Friday, November 6, 2009

Conforming Loan Limits Extended For 2010

I know that many folks are supportive of this latest move by the government to help the housing market. I suppose it won't hurt anything, but I'm still trying to figure out if it helped anything here in Santa Barbara over the last year.

I don't believe any of the lenders I am familiar with have ever treated a loan between $417,000 and $729,000 as a conforming loan. They treat them as Jumbo Conforming which is an entirely different animal when it comes to the rate.

I believe that some of the increase we have experienced in the lower price points in our market are due to excellent loan rates below $417,000. I also believe that the higher rates over $417,000 have hampered the housing market above $500,000 in Santa Barbara.

Tell me what you think!

For additional reading
New Conforming Loan Limit Has Too Many Strings
Wild, Wild West: California Cold To 'Jumbo Conforming' Loans

Friday, October 23, 2009


Santa Barbara

Office Vacancy increased from 6.7% to 7.2%.

Industrial Vacancy remained constant at 0.9%.

Retail Vacancy increased from 2.7% to 2.9%.


Office Vacancy decreased from 11.6% to 10.8%.

Industrial Vacancy decreased from 7.6% to 7.4%.


Office Vacancy decreased from 5.3% to 4.4%.

Industrial Vacancy increased from 7.3% to 13.3%.

Read The Entire Report

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hayes Commercial Publishes Commercial Property 2nd Quarter Review

Hayes Commercial has put out their review of commercial property activity for the first half of the year.

The report includes retail, industrial, and multi-family statistics.

The information about vacancy rates, as well as property sales is interesting to read.

Check it out

Monday, July 27, 2009

Foreclosures! The Next Big Wave, When?

I have been doing my best to track the foreclosures in Santa Barbara County now for a few years and so far I'm not seeing this next big wave everyone seems to be mentioning.

Businessweek published an article that said they could hit this summer.

L A Times also had a recent article about the impending wave.

Maybe I need to be more patient and let this play out. There is another interesting article by the New York Times with a little different slant on things.

They mention that banks are not wanting to foreclose on properties these days for one big reason. Many lenders have a troubled balance sheet and to take possession of more foreclosed properties only makes the books worse.

The article makes it sound as though more lenders are willing to try and work something out with the troubled borrower than they would be before all these foreclosures happened.

So what does that mean to us in Santa Barbara County? Last year around this time we had just seen the highest number of Notices of Defaults, Notices of Trustees Sales, and Trustees Deeds recorded in the history of Santa Barbara County.

This year we have seen the number of Notices of Default hit an all time high in March. A curious thing has been happening though. The number of Notices of Trustees Sale, and Trustees Deeds are down significantly from last year. Could the New York Times article be right?

One other explanation is that the lenders are just not processing these properties as fast as they should in an effort to keep the books looking as healthy as possible.

Do I still need to be more patient or is it possible that some of the lenders are working harder to keep people in their properties? Time will tell.

I would love to hear what you are experiencing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wow! Homes Sales Rise In June.

When we have been seeing the number of properties sell in the South Coast hover around or under 100 monthly, 157 is a big increase. The chart reflects 158, but CORT reported a duplicate that I have removed.

That is the highest number of properties selling since August of 2007 when there were 160. It is also well above the highest number of sales in a given month for all of last year of 131.

The area that saw the highest number of sales was Santa Barbara with 77. Goleta had 46, Carpinteria and Montecito both had 15, Hope Ranch had 2, Summerland 1, and Unincorporated Area had 1.

Median prices for the communities of Goleta, Carpinteria, and Santa Barbara continue to be affordable based on years past. Santa Barbara's median price was $715,000. Goleta's was $635,000, and Carpinteria's was $555,000.

Having a 49% jump in the number of sales from May to June was a bit of a surprise, although the activity has been better in recent months. It would appear there was some pent up demand as well as buyers finding the deals they are looking for.

I would like to think the number of sales will continue to stay around 150, but a small increase in rates and the summer holidays may throw a bit of cold water on the activity.

