well that is just wrong, Let me set the record straight, there are 578 homes that are currently in the process of being foreclosed upon. It takes at least 4 months for a lender to complete a foreclosure so that 578 is at best a 4 month picture of homes in the process of foreclosure. These properties can also be sold during that time or the borrower can make good on the loan. That explanation translates to the other areas (South Coast, Santa Ynez Valley, Lompoc Valley, & Santa Maria Valley) where The Daily Sound stated these numbers were for September. I did a little research in Dataquick myself and I show that there have been 234 trustees deeds recorded in the County through the end of August. That means that 234 properties have been taken back by a lender or sold to someone at a foreclosure sale for the entire year of 2007. There have been 3089 transactions in that same time period in the entire county. That makes the trustee sale about 7.5% of all the transactions. There have been 51 REO deeds recorded. That means a bank has taken back a property and sold it to a new owner. That isn't even 2% of the market so far this year. Historically these numbers are higher than we are used to seeing, but there are many transactions going on that aren't as highly advertised as these. If you want to see some additional information on the state and what is happening check out Dataquick. This chart will give you some perspective but won't be the same data I have discussed. The data above is more current. I am done ranting about this right now. Have a terrific day and See You In Escrow!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Today's Santa Barbara Economic Forecast

I learned this morning that some of the most influential pieces of Santa Barbara's real estate market are things I had never really thought about. For instance did you know that the Tiger Salamander is a huge problem in the North County when it comes to trying to do any development. It has caused projects to be delayed by years, as well as creating many plan changes. I thought I would include a photo since I had no idea what one looked like. One major influence in the south county is the 101 freeway. It isn't wide enough and building any new homes is made extremely difficult because of the added traffic the new home owners would cause. The suggestion for fixing this was widening the freeway and putting in some kind of bus program for commuters. Seems to make sense to me, but I am a bit of a skeptic. I think we are going to have traffic problems no matter what we do. A brief over view of the housing forecast goes something like this. We will continue to experience flat appreciation with the possibility of some decline. Foreclosures will continue to affect the market in the North County. The number of transactions through the end of the year will be similar to what we have experienced recently. We should see a pick up in the number of transactions in 2008. Mark described our rebound as a gradual one looking like a U shaped curve instead of a quick recovery which would be better represented on a chart as a V shaped curve. You can download the economic forecast book at with the password of subprime until Monday 9-24-07. I'm going to do my best to take a look at some of the information in the book and post some comments in the future on what the numbers are telling me. SEE YOU IN ESCROW!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Google Real Estate Tools?

Seeing as my blog is hosted on Google's Blogger site, and I have taken advantage of the tools they provide to see how often my site is being accessed and have used their advertisements, I thought I would do a little commercial for some of the tools I know about that might be helpful to real estate agents. Of course I'm sure you know Google as a search tool and it is probably one of the most successful ones available. They haven't stopped there. I'm not exactly sure what the business model might be but they seem to be creating a large number of tools you can access from the web. One of the most recent ones they have been perfecting is Google Documents. You can either create or load word docs and spreadsheets that can be accessed from any Internet computer. The latest feature that is available is an online presentation program similar to Power Point. The presentation program gives you a web address you can use as a link on your website.If you want to see an example check out MyTechOpinion. I can think of a number of presentations that might be useful, like one to out of area clients or one to clients on the statistics of your market. Another tool that I have found particularly interesting is Picasa. You can load photos of listings and with a few clicks of the mouse create a slide show you can post on your website. Picasa also has a simple way for you to view all your albums on your phone. Other tools I could elaborate on are video, IGoogle, Gmail..... If you haven't checked out all the productivity tools Google has you are missing the boat. Oh, and 2 more things. You get all these features with one account and they are all FREE!

