Bummer Alert – Hewell Howser is Retiring

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This is a total bummer, but like I Love Lucy, all good TV things must come to an end.

Huell Howser — the roving Tennessean turned California Unofficial Spokesman, is reportedly retiring.  The host of public-television’s series “California’s Gold,” “California’s Green,” “Downtown,” “Road Trip” and “Visiting” — has made his last show. Let’s hope they’re just kidding.

I loved watching Hewell. Having spent some of my career in video production, I really marveled at his ability to move things along on a coherent timeline and get his interviewees to do the same. He could make even the most mundane thing like Eggnog seem really stupendous. In fact, he introduced us to Broguieres Eggnog and frankly don’t know whether to damn him or thank him for that.

He did a show on Old Town Temecula with my daughter’s buddy Nico’s dad – John Meyer Watch Hewell’s show on Old Town Temecula.

Around our household, we’ll miss Hewell a lot. It’s either him or Rick Steves’ Europe in the evening – and Rick hasn’t done anything new in a long time it seems. Now what do we watch. Luckily, like I Love Lucy, one of the dozens of Hewell rerun shows that you think you’ve seen ’em all, but never seem to have seen all of ’em!

Choosing the Right Lender for Your Team

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Piece of the PuzzleOver the last few months, I’ve had two real estate transactions almost ruined by inept, unresponsive and/or incompetent lenders. When representing a buyer, I always stress that they will need more than just an excellent Realtor (that’s me!). They will need a “team” and one of the most important members of that team will be the lender, so a recent article in the L.A, Times by Lew Sichelman about the importance of choosing the right lender really hit home with me.

  • Mr. Sichelman’s article made a lot of excellent points regarding choosing an excellent lender, including:
    • 34% of respondents to a new national poll were willing to pay more for excellent service.
    • More than half think the process is too slow.
    • A third find it impossible to track the status of their
      loan application
    • An equal percentage say it is too difficult to talk with their lender, and
    • A quarter don’t believe the advice they receive.
  • The article also gives some advice on how to choose an excellent lender:
    • A starting point is to ask your real estate agent. Agents know which lenders keep their promises and close quickly without incident. After all, their livelihoods depend on it.
    • Quiz friends, co-workers and relatives about their experiences.
    • Look for a consistent point of contact. Federal regulators have already settled on this as a requirement for loan servicers — the companies that collect payments, disburse funds to cover property taxes and homeowners insurance and otherwise administer loans — so why not one for borrowers?
    • You’ll have a better experience if the lender has a way to
      get the necessary loan papers to you as quickly as possible.
  • “One complaint borrowers have with the industry relates to the
    lack of timely status updates,”

    • Picking a lender that promises to provide the closing documents before closing. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to find any discrepancies between the initial quote and what’s now on the closing sheet, and to have the loan officer explain the differences to your satisfaction.
    • Asking what are the total costs involved in the loan early in the loan process? (and choosing a lender that is willing to stand behind them – some will even pay borrowers if the costs are not within a reasonable range of their estimates).


  • Let me add my own thoughts to this not covered in the article –
    • Make sure your lender can provide you with a “conditional loan approval”: ON TIME! Every residential purchase agreement has specific timelines to get things done. One of the most important timelines is getting a conditional loan approval back from your lender in time for you to make an informed decision whether you can get the loan and under what conditions.
    • Make sure your lender can CLOSE: ON TIME! If the loan doesn’t close on time you could lose the chance to get the house and any costs or deposits you have put into the deal up  to that point! It’s your lender’s job to ensure this, and every lender will say they can close on time , but what is
      their track record of doing this? Your realtor (that’s me!) is a great source for this information – they know what lenders say what they mean, and mean what they say.
    • Don’t assume that the lender you had do your home equity loan is capable of doing your purchase loan. Purchase loans are a whole horse of a different color. Your lender’s understanding of the real estate purchase contract timelines and details is a key.


I can’t stress enough to anyone wanting to buy or refinance a house what an important decision it is to choose the right lender. If you don’t know who to use, ask your agent for a list of 2-3 lenders as agents know lenders who can competently and efficiently close purchases, something not all lenders, banks and credit unions can.

