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!