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 Michael Cooper has withdrawn from the race, but one of our own seems to be going full steam ahead, Frank Hotchkiss.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.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New Continuing Education Requirement

The following paragraph is straight off the California Dept. of Real Estate Website.

"Effective July 1, 2007, all licensees who have a license expiration date of June 30, 2007, or later, or who file a renewal application on a late basis after that date, will be required to complete a DRE approved 3-hour course in Risk Management as part of their mandatory continuing education requirement. The continuing education requirement for salespersons who are completing their first renewal on and after July 1, 2007, will increase from 12 hours to 15 hours with the addition of a Risk Management course. All other salespersons and all brokers with a license expiration date of June 30, 2007, or later, or who renew on a late basis after that date, will be required to complete a course in Risk Management as part of their 45 hour continuing education requirement."

Lawyers Title is sponsoring a seminar on Thursday August 26th in Santa Barbara. If you want to join us, give us a call.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Santa Barbara Market Trends for July 2007

Hot off the presses are the market trend graphs for the South County of Santa Barbara. The total number of sales in July beat July from last year, but we have a ways to go to be at the level of sales we experienced in 2005 & 2004. The trend is still up from last year and that is a good thing. Interestingly enough it was the Carpinteria and Summerland markets that pushed the numbers higher. Santa Barbara and Montecito were up a little while Goleta was flat. Santa Barbara and Goleta are the areas where there is the most potential for improvement as you can see from the 2005 numbers that those areas posted. If you would like a paper copy of either of these charts please don't hesitate to give us a call. You can also click on the appropriate chart and it will open up in a new window that should allow you to print or view it better. I will be posting information on Santa Maria and Lompoc next week. Have a great weekend and I'll see you in escrow!

Another Disclosure?

I'm just catching up with some of the news. I'm hearing about the Blue Wave that is going to be painted along the streets in some of the low lying areas to represent a 7 meter rise in sea level. My reaction, WOW! I have 2 issues with this project. First do they know how this might possibly affect the price of homes that end up on the inside of this line or even across the street from it. Are real estate agents or their sellers now going to have to disclose this information to potential buyers? I'm sorry but this is a bad idea. My other issue with this project is the fact that one of our city counsel members Helene Schneider in an effort to make sure that money would not be a road block for this project went out and raised $12,000. She apparently had no problem getting it. In a day and age when gang violence and money to keep up our schools is at a premium she wants to raise money to paint a line in the street to raise awareness for global warming. Seems crazy to me. Here is their website.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Santa Barbara Fire and Mortgage Woes

I just arrived home last night from a 2 week long road trip to the Pacific Northwest. That is really some very pretty country, at least when the sun is shining. We had terrific weather and enjoyed Portland, Seattle and the San Juan Islands. I recommend all those places. The topic we were hit with first was the fire which has coated Santa Barbara with a layer of ash. For updates you can view this website. In the office today the topic of conversation seems to be the turbulent mortgage business. I have heard stories of investors pulling out of the mortage business so orginators don't have anyone to sell their loans too. I had a few emails in my inbox that talked about lenders that had stopped funding loans and we should watch out for any transactions we had with them. I saw an article about a major lender that filed bankruptcy. Most recently Countrywide has purchased the retail business of Homebanc. It appears to me that we will certainly see some more consolidation and or lenders filing bankruptcy. We haven't seen it yet in our office but I would suspect borrowers are going to be putting in more than one application to different lenders to help hedge their bets. One website that follows this market moment by moment is The Mortgage Lender Implode-o-Meter.