Monday, September 17, 2007

August Loan Activity In Santa Barbara

Could August have been any more of a duplicate of July? There were 941 residential loan transactions in August and 947 in July. I would have expected more of a difference with all the attention the media has been paying to rates and the sub prime loan meltdown. There were some differences between the North County and south County though. The number of purchase transactions in the South County slid by 22% while the average purchase loan amount went up. The number of non purchase loans in the South County was down only 13 transactions to 505, not much of a difference. In Santa Maria the number of purchase transactions was up 14% from July while the non purchase loans were up slightly, about 3%. In Lompoc the number of purchase loans was up significantly from July, over 43%. The non purchase loans went down by just 2 transactions there. So if all you did was look at the county number you would have missed the fact that the North Counties purchase loans were up pretty significantly while the South's purchase loan volume declined. The refinance markets stayed pretty steady in both areas as compared to July. Remember to click on any of the charts to view a large version. To review June or July's charts just refer back to my previous posts for those months.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lois Capps Visits Santa Barbara Assoc of Realtors

Lois Capps came by The Santa Barbara Association of Realtors and spoke with a group of about 25 real estate agents today. The conversation focused mainly on legislation that is in process. One piece of proposed legislation is FHA reform and the main piece of this legislation is raising the FHA loan limit to $417,000. This wasn't met with much enthusiasm as the Real Estate agents attending thought this was not going to affect Santa Barbara since purchase loans are generally much higher than that. They believed the limit should be considerably higher. One other piece of legislation the group was in favor of was Mortgage Cancellation Forgiveness. This would allow a homeowner that has to sell their property for less than the mortgage is to avoid having to pay income tax on the debt that would be forgiven in these short sales. Currently this shortage is being taxed as income even though the seller never received the money. Two other items that were spoken about and the real estate agents were not in favor of were Carried Interest and Banks in Real Estate. Carried interest is a way to tax partners of a partnership that do not put in any money in a transaction. They have essentially been earning sweat equity and when the property is sold their profits have been taxed at the capital gain rate. The new legislation would tax this profit as ordinary income thus increasing the tax burden to the partner. The last issue being banks in real estate has been around for a while now and certainly wouldn't be anything real estate agents would be in favor of. The most spirited conversations turned towards the media over exaggerating the credit crisis and what should be done if anything to more regulate the lending industry so things like this don't happen again. Lois seemed genuinely pleased that the topic of Iraq didn't come up and she thanked everyone for expressing their thoughts.

Santa Maria and Lompoc August Sales Statistics

August in the North County of Santa Barbara did not show any signs of life. The number of transactions is still down significantly from last year. The Santa Maria area and Lompoc area combined had 133 closed transactions in August. August of 2006 had 173 transactions close. There has been a 22% drop in the number of transactions in this year compared to the same time frame in 2006. Real Estate in these markets is really being affected by the number of homeowners finding themselves in over their heads. I have heard estimates that 10% of the listings are bank owned properties. This will certainly affect prices in those areas and I believe is causing the market their to take longer to adjust to the pricing pressures. I am finding one bright spot in looking at the numbers. The lenders credit problems have been affecting the market and I think Augusts numbers would have been better if it weren't for that surprise, so maybe their will be a rebound soon. It would be good to hear other's opinions on what they believe is going to happen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Santa Barbara Home Sales Activity For August 2007

2007 in the South County of Santa Barbara has been a year where the number of transactions appeared to be on a real come back over last year through May. Then June's numbers were slightly lower than last year and July's number was significantly better than 2006. The August number has dipped again to be slightly lower than 2006. There isn't any doubt that the credit crunch drama has played a role in causing the number of transactions to slow down a bit. I think this may be good news in the not too distant future. I'm hearing agents tell me that buyers are waiting on the side lines a bit until their are some better loan programs and or prices drop a bit. What that means to me is the this pent up demand should start surfacing shortly as people start getting a little confidence back. The charts are showing every area being about the same as the 2006 number for August. Goleta, Montecito, Santa Barbara are all down a bit while Carpinteria/Summerland is up a few transactions for the month. Remember you can click on the images to view a larger chart.

Yahoo's 10 Best Places to Live

I was browsing another blog today (Edhat is a great local resource) and they had a link to Yahoo's 10 best places to live. Santa Barbara County made the list. San Luis Obispo made the list as well as Santa Fe New Mexico and a few others. The article talked about the cost of living in our community and recommended us as a place to live because of the beauty we are sourrounded by. Check out the list and see who we are competing with as a desirable place to live.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Close That Escrow!