Realtors and lenders are precluded by law and the their own Code of Ethics to receive any gain from their relationship without their client’s (and all other parties to the transactions) knowledge and consent. The value a good lender brings to the Realtor is the ability to efficiently and effectively get the  loan done, and that means you’ll get have the best chance of getting that home that you want!

*via Potential borrowers eager to find lenders with superior service – latimes.com.
By Lew Sichelman, L.A Times, November 4, 2012

HUH? Record Low Inventory and Yet
Our Government Is Selling Chunks of Homes
To Private Investors?!?

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How Our Government’s “REO Speed-Wagon” Negatively Affects YOU!


Finding a home for folks that really need to buy one is virtually impossible right now. One of the main reasons is that lenders and the government (Fannie Mae, and The Federal Housing Financing Agency – FHFA) have been holding onto inventory and not releasing it to the free market – only adding to the record low inventory woes.

Now, rather than releasing these properties for sale to folks that really need to buy them, our government is selling off large blocks of homes  to large investors with the caveat that they rent them out! HUH!?!

This negatively affects all of us by:

  • Artificially lowering  home values.
    • In it’s infinite wisdom, the prices for these homes our government is selling to these investors are based on outdated and inaccurate information, ignoring recent sales price increases and higher volumes. So, in your neighborhood, now you have our government selling houses for far less than they should be selling for – that lowers your home’s value.
  • Artificially lowering  home ownership rates.
    • Part of the deal is that these homes be used as RENTALS for a certain period.
  • Artificially lowering inventory levels.
    • If these homes were released into a FREE MARKET, it would allow more folks to find homes to BUY.


Not only that, but all of this has been conducted in such a “non-transparent” manner, that the California Association of Realtors has been forced to file a request for more information through the Freedom of Information Act to get Fannie Mae and the FHFA to disclose more of their secretive deals.

Says LeFrancis Arnold, California Association of Realtors president. “Moreover, not only are Fannie Mae and FHFA moving forward with the plan, they are refusing to disclose any details, such as property locations, final property count, sales price, or names of winning bidders.

So much for more governmental transparency.

What Can You Do?

Call or email your state and federal Senator & Congress person today (click here for contact info)and let them know that:

“I am AGAINST any further artificial lowering of my neighborhood’s property values by FHFA selling off blocks of their properties to large investors at below market prices and for rental purposes only. Especially appalling is the secretive manner they have gone about this. WE NEED OUR GOVERNMENT TO GIVE US WHAT THEY SAID THEY WOULD – TRANSPARENCY! Please act to stop this now and open up these sales to the FREE MARKET!”

Read More Here:
Is the REO Bulk-Sale Program Too ‘Secretive’?

Fannie, FHFA moving forward with bulk sales program
REALTOR® Groups Speak Out Against Bulk REO Sales

Deja Vu All Over Again?
Another Governmental Loan Program In The Red

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Dizzy Man

FHA Will Boost Premiums, Sell Mortgages to Improve Finances

From Business Week Magazine

The Federal Housing Administration will raise annual premiums by 10 basis points, sell 10,000 delinquent loans per quarter and boost relief for borrowers as part of a plan to improve the agency’s finances, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said today.

Donovan spoke at a briefing in Washington a day after the FHA reported a $16.3 billion deficit in its insurance fund due to defaults on loans it insured during the housing bubble.

“This set of measures will reduce the likelihood that FHA will need to tap into Treasury assistance next September,” Donovan said.

The FHA, which currently backs 15 percent of U.S. mortgages, provides liquidity to the housing market by insuring lenders against losses on loans with down payments as low as 3.5 percent. The premium increase outlined today is for the annual fee charged to borrowers to guarantee their lender will be made whole in the event of a default.

via FHA Will Boost Premiums, Sell Mortgages to Improve Finances – Businessweek.

The “Rabbit Out of the Hat” Award!
Another Successful Short Sale Closed

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Rabbit Out Of The HatHat’s off to our amazing team on completing a really challenging short sale purchase.

In today’s market, getting any offer accepted is really, really, really hard, but I know most real estate professionals would agree that: getting a short-sale offer,  accepted with a FHA buyer, 12 other offers, a lender required 45 day escrow (why???), then the almost totally non-communicative lender pulls just days before the deadline to remove financing contingency (a story unto itself!), forcing us to instantly find another lender capable and willing to come in and work together with us to pull “the rabbit out of the hat” and complete the loan within the short sale lender’s timeline , then making all the other real estate stuff happen – well, that’s nothing short of magical!