Let me know your thoughts.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Radius Group Posts It's Commercial Real Estate Report

Radius Group Commercial Real Estate is pleased to provide the RADIUS GROUP SOUTH COAST 2nd Quarter 2009 REVIEW for the commercial markets of Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria. Included in the report are the largest leased properties and largest vacancies in each city during the 2nd Quarter 2009.

The following is a summary of Vacancy Rates from April 2009 to June 2009.

Santa Barbara

Office Vacancy increased from 5.7% to 6.7%.

Industrial Vacancy decreased slightly from 1.0% to 0.9%.

Retail Vacancy increased slightly from 2.3% to 2.7%.


Office Vacancy decreased from 12.9% to 11.6%.

Industrial Vacancy increased from 6.1% to 7.6%.


Office Vacancy increased from 4.5% to 5.3%.

Industrial Vacancy increased from 6.2% to 7.3%

View the complete report

Monday, July 13, 2009

Avoid the Top 10 Mistakes Sellers Make

There are plenty of quick reference sites that do the best they can to help give good advice on real estate related topics. One of the more talked about topics is pitfalls sellers make. Below is a very easy to understand short video on the subject. Thanks TechKnowBabble!

TechKnowBabble: Avoid the Top 10 Mistakes Sellers Make

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Santa Barbara Foreclosures For June

Before I get in to my comments about foreclosures in Santa Barbara, I would like to say we were pretty busy folks in June. Closing a number of sales as well as processing quite a few refinance escrows. Many of the people I speak with seem to have a little better outlook on real estate in our fair county.

Enough of my observations for now!

As you all are probably aware of by now the foreclosure process starts with the recordation of the notice of default. In Santa Barbara County we have been experiencing a record number of them being recorded. Our all time high was 414 in February and since then we have fallen off of that a bit, and June was 332. It would appear to me that we are going to bounce around the 300 number for a while.

If you want to watch this number day by day you can do so at the county website, which updates their information between 4 and 5 each day. Got that straight from the webmaster.

The next step in the process is the recording of the notice of trustee sale. June was 232 which is down a bit from the high of May, 273. No big surprises there since the NOD's reached 414 about 90 days ago. That is about the time frame you might expect the notice of sale to appear.

The last step in the process is when the bank takes back these properties, and that is when the Trustee's Deed gets recorded. June was at 145 which isn't even close to the highs of July, August, and September of last year.

All in all, it appears to be kinda the same ole same ole when it comes to how many foreclosures are showing up. The only thing that I'm not sure of is if these numbers are being affected by some of the loan modification programs that are in place. It would appear that a smaller percentage of properties are going back to the banks, but I will be more comfortable saying that with a few more months of numbers.

Enjoy your July 4th Weekend!

Friday, June 26, 2009

No, I Can't Give You Any Documents!

I started in the title business 28 years ago. Those were the good old days. I began in customer service for Safeco Title Co. and delivered all kinds of documents and reports. One of those reports was called a property profile.

The property profile in those days included a copy of the tax roll and a grant deed and maybe a printout of some sales comparables for the area. All of these were printed from microfiche and certainly took time to put together.

Over the years these property profiles have grown to include;

  • neighborhood information
  • demographics
  • copies of open trust deeds
  • sales comps and maps that locate those comps
  • plat maps
  • aerial maps

Yesterday was a huge announcement in my world. The department of insurance issued an opinion almost all of these tools we have been supplying we are now no longer allowed to provide.

The only item our compliance people are letting us supply now is the tax roll information. This seems crazy to me, 28 years ago when I first got in to this business I was able to provide more than that. In order to get any of these documents in the future someone has to actually be in an escrow with us.

So a realtor can not ask us for a copy of a grant deed before going on a listing appointment to make sure they are meeting with the correct parties. We can no longer send someone a copy of a notice of default or a copy of a trust deed which have always been used to help the consumer.