I'm getting asked some questions about the amount of cancellations we are experiencing here in Santa Barbara. We have been pretty lucky in that our cancellation rate for resale transactions has not gone up much. There have been some close calls with some last minute issues getting resolved. I think this is due in large part to the real estate agents truly doing a fantastic job with regards to managing the transaction and communicating with their clients. We have seen some issues with loans taking a little longer to get approved but all in all nothing too bad. Buyers and Sellers are a bit more on edge as a generalization and I know communication between all the parties is critical to keeping everyone's emotions in check. On the refinance side of the equation the story is a bit different. We are seeing more and more borrowers who don't seem to be able to have their properties appraise high enough for them to refinance out of their existing adjustable rate loan. This is causing the cancellation of many a refinance escrow. The underwriting of these loans is also an issue. Borrowers are not being allowed to borrow money without showing that they will really be able to make the payments. These issues are particularly prevalent in the North County. I have been through this a few times now in my 26 year career and I know that communication and a professional approach to the business will certainly help close those escrows. The other piece of the puzzle is to choose experienced professionals to be involved in your transactions. People you can trust like the escrow officers and staff at Lawyers Title Co.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Santa Barbara Real Estate Appreciation Rates

I was asked the other day about appreciation rates for each of the communities in the South County of Santa Barbara. I pulled out some data and began to figure them. I could only find good data through the end of June 07. Here is how they broke down comparing all of 06 to what I had for 07. For the entire South County prices had appreciated 9.48%. In the city of Santa Barbara prices had declined by 1.96%. Goleta showed a 3.53% decline while Carpinteria was up 1.15% and Montecito was up a whopping 12.50%. Needless to say after looking at this information most if not all the appreciation is in the Montecito area. Real Estate sales have been slow in all the areas mentioned but Montecito and it certainly affects the overall numbers significantly. One other thing that affects the numbers is that the data I had to work with does not separate out property types and so commercial property sales are also included in these numbers. The commercial agents I've spoken to are saying that property sales in that market have been busy in 07, but they were as well in 06.

Miramar Hotel?

So read today in the Daily Sound that the Miramar Hotel is running in to yet another snag in it's renovation process. This snag has to do with relocating a road that residents think may cause some flooding. It is almost hard to believe at this point that the Miramar is ever going to be finished. I got married back in 1994 and all the guests who came out from Michigan stayed at the Miramar and really did love it. It was hard to beat the location, and the price was right since it needed refurbishing even then. The developer, Rick Caruso in a verbal statement has offered local homeowners a 1 million dollar donation, free drains installed on neighbors properties as well as free hotel accommodations in the event of a flood. I would say he is doing all he can to get this issue resolved. If I were a neighbor I'm not sure what is worse the potential flood or having the eyesore that the Miramar has become remain. It sounds like Caruso may be forced to leave the road where it is. This property is such a prime piece of Santa Barbara Real Estate that really does need to be used to it's potential. Good Luck Mr. Caruso!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Real Estate and Middle School Boys

I spent an interesting week last week at an orientation camp for my 6th grade son's middle school. I was one of 2 adult male chaperons for 24 middle school boys. I got back to work and wasn't quite sure what to make my next post and then it hit me. What does the real estate market today have in common with 6th, 7th, & 8th grade boys? The answer is that it is very unpredictable. These boys enjoyed clowning around and being 13 year olds their imagination is their only limitation. They say things and you have no idea where that thought came from and then when asked to explain a food chain the answer rolls right off their tongues. Pretty incredible and baffling all at the same time. Well, that is the type of market we are in. One day an escrow officer is opening 4 transactions and then the next week nothing. Every transaction is now a real unpredictable adventure. One of the key ingredients of course is the lender and whether or not a borrower is going to qualify for a loan. Another item that can really make for an interesting escrow is a short sale. Boy, I can't tell you the twists and turns a transaction like that can have. So I recommend we all hang on, work hard and smile, because whether it is the real estate business or herding middle school boys it is going to be interesting.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Loan Activity for July