Thanks to the pit-bullesque determination of our team and to Steve Ventre of South Pacific Financial Corporation, we “got ‘er done”. Now our client’s can finally move into their beautiful house in Winchester, we can breath a big sigh of relief, and shamelessly pat ourselves on the back!

Great job team!

If you want to hear the rest of the story, call me.

Temecula Valley Wine Country
Winery, Restaurant, Event & Lodging Coupons (November 2012)

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Download this month’s fabulous offers and coupons from many of Temecula Valley Wine Country’s finest wineries, restaurants, inns & spas – courtesy of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association and their fine members!

TVWA Coupons!
Click Here To Download This Month’s TVWA Coupons
Temecula Valley Winery Map Temecula Valley Winery Information tvwa logo
Temecula Valley
Wine Country Map
(Click on the image to enlarge)
(Click Here for a Downloadable PDF)
Temecula Valley
Winery Information
Temecula Valley
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Coupons courtesy of the Temecula Valley Wine Growers Association: http://www.temeculawines.org/

Big Hurdles Pose Challenge to Housing Recovery

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HurdleHome prices are inching up, record-low mortgage rates are creating more urgency with buyers, and foreclosures are falling. But despite the glowing reports, economists are still questioning whether the housing recovery will last.

The challenges that persist could make this “one of the longest, most excruciating recoveries in housing history,” MSN Real Estate reports.

Some of those challenges to the housing recovery: Access to credit still remains very tight, job growth remains weak, and a large number of underwater home owners are still waiting for prices to jump more so they can have equity in their homes once again and then move on.

Real incomes are not growing,” says Sam Khater, deputy chief economist for real-estate analytics firm CoreLogic. “We are at the same level we were in the mid-1990s. [The recovery] is not sustainable until incomes recover.”

Also, economic uncertainty could prompt many potential home buyers to remain the sidelines, says Alex Villacorta, director of research and analytics at Clear Capital. “Debt-ceiling brinksmanship pushed down consumer sentiment 14.3 percent last year, the largest amount since the end of the recession, and uncertainty over taxes could throw a wrench into the recovery,” Villacorta told MSN Real Estate.

The number of underwater home owners also is constraining inventories of for-sale homes across the country. About 22.3 percent of homes — or 10.8 million home owners — who have mortgages were underwater or in negative equity at the end of the second quarter, according to CoreLogic. In the next two years, more home owners are projected to gain equity in their homes, which could likely cause inventories to grow. According to CoreLogic, just a 5 percent increase in annual home prices would likely lead to a “significant” number of underwater home owners obtaining equity in their homes.

Still, some economists are watching the housing recovery closely and cautiously to determine whether it’s sustainable.

“It seems as if we have a long recovery in order, given the slow economic growth and pace of hiring,” says Ingo Winzer, president of Local Market Monitor.

Nevertheless, economists say the positive signs in the housing data in recent weeks can’t be ignored. For example, existing-home sales are up 11 percent in September compared to the same time last year. The median home price is $183,900, 11.3 percent higher than year-ago levels, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Median prices of new homes also rose 11.2 percent in August, posting the largest one-month increase ever recorded, the Commerce Department reported.

Source: “Could the Housing Recovery Sputter to a Halt?” MSN Real Estate (Oct. 23, 2012)

via Big Hurdles Pose Challenge to Housing Recovery | Realtor Magazine.

Some Very Interesting 2012 Housing Stats From C.A.R.

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California Association of Realtors


C.A.R. announces 2012 Annual Housing Market Survey results

Favorable home prices and record-low interest rates combined with high demand and a severe shortage of available housing have created a highly competitive housing market in California, with nearly six in ten home sales receiving multiple offers, according to the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ (C.A.R.) “2012 Annual Housing Market Survey.”

Fifty-seven percent of home sales received multiple offers in 2012, the highest in at least the past 12 years, with each home receiving an average of 4.2 offers, up from 3.5 offers in 2011. Lower priced homes – typically real estate-owned (REO) or short sales – attracted more multiple offers than equity sales. Seven of 10 REO sales and short sales received multiple offers, while only half of equity sales received more than one offer.