We are being told that our customers only option is to sign up for a service that will cause them to pay for these documents. I worry about these services having the necessary expertise to deliver the correct documents. After all it takes our people years of training to find these documents before making copies of them. I am truly concerned that this could be a real problem for consumers.

My thoughts and concerns don't matter though!

The last 24 hours has been filled with delivering this message to our many customers. They have all been great and didn't take any shots at the messenger (me).

Many customers had one question I honestly don't have a real good answer for. That question is why can't you give us copies of deeds or maps? These are some of the very basic tools that we have readily available.

Maybe one of you reading this has an answer. I would love to hear it.

For those of you in California I would also love to hear what your title company representatives are telling you.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Santa Barbara's Real Estate Trend Continues-FLAT!

I have to admit I was starting to get optimistic about where the real estate sales numbers were headed. I thought we may see a little stronger number in May than we did. May's closings for the Goleta, Carpinteria, Santa Barbara and Montecito areas were 105.

With 111 closed transactions and what I perceived as a reasonable number of open escrows in April, I thought the number of closings in May would match or beat April. I was wrong, not the first time and certainly not the last time.

What will happen in the coming months? What happened to all those open escrows we had been seeing? Those are just a couple of the questions that come to mind regarding what's going on.

We are still experiencing a pretty active number of sale escrows opening. This would lead me to believe that the closing number could start rising soon, unless the number of cancellations is going to increase. More wait and see as far as what might be in our future.

The escrows we do have open seem to be hanging in there. The cancellations don't seem to be any higher than usual and I haven't heard about any real issues that would make me think that they aren't going to close. I do believe we are working harder on each escrow and they are certainly taking longer to get to the point of closing.

Why do I think the number of closings is a big deal? I'm a simple guy and supply and demand is the answer. As soon as we see the number of sales begin to increase is when the demand is building and that is when the prices will begin to increase again. Just my opinion!

So I ask you, take a look at the Market Trend Chart on our website and tell me what you think might be going on?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Santa Barbara Area Home Sales In April Trend Up!

Well it has been a while since the number of sales on the south coast has exceeded 100 and in April we hit 111. That beats the December number of 108 which was the most recent month over 100.

Since January we have seen a steady climb in sales, and 111 is a 26% increase from March. Not bad!

Carpinteria almost doubled the number of sales and went from 6 to 11. There were 2 high priced properties transferring, 168 Rincon Point Rd for $5,500,000 and 3284 Beach Club Rd for $6,100,000. Check out those properties. I could certainly live there!

Santa Barbara went from 40 transactions to 59 in April. with the highest priced property being 939 Arbolado Road.

Goleta had 24 sales in April. This market appears to be a bit anemic since there isn't much inventory. 24 was only an increase of 1 sale over March's number. Many of the sales in Goleta appear to be condos.

Montecito didn't show much improvement, but did increase from 11 to 13 in April. 1445 S. Jameson Ln. sold for $4,000,000 and that is one terrific looking home. It has a nice photo tour if you want to check it out.

Hope Ranch and Summerland both had properties sell in April when they didn't have any sell in March.

Historically these numbers aren't terrific, but it sure does feel as though buyers are starting to make offers and close transactions at a little brisker pace than they had been the previous few months. I wouldn't be surprised to see the number of transactions be above 100 in the months to come.

If you would like to check some additional information please view this link; CORT-Sales Stats By Area

Friday, May 1, 2009

April's Foreclosure Numbers For Santa Barbara County

Here it is May Day and the numbers are in. I'm not sure how the county gets them posted on their site so quickly but all the numbers of Notices of Defaults, Notice of Trustee Sales, and Trustees Deeds are complete for April.

The good news is each of those numbers went down from March. The Notices of Defaults went down from looks to be an all time high of 414 to 298. That is a significant drop and would appear to be more of a number you would expect. The 414 number would appear to be elevated because of the moratorium that had been put on recording Notices of Defaults.