Well, I thought this might be an interesting piece
of news. I've put together the charts for Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and the Lompoc areas regarding the residential loan activity in July. The information wasn't as revealing as I thought it might be. The refinance volume is still slipping in each area with Santa Maria leading the charge. Santa Barbara and Santa Maria were down a little less than 50 refinance transactions in July. Unfortunately for Santa Maria that is a larger percentage drop for them. Lompoc was down about 10 transactions from the previous month. The residential resale transactions in Santa Barbara and Lompoc were about even with last month while the Santa Maria areas number of transactions slipped. All the average loan amounts appear to be heading down from previous months. This information probably isn't anything that anyone is surprised to hear, but the charts give you a good idea of exactly what is happening in the residential loan business month by month. Remember, you can click on them to enlarge them and print them.

Friday, August 24, 2007

City Council Race Underway!

Santa Barbara's city council race is under way with the list of candidates, Das Williams, Dr. Michael Cooper, Frank Hotchkiss, Brian Barnwell, Bob Hansen, Helene Schneider, Dr. Daniel Litten, Dale Francisco, Michelle Giddens. Dr. Michael Cooper has withdrawn from the race, but one of our own seems to be going full steam ahead, Frank Hotchkiss. He has been a real estate professional in town for a number of years and I believe decided to kick off his campaign due to what he believed was a bad decision by city council regarding the now apparently dead Blue Line project. I noticed that another local blog paid him some attention in a fun sort of way. Check it out at I wish Frank good luck. It will be interesting to see how he compares the real estate business and the business of politics. There are 3 seats that are being contested for. Decision day will be November 6th. Good Luck Frank!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Freakonomics vs. The Real Estate Agent

Once again my reading or should I say listening to books on cd's is creeping in to my thoughts. This time the book I'm reading is making some interesting comments about the true motivations of real estate agents. The book is also doing a pretty good job of backing up their statements. The question they asked was is a real estate agent truly motivated to get the highest dollar possible when selling a clients home. The conclusion they drew was no. Here is what they did, they took a very large number of homes being sold by real estate agents and compared them to a large number of homes being sold by agents as their own homes. The observations they made were that the homes the agents were selling for themselves took longer to market and sold for 10% more. They then used a $300,000 sales price as an example to go on and explain that the motivation for an agent who will make another $150 dollars if that property sells for $310,000 is not very great compared to the agent selling their own home and pocketing another $10,000. Interesting listening and reading. If you are a real estate agent feeling picked on right now, don't worry they pick on a lot of other professionals. I would really recommend reading this book, Freakonomics.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

100% Satisfaction Guaranteed!

How often do you hear that phrase in the Escrow Business? My guess would be almost never. Well Lawyers Title has a 100% satisfaction guarantee on any residential purchase transaction. The way it works is if for any reason a buyer or seller is not happy with the escrow service we provided they can ask for a refund of their escrow fee. No questions asked after the close of escrow we will send them a check for their escrow fee. How is that for backing up your actions. This should eliminate any realtor anxiety when it comes to recommending us to their clients. They can let them know that their escrow fee can be refunded if they are not 100% satisfied. I'm not sure anyone in the real estate business backs up their efforts with a guarantee like that. I know that none of my competitors have a policy like that in place. This guarantee is a posted rate with the California Dept. of Insurance which eliminate any doubt as to whether we will back it up. Consider Lawyers Title on your next transaction.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Santa Maria and Lompoc July Stats

July 2006 saw Santa Maria and Lompoc have a total of 179 transactions. July 2007 was not as kind when it came to the number of transactions, which totalled 132. Those 2 markets which make up the majority of the north county sales have just not started turning around like the markets in the south county are doing. By that I mean the number of transactions happening in the south county have beaten last years numbers pretty consistently. I have not really analyzed the numbers closely but I can tell you when I am talking to people that work in the north county the credit crunch is really hitting that area hard. A large percentage (I'm told 20%) of the transactions are bank owned properties that are being purchased. This is certainly causing prices to adjust and doesn't bode well for how this year is going to end up. If the south county is truly in an upward trend I would think that by at least early next year the north county should start showing signs of improvement. Take a look at the charts and make your own conclusions.

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