“Well-qualified buyers are recognizing the once-in-a-generation opportunity to purchase a home in California and are jumping into the market,” said C.A.R. President LeFrancis Arnold. “However, the fierce market conditions have forced many buyers to compete with all-cash offers and investors, setting off multiple offers and bidding wars, making it even more difficult for first-time buyers to become homeowners.”

The competitive housing environment led to more properties being sold at or above the list price, with 41 percent of homes selling without a markdown from the asking price, the highest since 2005 and up from a long-run average of 32 percent. Additionally, homes sold faster in 2012, with equity sales selling in 32 days compared with 67 days in 2011. REOs took 30 days to sell compared with 50 days in 2011, and short sales took 90 days compared with 141 days in 2011, reflecting the still-difficult process.

Other key findings from C.A.R.’s “2012 Annual Housing Market Survey” include:

Nearly one-third (30 percent) of all home buyers paid with all cash in 2012, more than triple what it was in 2001, when nearly 9 percent of buyers paid all cash.

• Demand for investment properties and second homes remained strong in 2012. Sixteen percent of sales were to investors, and 7 percent were to buyers who purchased a second or vacation home. The remaining 77 percent purchased the home as a primary residence.

• International buyers made up 5.8 percent of sales in 2012, relatively unchanged from 5.7 percent in 2011. Buyers from China, Canada, India, and Mexico made up the vast majority of international buyers at 39.1 percent, 13 percent, 8.7 percent, and 8.7 percent, respectively.

• While still below the long-run average of 39 percent, the share of first-time buyers rose from 34.2 percent in 2011 to 35.8 percent in 2012, thanks to improved housing affordability resulting from low interest rates and affordable home prices.

• First-time buyers were attracted to distressed properties because of their lower price point. Forty percent of all first-time buyers bought either an REO or short sale in 2012, down from 44.3 in 2011. The decrease was primarily due to a shortage of inventory of distressed properties.

• Reflecting tighter lending standards, very few home buyers have a second mortgage. The share of home sales with a second mortgage has fallen dramatically from a high of 43.4 percent in 2006 to 1.8 percent in 2012.


via C.A.R. announces 2012 Annual Housing Market Survey results.

Harvest Celebration 2012 This Weekend!

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Harvest Celebration 2012

Tickets are now available for the Temecula Valley Wine Growers Association’s 22nd annual Harvest Celebration Barrel Tasting Weekend. Ticketholders will enjoy visiting up to – or all! – 35 member wineries for two fun filled days of wine and food sampling. Your self-guided wine country tasting adventure begins each day at 10am and ends at 4:30pm. Don’t miss your chance to partake of this sell-out event. Make plans now!

Click here to order your tickets before it sells out!

via Temecula Valley Wine Country Events.

Housing Shortages Plague Market

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Murray’s Note: October 2012 Temecula Valley residential inventory is 47%  less than October 2011 levels and 55% less than October 2010 levels.

Month Inventory (months) # Active Listings
Oct-10 7.21 93687
Oct-11 6.16 82091
Oct-12 3.27 47464

InventoryBuyer demand is up, but there aren’t enough homes available to buy, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, which blamed a recent drop in home sales on a diminishing inventory of for-sale homes.

“Recent price increases are not deterring buyer interest,” notes Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Rather, inventory shortages are limiting sales, notably in parts of the West.” For example, sales of homes priced under $100,000 in the West have dropped 47 percent from a year ago.

Home owners are not putting their homes on the market at a high enough rate to offset the drop in distressed volumes, CNBC reports. Distressed sales have made up more than one-third of home sales in the past two years, but more recently has only made up about 24 percent of total home sales.

Besides the drop in distressed homes for-sale, many home owners are still continuing to wait out the market to recover more equity in their homes before they try to sell.

Yun says that home builders need to increase construction in order for home sales to recover more and to meet the demand for houses. Housing starts have risen 43 percent compared to a year ago, but levels still are only about half of what is considered normal for the sector.

Source: “Is There a Housing Shortage?” CNBC (Oct. 19, 2012) via Housing Shortages Plague Market | Realtor Magazine.