Notices of Trustee Sales dropped from 203 to 189. Again the number went down and is far from the high of July of last year which was 305. The rest of the year will be interesting to see how this number goes. I certainly am hoping that all the new programs that are in place will keep people in their homes.

The number of Trustees Deeds that were recorded in April were down as well. April had 74 which is very low and hasn't been lower since July of 2007. That is really good news. It means less banks are taking back property. I wish I could explain what exactly is happening. I would welcome any insight in to this situation.

The bad news of course is that foreclosures and the process of foreclosures hasn't really stopped. There are still a significant amount of properties in one phase of foreclosure or another. I do believe there are some signs of them slowing up and hope that I am right.

I do know that many of the foreclosures are selling in the Santa Maria and Lompoc areas.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Radius Group South Coast Review

Below is the information that The Radius Group sends out to it's customers. It is chalk full of very good commercial property related information. Check it out!

Radius Group Commercial Real Estate is pleased to provide the RADIUS GROUP SOUTH COAST 1st Quarter 2009 REVIEW for the commercial markets of Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria. Included in the report are the largest leased properties and largest vacancies in each city during the 1st Quarter 2009.

The following is a summary of Vacancy Rates from January 2009 to March 2009.

Santa Barbara

Office Vacancy increased from 4.5% to 5.7%.
Industrial Vacancy increased slightly from 0.8% to 1.0%.
Retail Vacancy increased slightly from 1.4% to 2.3%.


Office Vacancy increased slightly from 12.0% to 12.9%.
Industrial Vacancy increased slightly from 5.7% to 6.1%.


Office Vacancy decreased from 8.4% to 4.8%.
Industrial Vacancy decreased slightly from 6.4% to 6.2%.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's A Slow Climb!

March's property sales numbers are in and they are a small improvement over February. Maybe small is a relative thing. February had 73 and March had 80. The way I do my math that is 7 transactions or almost a 10% increase. A 10% increase sounds better, or does it?

Last year there were 122 transactions, up from 89 in February of 2008. That is a 37% jump from one month to the next. Now 10% doesn't sound that terrific. How about 2007, we jumped from 129 to 177. That is also about a 37% increase.

So can you see why I titled this post, It's A Slow Climb? Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Goleta, and Montecito have been hit hard by this real estate slow down. The number of sales occurring on the South Coast of Santa Barbara County is at historic lows. At least as far back as my records and or memory can go.

Some of the highlights for March were;
The good news is we the number of sales are improving. It appears to be a slow climb, but at least the numbers are moving upward. I will have links to this information shortly, so check back and look it over.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Can The Market Be Heating Up?

I know the sales volume in the south county of Santa Barbara has been setting records, records for the lowest number in recent history, but in many places of California the volume is up, way up!

This CNN Money article points to some real significant signs of life in California real estate.

In the lower end markets the number of sales are up significantly and have been for a number of months. In February 2009 Californian's bought 600,000 homes according to the California Association of Realtors. That is an 80% increase from February 2007.

These sales appear to be fueled by low mortgage rates and the sense that prices are hitting or nearing the bottom. This is also being made evident by the activities of investors getting back in to the market.

Here in Santa Barbara County we have seen this happening in Santa Maria where they were hit very hard by the foreclosures that many parts of the country have felt. The number of properties selling has increased significantly and doesn't seem to be slowing down.

The majority of these properties are banked owned or in some state of the foreclosure process and I would think buyers are sensing them being a bargain, especially with the low interest rates that are available. \

If you don't believe me, make sure you read the article I mentioned above.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Santa Barbara County Foreclosure Update

In looking over the numbers reported by the County for Notices of Defaults, Notice of Trustees Sale, and Trustees Deeds for March, there are some real concerns.

The number of Notices of Defaults that were recorded rose significantly and is a record number. There were 414 recorded in March. This is my biggest concern since it is a leading indicator of things to come.

The number of Notice of Trustees Sale documents that were recorded was 203. This is the highest number dating back to August of 2008 which was 276. I can only think that the banks will again be receiving a number of properties back soon.

March's Trustees Deeds that were recorded totalled 86. That number is actually a bit lower than previous months. This of course would be the last number affected by the foreclosure process and I would expect it to rise.

In looking at these numbers, the number of notices of defaults rising sharply could certainly be a sign of more foreclosures to come. Some people that I have spoken to are wondering if people are allowing their properties to go in to foreclosure so they can take advantage of the benefits of modifying their loan.

Time will tell if this increase in the number of notices of defaults is going to impact the number of bank owned properties in the upcoming months. I do think it is a little bit of wishful thinking to think that people are going in to foreclosure to take advantage of getting their loan modified, but it could be part of the equation.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Are Your Escrow Deposits Insured?

With the recent drama regarding banks failing or being in trouble. Escrow companies have been answering the question for clients, how safe is the bank where their escrow deposits are being held?

There are some new insurance limits regarding deposits being held in an escrow trust account. These new limits are scheduled to be in place until December 31st of 2009.

Here are some of the details as posted by the FDIC

Basic FDIC Deposit Insurance Coverage Limits*
  • Single Accounts (owned by one person) $250,000 per owner
  • Joint Accounts (two or more persons) $250,000 per co-owner
  • IRAs and certain other retirement accounts $250,000 per owner
  • Trust Accounts $250,000 per owner per beneficiary subject to specific limitations and requirements
  • Corporation, Partnership and Unincorporated Association Accounts $250,000 per corporation, partnership or unincorporated association
  • Employee Benefit Plan Accounts $250,000 for the non-contingent, ascertainable interest of each participant
  • Government Accounts $250,000 per official custodian
  • Non-interest Bearing Transaction Accounts Unlimited coverage – only at participating FDIC-insured banks and savings associations **

You may have known that the insurance limit per account had gone up to $250,000, but what you may not have known is that the limit for funds in a non interest bearing transaction account (i.e. an escrow trust account) has unlimited coverage.

This is important for a real estate professional to know in case you have a client that is wanting to put their funds in to an interest bearing account for the purpose of closing an escrow. Having the funds in an interst bearing account certainly complicates things and you would want to advise your client about making sure they have the coverage they need if they do so. Many of the questions can be answered by reviewing the FDIC's FAQ's.

It may be worthwhile to at least let someone know that the escrow trust account is the safest place for their funds. After I say that I have to let you know there is one exception, banks can opt out of this additional coverage. So you will want to check to make sure that the bank where the deposits are held is participating in these new limits.

Having this new limit in place for escrow trust accounts is very helpful and gives the title companies and escrow companies an easy way to answer the question about how safe someone's funds are, if they are held in the trust account.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Refinancing Is ON!

I do the best I can to keep up on all the real estate news and many of the headlines these days are about refinancing. Check out these recent articles.

Market Watch  Applications filed to refinance an existing mortgage rose an unadjusted 41.5% last week, compared with the week before.

U S News & World Report The Mortgage Bankers Association on Tuesday jacked up its 2009 forecast for mortgage originations to reflect the Fed's recent moves to engineer lower mortgage rates. The group now expects mortgage originations to total $2.78 trillion this year

Market Watch 30 Year Mortgage Rate at 4.85%

Having the mortgage industry get busy again will help our economy in many ways.

My biggest concern is, are they ready for it?

In the last few years this industry has seen it's workforce shrink significantly. This happened in the form of layoffs and of course the closing of many mortgage lenders. So handling the increase in business will be tough for the present staff to accomplish.  I know this to be true in Santa Barbara.

The other piece of the puzzle is even though applications are up, will this reflect in actual closings being up as significantly? Borrowers are having a harder time qualifying and of course properties may not be worth what borrowers are expecting them to be worth.

The bottom line to me though is if you can borrow now and need to borrow now GO FOR IT!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Have You Checked Out

Joe Holland in my humble opinion is one of those elected officials that is available and doing his best to make sure his organization stays up to date. One of his latest endevours to keep information that is of public record available to the public is

I highly recommend looking at the real estate related resources that are made available. Two of the better ones are the recent homes sales and grantor grantee index.

With the recent home sales you can choose any city in the county and request home sales back 6 months. This is particularly helpful if you are used to trying to value your home from the likes of Zillow or Cyberhomes. The information from the County site is something I have found accurate, when I'm not certain how complete or accurate other sites are.

The Grantor Grantee Index option will allow you to look up names of individuals or entitities who you may need to find with respects to the documents they are recording or have recorded. Very helpful!

One other feature they have are charts. One of the charts available is the one showing the number of defaults being recorded.

All in all, check it out. You will probably find something of interest to you. Great Job Joe!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Santa Barbara Area Sales Hitting Bottom?

January was very slow with respects to home sales in the Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria and Montecito areas.

Maybe even a record low. That is the lowest number I can remember, and I've been around since the mid 80's. The map below shows the sales that did occur. Feel free to check out your favorite neighborhood.

This would lead me to believe the bottom is here!

(Edited 2-27-09) For those of you that may have found this from this link; I do appreciate you coming by. As for the folks who have commented on that blog let me clear the record about a couple things. I am not a realtor and never have been. I also think the number of transactions is what has hit bottom, not prices. I do believe that prices will take quite a bit more time to recover. Thanks for the exposure

If you don't believe the number of transactions will start to improve then how do explain what is going on in Santa Maria and Lompoc and across the rest of the state? The bottom of the market is certainly showing a higher number of transactions and I would think that will hit us on the south coast some time this year.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

January in Santa Barbara

There certainly are more positive things to talk about in this terrific destination spot for the rich and famous than the number of homes that sold in January, but I am cursed with being the messenger in this industry that is taking it's share of lumps.

In January there were 64 transactions that closed in the communities of Goleta, Carpinteria, Montecito, and Santa Barbara. That is 30 transactions less than the 94 in January of 2008.

I had the privelage of hearing Leslie Appleton Young speak last week and she predicted there would be more sales this year than last. Good thing we have 11 months left to catch up. Her prediction wasn't any kind of overwhelming number. If my memory serves me right, she thought we would see about an 8% increase statewide.

I do know our resale openings have begun to pick up, nothing real significant yet, but with the rates being as low as they are and the prices of properties being down I'm sure some people are seeing a reason to buy and some sellers are needing to sell.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Foreclosure Data Showing Some Signs of Slowing

The most recent foreclosure information here in Santa Barbara County certainly needs some interpretation. For the months of September, October, & November the number of recorded defaults was down significantly. There is an easy explanation as to why this happened.

Banks in California had a new requirement put on them before they could record a notice of default. They had an extra step or two added to their process. Making an extra effort to contact any borrowers that were in default before recording the notice of default slowed up that process and we experienced the slowing of those recordings as was obvious during those months.

It is also why I believe the December and January numbers are a little inflated.

If you use that information to adjust the number of notices of defaults filed in December I think that number should be much less than the number in December of 2007. January 2009 is already lower than January 2008, but it would be an even larger seperation after adjusting the numbers.
The other 2 categories that are being tracked on this chart are also showing a softening of the foreclosure market here in Santa Barbara. Could that be due to the same issue the banks faced regarding contacting the borrowers that were in default, possibly. 
There has been quite a bit of talk recently about loans that are scheduled to adjust this year and how that is going to cause the foreclosures to increase again. I'm not so sure that we are going to see the impact some people are expecting. With the surge in refinancing and the banks learning how to handle loan modifications many of these loans that are expected to recast may be off the books. 
Time will tell though. Stay tuned!  

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Radius Group Releases Their 2008 Commercial Vacancy & Market Overview

If you want to stay on top of the commercial real estate business in Santa Barbara you will want to read the latest information coming from the Radius Group.

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